On the Echoes of Henry James’s The Reverberator: Reflections on Teaching Argumentative Research Papers in Undergraduate Classes on Literature

Nevena Stojanovic

Abstract


In this essay, I reflect on the teaching experiment that I did several years ago in my class on transatlantic short stories and novels of the nineteenth century. As instructors of literature in a university setting, we often face the question of how to teach undergraduate students what a researched argument is and how to help them come up with effective thesis statements. The number of students, their different educational backgrounds, skills, and motivations can all be a challenge for instructors who need to make sure that everyone enrolled in the class understands the complex processes of research and argumentative writing before starting the draft. Our major concern, however, is how to keep students fully engaged in the processes of exploration, research, and drafting. Here I share my experience of teaching these processes in two 75-minute sessions. I include the methods of teaching and the homework and in-class prompts assigned to the class. I used the model similar to the one that Ashley M. Walter proposed in her thesis, which consists of discussion, providing students with a frame/stance, and transmediation. To this model, I added a mini-session on the in-class exploration of our library’s databases and brainstorming thesis statements. I chose Henry James’s brief and witty novel The Reverberator (1888) for the purposes of this process, mainly because this text has been neglected in the criticism on James’s late work, and I wanted to see what kinds of arguments my students would come up with to recover it. 


Keywords


pedagogy, university/college education, innovative teaching practices, teaching literature, teaching research and argumentation.

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