Category Archives: Week 9

Nat Turner and the necessity of being appalled.

In Kyle Baker’s preface to Nat Turner he said that he chose the story for a graphic novel because of how the story contained so many images. I remember being horrified at that statement—sure, it has compelling images, but such terrible ones! It was after beginning to read the story that I saw how right Baker was. Hearing the story of Nat Turner, which I knew before picking up the book, was nothing compared to seeing the images represented in a graphic novel. True, the images were horrifying—and as they should be.

I won’t bemoan how desensitized our culture has become to violence—I know that for me and most others this isn’t a function of insufficient empathy but the only way to make it through the day. All the same, I think its useful for there to be art to resensitize us from time to time. I don’t think it does us as a population much good to drown ourselves in despair over the atrocities of the present and past, but I think we would fare much worse if we did not have visceral, painful reminders from time to time. I liked Nat Turner for that reason.

Baker didn’t shy away from portraying the reality of the Turner rebellion’s victims—white children were murdered too. As uncomfortable and as appalled as I was by this fact, it made me think about race relations in a way I hadn’t before. This term we’ve read and discussed how readers write a text against the text or “ghost chapters.” Despite the very few words used in Nat Turner, I knew it was a narrative because I found myself questioning it in this same way. Why would Turner and his followers kill white children, even infants? I found myself answering “well, because they will grow up and be slave owners too.” That answer brought this story into focus in a powerful way and left me unable to settle on any one interpretation of Turner’s actions from a moral standpoint. For a historical tale, that seems proof of success to me.

Much of what we read in the McCloud selections on comics was already familiar to me as someone acquainted with how comics are written. The most interesting part of these pieces was how it addressed the use of silent panels. McCloud said that these panels can make time seem to stretch on indefinitely and that it can make the image even more haunting to the reader. I found this especially true of Nat Turner. Days later, I’m unable to get the image of the infant from the beginning out of my head. Several hands stretch out to the African baby as it falls through the air. This image was disturbing and powerful in a way that I doubt words could have enhanced.

Playing Ivanhoe

I introduced Ivanhoe to my IB English I students this past Thursday, and we played the game as a final activity for our study of The Great Gatsby. I gave directions almost identical to those that Professor Sample posted on the screen for us in class, and I modeled the roles after those we used for “The Story of an Hour.” In addition to including Fitzgerald, a literary critic, Dr. Phil, and Baz Luhrmann (as the film director), I included a few characters from the novel, as well as a couple of characters from other works they’ve read so far this year. At first, my students were very unsure about this “game.” They were looking at me as if I was speaking in another language, but I kept going, insisting they would ‘get it” once they started playing. And they did! Overall, the game was a success! Here are some of my observations:

  • Students loved the creative license…once they realized how much they actual had!
  • The majority of students got into the game! One of my classes has lunch in the middle of our class and students were asking, “Are we going to keep playing after lunch? This is awesome!” Another student described the activity as “tight.”
  • Students were very honest and free with their responses. Some responses became R-rated and students got uncomfortable when I was walking around. I stopped listening in on some groups—they weren’t being horribly inappropriate and they were really getting into it, so I figured it was okay.
  • Many groups had a lot of fun seeing how their collaborative narrative came together. A couple of groups had disconnected narratives throughout the game.
  • The students who really got into the game the most are students who aren’t really the strongest writers or analytical thinkers. And, yet, their responses clearly required analytical thinking.
  • Some students were concerned about how they were going to “win.” I tried to explain that it’s not that type of game, but they kept asking if their group was winning, how many points they had, etc. (Finally, I started fibbing and telling the persistent groups that they were winning the game. J)
  • Some students were asking questions about the objective or purpose of the game. Sadly, we didn’t get to have good discussion after the game because we really got into playing and ran out of time at the end of class. I did have students fill out a response about the game. I asked them what they liked, what they didn’t like, what they see as benefits of playing the game, if they think it would be more effective played in a blog format, etc. I plan to discuss these responses when we return from break. (A bit of a side note…When I mentioned that the game is typically played online, I saw a lot of smiles and nods. J)
  • In the future, when I first introduce the game, I don’t think I’ll actually introduce the game. Meaning, I think I’ll assign roles without the game context. I’ll have them write their first “move” for homework (as a POV writing assignment), and then I’ll put them into groups the following class. I think it might help with the initial confusion that they had and it would allow us to get right into the activity a little better.

Text Book

I enjoyed reading Text Book. I liked the eclectic combination of readings and enjoyed all the texts that were interspersed and used as examples. I also enjoyed the few questions or activities after the reading. I think some of these activities would be very useful in a classroom setting. The rewriting of Kate Chopin’s writing looked like a neat writing activity.
The setup of the book is very helpful. I found it was organized in a way that made sense to me, it was certainly different then most textbooks. I liked the short explanation that was then followed by a number of examples and then the questions or activities were given. I found that this really helped me to organize the material. I also liked that there were different voices offered.
I think what I really took away from the reading was the use of the anecdote. I had never really thought of using them to teach. What a great way to encapsulate an idea in a short activity. As a journalism person I also appreciate the ability to get an idea across in a short number of words. I think this would be a great way to teach students how to write. It is a way to teach story telling. The student would have to make a point with details a short word limit. I really enjoyed the idea. Students could read anecdotes that highlight an idea and then write their own that capture that same idea. I think these would be a lot of fun to do. I really like using activities in my classroom that are as hands on as possible for students.
This really was an enjoyable text to read. I enjoyed the mixture. It work with my short attention span  It was also easy to break the reading into chunks.

It’s All Ordinary

I hate to sound like a cynic, but in initially reading Text Book, I didn’t buy Pratt’s views of natural narrative, opening with “We think of literature as something special, as something above or beyond the way we use language in our daily lives— and so, in certain respects, it is.” (p. 2) I think this is an unfair assumption to take on that most people view literature as unattainable compared to ordinary speech. I had a difficult time agreeing with Pratt and seeing how all of the requirements according to Labov on p. 7 must be considered for a natural narrative to be complete. We can see even from WCW’s “The Use of Force,” with a lack of abstract and evaluation, that this is not always the case.
Perhaps, it’s because of my access to literature and writing courses, where I was taught dialogue in relation to ordinary speech and iambic pentameter as representation of natural speech. In my undergraduate fiction course, I was taught to write dialogue as it occurs naturally in real life. My professor gave us a short story by Hemmingway as an example of how the conversation between the two characters passes over one another.
I think most of the writing exercises that follow the excerpts in this book would be useful in a classroom setting. Although some of them I couldn’t necessarily relate to the intention of the book to show how ordinary written and spoken language is similar to literary language. As a writer, I think this is understood and unavoidable.
However, the exercise on page 46 to develop a story from the news article intrigued me as being the first exercise to support the intention of the book. Imaginative writing is stemming from ordinary language, instead of imaginative writing stemming from other imaginative writing or ordinary language stemming from imaginative writing. I think this would be a valuable approach for teaching writing.

Echoing the rest of you

I usually try to write my blog way before the day before class, but a much needed mini-vacation got in the way of that. Now that I’ve had a chance to read everyone else’s blogs, I really, really wish I would’ve lugged my laptop to West Virginia and wrote it over the weekend. I feel like everything I have to say just echoes my classmates:

– The format was difficult to navigate. check.
– I kinda skipped over the questions. check. (Well, I read the first ones and then eventually stopped when I realized that they were all intended for students and not necessary for my understanding of the text.)
– I was confused about who the intended audience was. check.
– The examples were too long. check.

I have to agree with Alicia that some of the examples are a bit antiquated. The whole section about commercials (no offense to your years spent in advertising, Alicia!), seems irrelevant. I wrote one comment in the margin, “DVR!” It won’t be long before commercials are not watched by anyone. I did have to laugh that the one “current” example the authors added to the excerpt from Esslin’s essay was a commercial about AIG.

Do I have anything good to say? Sure. Why not.

I liked the way that the authors included example pieces that reflected other fields of study (psychology, biology, sports and business). For students who may not be English majors, it might be refreshing to encounter a text that is about something that may be familiar and interesting. Although I have to say that an essay that applies football terminology to business is possibly the most uninteresting thing you could ever ask me to read.

I liked Erving Goffman’s concept of character contests and the two examples given of the crimes. Imagining a woman attacking her boyfriend with frozen chicken was funny. I think that those two examples and the writing prompts following them would be a productive assignment to give to writing students.

I am hoping that the rest of the book proves to be more useful than these first two chapters.

Doubtful About Text Book

Like all of us, I look for items in these readings that I can use in my classroom. As teachers, we are all constantly looking for new ways to present material. I started the segment on metaphor thinking I was going to come away with something usable (think Blau), but I didn’t find much. For me, immediate applicability is what makes a reading standout. I found only one writing exercise that might be useful – modifying metaphors on pages 73 and 74 could be used as a starting point for class discussion.

“Text Book” would be inaccessible to my students. Part of the reason for this is the level of the writing – this appears to be aimed at an upper level undergraduate audience. Since my classes consist mainly of first and second year non-academic ESL students, “Text Book” would be much-too-much of a challenge. I would need lots of supplementary material for them to truly “get” many of these concepts the way the authors’ laid them out.

A couple of the segments were truly tedious – I’m thinking of excerpt of Sontag’s “AIDS and Its Metaphors” and Martin’s “The Egg and the Sperm”. I found them interesting, but both were too long and really, too tangential to the point the authors were trying to make (I felt like I was in an undergraduate bio class). There must have been another reading that would suffice. The segment on sports as a metaphor might be more workable.

I also agree with blogger esadler – the format, mashing examples together with no commentary or transition of any kind, makes the book an exasperating read. It would be a chore to “chunk” the book into doses small enough to make it teachable at the level I teach at.

Fresh perspective – on the other hand, their all too brief segment on advertising would be a great way to discuss the power of “literature” in our everyday lives. The text book I currently use has a great segment on advertising as an effective medium, but I like the author’s explanation and the way they broke down the visual and textual components of their examples.

“Text Book” has a place on my shelf as a reference, not as a book I can go to when I’m seeking new teaching materials for a class.

commentary and criticism on Text Book

I miss Blau. I realize that I’m not saying anything new here, but I’m not very inspired by Text Book. Since we had read a piece by Scholes earlier in the semester and I found myself referring to it often when discussing other readings, I was looking forward to reading Text Book. Sigh. I’m hoping I’ll have more warm fuzzies towards the book as we continue discussing and reading. Here are some of my thoughts on Text Book…

• As a couple others have mentioned, the formatting of the book has been a hurdle for me. I’m very OCD, and the format of the book with the headings, subheadings, etc, is really messing with me! Some of the headings seem to be in the wrong place, and sometimes it is unclear what text is part of an excerpt, and what text is the commentary of the authors!

• While the readings are interesting, I keep thinking I’m reading a study of linguistics and semiotics. Granted, these areas of study play into literature, but I keep expecting more.

• Are the authors really accomplishing their goal of teaching that we “[learn] literary theory by emulating literary practice” (v)? Yes, they include various writing activities after the reading selections, but are these activities really new and different? They often require the reader/student to examine the writers use of language, as mentioned in the point above, and many activities are creative (such as POV responses), but I’m still questioning “writing through literature.” Am I missing something?

• I do like how the book focuses on studying how writers use language. The authors also ask their readers (students) to consider the effect of this use of language. These are two big key words we use in IB English—HOW (technique, choices) and EFFECT (why? So what?)

 • Another positive…Text Book speaks to and reaffirms the notion that we are constantly interpreting! I think it’s important to remind our more reluctant students of this very true fact. My regular-level students complain that “we always have to look for a deeper meaning.” In reality, they’re always looking for deeper meanings, and they pick up on these deeper meanings—in TV shows, movies, advertisements, text messages (as someone in class pointed out a few weeks back), etc. I like how the authors of Text Book discuss the interpretation of things such as advertisements and dreams, not just literary works.

Teacher-Reader response

Well, if there’s one thing Text Book has reminded me, it’s that, as a teacher-reader, I am more interested in the passages themselves than in the corresponding questions.  I keep finding myself skipping the questions altogether—and I suppose, as teachers, we should be looking at the questions to get ideas how we could teach these passages or concepts to our students.  Still, the repetitive format of passage/questions presented for me a dilemma as a teacher-reader, and I imagine it might present the same concern for student-readers.

That said, this book feels to me like a postmodern (because it is fragmented and intertextual) reworking of Sound and Sense, which for some teachers is essentially the Bible of AP Lit.  However, it makes more sense as a text for the AP English Language class (taught in the 11th grade in most Fairfax County schools) because it really effectively focuses on the elements of language rather than literature.  The introduction even says so: “We hope to help you feel more at home in the house of language, and we are confident that a better command of written language will contribute to a better life” (xv-xvi).  Of course, now I’m distracted by the use of metaphor (“house of language”) rather than the point I was trying to make—oh yes, the authors intend for the book to expose readers to the various texts they encounter in everyday life and in the English classroom and to teach them to read more effectively.  I’m just still not really sure how effectively this book does that.

By introducing younger or less experienced English students to Freudian slips and the everyday uses of metaphor, they certainly are making important connections for the students.  My question is: would the student see these connections on his/her own?  In that regard, I completely agree with Faye’s question about teaching some of these works in/out of class.  The book seems to be geared toward high school or undergraduate students, and as teachers, I guess we are responsible for deciding how to teach this sometimes very random variety of texts.  I also wondered if these connections would be more meaningful to students because they are more common examples of literary techniques.  For that reason, I simultaneously found myself wishing I had enough copies of this text to pass out to AP Lit. students to expose to them the more “meaningful” examples of parables and metonymy, among other “things.”

Overall, I share the sentiment most of you have written about in your blog posts so far: I’m not sure how I feel about Text Book, but I can see that the book contains some useful sections and some other rather ineffective qualities, too.  I’m curious whether my feelings will change when we read the second half for next week.

Text Book and Metaphor

Much as I enjoy reading Text Book, I share the concern of some others that the wealth of stories are overwhelming the points the author is trying to illustrate. For example, there are multiple stories to illustrate the elements of a narrative, but very little discussion after the examples of how the elements were present. I understand why this choice is made by the authors—they intend for the students to use the written exercises to discover these points rather than having the points spelled out.

Despite this, I felt like a few more examples of how to analyze the reading examples for the elements being studied would have improved the quality and comprehensibility of Text Book. The number of exercises devoted to any one point make the book seem introductory in level, but the lack of worked through examples make me suspect it would be difficult for students new to these concepts to get much from the book.

The section that interested me most in Text Book thus far was the selection on metaphors and daily life. I agreed with the author that metaphors reinforce our perception of events, but I think some of these became circular questions—which came first, the cultural perception or the metaphor? To use the example the authors used, consider war and argument. The authors assert that war is being used as a metaphor for arguing, but to me it seems that war is just arguing writ large, that they are spaces on the same continuum.

Though I disagreed with the authors in places regarding their analysis of the relationship between metaphor and the shape it gives daily life, the text was successful at making me reflect again on the relationship language has to our perceived experience. For this reason alone I found Text Book both interesting and useful.

interwebbing the undoable

I dig the expanded ‘text’ presentations, discussions and materials, provided by Text Book, for the most part. I also enjoy the range of questions and assignments, although certain ones bother me quite a bit. I just keep coming back to Textual Power and one Scholes’ goal in particular: “Our job is not to produce ‘readings’ for our students but to give them the tools for producing their own,” (24). I’m conflicted. Text Book requires a lot of in-class help to actually provide students with the necessary ‘tools.’ I know, all textbooks and course materials require in-class discussions and guidance, but Text Book almost teases students by allowing them a certain level of comfort with difficult concepts, through blurbs of explanations, and then throws curveball questions to purposefully knock beginners off their metaphorical feet. I am unsure what falls within Gee’s “regime of competence” and what introductory students will simply deem “undoable,” (Gee 68). For example, the questions for Plath’s “Metaphors” would have to be an in-class project: “The poem is a riddle, with each line providing a metaphoric clue to its solution. Solve the riddle, and consider how the relationships between the metaphors contribute to its solution,” (74). Since the “Metaphor in Three Poems” (72) section is still in the very beginning stages of the metaphors work, I have to wonder if this poem is still within or beyond “the outer edge” (Gee 68) of beginners’ ability and more importantly patience. If you were to assign this section as homework, then the question should actually read: “Google this poem.” Yes, the internet answer is a real danger for all homework. However, if students feel confident with their own scholarly abilities and that the level of questions posed are actually in their grasp then the danger of Wikipedia-in-defeat is less. Did Textbook provide the confidence and tools to dive into an on-your-own, sink-or-swim hypothesis for “Metaphors”? Maybe I just want to be there to make sure nobody grabs for their laptop buoy before they get their feet wet. Lots of Scholes questions and material are dancing on the outer limits of beginners comfortably, good. Great, actually. But these outer-edge materials are admittedly scary and given the opportunity a lot of beginners avoid scary. I know, it’s me. I have to trust my students. I would still feel more comfortable tackling Kafka’s “On Parables” in class. I know, it’s not just Text Book, it’s all assigned material, but I can’t help thinking of some texts as just better suited for in-class or some materials require more than a definition and a blurb before, “Good luck!” and waving them off to Sparknotes. End on a positive: I really liked “Constructing and Analyzing a Random Assemblage” (85) and the fun discussions and assignments centered on surrealism.

Thoughts on Textbook

As most of the posts have already indicated, I really had a hard time with this week’s readings. I just couldn’t get into Textbook at all. I found it especially hard to navigate through, with the long narratives and questions mixed right in with larger theories and research. Like several other people have already mentioned, the format the text took really hindered my ability to navigate and comprehend it. 

Almost immediately, I asked myself what age group this book is designed for. I’d like to think that this book is designed for a more advanced undergraduate literature student, although I was really confused/surprised when I read this on page 11: “every high school student knows that novels and plays have an introduction…is she right? Do you think these things?” Here, the authors are obviously indicating that their readers are intended to be high school students, at least for the particular section. I really can’t think of a class in high school where this would be a useful and practical textbook. On one hand, its subject matter is really densely packed (Freudian theory and Christian symbols mixed with the 6 elements of narratives and commercial transcripts). On the other hand, chapter 2’s subject of metaphors is something I feel like most high school kids and undergraduate lit students already know a lot about. And I can’t help but noting that obviously, we are all at the graduate level and most of us feel sort of blah about the book, not really able to take much from it. How, then, can we expect high schoolers to make anything of it? That being said, I did find some of the “For Discussion and Writing” sections in the book helpful and semi-practical. For example, the writing prompt used with the play “The Stronger” asks students to revise the one-act play to be from the point of view of Miss Y, the character who doesn’t talk. This prompt reminds me of some of the readings from Week 7 about how students comprehend literature at a higher level if they are asked to retell the story from a different point of view. 

I was first introduced to the concept of “texts are everywhere” in a senior level undergraduate class in Visual Rhetoric. We studied everything from photographs to museum exhibit design to commercials to power point presentations to understand how these texts compared to traditional literary texts. I tend to think that Textbook fits more closely with the goals of a class on visual rhetoric than it does with a more traditional literature class.

On Text Book

This is probably the hardest post that I have had to write in this class so far.  My main problem is that Text Book does not seem to inspire any feeling in me one way or another.  If I liked something about it alot, or disliked something about it alot, I might have somewhere to start.  However, I read the two chapters and my strongest reaction was “oh, I guess that is kind of interesting,” or “I am not really sure why this is here,” but nothing to really grasp onto.  I skimmed over the book again, looking for something, anything to get that old belly fire stoked,  but have still not found inspiration.  I just sat down and started to type in the hope that something relevant and coherent would come out…that does not seem to be happening.  So read on at your own peril, you’ve been warned.

Many of you have already noted on the problems in the book, and I agree with most of your assessments.  The intended audience for this book is not clear to me.  Some of the background discussions and explanations of literary devices seem basic, but many of the literature selections and questions that go along with them are pretty tough in my opinion.  I also agree that the structure of the book could use some work.  Running all of the literature selections together, or randomly breaking them up in divisions and subdivisions made the book tough to get through.  I felt that most of the non-fiction selections, and the authors’ sections went on for entirely too long.  The Freud section and the metaphorical structuring were especially redundant in my opinion.  The book seemed to just be applying the “lets throw a bunch of spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks method.”  It jumps around all over the place, doubling back on itself and grabbing things from all directions.  However, none of this made me really dislike the book, it just was slightly frustrating or occasionally boring.

Which brings me to the things that I did like.  The idea of intertextuality that they propose on the first page: “The point of all this is that texts and life exist in a very complex relationship.”  The idea to think of books, or novels, or poems not as closed circuits but as texts that are constantly being changed by and changing the reality they encounter is one that fascinates me.  But then they kind of drop the idea, or maybe we have different ideas about what intertextuality is.  I also liked most of the literature selections: Borges, Calvino, most of the poetry.  Some of it was new, and some of it was a reminder of texts I have enjoyed in the past.  I also enjoyed Emily Martin’s “Egg and Sperm: A Scientific Fairy Tale.”  How our subconscious feelings or associations or prejudices can work their ways into the most seemingly random constructs is a good reminder of the power of words and what they can represent.  I wish I could share it with my students, but I do not think that FCPS would be too thrilled about it.  So there was enough in Text Book to keep me reading it and somewhat engaged.  I don’t regret having read it, but I am not thrilled about it either.  Tepid is how I would describe my feelings, or profoundly ambivalent if I wanted something a little snazzier.  That also pretty much sums up my feelings about this blog post.  So if you stuck with me this long, thank you, and I will try to get some fire in my belly for next week.


One of my issues with Text Book is that it feels a bit antiquated. While some of the sections are fairly timeless, others hinge too much on a newsworthy item (such as AIDS) or a pop culture phenomenon that is discussed in a stale way. One of those phenoms is advertising, as discussed by Esslin, who is more from the era of Ogilvy on Advertising than he is of the current landscape.  After all, the article is 30 years old!

As someone who escaped from the rubber room of advertising, however, I am compelled to tell you that what Esslin says about ads being miniature dramas is correct. In fact, more than the average person realizes, ads are actually an exercise in showing the consumer a brief moment that reveals a much greater and deeper story (perhaps not unlike the scene we read of the women examining the farmhouse of the murder victim).  Unlike what we see on TV shows, advertising executives don’t sit down with a bottle of gin and make up ads out of thin air.  Nowadays, any print or TV commercial by a self-respecting client and agency will be written off of a meticulously researched and painfully (you have no idea how painfully) composed document called a creative brief. That brief states who the target consumer is, what the key idea (thesis) is, what the support points are (like product claims or other compelling info), any necessary mentions (like a trademark), what the “brand personality” is, and even a “takeaway” (which is usually a statement of how the consumer should react to your ad). All of this has to generate a message that will be condensed into not FIFTY seconds, as Esslin says – because it’s not 1980 anymore – but thirty or (even worse) fifteen seconds.

The reason I bother blabbing on about this in my blog is that I think the study of commercials does have some application when considering how to reveal things that can’t or shouldn’t need to be shown to the reader. How do you draw a character who doesn’t have time to tell everyone her life story, but gives you the feeling you already know it? How do you reflect a certain brand personality (tone) through your words and actions? Considering what we, as consumers, take away from commercials could actually be a fun and interesting way to link to a discussion of how to show-without-telling in much greater literature.

On a personal note, reading Esslin also makes me think again about why piles of research show that 15 second commercials just don’t work.  Clients love their cost-effectiveness, but I think (again) that this format  just busts the limits of how much drama or involvement you can bring the viewer in such a short amount of time. Behind every commercial (whether slice-of-life or testimonial) there really has to be a drama (or a comedy) – or else the story is forgotten.

Issues with Textbooks (and Text Book)

I would like to start by saying I have honestly enjoyed all of our readings thus far. That being said, I have to say that I am finding Text Book very difficult to wade through. Is it the choices of literature that are inserted? No, many of them I like very much. Is it the thought-provoking questions at the end? Not really…some of them I have found quite interesting and, well, thought-provoking. No, the most difficult part of getting through Text Book is the book itself. The format drives me crazy!

Each literary text runs one right after the other without a break in between, so you feel as if there are no real stopping points. Nothing introduces each literary text in any grandiose way before you read it, so you feel bogged down by the amount of reading you feel you’re doing. Similarly, the discussion/writing questions are formatted right at the end, rather than on a separate page, so that they seem to “run in” to the story, rather than come after the story. Some stories have a small blurb on a literary element just before them: “Character and Confrontation,” “The Short Story,” for example, but these seem short and not very well separated from the element/story that came just before the new introduction. It would have been much easier, and much less overwhelming, had each element been given its own chapter, with the stories contained in that chapter, and discussion questions placed on a separate page from the end of the story, rather than running along just after, if that makes sense.

As I said, the stories are interesting, as are the questions, and even the thoughts about the various literary elements are insightful and good information for every literature major to know, but the format threw my poor little mind into a stressed-out overdrive. This just goes to show that formatting in textbooks can make a difference to how someone perceives and/or intakes information. Something to keep in mind when looking at the textbooks that our own students have to navigate through.

Thoughts on Having No Thoughts

I must be missing something. I haven’t enjoyed this reading as much as I think I should be (and I don’t really even know why I think I should be enjoying it). I appreciate the variety of examples of literature, but they are distracting me (in a good way) more than helping support or clarify the points the authors make. In fact, I’ve been hard pressed to collect my thoughts well enough to write something thoughtful in response to this week’s reading. Every time I finish reading a portion of the book, I wonder what I have to say about it. I just can’t think of anything. Nothing. Nada. I opened the book expecting discussions of teaching practices, but what I found was more like an anthology—but not quite. I’ve enjoyed the selections (though some of the non-fiction selections have been tedious to wade through). And I’m always pleased to come across poems or short stories I haven’t read before because there’s something exciting about discovering a good text for the first time. But thoughts? Nope. Maybe it has to do with the looooong and drawn out method of organization (if you can call it that), but I feel like I’m just trying to keep my head above water with this one.

Fortunately, thanks to this course, I have a new appreciation for the merits of struggling with difficulty, so I’ll go with that.

After reading the first chapter, I realized I was more confused than anything else. I couldn’t figure out the target audience (much like the case of Salvatori and Donahue), and that ambiguity frustrated me. I can’t determine whether I’m supposed to be the student or the teacher. This uncertainty and frustration has lingered through the first two chapters. I feel much more like the student as a result of the hang-on-for-dear-life feelings I have as I plod through, but some passages seem geared more toward other audiences. I agree with Abbie that the book certainly could have been organized better (more concise chapters perhaps?) and in a more reader-friendly manner. (And let me just say, that is no small matter to a serious reader. I have very strong feelings toward authors who expect their readers to wade through an almost 100 page chapter on metaphor. That’s just not nice.)

So, in short, I don’t think I’ve worked through my feelings about Text Book yet, but I suppose that’s okay—especially as we still have half the book to go. I’m going to try to come to some better conclusions (or at least formulate intelligent thoughts) for next week because I don’t like uncertainty. It’s not a comfortable space for me to inhabit.

A love/hate relationship with Text Book

First I want to say a couple of negative things: I don’t like the format of Text Book at all– the way the sections are broken up and presented to me as a reader is confusing — the headings, subheadings, and sub-subheadings, &c., are all a bit too much. Not to mention that it must have been a real bear to edit! But that is minor. For content:

I liked the sections on metaphor, especially the one starting on page 94 — metaphor as a basis for thought. It was fascinating to read those lists (pgs 97-99) of concept metaphors that I knew, but never thought about or considered directly. I liked all of the different examples, but quite honestly, I found myself becoming so engrossed in the examples that I forgot what it was the authors wanted to teach me. Perhaps I was letting myself get away with this, but once I got to the section on parables, I became absorbed in the examples — I love Italo Calvino, and rereading two excerpts from him made me grab Invisible Cities off my bookshelf and reread some of my favorite parts.

However, I think that as a student, I would hate having this book as my “textbook” for a literature class. I would probably think it was too specialized, too narrowly focused, and maybe a little confusing. (I realize that I’m saying all of this without having read the entire thing yet, but hey.) I also feel that the book (these first two chapters, at least, and especially the second) pushes the reader so far into the metaphors that it becomes difficult to find your way out, to find your way back to metaphor itself as an object of study, to the construction of metaphor as an object of study.

But having said all of that, reading this book in the context of this class really made me think harder about language, words, and story telling, and about how metaphor really is present… almost everywhere! Which is kind of a fascinating thing to consider, and that pretty much makes the book a worthwhile read for me. I think there are a lot of valuable ideas here, and this book gives you the chance, as a teacher, to point out to your students that interpretation of literature is not that different from the other types of interpretation we do on a daily basis (I think I’ve noted this before, in blog posts or elsewhere). Finding ways to instill confidence in our students — to make them confident readers and interpreters — is really important, and I think there are some ways to do that via this book.