criticism gone awry

McMullin, Elise mcmullea at
Fri Aug 13 12:51:20 EDT 1999

Nat wrote much good stuff, as follows:
>"I had similar problems with English lit in high school. I love structure and
>how it carries meaning (ask me about symmetry in "Rime of the Ancient
>Mariner" some time), and hate books where the Big Idea is what you're
>supposed to get. It takes all the subtlety of a story, how meaning can be
>carried so many ways...."

In high school (this still makes me laugh) the sure way to our honors
teacher's heart and to an 'A' was to find Christ imagery in the story,
somehow, somewhere, by hook or by crook. It was an exercise for the
ingenuity, but if you tried to talk instead about what you thought was
really interesting, forget about it!  Also, she adored footnotes to the
point of unseemliness. The same teacher would give you a 'C' if you used
more than two verbs of being in an essay (3 was a C and 4 or more was an
automatic F), regardless of the relative merit of the rest.  Same
principle for run-on sentences -a C if one was found, an F if more.
Many of my teachers worked on this principle - the most dreadful were
math teachers who did.  Shudder.
I don't think the latter was such a bad idea, punitive though it was
(especially when I read many web posts - never here though).   I do
remember trying desperately to make different verbs, outside contenders
for the job really, force fit into sentences. Luckily she didn't grade
on aesthetics.  Probably a lost cause.
I had a college prof who forbade us to use two words alone or in any
combination.  The first was "unique" and the second was "lifestyle."
lol!  I was so tempted to come up with an essay where I could use both
terms as much as possible in every way I could think of.
>"(I think I read about the first 10 pages of "Faerie Queene" before I gave
>up. I wrote a pretty decent paper about those first 10 pages though...It
>think it compared the Red Cross
Knoght with Gawain in the "Green Knight")."

I think I read the beginning and end of some chapters to get through
that. 5 pages of Ulysses (sorry fans) and exactly the first two lines of
Finnegan's Wake.  Just wanted to add that they assigned the same books
again and again And Again.  For us it was The Great Gatsby and The
Scarlet Letter, particularly.  Wouldn't catch me anywhere near either of
them now.  I never wanted to know that much about them and deeply resent
>the storage space they take up in my brain.

 The Unique Lifestyles of Christ Figures in The Scarlet Letter

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