Thursday, December 01, 2016

Straw Men

I'm tired of being set up as a straw man.

No, I've been here for 15+ years, and I don't think I've ever known anyone who thought grammar drills and worksheets were great ways to teach writing (here or anywhere else).  In fact, shortly after I got here, the department voted to discontinue a grammar test that we were all supposed to give as part of the final for whatever writing course we were teaching.  When we discussed it, no one could even remember how we'd come to have it as a requirement; it had just been left there so long.  And, of course, no one taught to it, so far as I ever heard.  And most of us made it count minimally for the final grade because we didn't think it mattered. 

No, I've never met a Shakespearean scholar who didn't think about staging issues and recognize that Shakespeare wrote plays to be enacted in a theatrical space.  That's not to say we don't find other aspects of the plays interesting, but I've never seen the denial the theater folks attribute to us lit folks.  (Of course, actors and other theater focused folks have lots to teach all of us about acting and Shakespeare.  It's just that I don't know any Shakespeareans who think that isn't true.)

Maybe it's just the time of the semester, but dang...

So busy, and so many things happening that require attention.  I feel like I'm juggling very fragile glassware, and it's going to start crashing up there and falling as very sharp shards all over my upturned face and my desperately moving arms and hands.

I'm so tired of the crappy rumors people spread when they're really clueless.  But you can't answer the rumors because the actual issue is confidential (and you're hearing them third or fourth hand).


  1. We have an entirely separate English Grammar course that all of our majors (and two other majors -- or it might be three now?) are required to take. Most of the students love it and can't wait to take it, especially our English Ed students. It might be an Arkansas thing; or it might be because they know nothing about English grammar and are terrified that someone will discover this.

    But yes, I agree with your main point here -- grammar drills & teaching grammar does essentially nothing to improve student writing.

    When I was a graduate student, the entire first semester of Freshman comp was a grammar class. I mean that's all we did, teach the students grammar. Then semester two, they wrote essays. You can imagine how well this worked.

  2. I'm sorry it's such a stressful time. And I agree, it's very frustrating when people characterize us in such broad and inaccurate terms! --meansomething

  3. I make my Shakespeare students memorize and perform speeches as one way to constantly remind them that these are plays, not "novels," as they often say. And I talked about costuming (and sumptuary law) in Cymbeline today as a way to demonstrate Cloten's mimetic desire.

    I know most of us do these things. But I feel like we need to reiterate it a lot to people who aren't taking our classes.

    I'm with you on the stress level at this point in the semester. People were especially shitty in a committee meeting I was in today, and since we all like each other, we did spend some time just bitching about our stress. We left feeling a little bit better -- and we did eventually get work done, too. :) Hang in there!

  4. And just to be clear, no historian I know teaches dates and battles.
    One more week, and I've been sick since Sunday. When my class Tuesday petered out, I didn't have the energy to rescue it, and dismissed them early.

    1. LOL! I teach the date of the Battle of Agincourt, and talk about how/why it was fought, how/why it was won, and what the long-term implications were and the history before Henry V invaded France.

    2. I'm not a historian, just a Shakespearean who's into battles. (And dates, I guess.)

    3. I think lit folks are more likely to reference a date and battle, esp in reference to, say, a history pla.