Monday, October 13, 2008

First Day of Classes

Today I taught the first session of my SF-as-literature course at the University of Leipzig. Difficulties presented themselves immediately: I was confused about the tram system and waited too long for a tram that wasn't supposed to arrive at that stop anyway. It was then too late to walk (a distance of just over two miles). So I took a taxi. The university is expanding, building, remodeling, and as a result has rented space all over the city as an interim measure. I am teaching in a bank.

Class itself went fine. I did an introduction to the class (syllabus, paper requirements, etc.) and then a history of SF, from Mary Shelley to Charles Stross. The students looked interested but didn't say much. Sebastian, who ably guided me through the bureaucratic requirements, said that not all of them would stay with the course. There is no penalty for dropping a course at any time, so students often sign up for everything that looks interesting, go to it all the first week, and then choose which ones to continue. He said that maybe half or less would stay with my course, especially since the reading list is pretty challenging. These are mostly second and third year students. At the end of the class they startled me very much by all knocking loudly on their desks -- a traditional gesture of class-ending applause.

Another glitch: The texts have not yet arrived in the book store, despite having been ordered months ago. This means that for the students to read the four short stories for next week (class is held once a week), elaborate photocopying will have to go on in the Institute offices. Sebastian, bless him, took charge of arranging this.

One thing surprised me about the class. When I teach SF in the United States, I usually get more male than female students, or perhaps a 50-50 ratio. But this class is overwhelmingly female. The Institute for American Studies is made up of 75% women, 25% men. Ditto for the Institute of British Studies.

Tomorrow: the writing-SF class. Also, I hope, a deeper understanding of the mysteries of the tram system.


bluesman miike Lindner said...

What stories have you assigned your class to read, Nancy?

Chris said...

Hello Nancy!

Don't worry, today's class was fine. Well, Sebastian might be right and about half the students will drop out during the next few weeks. But that's ok. Discussing novels in such a big group isn't very pleasant anyway.

I think it will be a question of stamina for us because (as you pointed out) the readings are very challenging. But we'll try. (And maybe we'll manage not to knock as hard next time...) :-)

See you on Monday!


bluesman miike Lindner said...

But Chris, isn't loud knocking a sign of approval and respect for the teacher?

bluesman miike Lindner said...

How about posting some photographs from Germany, Nancy?

Nancy Kress said...

I tried to post some pictures today, and Blogger won't let me. I can't figure out why.

Chris said...

@bluesman: Yes, in fact it is. But since we're happy to have her here we don't want to scare her too much right now. :-)

bluesman miike Lindner said...

Hello, Chris! I too studied fictioneering with Nancy. (SUNY Brockport, 1980, 1981, 1982--the last class was with Gene Wolfe as co-professor) She read a couple of my own sf efforts. Which proved to me she does =not= scare easily!

Chris said...