Introducing Patricia Highsmith

Tomorrow I meet for the first time with my EN490: Major Authors course, which I’m so excited about! It’s a larger class than I’d anticipated, but hey–the more the merrier. And, the more folks I can turn to into followers of Patricia Highsmith, the better! This is a writing intensive class, so we’ll be doing weekly critical responses (or revisions to previous responses) in preparation for two substantial essays. But, instead of a final exam, I’m giving the class the opportunity to stage a public event of some sort around Highsmith’s films and/or their research over the course of the term. Students will be responsible for envisioning, organizing, advertising, and executing the event. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.

We’re reading four novels this term, in conjunction with some short stories and three films–of the novels, I’ve included Strangers on a Train, The Cry of the Owl, The Talented Mr. Ripley, and The Price of Salt–now that I’ve ordered the books and everything is set to go, I’m sort of wishing we were reading Deep Water. But I think we’ve got more than enough on our plate as it is, especially since we’re only meeting once a week.

Our first class, I’m hoping to get more on board with my twitter backchannel experiment, and I can’t forget to discuss the crowd-sourced class policies–I somehow got sidetracked in 240 and 203, though I did remember to ask students in 240 to review mine and consider what they would change. We’ll go over the projects, Highsmith’s biography and her critical reception, and then read one or two of her short stories to start our discussion. I’m still trying to figure out which short stories would be best for the purpose–maybe “Quiet Night” or “Oona, the Jolly Cave Woman.” What fun! I was also able to arrange a guest lecture for the third week of classes–one of my colleagues will come to give an overview of American crime fiction, and particularly its gendering, as a context for Highsmith. I say again: what fun!

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