This page features syllabi for past classes (click on the course name), student projects, course observations, and student evaluations. I was the instructor of record for all courses featured.
Welcome, travelers, to this course focused on science fiction. Sci-fi has long been pushed to the fringes, and even the ditches, of literature by “serious” scholars and writers. No longer! This class is predicated on the belief that science fiction is not only “real literature” but also that, like all literature, it is artistic, philosophical, political, and communal. What did Arthur C. Clarke mean when he said, “Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories”? What does science fiction offer us in terms of how we think about our universe, our planet, our neighbors, and ourselves? To enter into this discussion, we will a) read stories by established authors, both old and new, b) read supplementary works that contextualize or analyze the stories in order to further class discussion, c) learn about the historical, cultural, and ideological contexts of science fiction, and d) produce essays relating what we’re reading to key themes present in the stories and inherent in science fiction.
In this course we read five plays by Shakespeare, watch film adaptations, and consider the differences between their presentation on the page, the stage, and the screen. We will learn about Shakespeare’s life and language, distinguishing verse from prose, and about the genres of comedy, tragedy, history, and romance. We will look at examples of films of Shakespeare plays both early and recent, both in English and in other languages, and both ones that stick close to conventional concepts of how to film Shakespeare and adaptations at varying degrees of distance from his language, time, and plot. We’ll spend part of class discussing a play to get a feel for the text, to discuss critical problems, and to think about possible ways of staging scenes. We will then proceed to watch specific scenes and always begin with this question: how does the film director’s filmic representation of the play constitute an interpretation of the text? Or, to put it a little differently, how do directorial decisions about camera angle, lighting, music, editing, framing, music, setting, etc. shape meaning?
This course introduced students to some of the early modern playwrights who often get overlooked in favor of The Bard, but equally deserving of our attention and admiration. We read and discuss texts such as Marlowe’s Dido, Jonson’s Epicene, Middleton’s The Roaring Girl, and Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi. Through the interrogation and analysis of these texts, we learn about the authors’ agenda, style and technique, as well as the cultural contexts in which these works were produced. We also look carefully at the messages about women and women’s bodies embedded within the plays and their performance history. Weekly lectures involve the analysis of one or more literary texts, in combination with student presentations on other historical, artistic, and popular culture materials linked to those texts, as well as several scene presentations. Class time includes space for discussion and workshop-style analysis and will always seek to place the literary works in their social and historical context. Students also learn how to use major research tools to assist their reading, how to formulate research questions in relation to literary texts, and how to evaluate texts through close reading.
“Dr. Lechler was always super enthusiastic and you can tell she loves her subject and her job. She makes the time fly by and class is always interesting. We have lectures, videos, and performances that help us understand the story and she always uploaded different resources on blackboard to help us during the week.”
“Acting out scenes from the play were by far my favorite part of the class.”
This course introduced students to some of the most iconic fairy tales in the European tradition and some of their non-Western relations, while looking at modern fiction, comic, stage, and film adaptations. We read and discussed classic fairy tales such as “Sleeping Beauty,” “Snow White,” and “Jack and the Beanstalk,” while also encountering texts such as tales of Baba Yaga and the medieval incarnation of the dangerous fairy in “La Belle Dame Sans Merci.” In doing this, we covered: fairy and folk tale structure, specifically through the theories of such early morphologists as Propp, Aarne, and Thompson and the comparative mythologist Joseph Campbell; common archetypes found in fairy and folk tales, such as “The Trickster” or “The Benefactor”; how fairy tales (both past and present) reflect cultural beliefs and anxieties about power, sex, family, and death; and how modern-day adaptations of fairy tales bend and reshape these tales for new genres, audiences, and rhetorical purposes. The class culminated in final, collaborative online project entitled Fairy Tales in the 21st Century (link).
“Dr. Lechler represents a new, promising era of literature professors who effectively blend traditional channels of instruction and assessment with fun, unique opportunities for students to demonstrate their knowledge. Dr. Lechler leads very stimulating discussion and knows how to get students to think critically. Most importantly, she values her students’ opinions.”
“She listens intently to her students during the conversation and writes coherent notes on the white board that summarize the main points of the discussion. She kept true to her word and created a risk-free, positive environment for stimulating discussion. Dr. Lechler also has superb classroom management skills.”
This course aims to introduce students to key moments in the literary history of England up to 1800. We read and discuss texts as famous as Beowulf, The Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare’s sonnets, and Paradise Lost, examining it alongside material less familiar to undergraduates, such as Middleton and Dekker’s The Roaring Girl and Aphra Behn’s Oroonoko. The students are introduced to the authors’ agendas, styles and techniques, as well as the cultural contexts in which these works were produced. Through lecture, discussion, weekly writing assignments, and a final research project, they learn modes of careful and objective evaluation of a range of different forms and genres.
“She is excited about the material that we read, and she explains it in a language that students can understand. She makes going to class an experience each time and she grades each assignment on time and fair!”
“Loved the material and enthusiasm. Loved the class interaction rather than straight lecture.”
“The teacher was not only enthusiastic about the subject matter but also highly educated about it and was able to answer contextual questions. When she didn’t know the answer to a question, she wasn’t scared to admit it and look up the answer. She was also highly accepting of different points of view about the subject matter and preserved that right by having tests be based on literary techniques and terms versus trying to repeat her interpretation of the writings.”
This course focused on the intersection between national identity and “female” identity in British Literature. Students read Aphra Behn, Jane Austen, Mary Shelley, Virginia Woolf, and Zadie Smith, paying particular attention to how women, and Britain herself, were characterized. As a class, we took field trips to places of significance in women’s literature around London and the English countryside.
“I was inspired by your style of teaching. The utilization of the locale and life experiences of the authors into the study of their writings was an unforgettable experience. Additionally, the ability to create a class that balanced incoming freshmen and seasoned undergraduate students. You were able to successfully construct a class that was offered to entry level freshman and upper level undergrads providing each with a challenging class.”
This course studied the character and the world of Sherlock Holmes through the intertwined concepts of remediation, adaptation, and fandom. As an outgrowth of our discussion of the literary and film history of Sherlock Holmes, students participated in both academic and fan discourses, composing written, visual, and auditory texts using a variety of technologies. The course culminated in a final, collaborative online journal entitled Sherlocked In: Remediations of Sherlock Holmes in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries (link).
This course introduced students to Shakespeare’s work as a poet and playwright, with special emphasis on his writing for performance. While reading five different plays in Shakespeare’s four major genres, students explored and experimented in class with how his language directs a performer. The final project was designed to give the students an opportunity to write with publication in mind.
“Lecture was engaging. It made the material relevant to our time period and was easier to understand.”
“…the first teacher I’ve had who has taught Shakespeare the way I could understand it. Thank you.”
This course is designed to introduce and practice ways of reading, thinking about, and discussing literary texts. It focuses on speculative fiction, fiction that asks “What if?” In class discussions, we pondered what Arthur C. Clarke meant when he said, “Politicians should read science fiction, not westerns and detective stories”? Could this apply to other kinds of speculative fiction, too? What does speculative fiction offer us in terms of how we think about our universe, our planet, our neighbors, and ourselves? This course also gave students the opportunity to write their own short story.