Rachel writes: Reading extemporaneously . . .

In Dean Shinagel’s Classic English Fictions Reconsidered seminar, we discuss the week’s reading around a large table. Discussions often somehow incorporate our weekly essays which we submit by email to Dean Shinagel by the morning of the day of class. During discussions, I am struck by how well-read and knowledgeable my fellow students are (several of them are high-school English teachers); and last week, when some of us read our weekly essays for the rest of the class (which we hadn’t really done before), I was delighted to hear such feelingly argued and beautifully written compositions. Some of us who read our papers (they are fairly short–between 2 and 5 pages) spoke, at least in part, more extemporaneously, using the paper as a prompt.

We weren’t necessarily expecting to be asked to read our papers, so there was no time to feel that simmering dread often associated with public speaking, which can surface even when among a relatively small and friendly group. The spontaneity suited me, and I decided, when it was my turn, to “quote” myself (by reading sections)  and speaking more or less extemporaneously otherwise.

It was an interesting exercise in finding out in more detail how the course participants are developing in their thinking about what we are reading, as well as how everyone organizes their thoughts more formally via the reading of essays, minus the sometimes raw anticipation of speaking before the group.

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