Wednesday, December 13, 2006

It is time...

Time for what, you ask? Another blog post! After all, there will be no time for blog posting next Monday (you may have noticed I post every two weeks, on Mondays) as I will be returning to North Carolina! Who knows, this might even signal a change in my blogging soon as this semester wears off, I will be a much calmer human being.

In the meantime, it's safe to say I've survived my first semester of teaching University Writing. I had a great group of students who did really amazing work. So on the last day of class I indulged in a bit of silliness that is quite typically me. I asked everybody to bring in a paragraph of their favorite piece of writing (and a good reason why it was their favorite piece). I got some interesting results.

I brought in my own favorite piece, which is one of the few endings to a book I have practically memorized...

"There would be a day--there must be a day--when he would come back to Gramarye with a new Round Table which had no borders, just as the world had none--a table without boundaries between the nations who would sit to feast there. The hope of making it would lie in culture. If people could be persuaded to read and write, not just to eat and make love, there was still a chance that they might come to reason."

It's T.H. White, of course -- The Once and Future King. I may have mentioned here before that I once gave a speech at an awards function at Wake. It was a bizarre little collection of reflections I wrote mostly in Charles de Gaulle airport while waiting up all night for my plane home from Spring Break in Paris. It was about the medieval, Tolkien, T.H. White, the Madrid bombings, "hope for humanity"* and, finally, what I learned in college. Or perhaps it was more accurately what I hoped I'd learned in college, what I wanted to have learned after four years. It was hopelessly over-reaching, and probably more than a bit over-dramatic -- and way too enamored of the experience I'd just completed. But one rather memorable line for me -- "At Wake Forest, we are given four years to do just that – to read and write, to come to reason and find for ourselves a measure of hope."

I never quite came to the reason bit of that, though there was reading and writing enough. And the reading and writing continue. So when I brought in a quote for my students -- my first students -- I wanted to give them that idea, the possibility that college can be very much what you make it, and can therefore be an amazing opportunity for thinking. I've no idea if they got it -- but I suppose one never really knows, in the end. If nothing else, there was reading and writing this semester. And some decent questions along the way. I'd say -- it was a success.

I reserve the right, of course, to retract that statement by tomorrow night, when I will have read final papers for the class.

Though to be fair, I'm almost certain there will be no need.

*Yeah. I wish that was a typo. On the bright side, I didn't know what hope for humanity was. And didn't try to come up with its definition on the spot. Looking back, I suppose on some level it's Gandalf's hope -- a fool's hope. But yes. How we grow in graduate school, at least enough to be slightly embarrassed by the audacities of our undergrad selves......


Monday, December 04, 2006

Reading Bakhtin

I've been reading back through Bakhtin again, taking notes on what I've been working on -- and I've found a surprising number of thoughts that are useful, or interesting, or just downright beautiful. Sometimes he's even haunting.

So today I'll leave it at a quote from Bakhtin:

“All forms involving a narrator or a posited author signify to one degree or another by their presence the author’s freedom from a unitary and singular language, a freedom connected with the relativity of literary and language systems; such forms open up the possibility of never having to define oneself in language, the possibility of translating one’s own intentions from one linguistic system into another, of fusing “the language of truth” with “the language of the everyday,” of saying “I am me” in someone else’s language, and in my own language, “I am other.” (Dialogic Imagination, 315)

The possibility of speaking in another's language -- now that's an intriguing thought. More on this, on Roy Liuzza's article "The Tower of Babel: 'The Wanderer' and the Ruins of History" (suggested reading from Eileen Joy), and on what else I've been doing in my second two week hiatus in a month.

In other news -- almost winter break!