Each member of the seminar will lead a discussion on a chapter from Elaine Fantham's book on the Metamorphoses (2004, Oxford University Press).
The purpose of these discussions is for students to become better readers of Ovidian epic with the help of scholarship and to understand how that scholarship has evolved from the efforts of other scholars.
On the day of a discussion, everyone will come to class having read the chapter in question. One student will be responsible for leading and facilitating in-class discussion with these guidelines in mind.
LENGTH and FORMAT
Aim for a discussion that lasts about 15 minutes.
Discussion leaders should NOT simply summarize what Fantham has to say, as if giving a book report. Rather, they must attempt to generate an active discussion among their peers by asking questions that elicit genuine interpretation of the scholarship at hand.
Interpretive questions focus on "why" or "how," rather than "what" or "who." Some examples:
NO: What does Fantham say on p. 27?
YES: On p. 27 Fantham says such-and-such. How does this statement reflect her argument overall?
NO: What is a paraclausithyron?
YES: How does understanding the paraclausithyron enhance our understanding of this episode?
NO: What is Fantham's conclusion?
YES: Does Fantham's conclusion seem justified on the basis of her evidence?
The "yes" questions take content for granted and prompt peers to comment on Fantham's methodology.
Another kind of interpretive question asks about something the discussion leader genuinely does not understand. Such a question circumvents the feeling that the leader is fishing for an answer, though it should be deployed judiciously.
Discussion leaders should not expect to generate questions from a single, cursory reading of their assigned chapter. Rather, they must know their chapter inside and out — not only findings and conclusions, but also methodologies and interpretive frameworks.
That said, leaders must allow the discussion to venture beyond the confines of the script — that is, to ask helpful questions on the fly. In fact, leaders should accept the fact that many of their questions might go unasked during the discussion.