[DWJ] long ago thread called Book recommendations

Mark Allums mark at allums.com
Thu Mar 29 00:56:35 EDT 2007


Minnow wrote:
> I really ought not to be allowed to look at emails and posts I got
> distracted from and didn't finish and send...
> 
> A very long time ago, I seem to have been on a "Pigeon-holes are for
> pigeons!" crusade (not for the first time) and produced what follows.
> Maybe I decided it was incendiary, or something; maybe I just wandered away
> to throw a fox out of my dustbin or make a portable toothbrush-rack.
> ANYhow, I think it had something worth saying, so the hell with it, I shall
> send it now.
> 
> +=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+=+
>> Robyn Starkey wrote:
>>> Actually, I think Frankenstein is heaps easier to teach, and as I said
>>> before, I've never been tempted to teach Wuthering Heights, although I
>>> did appreciate it as an undergrad. A little less cynicism about other
>>> people's professions would be nice.
> 
> Mark Allums responded:
>> Cynicism?  Did that bit about professors keeping a "straight face" seem
>> cynical?  I couldn't say anything about _Frankenstein_, having never
>> read it, much less tried to teach it, but I believe what said about
>> professors using _Wuthering Heights_ for its being easy to teach because
>> a professor told me that when I asked him.
> 
> Exercise for the student:
> 
> Take the set "academics" with the two subsets "professors" and "lecturers"
> 
> Is it realistic to suggest that a sample of one is representitive of the subset?

<snip>

Since one of my rare delurkings has born fruit, I shall respond.  The 
answer is:  Yes.  It *is* realistic.  In my experience, English teachers 
are a cynical lot.  And since presumably a professor knows other 
professors, he would be in a position to know about the habits of a 
subset of teachers, the teachers he knows.  One professor represents not 
just himself, but a sample of a larger population.  I would estimate 
that that particular professor could answer for twenty other professors. 
  That's about eighty classes in English Lit.  Which represents 
something like 2400 students per semester.

Which would you rather teach, a Bronte or anything else?  Given that 
you've already done that lecture twenty times so far in your career, and 
know it like the back of your hand?  Given that it seems to be a 
tradition among the English teaching rank and file?  Given that the 
bookstore already carries the book, the students won't stand for 
anything with more than 200 pages, and the head of the department 
expects it to be taught?

If my straw men haven't convinced you, remember:  It is a fact that 
Wuthering Heights is being taught.  There must be some reason for it.  I 
can only think of the one (not so) good reason.  You are free (as an 
exercise for the student) to come up with as many plausible alternate 
reasons as you wish.

--Mark Allums





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