Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I'm Changed

Travel is supposed to change you, and it's changing me, especially as a teacher.

For example, spending some time here, just looking around, I realize that there are a lot of images I see over and over again, images that would have been familiar in early modern England. And suddenly, seeing those images in literature works differently for me.

When I first read The Faerie Queene, I thought it was unfathomable that the reader, I, was somehow supposed to know it was St. George right from the first stanzas, before we'd gotten his name.

Now, after seeing the cross of St. George in so many places, both with a guy killing a dragon and alone, I get how I was supposed to know.

Having that experience, I had my students look around when they went traveling early in the semester for the guy with the red cross on a white shield, asked them to ask people who he is. And they did. And told me about it in class, and had pictures of where they'd seen him or his shield. So they have a sense of St. Georgeness as they start the poem (which we're going to start discussing today, yay!) that I just didn't have.

And now I need to think about how to communicate that experience somewhat if or when I teach the poem again. (I haven't read The Faerie Queene in some years, and I'm enjoying it again the way I did the first times I read it, so I'm going to figure out how to teach it again, soon.)

I think Charlse I is coming to feel sort of the same way to me. He's MUCH bigger in imagery all around (pictures, paintings, reminders, whatever) than he has been in my memory, and I think that reading, say, Oroonoko with that imagery in my mind will give me a richer experience (though I've long taken pleasure in the text).

We don't have regular surveys in our program (for very good pedagogical reasons), but do have sort of "surveyish" lower level courses. Now I need help thinking of a theme for a surveyish course that will let me teach some of the narrative poems that are just so darned much fun.

And now, time to get ready to convince my students that The Faerie Queene is worth all the money and time they've put in, and will be worth even more time!

1 comment:

  1. To evoke the sense of the cross of St. George, it might be useful to ask them how many times that day they see the flag and to think how that has become part of their "cultural background". Then share some of the photos of the many St. George's cross to give them the sense of how ubiquitous this symbol was in the early modern English world.