Funny, I felt the same thing, brilliant letter to the G&M or not.
> I am not sure I agree with Jamie's positions on poetry or common
> culture, and I wonder if there's a debate to draw out of the issue.
And maybe about something important.
> For example, am I the only CASLLer who's thankful that students do
> not have to memorize poetry? And does the idea of a common or
> shared culture fill anyone else with dread? Which poetry? Whose
No, you're not. I just had a seminar with some of the first year
students in our Aquinas program. They're, well, just your average 19
year old first year student. I asked them to write about what their
best experience in an English class had been, and what their worst
had been. (No, none of them talked about having to memorize poetry
or be beaten with a willow wand.) What I thought was interesting was
that three of them said being forced to read Shakespeare was their
worst, while two reported that their best experience was the chance
to read Shakespeare. Two reported that their best moment was the
chance to speak in public, and one (or two; I'm not sure what the
focus of this particular horror story was) reported that that their
worst was being forced to speak in public.
What, um, lesson do I derive here? They're different people. They
come from different cultures. They speak different languages (not
quite as different, maybe, as the BEV described by Ebonics, but
still). Some of them probably would have lunged at the chance to
memorize some Leigh Hunt or James Whitcomb Riley like a salmon at a
fly . . . but I think for many of them it would have been, well,
like coming upstream to the Mactaqac power dam.
I had a colleague, twenty years or more ago, who (I swear he said
this) referred to first year English as "rubbing their noses in
Spenser" (well, he may have mentioned some other poet; I don't now
remember which one it was). 'Nuff said.
Russell A. Hunt __|~_)_ __)_|~_ Department of English
St. Thomas University )_ __)_|_)__ __) PHONE: (506) 4520644
Fredericton, New Brunswick | )____) | FAX: (506) 450-9615
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