My class cannot read Larra and they are seniors. They cannot read him. The vocabulary is too esoteric, the sentences too long, the references too esoteric — but mostly the issue is, these articles are somewhat complex texts. Events are narrated and commented upon and the students would prefer that each artículo de costumbres were separated into two texts: a story, and and explanation of what the story is intended to illustrate. One student said reading Larra was “traumatic” and is causing him to consider dropping the major. Another said Larra was “random” — there is no order in his texts, no clear reason why the characters he discusses might be of interest.
The administration has determined that classes in this university generally lack rigor and that this is a problem. This is a new attitude as they used to say the opposite. I had a colleague suffer serious tenure trouble due to teaching at the college level. My current students are having difficulty with Larra not because of a “language problem” but because they are used to simple reading in all subjects. In the culture class they are frustrated because we are not defining culture, language and nation but interrogating these concepts. The existence of these situations means I am not one of those guilty of teaching courses that lack rigor. It does make teaching harder and my evaluations are not the highest in the college since I am “confusing.”
Surely I would do better in life if I did something for the Larra students like show modern films and put them in discussion groups, but is this not to shortchange them, being as we are in the Peninsular survey? Do you think it would be ethical to skip the 18th, 19th and part of the 20th century in the Peninsular survey 1700-2013?
What I should probably do is create a history and culture course where a few literary excerpts are read. I could lecture on the writers and have students memorize summaries of their works. I could give “objective” tests. This course would take a great deal of study and development, and is not “me,” and would surely not constitute the “cutting corners on teaching” the efficiency experts require.