In my preparation of my sophomore curriculum for the fall (which is starting to take shape, slowly but surely), I’ve run into an interesting dilemma that I thought I would post here to hear comments on the issue. (Informed opinions from professionals encouraged, but experience and knowledge of pedagogy isn’t strictly necessary here.)

The textbook I’ll be using for my sophomores is Course 5 of the Glencoe Literature 2009 series, which I’ve liked fairly well from what I’ve looked through. The text doesn’t necessarily cover any particular region, period, or movement, but it is largely multicultural: within the first unit, there are stories from Jack Finney (U.S., 20th century), R.K. Narayan (India, 20th century), Chinua Achebe (Africa, 20th century), and Edgar Allan Poe (U.S., 19th century). Other units include stories from Amy Tan, Gabriel García Márquez, James Thurber, Jhumpa Lahiri, and many others. There are a few canonical figures, but most of the authors are not the stereotypical “dead white guys.” The text also does a nice job of organizing related texts into thematic units, which I like for the sheer fact that it helps organize the teaching around principles and concepts that students should be able to relate to.

My dilemma comes with one unit in particular, entitled “Loyalty and Betrayal.” It covers two major works, Sophocles’ Antigone and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. Between the two works, there’s about 100 pages of reading.

Here are my questions:

  1. Is 100 pages of reading, especially of drama where a substantial amount ought to be read together as a class, too much to ask of sophomores in a single unit? I get a little concerned that this unit will involved substantially more reading, and it’s bound to take up several weeks of instruction, certainly more than virtually all of the other units I have in mind. (I think the most text-heavy unit after this is about 30 pages of reading over the course of the unit. A unit on a novel would be at least this much reading, but I don’t have any novels I’m dying to teach to sophomores, especially not since I’m going to be teaching a semester of novels aside from this and have a limited selection of novels.)
  2. Would it be a travesty to consider dropping JC from the unit? I remember reading it as a sophomore, and I’ve found that it seems to be fairly common in sophomore curricula (although the school where I did my student teaching opted to read A Midsummer Night’s Dream instead), but I have my doubts about it, both on my end teaching it and on the students’ end trying to digest it. (On the other hand, I think that Antigone – especially with the Oedipus Rex backstory – could be very interesting to study.) It fits in well with the themes of loyalty and betrayal, but I’m just not sure.

Comments are open for suggestions and opinions – I really would like to hear what other people have to say about this.

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