Dr. Ursula Carlson is looking to improve her students' literary diets this semester.
"In our messy, horrible lives, to read a piece of escapist literature with a happy ending is very soothing. It's like eating a piece of chocolate," she said. "In this class, we'll try different flavors."
Although, she admitted, it is tempting to read mystery novels that can be counted on to end by solving the crime, true solutions are rarely found in real life.
"Good literature is better because it's not predictable," she told students. "Predictable becomes boring."
Carlson began the first day of class at Western Nevada Community College by giving her English 102 students an overview of what to expect from the course.
"We will be reading short stories, poetry and drama from this text," she said, holding up "The Norton Introduction to Literature."
Sophomore Greg Segale whispered "yeah" when Carlson announced no research paper would be required.
"They always assign it at the end of the semester when you kind of want everything to be over with," he explained. "It makes it difficult because that's when every other class starts piling the work on."
Carlson urged students to read the assignments with an interest in learning from them.
"The purpose of this class is not just to fulfill a requirement but to give you a love of literature," she said. "Literature really is a form of art. All the things that are most worthwhile in life have something to do with art."
Cathy Eckart has an admitted weakness when it comes to literature and hopes the class will strengthen her in that area.
"I'm very excited and energized and motivated," she said as the class ended. "I think it's going to be a really good class. I've heard our teacher is one of the best."
Carlson compared analyzing literary works to being a detective and looking for fine details to prove a case. She explained the broad themes students would be expected to cover during the course and also discussed the smaller details, such as grading and attendance.
"The college only allows you to miss three days of class," she explained. "The more you're in class, the more you'll learn."
And there are more titillating reasons for showing up.
"Good literature is always full of sexual innuendo," she said. "That's neither here nor there, it's just an observation."
Student enrollment is expected to remain around 5,600, according to University and Community College System figures.
For Your Information:
Late registration continues at Western Nevada Community College until Sept. 5. For information, visit the college's Web site at www.wncc.edu.