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I am deep in lazy mini-vacation mode. How can I tell? Because I was reading an assigned essay for my historical fiction class this afternoon and my brain kept stopping to puzzle over what I had just read. It was one of those “I know this is written in English but it reads like a foreign language” experiences. Granted the essay is a chapter from a book called A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction by Linda Hutcheon and is very academic oriented, but it didn’t have any concepts I had not come across before so it shouldn’t have been so “huh?” inducing. That is why I am blaming my mini-vacation. My brain is relaxed and academic reading requires a certain alertness that is difficult to muster at the moment.

You might be wondering how my MOOCs are going. My Coursera class on historical fiction is entering week three. I am loving it! The folks I am sharing the experience with on a wiki are fantastic and stimulating. The class itself is incredibly professional. This being my first MOOC I wasn’t expecting much; Powerpoint slides or the professor’s lecture notes. But Professor Bruce Holsinger from the University of Virginia has pulled out all the stops. Excellent and professionally done video lectures and lots and lots of reading both core and “extra.” Holsinger is also teaching a semester-long in-person class right now on the subject and last week we had our first author visit. Jane Alison, visited the seminar class to discuss her book The Love-Artist as well as historical fiction. The session was recorded and was pretty interesting. Unfortunately, all the copies of the book were checked out from my library so I didn’t get to read it. I had to be satisfied with what I could get from Amazon’s “look inside” sample. Thank goodness I didn’t have to contribute to the discussion for a grade!

I am halfway through my self-paced class on T.S. Eliot. This too has fantastic discussion from the intrepid folk who are proceeding along in it with me. Last week was an introduction to “The Wasteland” and this week we are studying section one, “The Burial of the Dead.” Eliot is not easy reading but he is fascinating and often beautiful. These lectures are not professionally produced like the historical fiction class but that does not make them any less good. Professor Strandberg sits in, what I am guessing is his library, and simply lectures to the camera for 15-30 minutes. He stumbles and makes mistakes and sometimes takes long pauses to collect his thoughts but he is quite knowledgeable and personable.

The classes present an interesting contrast in style and approach and I am enjoying both immensely. They are quite a bit of work and gobble up a big chunk of my reading time. But I am learning interesting things and that’s what matters.

Now, Bookman and I are off to a panel discussion at a local bookstore on reading in the 21st century, or something like that. Of course I will report back.

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