Thursday, January 26, 2006

Am I a "nice" colleague?

One of my colleagues (not an early modernist or anything near) told me recently that s/he wants to teach a course in the coming year using early modern British text X as a central text.

Cool, I thought. The more early Brit lit people learn to love, the better. (And, hey, around here, we early lit folks who teach intro classes often teach weird and unusual stuff, you know, like novels and films, so I'm used to asking for a bit of help or advice about those things. I'm also happy to help a colleague teach their first Shakespeare play or old poems or whatever in intro to lit type classes. We all learn, including the students.)

Then s/he asked me which passages I thought would be most appropriate for the class.

Turns out s/he's never actually read text X.

That should be interesting, eh?

In telling me why text X was perfect for this class, S/he informed me that a specific word wasn't used before some way too recent date. I said, but, wait, of course it was used, and proceeded to start listing various examples off the top of my head. (This is a VERY common word, but one which would give very specific information about this colleague, and so I'm not going to say.)

S/he said but it doesn't mean the same thing it does now.

I shut my mouth. Neither does "nice."


  1. might suggest he read text x ;)

  2. Oh, boy.

    Y'know, it's not just okay to incorporate texts from a period outside the area of one's own expertise: it's a great idea that pushes both instructor and students in new and interesting directions.

    BUT, if you're going to do that sort of thing, it's important to be willing to listen to people who know the text, its context, and recent scholarship in the field better than you do.

  3. Indeed, Dr. C! I gave my colleague an extra copy of text X six months or so ago. So I tried!

    Yes, Ancrene Wiseass. Also important to actually bother to read the text.