I’m supposed to be ordering books for my spring classes, which means I should know what texts I plan to teach. Of course I don’t know. I have a long list of things I’d like to teach, which needs to be cut down to what we can actually do in one semester, during which my students have other classes (and I have two conference papers to write and give).
In spring, I’ll be teaching Arthurian Literature to upper-division English majors. I usually avoid anthologies, and tend to prefer to teach whole works (or large chunks, such as the Arthurian section of the Brut). But I’m thinking that I would like to teach some smallish excerpts from Spenser’s Faerie Queene: Merlin’s prophecies from Book III, and the cantos from Book I in which Prince Arthur first appears.
Will this work, if I provide plot summaries for the rest of Books I and III? Or is it too in medias res for students to cope with? Sometimes they seem to prefer the whole-book approach, even if it’s something like Spenser with archaic language. Those of you who teach surveys and excerpts, please comment!