My fake college syllabus

As your professor, I plan to take your money, never read your essays and pretend you're not checking Facebook

Topics: Satire, Writers and Writing, College, humor, English literature, Academia, Professors, ,

My fake college syllabus(Credit: discpicture via Shutterstock/Salon)

The following syllabus is for my new class, English 401: The Short Novel, meeting Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:10-2:50pm.

Course Description 
In this class, we will analyze some of World Literature’s greatest short novels in an attempt to interrogate the essence of plot and character while reading as few words as possible. Each class session will begin with a student presentation of 15 to 20 minutes, so we’re looking at an effective class time of about an hour. I’d love to give you a five-minute break halfway through the period, with the tacit understanding that we actually blow 15, but then I’d have to pretend I didn’t notice when 36% of you didn’t bother to come back. Or I’d have to pass around the attendance sheet again, which is a major pain in the ass.

After the student presentation, which should cover structure and theme but will seldom rise above rote plot summary, I will provide whatever historical and biographical context is both critical to our understanding of the book and available on Wikipedia. But I will sound so authoritative and well-versed that you’d never know this, even if you had the book’s Wikipedia page open on the laptop you’re pretending to take notes on, rather than your Facebook newsfeed.

The rest of the period will be spent in class discussion, which by week three will have settled into an “Inside the Actor’s Studio”-esque conversation between me and one or two consistently prepared students whom the rest of you will quietly despise. Occasionally, another student may come out of nowhere, Jeremy Lin style, and dominate a particular class, only to break my heart by fading permanently back into the woodwork the following week, Jeremy Lin-style.

Books
Course books are available at the campus bookstore. Please refrain from contacting me eight weeks from now to say that the book we’re discussing tomorrow is sold out and you are thus unable to do the reading. What if you went to the store to buy toilet paper, and they were out of it? Correct: You’d go to another store. Or, even better, you’d anticipate your need for toilet paper and purchase it before the moment of desperation. I am not comparing the great short novels of world literature to toilet paper.



Contact Information
No, you may not have my email address because I’m sick of the way you sidle up to me at the beginning of class and ask if I got the hysterically punctuated excuse you fired off at five this morning or seven nanoseconds before class started. I’m also fed up with receiving emails from your mom and your older sister explaining how rough this semester has been for you, what with the suspended license and the new gluten allergy, and telling me why I should cut you some slack. To say nothing of the sadness that blooms in my soul like a dark flower when I receive emails from students at addresses such as KindBuddz420@gmail.com and SexiLexi69@me.com.

This semester, we’re going to try something different. Here is the phone number to my home, where I live with my wife and kids and, for all you know, one or more disabled elderly persons: 228-1745. If what you have to tell me about the unfairness of my grading policy is important enough to call, dial away. Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Grading Policy
My grading policy is to remain above the fray. Your assignments will be read by Scott, the Teaching Assistant. If you question me about your marks, I will plead ignorance. If pressed, I will strongly imply that Scott holds some kind of mystical or legal sway over me and that I am powerless to alter his decisions. Scott and I have worked all this out ahead of time; he is the Bad Cop and I am the Kindly Aloof Genius. Let me be clear: It would take a major act of God – not the kind of thing they consecrate saints for these days, but a plague of cigar-chomping Labradoodles plummeting from the heavens – for me to read a single word you have written.

Exams
There will be a midterm and a final. Both will be Scantron exams. I feel awful about this, because evaluating your understanding of literature via multiple choice goes against everything I believe in. But there are a lot of you, and your handwriting tends to be illegible, and even Scott has his limits. I will, of course, write a couple of quirky “extra credit” questions on the board halfway through each test (“Who would win in a bar fight, Clarice Lispector or Thomas Bernhard? Show your work.”), acting as though I have just made them up. Your final exam will not be given during finals week, but rather during the reading period preceding it. I will claim that this is to beneficially stagger your schedule, but even you will see through that one.

Academic Honesty
Please note that Scott is excellent at ferreting out plagiarism, particularly the incompetent, undergraduate variety in which the writing style veers from Late Caveman to Deconstructivist within a single paragraph. Plagiarism is an expellable offense, and I am obligated to report all incidents to the Dean.

Realistically, I doubt they’d expel you if your tuition check cleared, and there’s no way I’m reporting anything to the Dean. I don’t actually know who the Dean is, and the last thing I want to do is draw His attention. What I will be looking for is remorse, as expressed through tears or a certain ashen, petrified quality. I will then give you a zero on the paper, accept your gratitude stoically, and avoid making eye contact with you for the remainder of the semester.

Office Hours
Are by appointment only.

Adam Mansbach is the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller GO THE FUCK TO SLEEP. The sequel, YOU HAVE TO FUCKING EAT, will be published on November 12

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>