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09 July 2009 @ 08:23 pm
an observation, in two parts  
(okay, so possibly I am still stewing over my most recent batch of evaluations)

1. There are students who want to receive "the right answer" about a work of literature (which implies that the answers are completely external and collectively agreed upon)

2. There are students who believe that the study of literature is really about talking about one's feelings about a text, or how the characters match up with one's predetermined ideas about what people are like, what they should do, etc. (which implies that the answers are all internal, and that one has nothing to learn from the text)

The really weird thing? Sometimes these are the very same students. I can't wrap my head around that, or what to do about it.
unsingable namesaestina on July 10th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)
I can't wrap my head around that, or what to do about it.

Shoot 'em.
tempestsarekind: bored history boystempestsarekind on July 10th, 2009 12:46 am (UTC)
I'm not sure that that's the best way to facilitate learning. :)

The annoying part, even when it's not the same students, is that it feels like anything I do is going to upset someone and lead to poor evaluations. Either I'm leaving things too open, and they want solid answers, or I provide a framework for discussion and get complaints that I talk about my own ideas too much.
cschells: dude!cschells on July 10th, 2009 02:06 am (UTC)
Maybe you could make them sign a contract on the first day of class... Actually, I would totally do that--give an introductory spiel on what the goals of studying literature are/aren't, and then make them sign something saying they understand. And then rub it in their faces later as needed...
tempestsarekind: posner and scrippstempestsarekind on July 10th, 2009 09:53 pm (UTC)
I like the idea of having evidence at the end of term! "Yes, we did talk about this, and you signed off on it." I'll have to think about that...
Constant Reader: Henrietta Maria deserves more propsskirmish_of_wit on July 10th, 2009 02:35 am (UTC)
On the first or second day of class I actually have this discussion with them explicitly -- about how we have personal responses to the text, and everyone has different ones, and how there is never one single Key To All Mythologies for a given piece of literature, so we have to negotiate what literature means by marshalling arguments based on evidence in the text. And then I keep harping on that day after day until by the end of term they get the point, mostly.
tempestsarekind: corset pouttempestsarekind on July 10th, 2009 09:57 pm (UTC)
I've had that discussion on the first day (and I try to make it a part of my first-day handout), but I think my problem is the repetition part; I need to be better about being explicit about that as the semester goes on. (I have many Issues, but one of them has something to do with being the authority, especially when it's not "my" class. Which means that I forget to make some of the implicit stuff explicit as much as I need to.)
La Reine Noire: Terms Commonly Usedlareinenoire on July 10th, 2009 12:05 pm (UTC)
It might be worthwhile, especially in lower-level classes, to begin each term with a short discussion of what 'literary study' entails. Or even to ask the students themselves what they think it entails, so you can crush their stupid opinions make it clear what your expectations are.

They do sound incredibly annoying, though.
tempestsarekind: viola readingtempestsarekind on July 10th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
I like the idea of asking them what they think first--especially because sometimes I don't realize quite where they are on the subject until that first paper comes in! And then the whole discussion is, well, more of a discussion, instead of just me saying "don't do this stuff" without knowing where their problems actually are.