Friday, July 21, 2006

Book Writing

From the Chronicle of Higher Education: "What Are Book Editors Looking For?"

In short, apparantly they want the same things I want from student papers and my own writing.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Banned Books

In class today, we discussed banned books, and the discussion was led by my very capable apprenctice. I got to participate, and was not surprised to learn that Robert Warren Peck's A Day No Pigs Would Die had made the list of 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books.

I love this book. I taught it when I worked for the Institute for Reading Development, and while it was in many respects alien to my life, the themes of the story and the skill of the storyteller still resonate with me today. The story, intended for the young adult market, is graphic. The scene is the farm, and the father in the story slaughters pigs for a living. The son is given a pig as a reward for assistance to a local farmer. You can see the problem, can't you?

This is a story about the capricious harshness of life, the difficult necessity of growing up, and the beautiful moments in life that happen along the way. It's tough to read at points, but it always makes me laugh and cry and marvel at the persistence of spirit and life. Being reminded of it today was really, really good.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Teaching and Learning and Purpose

Whew! Took me a while to resurface. I'm thinking of moving this blog from Blogger over to my hosting service, but likely won't do that until September. The connection? Well, I didn't want to create a whole bunch of posts here that would need to be moved eventually. But I'll get over that.

As I've been going through my data files on this poetry project, I've been wondering what the purpose of teaching is, at least with regard to teaching literature. I've been saying for years that I think we in English teach writing and reading, not writing and literature, but I must always question what that means when I step into a classroom. I generally think that my role as instructor is to model reading for students, to demonstrate what it can look like to read a document thoroughly, but all too often that turns into giving students a reading instead of training them to read.

When I took courses in various literary topics, I frequently found myself trapped between my own readings of a text and the current tide. At times I felt it necessary to sublimate my reading to the prevailing one so that I could "get along." I didn't really like that feeling. I don't want to transmit that feeling to my students.

But when I think about putting together a course for an undergraduate major or a graduate student, I have to wonder how to get around ME. How do you develop a topical excursion without including your ego?

Much to ponder.