Thursday, February 23, 2012

Stuff My Students Say, and Stuff I Say to Them

No extended commentary below, but I've been meaning to archive these things somewhere:

  1. Student: "Why do you guys always say this: 'remember, characters don't know they're in a book'? You always say it so that we won't say stuff like 'On page 54...', but that way of explaining it doesn't make sense. What makes more sense is for you to say: 'the reader of the essay won't connect with the page number--it means nothing without the context.'" Brilliant. I'm going to use that explanation from now on.
  2. Regular readers of this blog will know that I constantly question what we're doing in English classes, and specifically how analytical writing relates to both the texts we're reading and what our students need. In conversation with Gracie during class one day, I came up with this: "All literary analysis boils down to why you should read this book." Not like a book review, but rather, what the text tells you about the world, yourself, language, and so on. I'm still not sure that's the right answer to the question "What's the point of writing these essays?" But it's one of them.
  3. Another answer: You're lifting weights. I don't expect many of my students to become academics. But while our culture is indeed becoming increasingly visual, it's also becoming even more based in the written word. For every wordless photoessay, there are many more written responses. Writing analytical essays is to the actual writing you do in life as lifting weights is to playing a sport well. It's not the thing itself, but a way of strengthening your muscles for the thing itself.