Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Semester Begins

Classes began on CU on Monday. I'm teaching two courses: Intro to Ethics in one of the CU Residential Academic Programs (the students all live in the Farrand dorm, and the class is held in the Farrand dorm, so I walk by their decorated dorm room doors on my way to our classroom - fun!), and Philosophy through Literature.

I've taught Intro to Ethics a million times - once five times in a single year (twice each semester, once in a large-lecture format to 150 students with grading done by graduate student TAs, once at Farrand, and then in Maymester); I truly never get tired of it. I could talk to freshmen about Aristotle, Epictetus, Kant, Mill, Nietzsche, Sartre, and Shambhala (neo-Buddhism) every day for the rest of my life with undiminished enthusiasm.

I've never taught Philosophy through Literature before. No one in our department has taught the course in well over a decade. It was in danger of being permanently canceled unless somebody taught it, and I thought, well, hey, I like philosophy and I like literature, so let's give it a try. I've structured the course around the search for perfection, both individual and societal. We're starting with Plato's Republic, then reading some classic utopian literature (Thomas More, Edward Bellamy), B. F. Skinner's Walden Two, then an environmental utopia (Ecotopia) and a feminist utopia (Woman on the Edge of Time), and finishing up with a book about efforts toward perfection in modern medicine (Better Than Well: American Medicine Meets the American Dream).

After my long summer at home writing, writing, writing, I had forgotten how exhausting and exhilarating teaching is - like improv theater, where the audience can come up with ANYTHING and you have to be prepared for it, whatever it is. I spend the hours before teaching in nervous stage fright (this after 18 years of doing it), and then I have the adrenaline rush of the teaching itself, and then the post-teaching buzz. It will settle down a bit by next week, as I get to know the students and have the classroom dynamics more under control.

But for now, it's opening week for the new show.

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