Doing the reading (was: Best Books 2002)

Megan Knight m.a.knight at
Tue Jan 7 17:51:54 EST 2003

Oh lord, this conversation is raising all sorts of issues for me. I was a
classic lazy student, didn't do the reading , faked it, thought I was
getting away with it, etc.

Now that I am a lecturer I want to write to everyone who taught me and
apologise for being a nasty, rude, arrogant little shit, and tell them that
I am doing penance now. I sit in seminars (post-grad, no less) and listen to
students who have obviously not bothered to do the reading, who think that a
few glib comments make them sound smart, who obviously think I'm stupid,
because they say the most outrageous things, and expect to get away with it.
If I don't crap all over them from a dizzy height it's because I really
don't think that that is productive for either of us.

Please, the next time you figure you can show up a for a seminar totally
unprepared and "wing it", consider the poor lecturer. She probably gets paid
shit, she has to sit through group after group of adolescents more concerned
with their hangovers and love lives than the topic at hand, with of course
the required show-off who has read one book (usually either Jung or Hesse)
and believes that there is nothing that cannot be elucidated with a quote
from said book. She sits there and tries to get some kind of discussion,
some evidence of intelligent thought, some spark of interest through the fog
of sleep, hormones and bullshit. And then she has to go home and read the

Oh lord, the essays. They are long, they are turgid, they are
unintelligible, they are truly truly painful to read. One 10 000 word essay
takes two to three hours to mark properly, IF it is written in complete
sentences, and typed. Imagine having to mark 50 of them! All on the same
topic. All showing no signs of originality, grasp of concept, grasp of
language, or intelligent life whatsoever. So, if you feel that you get
better marks for the work you were unprepared for, that might be because you
know how to use punctuation, or it might be because the rest of the essays
were so bad, or because you were the umpteenth essay she read, and you at
least got the name of the novel right, but it is unlikely to be because you
actually know as much as you think you do. University lecturers are usually
pretty smart, it's considered a job requirement, and they get good a picking
the slackers and the fast talkers out of the crowd. Whether they penalise
them for it is usually a question of inclination, or mood, or whatever.

Oh my, listen to me. I've just a holiday, classes don't start for a month,
and already I'm ranting. This is not going to be a good year for my


Megan Knight, Johnnic Lecturer in New Media
Journalism and Media Studies
Rhodes University, South Africa
Tel:(046)622 4218 Cell: (082)454 0882
Fax:(046)622 8447

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-dwj at [mailto:owner-dwj at]On Behalf Of
Denise DeGraf
Sent: Monday, January 06, 2003 6:08 PM
To: dwj at
Subject: RE: Best Books 2002

Robyn Starkey danced around singing:
>I am sitting here reading this just before going to teach introductory
>literature courses for the first time this semester, and boy does reading
>these comments make me not want to go. Sigh. You might pass without
>reading the book, but there's no guarantee your poor instructor won't BITE
>your essay.

Oh, I don't know... I get substantially better grades and "wowee, I'm
impressed" type comments from profs when I haven't bought the book or
attended lecture, than when I have done both/either.  Which is fine with
me, given the majority of texts I'm required to read for class aren't ones
I'd voluntarily touch with a ten-foot pole.

Denise DeGraf ~~
"You're down as expendable.  You don't get a weapon."
    -- Diana Wynne Jones (Dark Lord of Derkholm)

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