I’m teaching Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own in my Lit of Diverse Culture’s Class (we’ve gotten to the Feminist Lit part of the class) and we were discussing the bit where Woolf says women previous to the 20th century really couldn’t write well because they were too hampered by their cultures, unable to travel or have educations, and by the critics around them telling them constantly that women couldn’t say this and mustn’t think that, that they weren’t smart enough, and so that women were, as a result, too limited, too angry, too poor – I was delving into this idea with the students, seeing what they thought of this, with side excursions into Woolf’s classism (which gets really evil in that text, I’d forgotten how vicious she was about the working classes, all in the most polite manner possible, of course: that is, she is totally blind to her own prejudices), and one of my students asked about the anger issue, did I think that was true, that you couldn’t write well if you were writing out of anger, or other strong emotions?
“Ah,” I said. “Well,” I said.
They waited, expectant.
“See,” I said.
“Here’s the problem,” I said. “I don’t think that. But that’s because I write pretty much entirely out of anger myself. So you might want to reckon whether I’m able to give you a clear answer to that question.”
Now they’re staring at me, like hungry wolves. “What do you write?” they demand.
“Can we read it?” they demand.
“No, you can’t read it!” I said. “Hell, no, you can’t read it!”
And I got the class back onto Woolf, swiftly.
But here’s my question: what do I do about questions like that?
I’ve had students want my blog address before. Sometimes I give it to them, sometimes not. Depends on the student and how reliable I think that student is – students who want to read my short stories and novels, I have always demurred. (One or two are published, but I can count on students not being able to find them, as obscure as the publications are.)
My impulse is not to let students read anything I write, you know, EVER.
On the other hand, I make them let me read what they write: they have no choice about it. So it hardly seems fair, does it?