[Milton-L] text questions

Michele Walfred walfred at udel.edu
Wed Feb 6 12:23:35 EST 2008

It is too bad you had to force the issue but Peter you may have something
there.. Having just finished my bachelor's at 52, I had the common
experience of always being the oldest student in the room of
twenty-somethings.  I annoyed the hell out of them, with my continual hand
raising, and question asking and thoughtful comments, because, having been a
good old girl, I read my assignments and then some. I made them look bad and
if eyes could speak I would have heard their hellish hiss of resentment.
When I first went back to school at 44, many times I didn't answer or
participate because of that factor. After a while I got over that
reluctance, screw it, screw them - I want my A. And I got them, over and
over. Nothing like incentives.

In a James Joyce senior seminar this summer (filled with majors) I sat
aghast as a well-tanned, hair-flipping sorority type (sorry) played
solitaire on her laptop. Text messaging friends while in a lecture is in
progress is de rigueur. I call it rude.

Milton is daunting. Even at age 50, when I first approached him, he was
somewhat intimidating; the spelling, the length of PL in particular, and
those long comma-filled sentences. I picked up my husband's Penguin
paperback edition of PL from the 70s, with pages like potato chips, and
thought to myself, "oh no." I can't imagine how young students react. Then
again, as evidenced by their  classroom behavior, maybe I can.

My personal answer was to listen to a Naxos recording of PL and follow it
along my Riverside edition. I passed my CD around when I had to take a
subsequent Brit Lit class I somehow skipped, PL was part of the reading
requirement - and I shared the CD with some of my fellow students, who say
it helped them - translation: saved their ass.  Most students didn't read
the assignments. As we would gather to our seats before our professor came
in, everybody would ask everyone else what they read. Most did not. In this
particular class it was a Norton Anthology (and geesh, it didn't even have
all the books).

I don't know what the answer is other than to offer consequences for not
studying. They have grown so accustomed to getting away with everything, but
sadly, across the board, starting way before high school, they have learned
something we have never intended they learn.

-----Original Message-----
From: milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu
[mailto:milton-l-bounces at lists.richmond.edu] On Behalf Of Peter C. Herman
Sent: Wednesday, February 06, 2008 11:14 AM
To: John Milton Discussion List
Subject: Re: [Milton-L] text questions

At 07:51 AM 2/6/2008, you wrote:

>Anyhow - I find in non-majors and increasingly in majors really poor 
>vocabularies and an inability to sound out a new word.  No wonder 
>that many don't read for pleasure - how can they enjoy what they 
>can't u8nderstand?

While this may be a chicken-egg scenario, I suspect that not reading 
leads to poor vocabulary rather than the reverse.

But I also have a draconian suggestion: once, when faced with a class 
filled with people who had not deigned to do the reading, I threw out 
everybody except the few who had completed the assignment. But before 
I did, I announced that the next day there would be a quiz. If they 
passed, it would be worth zero. If not; 50% of the grade.

Not only did everyone have the text read for the next class (nobody 
failed the quiz), but I never had any problems with the class not 
reading the material again.

Peter C. Herman

>Cynthia A. Gilliatt
>English Department, JMU
>JMU Safe Zones participant
>"You have made God in your own image when God hates the same people 
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