* Students should read 100-150 pages over the semester.
Any fewer, and it will be tough to generate enough ideas to sustain
student writing; any more, and reading will start to overwhelm
* As often as possible, readings should serve as models
Use readings that produce academic arguments (that is, which employ
problem statements and the parts of argument). In this way, readings
will not only further the class conversation about theme, but about
writing. Every reading need not produce a perfect, prototypical
argument--in fact, it's helpful to talk about how and
why particular authors and genres omit or rearrange the prototype.
* Vary the field and genre of readings.
Just as we want students to learn to write academic arguments
in a variety of fields, they should read arguments from a variety
of fields. If your theme is film noir, include some history and
economics pieces alongside film criticism and reviews; if your
theme is the stock market, include a piece on Oliver Stone's
Street or Martha Stewart's rise and fall. Similarly, try to include
a variety of sources: not just academic journals and book excerpts,
but web writing, 'zines, magazines, and newspapers.
* Excerpt and summarize readings, especially difficult texts.
You can incorporate new ideas without adding pages of readings
if you photocopy a paragraph or two from an article, or make
a list of provocative claims (and ask students to come up with
and evidence to support them), or even rewrite a difficult passage
so that it's more accessible to your students.
This works especially well with challenging texts. Remember that
you are not teaching a graduate seminar (or even an undergraduate
seminar) in the theme; chapters of Foucault and Freud are likely
to be so abstruse that untangling their meaning will take up
most of the class' time.
* Rely on student research.
You need not gather all of the readings yourself. As the semester
goes on, rely on students to identify areas of interest, find
articles, and share them with/summarize them for the class.