By Deborah Guterman
At John Jay, English major and minor requirements include LIT 260, Introduction to Literary Studies. As a prerequisite for 300 and 400 level literature classes, LIT 260 is expected to introduce a slew of topics, including poetry, plays, short stories, novels, and defining characteristics of literary genres. The English Department is now questioning whether such an ambitious class is to the students’ advantage.
“It’s a question born of a concern that LIT 260 tries to do too much and be too many things to too many people,” said literature professor Helen Kapstein at John Jay.
John Staines, professor and major advisor for the English Department, added that they’ve been “finding 260 doesn’t always give everybody the stuff that they need to succeed in the 300 level courses,” which is why the discussion exists at all.
Among other English professors, Professor Kapstein is polling students on whether their LIT 260 class felt rushed, as the Board will soon discuss whether to make the course two semesters long instead of the current single semester.
Because this decision is in its beginning stages, the logistics have yet to be worked out. But a few things seem clear: having two classes as prerequisites instead of one would add another class, another three credits’ worth of time to the English major requirements, making it a total of 39 credits instead of the current 36.
LIT 260’s role as a prerequisite would have to be looked at, especially as it applies to majors versus to minors “because it (260) is the only course required for both majors and minors, and for some students in the English major or minor. It’s the only course they’ll have in common with their peer group,” Kapstein said, emphasizing why 260 being a requirement for both majors and minors is an important quality to keep. “Clearly we want some sense of community, we want people to have some shared experience, we want them to have some shared skill-set coming through our department.”
Staines and Kapstein agree that, no matter what they do with the course, they won’t be simply spreading the existing material over two semesters. Rather, they would be dividing and supplementing the intended topics more to thoroughly teach each one.
Despite the professors’ assurance that splitting the course would not make it easier, not all English students are in favor of such a change. In fact, most English majors are vehemently against 260′s divide.
“I think it’s gonna be easier for students if it’s broken into two,” said Alexa Clifford, an upper junior at John Jay who has already completed the 260 requirement for her English BA. She agrees with what the English Department seems to intend, but “I think that’s going to be the problem,” she adds.
“The class was hard but I feel like if they continue—the school—they continue to baby their students, nobody is ever going to push themselves,” said Clifford.
“They should not do that,” agreed Alina Serkhovets, a graduating English major senior. “Since it’s a high class already, you are already at least a sophomore or a junior when you’re taking it, so you can handle the workload.”
Creating a compromise, a sophomore at John Jay, Jade Baird, said that they “have one set of people who take the course in one shot and get it over with, and…a second set of people where if they want to split the course, they can split the course. It’s up to the student to pick.” He compared his solution to high schools, where “you could take Trig for one year, or you could take it in 2 years to get ready for the regents.”
Because 260’s rushed state has been brought up to the English Department on numerous occasions, while some students are decidedly opposed to making it any more lax, clearly not all of them agree. Though a compromise like Baird’s might be the most pragmatic, the English Department will, at the end of the day, make their decision based on what they see fit, not only on students opinions but also on what they think will help students get the most out of 260, and therefore the English major or minor, as possible.
This discussion, however, is just beginning to bud.
“We haven’t committed at all as a Department to doing this,” said Kapstein.”