16 nov. 2005

Surely nobody needs to be taught how to feel? The point is that students approach literature as any other academic subject, and are judged by their intellectual responses, their knowledge of the field, their interpretations, their mastery of critical language--everything except their emotional response. It's as though the reason for reading poetry in the first place were removed from serious discussion, made virtually unmentionable. Then we can complain that the students don't get it at a fundamental level, that they are not feeling literature as they should.

6 comentarios:

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

We can, however, teach them to articulate how they feel, and this will affect how the proceed to new feelings. We can teach them how to express their desires.

I imagine this what you mean by "the reason for reading poetry in the first place"?

Jonathan dijo...

Yes, and that's an underdeveloped branch of literary studies, right? The student is rarely asked to articulate an emotional response. It's assumed that these responses are private and basically inarticulable, not part of the class.

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

Interestingly, it is also an underdeveloped branch of philosophy. Students are not often asked to articulate a conceptual response (a thought, if you will). Such responses, too, are deemed a private matter. Instead, one learns what "the possible positions one could take" are.

Imagine a whole undergraduate curriculum focused on the capacity to articulate one's thoughts and feelings (or express one's beliefs and desires).

One can imagine perfectly sincere people really making a mess of that idea. Which may be why we've got what we've got.

Jonathan dijo...

The best language for doing that is called "poetry." Yet not everyone is a poet.

Simon dijo...

I would disagree, although you are certaintly in the mainstream when you say that students should not be taught how to feel.

Any course dealing with literature is going to involve teaching "how to feel": how to respond to a text, how to let a text get under your skin, how to take a text seriously as a prelude to letting it affect you emotionally... these I think are all standard things good teachers do. It used to be more the province of high school education, but as time goes by the "emotional literacy" of students falls.

Teaching the student to then articulate a feeling is of course something else.

Jonathan dijo...

I'm not in any mainstream. I'm not saying that we shouldn't teach how to feel because it is not important, but because by definition everyone already knows how to feel. It is presumptuous to say we, as literature professors, should teach students how to feel. How do I know they aren't better feelers than I am?

My point was to criticize the pedagogy that excludes any discussion of feeling, that treats the primary reason for reading poetry in the first place as beside the point.