When I was in college, class titles were kind of self-explanatory. I took stuff like Restoration Literature, which was literature of the Restoration period. (Surprise, surprise.) And World Lit was literature of...wait for it...the world.
My daughter (the math major) is registering for classes in spring semester. And she’s getting emails from professors about their classes. They explain the classes they’re teaching. For example, “Non-Linear Operations Research.” The blurb is “using scientific methods to determine the best way to analyze, operate, and predict (yada, yada, yada).” Then the professor listed “celebrated applications” of this type of math study. Celebrated? Really? Does anyone celebrate math?
But there’s more behind these emails. They’re worded like advertisements. Hey, take my math class, you’ll love it. It’s “celebrated.” I suspect the profs are trying to make sure that they have enough students for the class. You see, the department rotates professors through the classes that no one wants to teach. And who wants to teach remedial math? (Though most of those are taught by grad students; Ariel’s friend had a student whine, “You want us to memorize three formulas?! But that’s too hard.”)
Or perhaps it’s to combat RateMyProfessor.com. Here is a sample of an average entry of a math professor: Nice guy, who’s really good at math. However, he has only a nodding acquaintance with English. The average grade in his class is a 30, but it’s okay because at the end he distributes a few good grades just for the heck of it.
So I can understand why they’ve resorted to advertising (i.e., propaganda). Maybe the lit departments should consider doing something similar. I can imagine how they’d advertise Restoration Lit. Instead of “obscure literature written by giddy royalists who never met a clause they didn’t love,” it would read “forgotten plays and essays by writers who are thrilled to be rid of Milton/Cromwell and are pre-modern precursors to the bawdy situation comedy.” Literature studies would never be the same.