[DWJ] long, long delayed discussion of teaching Hexwood
jameela.lares at usm.edu
Sat Jul 9 15:47:04 EDT 2016
Merlin's losing an eye may partially be a reference to Odin's losing an eye to gain wisdom.
Sent from my iPhone
> On Jul 9, 2016, at 7:13 PM, Debbie Gascoyne <dgascoyne at gmail.com> wrote:
> (delurks) Hello, everyone!
> Coincidentally, I'm currently working on a PhD dissertation on DWJ, and the
> chapter I'm working on right now is about Hexwood. I'm following this
> discussion with great interest! It amazes me that after reading it now
> about 6 times in the last month alone I still keep finding new things!
> I wonder if any of you have any clues about the source of the reference to
> Merlin losing an eye? Hume has an eye infection when he's a child with
> Mordion, and at the end of the book, when it's revealed that he's Merlin,
> Martin/Fitella says something like "the last time I saw you you only had
> one eye" - I've been scouring resources about Merlin, and can't find
> anything. I know that a lot of the intertextual references are
> (deliberately) imprecise, but, you know, I have that scholarly itch to try
> and get a handle on this one.
> On Tue, Jul 5, 2016 at 3:10 PM, Stallcup, Jackie E <jackie.stallcup at csun.edu
>> My goodness DWJ-ers,
>> First, the list has been very quiet. I switched over to my school email
>> account because my juno account got hacked and is no more (sigh). Then I
>> didn't get anything at all for a long time so I thought I hadn't made the
>> switch properly. But then I did get a little spate of emails that trailed
>> off again. Where are you all???
>> Anyway, second, I am also now in a new position. The last time I posted
>> anything, I was English department chair, DROWNING in email and work. I
>> honestly don't know how I managed to survive. Now, I'm "special assistant"
>> to the Dean of Humanities, which means interim associate dean. While one
>> might think that that is a harder job than being chair, it isn't, by a long
>> shot. I actually have my life back, sort of. One result is getting to go
>> back to the very bottom of my email pile and finally FINISHING things.
>> One of the things at the bottom of the email pile follows. I believe that
>> I started writing it in August 2013. How time goes by... I was delayed
>> from sending it by wanting to incorporate some notes from a couple of
>> students regarding their notes from the discussion. I now finally have
>> time to do that, on another hot afternoon, albeit one that is in July 2016
>> rather than August 2013.
>> Hi everyone,
>> I have been so overwhelmed that I haven't had a chance to fill you in on
>> how our class discussion of Hexwood went last year. Martha has now prodded
>> me twice (thanks Martha--much needed!) I am going to take a few minutes on
>> this hot Friday afternoon to write up some notes about it.
>> To start with, as long time dwj listers may recall, I have tried teaching
>> several of Jones' novels with mixed results. Dark Lord of Derkholm in
>> particular required a lot of refining of my lesson plans to teach
>> effectively, but I learned some really interesting things in the course of
>> doing so. (did I tell you guys about that already? I don't know... I know
>> that I talked about the disaster that was the first time I taught it...
>> but perhaps not the later experiences).
>> Last fall, I got to teach a graduate class called Childhood and the
>> Fantastic. I can't remember why I decided to do Hexwood this time instead
>> of Dark Lord (now that I had finally figured out how to do Dark Lord!), and
>> as Martha said when she heard: "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???" Yes indeed! I
>> think it was because I knocked the Hobbit off the reading list, which
>> paired up so well with Dark Lord. In its place I put The Hunger Games and
>> that just seemed to go nicely with Hexwood, if I remember correctly. I've
>> attached my syllabus in case you are interested in looking at it. As you
>> can see, the last three weeks of the class were Hunger Games, Ender's Game
>> and Hexwood, thought of as sort of linked in various ways.
>> One thing that I did to set up the discussion was prepare them for Hexwood
>> to be a tricky read. Both Hunger Games and Ender's Game are far more
>> straightforward and conventional (as I'm sure you all know!) They are both
>> compelling reads that make you forget that you are reading. So I had to
>> make sure that they knew that Hexwood was going to be a little bit
>> different experience. So, two weeks out, I told them to be sure to leave
>> time to read it twice--that that was an absolute MUST. Then the week
>> before our discussion I told them that they HAD to come to class prepared
>> to discuss Hexwood cheerfully (even if they were puzzled). No complaining,
>> no whining! And I gave them the carrot of not having to meet during finals
>> week if we had a great, in-depth discussion of Hexwood. I think this
>> intrigued them and it also warned them not to enter the reading with slack
>> One of the interesting things that always happens in a class is that
>> discussions tend to gravitate toward certain themes and ideas. Students
>> seem to pull out particular themes, so that while I might teach mostly the
>> same texts, the conversations and the "through-lines" for the course are
>> always different. Around week 12, I had the students get into small groups
>> and identify the main ideas that they saw cropping up throughout the
>> course. Then they got onto wordle.net and made word clouds that showed
>> what ideas were most prevalent. We talked about these in class and then I
>> used these to structure the last few weeks of the course.
>> With all of that in mind, I thought you might find it useful to see how I
>> introduced the discussion of Hexwood on the last day of the semester
>> From that intro, I (as usual) turned it over to the students to come up
>> with the main elements in the text that we would talk about for the day.
>> Much to my relief, they had plenty of things to talk about and were
>> cheerful and eager to put stuff on the board. From there, I put them into
>> small groups to talk over the issues they had identified and off we went.
>> Now, here's one of the reasons I've taken so long to write this up for you
>> all. Of course now you probably want to know WHAT we talked about, right?
>> Agh! I don't know! I don't take notes in class so once the discussion is
>> done, it's gone. I can tell you a few things that I remember:
>> Among the things that I was very interested in examining is how Jones
>> disrupts our narrative expectations with her characters. My favorite
>> example of this is Orm. I find it incredibly, horrifyingly creepy the way
>> that his eyes twinkle. For most writers, that's simply a narrative
>> shortcut that says "hey, this is a good guy." (Dumbledore's usual
>> descriptions are a good example of this kind of... well, I don't want to
>> just call it narrative laziness, but perhaps narrative conventionality).
>> I wanted them to think about how Jones develops our sense of who
>> characters are and what they are capable of in unconventional ways.
>> Given that violence loomed so large in many of the texts that we read, we
>> discussed how it functioned here in ways similar to and different from the
>> other texts that we had looked at (particularly Ender's Game and The Hunger
>> And here are some notes from students that, while unformed, give you a
>> sense of what we talked about:
>> Student one:
>> Control/power authority
>> Morphing identities
>> Agency/free will
>> Performative nature of existence
>> Bannus as a fiction maker
>> Own your past/pain and use it
>> Our experiences pile up/create a schema
>> Looking back at a path to look forward; many things impinge upon us and we
>> have to look back to understand
>> Destiny vs performativity
>> Student two:
>> Novel questions reality
>> Dismantles the assumptions of fantasy; dismantles the conceptions of
>> Images of disease
>> Clothing acts in the same way that names do: creating new/different
>> characters, creating confusion and disrupting the narrative
>> Ending is not neat and tidy; it assumes a harmony, but does not give
>> satisfying closure
>> Most students in small group who didn't like the book had problems with
>> the ending, not the plot twists
>> Student three:
>> Anti-essentialist depiction of existence and the performative nature of
>> the self
>> Post-modern, nonlinear narrative structure, with considerable temporal
>> shifting and alternate realities depending on dominant point of view
>> Expanded boundary of self-consciousness
>> Bannus attempts to tie up loose ends but the forest itself rebels, wanting
>> to create its own new mythology in order to continue playacting
>> Oh and here's the email that I sent off to the students prior to our
>> Hi everyone,
>> Two things:
>> First, this is just to confirm what we discussed last night: Since we are
>> all caught up with the reading and we have already started the "wrapping
>> up" discussion, we can go ahead and NOT meet on December 17 on TWO
>> 1. you come to class on December 10 prepared to discuss Hexwood
>> cheerfully (even if with puzzlement).
>> 2. you come to class on December 10 prepared to branch out from Hexwood
>> so that our discussion touches upon other reading from the semester and
>> comes to some kind of graceful conclusion. Come to think of it, that's a
>> very appropriate way to use Hexwood. We'll just pretend that we have a
>> Bannus whose theta-field has grown to encompass all of the semester.
>> If we have a good, rousing fun discussion on the 10th, we'll call it a
>> Second, Professor Wightman just sent me this link, which is an Amazon
>> review of a book written by an old college classmate of hers. The review
>> is ... well, apropos of this course. I thought you should see it. First,
>> here's a link to the book itself:
>> And here is a link to the review: Enjoy!
>> Dr. S
>> P.S. Goodness, I'm going to miss our class after next week!
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>> Dwj at suberic.net
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