Fisher Shines in Top English Course

First in a five-part series

Many of the students flock to English 178x because of the reputation Fisher has earned for being an excellent and animated lecturer.

"I think the lectures are really interesting," says English concentrator Mercedes M. Blackstone '98. "I love [the class]."

Standing at the podium and using his hands for emphasis, Fisher gives abundant examples from the reading to illustrate his points.

"He's very, very knowledgeable," says Zachary T. Buchwald '96.

"He puts a great emphasis on aesthetic and artistic meaning of writing," Buchwald adds, saying that he hasn't encountered that philosophy often in his English classes.

Fisher also demonstrates a commitment to undergraduate teaching. He leads section discussion on a rotational basis, attending one meeting of each of the 13 sections in the first three or four weeks.


Fisher also looks at one fifth of the graded papers.

"It's a kind of pleasure to see and monitor the course," Fisher says. "It's the only way that to get to see those students who a little way down the road will need assistance [in graduate and advanced work]."

Students clearly appreciate Fisher's dedication to his students. But some say that following his lectures can be difficult.

"I like his lectures, and he makes a lot of good points, but it's not too structured," says Justin A. Nowell '98. "With all his points, it's sort of hard to formulate anything."

Although Fisher does tend to speak very quickly, he adds humor to his lectures, making them very enjoyable.

In his Monday lecture, Fisher showed the slight difference in the words "the rapist" and "therapist" in reference to a novel he was discussing.

"I am loving every minute of it," says Buchwald. "This genre of literature is not otherwise emphasized in the English department."

And since the course does not have an in-class final, many students say they just sit back and enjoy.

"I think when I try to take notes, I lose a lot of the lecture," says Grace Tye '99.

The course requirements are three 5-7 page papers, a take-home final exam; the readings; lecture and section attendance; and participation.

The class begins with a focus on naturalism and the move from the "nineteenth century culture symbolized by its landscapes and its relation to nature" to the modernism of the twentieth century, according to the syllabus.

"The goals of the course are really that people will really break through into the structure of the books," says Fisher.


Charting the Course is an occasional series on classes at Harvard. A five-part installment will include stories on the following five courses:

English 178x  "20th Century American Novel"  Thursday, February 29Mather 117  "Narratives of Motherhood"  Friday, March 1Lit & Arts C-20  "Hero of Irish Myth & Saga"  Monday, March 4Lit & Arts B-51  "First Nights"  Wednesday, March 6Women's Studies 111  "I Like Ike, but I Love Lucy"  Friday March