[Milton-L] Memorization

Margaret Thickstun mthickst at hamilton.edu
Wed Feb 25 08:13:40 EST 2004

I recommend Robert Scholes new book, The Crafty Reader, which opens 
with a scathing examination of how the New Critics, with their 
disdain for the simple and sentimental, cut off appreciation for 
poetry at the root and led students to believe that it IS all a 
puzzle or trick.  His chapter includes hysterical threads from high 
school student help websites: for example,

Subject: symbolism: gardens
what do gardens symbolize? are there any sexual innuendos? anything 
that one could dig up on the symbolism of gardens would be a great 
help.   Scholes, 22

Subject: "Oedipus Rex"--Irony  I need help finding Irony in Oedipus 
Rex! There's supposedly alot of it in there, but I've been assigned 
Scene II and there's only so much. . . .   Scholes, 23-4

I'd always encountered "flows smoothly" as their touchstone for essay 
writing, as in "I didn't understand your paper but it flows 

>I'm afraid that phrase, with which I too am familiar, is more
>an indictment of how some students have been taught to read
>poetry [and other literature] than anything about the
>There must be teachers somewhere out there who teach
>literature as puzzle solution, or imply that writers hide
>meaning in odd places, like coins in a King Cake.
>I think too there must be teachers somewhere whose teaching
>of prosody results in the dread catch phrase "flows smoothly."
>In my experience, students don't make these things up;
>someone teaches them.

Margaret Thickstun
Professor of English
Hamilton College
198 College Hill Rd
Clinton, NY 13323

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