The spring semester begins on Sunday and, like last semester, I am teaching three classes. Two of them--Experiencing Creativity (the core humanities class I taught in the fall) and African Literature--are already full and the third--19th Century American Literature--is under-enrolled with only 6 students so far (though it will not prevent the class from running). I am as surprised by the low enrollment for American literature as I am by the impressive numbers for African literature. At my previous institution, the American literature surveys would always fill up and my African course had very low enrollment. I had expected something similar here...America's cultural cache is transnational, no?
How can I explain this difference? I am not sure. Other than a handful of students who I have taught previously, I can't tell much about who the students are in these classes yet (classes, majors, nationalities, etc.). One obvious answer would be that African students are more interested in African literature; however, most of my students here would not identify themselves in that way (though I am teaching a story by Egyptian writer Yousef Idris to challenge some of these geographical categorizations). And American literature was relatively popular at University of Kinshasa, though Angolophone African literature was as well.
I like being a situation like this where I don't know something I thought I knew and am excited to see how it plays out in the classroom.