Listen to a conversation between a student and his English professor.
Hi, Bob. How’s it going? Are you enjoying the Introduction to Literature class?
Yeah, it’s great! Uh, “Araby”—that short story by James Joyce we read last week— it was awesome.
Glad you liked it! Most of Joyce’s work is very complex. A lotta students say that he’s hard to understand. Normally, you wouldn’t tackle Joyce in an intro class.
But I like to give my first-year students a taste of his style, his psychological approach to literature, because… well,mainly because it influenced others writers.
I only wish we had more class time to discuss it.
Me, too. So, why did you pick “Araby” instead of some other story?
Well, um, first you should know that “Araby” is one of fifteen short stories by Joyce in a book called Dubliners…
Uh, all the stories are related to one another and are set in the same time period.
But “Araby” is the easiest one to follow… though all the stories in the collection are written in stream-of-consciousness, which, as you know, means they’re told through the narrator’s thoughts, through an inner monologue— as opposed to dialogue or an objective description of events.
But “Araby” is easier because it’s linear; the story unfolds chronologically.
Still, I wish we could read whole novels by Joyce and discuss them in class.
That’s what happens in my Master Writer class.
Master Writer class?
Yeah, I teach one on Joyce every spring.
It’s such a privilege[slight pause] spending an entire term delving into a single body of work.
And my students, they bring so much insight to the table that it’s easy to forget who the professor is!
Oh wow…uh, that could actually solve my dilemma,uh, what I originally wanted to ask you!
Um, I’m working on my schedule for next term, and I’ve got room for one more course, and I’d like to take more Literature.
[excited]Could I take your Master Writer class on Joyce?
I’m sorry, I should’ve mentioned… um, Master Writer’s an advanced seminar. So students need to get a strong foundation in literary theory and criticism before I let them enroll.
But I’ve gotten really good grades on all my papers so far; I’m sure I can keep up. Couldn’t you make an exception…?
Your grades are excellent. But in our intro class, you’re reviewing the basics, like plot, setting, and character… and getting your first real exposure to different literary styles.
But why do I have to study different styles to understand Joyce’s novels?
[nicely trying to persuade him]There’re a lot of little details involved in interpreting literature. And, like with Joyce: his novels have very unique structures.
The only way to appreciate how unique they are is by studying a variety of authors.
Oh, OK. So, [pauses to regroup]could you suggest a different literature class, then?
Sure—there’s Dr. Klein’s course on nineteenth-century novels.
It’s more focused than the class you’re in now, but it’ll build on your current knowledge base and give you the background you need.
That, plus a couple more foundational classes, and you’ll definitely be ready for my seminar.