Spring 2017: ENGL 720: Week 14: Reading Response

I sometimes wish people could watch me as I read things like the random collection of haphazard essays for this week’s guest speaker. If they could see the way I raise my hands in exacerbation, roll my eyes with aggravation, and shake my head with frustration, they might, like you reading this now, come to understand how much the readings annoyed me this week. This is, in short, everything I hate about Literature — capital ‘L’ — spread out across a handful of readings. “No!” I would shout, if could be received by the author’s words on the other end of the screen in any way other than impotent rage, “Great Literature is not going to ‘save democracy!’ Stop patronizing your students and teach how to read rather than what to read!”

“Sure,” I might start an imaginary conversation with Sublette, C.M. and Lawrence, L. in “Flip that Theory: Cultural Studies as a Foundational Course in the College Literature Curriculum” using this same method of discussion, “using cultural studies as a lens for investigation sounds like a good approach for engaging students. But how did you assess it? Did it even work?” It’s one thing to want to do better for students. It’s another, and I’ll grant Sublette, C.M. and Lawrence, L. that far, to change a course and perhaps even a curriculum to another approach in hopes of achieving it. But DID IT WORK? Assessment. Measurement. And conversation with the students themselves is the only way to know beyond the from-on-high approach I hear from these essays.

And then there’s Schmieder’s “Wrestling with the Angel of Poetry”. Wow. No. In any other setting, a rhetorician would place Schmieder’s three steps of “Reading Widely”, “Reading Deeply”, and “Writing” as other, simpler terms: Context, Analysis, and Reflection. You might, if you were really, really daring, blatantly call this genre awareness paired with close-reading with a touch of metacognition, too. You know, the tools of learning pretty much anything: look at different types of things, consider the properties of the things, and then perform in such a way to highlight how those properties compare and contrast to each other and how they combine in different ways for various outcomes.

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