Teaching Comp II is very different from teaching Comp I. Comp I is abojut practical skills that everyone needs, and we use topics that the students themselves choose much of the time.
In Comp II, we read a short story and then plunge into poetry, which many of the students have never read and never would choose to read. They just get that figured out and then we jump into Othello as our example of drama.
It is very hard for them to read and maybe it isn’t the best choice, though I think they’d have a hard time with the other dramatic works in our textbook, too. Still, there’s a great story and complex characters to work with.
We look at the characters and their relationships, students choose and prepare scenes to act out, we watch a bit of the movie, and then — once everyone seems to have grasped the story — we delve into the poetry. Last year I had several students who thought Iago was blamelessly ambitious. This year students seem to have more thoughts about the women in the piece.
This is still a writing class, so I use the short story to make a point about showing not telling, and then use poetry to make the point that choosing just the right words and sentences matters. What lesson does drama have for us as writers of term papers? I’m not at all sure. Maybe by the time they reach this point in the class they’re enjoying the literature and don’t care so much whether it has practical value.
Our study of Othello is all about emotions, relationships — not useful things, perhaps, but it gives the students something to write about. Maybe that’s enough.