Notice of Online Archive

  • This page is no longer being updated and remains online for informational and historical purposes only. The information is accurate as of the last page update.

    For questions about page contents, contact the Communications Division.

Once again, Lafayette’s first-year students will analyze, discuss and learn about literature together before even arriving on campus in the fall.

The Class of 2005 will investigate Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man as its common summer reading assignment. In July, students will begin participating in a discussion board and learning background through a dedicated website.

“We wanted to do a book that addressed diversity issues, because it’s one of the topics covered in orientation,” explains Christopher W. Gray, dean of studies. The book not only provides a metaphor for the African-American experience and explores racial issues, but also raises questions of personal identity.

In a few weeks, students will begin using a limited-access, CourseInfo website that includes a study guide with advice and discussion questions to focus their reading. Through a discussion board, students will share comments and questions about Invisible Man in a virtual classroom made up of the entire class. A discussion leader, William Carpenter, assistant professor of English, will “prime the pump and keep students on track.”

“The most interesting part of the website, besides links to related websites, is the discussion board, which worked very well with The Odyssey,” says Gray. “We supplied students with questions and hoped they would start talking among themselves, and they did. It’s really a genuine virtual classroom because the class does not meet as a whole until coming on campus.”

“This is much more engrossing than just sending them a list of discussion questions,” adds Gray. “Reading a book on your own is different than in a class where a teacher brings background information. You have mutual enthusiasm that grows as discussion continues. This is a way of providing that.”

The project also fits in with the goals of student orientation. “There are certain things that all orientation programs need to do,” Gray explains. “For example, we talk to students about how to live as responsible citizens in residence halls. There are sessions on topics like substance abuse, sexual harassment, and diversity. But in addition to that, what we’re doing is telling students that college is about reading and analyzing books. During orientation, we want to focus on the fact that Lafayette is a place of intellectual endeavor.”

An added benefit cited by current students is that the summer reading assignment familiarized them with the CourseInfo websites used in other Lafayette classes.

Students will continue discussing The Invisible Man during orientation in groups based on their First Year Seminar (FYS) classes. The FYS is a course offered during students’ first semester that introduces them to the intellectual life of the college community through study of a special topic. Class size is limited to 16 students.

A faculty committee picked The Invisible Man last year. As with the last summer reading, Robert Fagles’ translation of Homer’s The Odyssey, the book will be used by two consecutive incoming classes.

Categorized in: Academic News