28 oct. 2006

I am a bad professor. I don't like telling people what to do. My impulse is to say: "Give me your best." Don't give me what you think I want, but rather your best stuff. But that is an impossible imperative to follow. So I will be more specific.

Don't give me perfunctory crapola. Don't see the point of the assignment as completing the assignment or showing me that you are able to analyze poetry. Give me your ideas, your best ones, not just a few commonplaces I could find anywhere else. Do you define yourself as a student studying in a class, or as a literary critic? Do you have critical influences, a critical position with respect to your influences, or are you just a student performing a task? Do you read journals in the field in which you want to specialize? Do you see how big a problem it is to have to emulate this academic prose, follow this set of conventions, while at the same time doing the real work of criticism?

Do you want to be an intellectual or just an academic?

Have you gone through phases in which you were influenced most by Benjamin, Barthes, Blanchot, or Burke? Has there been a novel that you read five or six times when you were younger, the way I read and re-read Catch 22, The Cave, The Lord of the Rings, and Slaughterhouse 5? Have you ever broken down a poem or a play word by word to see how it works?

I can't teach you to read poetry. All I can do is point in particular directions. Have you ever stayed up at night wrestling with a critical problem? Do you know how crazily obsessive you have to be do be half-way good at this at all?

Do you read a book of poetry every day? Every week? Every month? Never? Do you have twenty authors whose work you are passionate about? 10?

Does everything you learn, about anything at all, automatically inform your literary criticism? Does music inform your reading of literature, and if not, why not?

Show me that you've thought about your writing at the level of the sentence and the paragraph. Does your critical prose "sing"? What would it mean for it to sing? Do you know that prose has its own rhythms that must be tended? Have you ever thought about how good critical prose needs to be? Do you consciously model your writing after that of writers you admire?

1 comentario:

John dijo...

Swing it, professor M., swing it.