Things I have learned from students who have taken my seminars in Comparative Literature, Part 1

Professor Gregory Nagy discusses what he has learned from students who have taken his seminars throughout the years.

An excerpt:

§0. As an old teacher, I have often tried to encourage young colleagues who are launching their careers in teaching. I would be telling them stories about what could be described as “eureka moments” to be experienced in the process of teaching. But the Greek word “eureka” (ηὕρηκα), meaning literally ‘I have found,’ in the sense of “I have figured it out,” does not really capture the fullness of the experience. It is not that “I have just figured out something.” Rather, we teachers can figure things out together with our students. What I am saying here can apply even to those would-be teachers who aspire to be primarily researchers. To put it in the form of an aphorism: not only does good research drive good teaching, but good teaching drives good research. That said, I should add that the title of my essay here, which is the first in a planned series of further such essays, reflects an extension in my thinking: I would now say “good learning,” not simply “good teaching,” since good learning surely applies to teachers as well as to students. A prime example in my own lengthy academic life is my learning experience—or I should say experiences—in the context of a series of seminars I have been offering over the years in the Comparative Literature Department of Harvard University. My essay here is Part 1 of a corresponding series of essays about these experiences in interacting with students in my seminars. And I start, here in Part 1, by focusing on my most recent such seminar, “Songmaking and the Idea of Lyric.” That is exactly what this seminar was called in Harvard University’s Catalogue of Courses offered in 2021/2022: