I worked for FOUR HOURS -- one, two, three, FOUR -- on this holiday to type up the syllabus for the British Literature class I'm teaching first semester, starting on September 10.
I've never taught Britlit from this text before (we're using Poetry and Prose of England from Seton Press, supplemented by C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters as an example of modern fiction and Agatha Christie's short play, The Mousetrap, as an example of modern drama) so I have either wildly overestimated or underestimated the time we'll need to cover everything from Beowulf to Spenser to Keats to Kipling to Yeats to Chesterton. It's hard to know these things, especially when you have only a certain amount of time each week to finish an entire textbook. I am not good at skipping over some writers in favor of others, and I am also not good at not finishing textbooks. Textbooks for which I have paid money.
(Have I mentioned that I am wound a little tight?)
Anyway, this textbook has a deplorable lack of women writers: Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti are two lonely ladies stuck there in the middle of the Victorian Era. And I'm all huffing, like, so what happened to the Brontës? Mary Shelley? Jane freakin' Austen, gosh darnit!!! And why no mention of Agatha Christie, one of the Great Britain's best selling and most prolific authors, whose books and plays and short stories are surely every bit as entertaining as The Faerie Queene and "To An Athlete Dying Young."
So I'm working them in as supplements.
I just called my husband in to look at my lovely, my beauty, my dearest sweet syllabus, and he remarked dubiously, "You know, don't you, that I'm not going to have a clue what I'm looking at, right?"
"Oh, I know," I said. "I just want you to admire how neatly it is laid out and how flawlessly I have formatted it."
He came in and peered over my shoulder for a moment as I proudly scrolled through the document, then he patted me on the shoulder and said, "I always hoped to marry a woman with some book-learnin' about her."
Britlit always reminds me of one of my favorite bits of Dorothy Parker doggerel:
A Pig’s-Eye View Of Literature
The Lives and Times of John Keats,
Percy Bysshe Shelley, and
George Gordon Noel, Lord Byron
Byron and Shelley and Keats
Were a trio of Lyrical treats.
The forehead of Shelley was cluttered with curls,
And Keats never was a descendant of earls,
And Byron walked out with a number of girls,
But it didn’t impair the poetical feats
Of Byron and Shelley,
Of Byron and Shelley,
Of Byron and Shelley and Keats.
Online text © 1998-2008 Poetry X.
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