[Milton-L] It gets their attention. They automatically memorize them.

kathryn jackson thatsalloneword at sbcglobal.net
Wed Feb 25 19:48:14 EST 2004


Hip! Hip! Titilating Pentameter! 
 
My sophomore year in high school, our professor sent us home with Canterbury Tales and strict instructions NOT to read the WoB. Next day we were administered a pop quiz on, waitforit - 
 
yeah. 
 
Every girl earned an A. 
 
I applaud techniques that appeal to a familiarity with the frame of mind of the relative youth with which they deal! 
 
Thank you, Mr. Walthall.
 
I shall use them with my tutee's who are largely non-majors writing, perhaps, the first and final explication essays of their academic careers. 
 
So, I have to try to make it stick. Fortunately, most of the lecturers have pretty good taste when it comes to selecting works. That, and because it's pretty standard English major fare, I come across like I'm really smart, which, as anyone can tell you, is tres tres gratifying.
 
When I teach, I say, "Nobody is born knowing this stuff. Because if we already knew everything... Well, all <insert sweeping gesture> this could be pretty dull."
 
And when I say "Okay, so do this," I expect the student to do it; I could not agree more completely with the sentiment that if I can not explain the relevance of a topic, then it's probably not an appropriate lesson.  But I also expect them to see (and say) why it might be important at some level. TO use their imaginations to that extent.
 
Coincidnetally, our professor further insisted that we each recite the first 18 lines  It's great fun at parties, and for sound checks, calling chatty folks back to their seats, sounding clever in your college survey course... But having spent that much time with that material, I was truly better prepared to deal with it's translations (for which I was then grateful) and other little phenomena of language were better crystallized. And I got to spend some quality time with myself, mulling over something INFINITELY SIGNIFICANT. And, to use the vernacular, pretty frickin' cool.
 
There was never any doubt in my mind that anything Dr. Flowers said had been carefully considered, and if she felt that knowing those lines would make me a happier (& therefore better) person, I expected she was right.  And she was. And I am very grateful for whatever it is that prompted her to recognize two things: She knew a lot; We needed there to be a lot to know. She had won our hearts by knowing us better than we knew ourselves.  She freed our minds by giving us seeds to plant and tend. 
 
Memorization is meditation. A solace in the repetition, and in this particular case, a gutteral reassurance grounding the corporeal somewhere real yet fantastical in time, in tradition.  And I believe we tend to need that as human beings. That's part of what prompts us, as creatures, to create: sometimes I think that civilization is the excuse we have created to give ourselves the excuse to hear ourselves talk.
 
Fondly
&c
 
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