Sunday, March 14, 2010

They enter the new world naked

I'm waiting for the day when The Problem With Literary Studies Today is replaced by Here Is Some Friggin' Awesome Literary Criticism.*

It's great to reflect on method, but better yet to develop it. Creativity is our friend, and literature is amazing.

I'm teaching The Conjure Woman right now, a very simple example of the pleasure that results from developing a competency. At first, my students complained bitterly of the difficulty of reading Julius's dialect, which Chesnutt sometimes makes more visually alien than necessary ("wuz" for "was," for instance). After a while, they found that they could get themselves into "the Chesnutt zone" and read fairly quickly, and enjoyed the tales.

They're taking tentative stabs at their own literary criticism right now. So far, it's good.

One thing I've learned about giving feedback is that it's more helpful to offer emulable models and to praise what's going well than it is to offer a list of what not to do. Writing isn't about avoidance, or it shouldn't be. Creation is difficult, but it's what we do.

*Apparently my brain has been permanently warped by Dinosaur Comics.

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