As someone who changed fields in a pretty big way fairly late (after my bachelors), and who sometimes felt alienated because I didn't understand the "lingo" my peers in classes often took for granted, I try to be pretty careful to define even fairly basic terms in classes when I first use them. Today, for example, I defined "rhyme."* Yes, I'm pretty sure my students have heard the term before, but when I define it, I get them to slow down and think about what it is. And that means when we define "alliteration,"** it's not this weird repetition thing, but one of several different repetition things.
That's not to say I'm prefect, by any means, but I try to remember not to assume that everyone speaks "lit crit" or whatever.
In one of my classes, we're reading Bennett and Royle's Intro to Lit, Crit and Theory, which I chose because I read it as I was choosing books, and it seemed really good. And I think it is. But last night, reading the second chapter as I was prepping for today, I noticed that it used terms without defining them. For many of these, there are definitions in a glossary in the back.
So students who are aware can look stuff up in the back, or look stuff up in a dictionary or wikipedia or whatever.
But while they define "poststructuralism," they never define "structuralism." How are you supposed to understand the post part without the base part?
And they use "postmodern" but never define it, nor do they define "modern." Do most early career college students feel comfortable with those terms?
They start the chapter with "Ozymandias" and call it a sonnet (and it's the first one in the book, I think), but "Ozymandias" (while lovely and wonderful in itself) doesn't do a lot of the basic sonnet stuff that most sonnets do. It's like using "sit com" and using Southpark as your example. It's a sitcom, but it challenges the typical form in all sorts of ways that make it hard to get a sense of the genre.
* Rhyme is the repetition of sounds, usually end sounds, or end of a syllable sounds, often at the ends of word and lines.
**Alliteration is the repetition of sounds, especially consonant sounds, usually at the beginning of words or stressed syllables.
I do this exact same thing for the exact same reason. I was not an English major in my undergrad, so I felt that I started graduate school at a deficit. Now that I teach undergrads, I want them to have the vocab in their tool boxes, so I define just about everything. I hope they find it useful.ReplyDelete
Ha! "Prefect." Well played.ReplyDelete
This week I did an exercise with my at-risk class in which they had to look up unfamiliar words they encountered in poems. Among the words they looked up were "peril," "asphalt," and "sow." What would they do with "poststructuralism"? I don't want to know.ReplyDelete
Wow, asphalt? And which meaning of sow were they looking for?Delete
I've had a couple who were confused by "ecstasy" and "heifer," having only ever encountered the slang meanings. It was pretty hilarious, especially because the "ecstasy" thing happened the day before we read "Kubla Khan" and some excerpts from Confessions of an English Opium Eater. ("Funny you should mention drugs, that's what our NEXT class is going to be about...")ReplyDelete
I think any student here who didn't know "heifer" would be kicked out of the state. But the other things? Not so much.Delete
In my intro to the major class I do a presentation assignment (very low stakes, it's like a 5 minute presentation) where each student in the course (there are 25) are assigned a "term" (a word or phrase) and they have to define the term, explain the area of the discipline to which it relates, and talk about some courses that we offer in which knowing that term would be useful. The terms I've chosen are sometimes more high-falutin and theoretical, but sometimes they are things we take for granted, lie "close reading." The assignment sheet gives them a list of appropriate resources to consult in order to prepare for the presentation. So far, this assignment has been great because it does two things: 1) the whole class hears about a bunch of terms that they might not have known much about before and 2) they learn where they should go to look something up if they encounter a term in their English courses that they don't know. And as somebody who teaches British literature after 1900, I can report without hesitation that college students have no idea what "modern" - much less "modernism" - and "postmodern" mean. None whatsoever.ReplyDelete
That does sound like a great assignment!Delete