The old trick of making students talk to their neighbour for a few minutes before having to speak up in front of the professor works wonder with my students, who tend to display strict Scandinavian reserve until reprogrammed quite intensely.

We don’t talk about big novels, though. Wish we did. I’ve tried to get them talking about Big Articles, which sometimes works, but there are always some who Haven’t Had Time To Read It. One colleague of mine demands ten lines of “thinking-writing” before she’ll let them into the classroom. I think about that every semester but haven’t quite had the heart to do it yet. Kick them out, I mean. I prefer putting them in small group situations where they’ll be horribly embarrassed in front of their peers if they haven’t done the reading. Saves me the bother of being the bad guy.

When I studied big novels we weren’t expected to talk. The professors lectured. We shut up. Students should be seen adn not heard, and lectures were lectures. My impression was, though, that we HAD all read the novels. The whole novels. We loved reading. That was why we were studying something as impractical and certain NOT to get us jobs as literature.

This appears to have changed.

So sorry, no good advice, only sympathy…