Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Reading Around the Syllabus

Ok. So you're in the coursework phase of your graduate education in the humanities. Perhaps you're even in  your first year. Congrats! This part of the degree program is exciting because it exposes  you to all kinds of new knowledge. You'll read things you've never read before and things you have read before will become new to you! Coursework is also the most structured phase of your grad degree so enjoy the regularity of your work schedule and develop good habits that can carry over into the subsequent years when you alone will be responsible for deciding your work schedule outside of teaching. There's a very simply strategy you can employ to maximize your coursework experience. I call it "reading around the syllabus."

Think of the reading list for each graduate class as the tip of the iceberg for that course. If you're supposed to read Butler's Bodies That Matter, try reading at least one more book, or at least a couple unassigned essays by Butler. If Don DeLillo's White Noise is on your syllabus, try reading the novels published immediately prior to and following that text, or at least one.

Make reading a routine part of any day. That is, in the same way that you block out time to teach, time to go to class, block out time to read. You wouldn't tell a friend that you can meet during your graduate seminar. Apply the same dedication to reading. And you need to read stuff that stretches your comfort zone. Read hard stuff. (Although, if you're like me, then you'll follow the hard stuff with something more palatable and manageable!)

Reading is fun. For many of us, that's why we got into this profession in the first place!