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Mid-Semester Evaluation

pfischer's picture


Mid Semester Evaluation


We as a class need to be more disciplined in our discussions. The books we read are thought-provoking on many levels, but I think that we often leave the most interesting or significant parts of the text unexplored. This is an English class, and I believe that we should focus more on form and how possibly controversial ideas are expressed, and not necessarily the ideas themselves.

That being said, I am a history major and probably approach the texts in a way not particularly conducive to an English class discussion. I will look for context, for patterns, and arguments that will help me personally contextualize and understand the text. For example, when I read Reality Hunger, I was very focused in on trying to contextualize Shields’ statements – how do his assertions fit into the historical pattern of confessional writing, and what is his text? Post-modernist? Is post-modernism an actual working classification of time and place? These sort of historically minded ramblings are what I do love spending time on, but when I come to class I do attempt to really focus on the form, the narrative structure, and other tools of literary criticism that I last dealt with in my freshman writing seminar but have been trying to dust off for this.

        We all bring so much to the table – we have natural and social scientists with varying philosophical bents and thankfully we do have a core of English majors (and Professor Dalke) who attempt to keep the discussion on-target. I understand the concerns that the future readings we chose for the class are ‘too political’ (now is not the time or place for an ‘everything is political’ rant so I won’t subject you to it) but I think that our class could really explore different forms of non-fiction writings through those topics. I believe that the presentation of possibly controversial ideas is actually by itself fascinating – you can look at a book’s bibliography or sources and probably get a good idea of where the text is going, and what will be argued. I should have perhaps suggested bibliography readings as an exercise in non-fiction but I’m not sure anyone would really get a kick out of that except me.

        I am also interested in ‘political’ writings because they deal with what the author presents as a truth. Truth is cited, backed up by a bibliography and peer reviews, but still a product of the subjectivity of time and place. What is accepted as an accepted, provable truth now may not be in the future. It is so interesting to me how the nonfiction ‘political’ authors we will be reading draw on a vast range of known truths to create a previously unknown truth: their argument is structured around proven theories and hard facts to draw up a new conjecture, that can then be cited as one of those facts. Academic writing is probably the most fascinating non-fiction there is, because while memoirs sort of skate around the author’s mind, these works are like giant collages of different truths of a time and place.

            The next weeks of this class can be extremely rewarding and very interesting if we are disciplined in our discussions, and we don’t let the more controversial aspects of the texts dominate our attention.


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