:: Literature is More Than Just the Words on the Page

Posted: January 15, 2010

Literature is More Than Just the Words on the Page

In his evening and online courses, Dr. Wayne Lesser strives to show University Extension (UEX) students that literature is a reflection of the time, place and culture in which it was written.

Dr. Lesser is a professor in the university’s Department of English. He teaches a wide range of American literature and theory courses to both undergraduate and graduate students. Over his career, Dr. Lesser has won several teaching and research awards. Most recently, he was awarded the honor of Outstanding Graduate Adviser by the Graduate School in 2008. In addition to his current duties in the English Department, Lesser also teaches several courses for UEX.

Dr. Lesser teaches E 316K – Masterworks of Literature: American for UEX as both a self-paced online course and as a classroom-based semester course in the evenings.

E 316K – Masterworks of Literature fulfills the core curriculum requirement in Humanities for students at The University of Texas at Austin.

Check out Dr. Lesser’s responses to these questions about his courses and experiences teaching for UEX.

Why do you think this course is valuable?

In addition to surveying the tradition of American literature, the course teaches students to put what they read in “historical context.”

This way of working with texts is akin to the methods employed across the liberal arts disciplines, and also to the foundations of legal thinking in the study of law, as well as to the use of case method in the study of business.

What do you like most about your UEX students?

(1) The diversity of their experiences. Although some are typical college students who need an evening and/or small class setting, I also enjoy having non-native speakers, parents, and students already embarked upon full-time working careers in my classes.
(2) I like their commitment to learning, as evening study almost always involves scheduling hurdles and even personal sacrifices.

What is your favorite lesson or activity to share with your UEX students?

Describing to students how they themselves live within the world of ideas and social practices that American authors have both celebrated and criticized since the 17th century.

What do you think particularly sticks with your students after taking your course?

Although I hope that students find some of the authors compelling enough to merit further self-directed reading, I mainly hope they will remember that Americans belong as much to their works of literature as those works belong to them.

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