For the past several years, I have taught an introductory course on
world literature at the university where I am presently employed.
The offering has frequently proven to be a disappointment, both to
myself and to the students—some in headscarves, some
occasionally dressed in fatigues—who register for this seminar in
order to satisfy their Humanities requirement:

       As far as classes go, it was an almost painless

       The instructor is fairly intelligent and enthusiastic
       about the material but is unreceptive, even
       intolerant, of anything that is not a poem or a poem
       in prose form.

       Made me question things, including the value of
       higher learning.


Looking over the feedback last summer, I began to consider a

different approach. There would be new assignments, self-
assessments, and regularly scheduled office hours this time around,

followed by a transitional withdrawal of black gowns through the
spring morning mist. And because I know comparatively little of
this world, I’ve decided to work my way up from below.