A Hybrid Course


I took a lot of interesting courses in college, but I wanted to talk about a particular course that you might call a “hybrid course”. This particular course was outside my major: I was required to take non-CS courses to get my degree, but by senior year, I had also run out of CS courses to take; what is a man to do? Take a course on Ovid and Medieval Literature.

The details are particular: it was, broadly speaking, a course about 2 things. Ovid was, of course, a popular and well known romantic writer. The past is a foreign place, so some of his is somewhat difficult to grasp in a modern context, but at least half of the course was about understanding Ovid: understanding his context, his language, his history, and position. One interesting facet of his legacy is his substantial impact on medieval romantic literature. The past remains a foreign place, although these works are somewhat easier to understand, some of them less so. The medieval writers read Ovid avidly. They referenced his stories, his lines of poetry, his words, his context, everything.

But the process of teaching this complex, intricate, and interesting subject to undergrads is… difficult. A fraught process. I think. It should be; this course takes two very different, very separate, but very interconnected topics about love, and not just love but about romantic love, physical love, and the intersection of the two; very mature topics being taught to basically teenagers. I am not a teacher: perhaps this task is easier than it looks. But it looks like a fundamentally very difficult problem.

So, tough course, tough subject, on 2 disparate topics. Part of the solution to this problem involves just having very skilled professor(s). This course was taught by 2 professors, one a Professor of Classics, the other a Professor of English. They split the class in twain, and got an extra room allocated. For the first half of the semester they would teach their specialty to half the class, and at the midpoint, they switched, teaching the other part of the class about their specialty. They would also join the classes together on occasion for a joint lecture to help the class deal with the dense interconnection in the subject.

From a resource perspective, it was akin to two professors teaching two different courses, but because the professors collaborated so closely, and the courses were the same and cross-listed, the actual course managed to approach a complex interconnected interdisciplinary subject effectively while granting major degree credit to both Classics and Comparative English. This is a small but key detail that meant it was more likely for students from both majors to take a course they wouldn’t normally take and be exposed to subjects they wouldn’t normally be exposed to.

I absolutely loved this course, and if you get the opportunity to take ENGL 209 - Ovid in the Middle Ages from Jennifer Bryan and Kirk Ormand, I highly recommend it.