[Milton-L] Help with a pedagogical question
Daniel W. Doerksen
dwd at unb.ca
Thu Oct 1 12:37:10 EDT 2009
(1) Although the OED agrees with your distinctions, my Webster's New
Collegiate Dictionary allows a simple equation of "Jesus" and "Christ."
This is presumably following actual American usage.
(2) Another aspect to the matter is what I think of as generous inclusion,
or maybe suspension of disbelief. I'm now retired, but in teaching I tried
to take into account the various backgrounds and commitments of my
students, but if I were teaching "Rabbi Ben Ezra" or Rudy Wiebe's
Temptations of Big Bear I would encourage students to think themselves into
the mindset of a Jewish wise man or a native American chief. Similarly I
encouraged students to read Paradise Lost as much as possible from a
seventeenth-century Christian viewpoint, suspending disbelief as necessary.
Of course I wanted them also to realize that there are different points of
view, and not assume in their papers that the reader was necessarily a
Christian (or whatever).
At 07:40 AM 10/1/2009, you wrote:
>I would appreciate guidance, especially from professing Christians, about
>how to advise believing students in their use of "Christ" in academic
>discussions of religious poetry. Normally when my students refer to Jesus
>as "Christ" they do so because they think "Christ" is his last name, so I
>point out that to refer to him as Christ is to make a faith claim, which
>they hadn't intended.
>But this semester I have two very devout students who, in writing about
>Herbert poems, are using "Christ" in ways for which I don't have easy
>Here is an example from a superb and subtle analysis of "The Windows"
>>Such an example of wordplay serves as the perfect ornament to Herberts
>>poem; for, just as the Christian is called to be like Christ and thus to
>>be as a kind of filter for his image, so too Christs image filters
>>through this poem about man. He enters subtly, symbolically and yet
>>perceptibly; and, in-so-doing, this poem about windows becomes, itself, a
>>window for Christs light.
>I could just ask him to substitute "God" there, but that is not precisely
>what he meant. Here is what I wrote:
>>Christ, as you know, is an honorific and a faith claim. As such, it
>>needs to be used carefully and sparingly in literary analysis. When you
>>refer to Christ in your intro paragraph, you present the argumentthat
>>the preacher must let Christs light shine through himas Herberts
>>argument. So I think Christ is okay there. But in your concluding
>>paragraph, when you say that in John we read of Christ that. . . you
>>not only reveal your faith position, but include your reader in that
>>community. What if the person reading your discussion of the poem does
>>not identify as a Christian? Is that person excluded from the papers
>>audience? Does the arguments success require that readers share this
>I would appreciate knowing how others handle this issue.--Margie
>Margaret Olofson Thickstun
>Elizabeth J. McCormack Professor of English
>198 College Hill Road
>Clinton, NY 13323
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Daniel W. Doerksen
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