Friday, November 18, 2005

A question

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?


zelda1 said...

According to my pedagogy teacher, you should let your students read your writing, or at least a rough draft. That way, they can see the writing process and see that even the instructor isn't perfect. I guess it would depend on what it was that I was going to let them read. I think it's perfectly fine to share your stuff with students. I also think it can be a learning tool. But, when you do, that is let them read it, you are actually giving them a part of yourself that might be hard to get back.

jo(e) said...

My students often will come to class and mention that they've googled me -- which means that have access to quite a few things that I've published. Usually, though, it's the brightest students who bother to do this, and I am okay with them reading with whatever I've got on the internet. But yeah, this is the reason I blog under a pseudonym. Not sure I want them reading my blog ....

zelda1 said...

Only a few of my friends have my blog. I think it's because I pour my heart out, well sometimes, and while my friends are great and the ones who have my blog site and go there are the greatest but not all can understand when I blog about, well, about mind stuff or even vagina stuff, they just don't seem to like it much, or I would invite them all over for a look see. I am not sure about students, I don't think, well when I actually have students, that I will share this with them. I might someday but for now, I have to have a piece of me that's, well still a secret, or at least as much as a secret as Iwant it to be. Plus there are a lot of nuts out there as I'm sure you guys know and nuts and intimate information or political information or religious information, well, that sometimes overloads thier nutdome and they do weird things.

Anonymous said...

I have always believed that students can learn to accept their own humanity and that of others by glimpsing the complextiy of their 3D role models. (yes, you, Professor, are and have been a role model for some of us)

By all means, set aside a selected group of readings that your students can access: academic work, fiction, and some personal opinion. This body of work will give them insight into the process of a professional, a compass for their own future need to express their views.

Now, this does not mean you should share sensitive details. Your blog in the wrong hands, for example, could be dangerous for you considering the community in which you live. Share that more carefully.

Please remember that you are producing students (albeit a very few) who can better share the weight of the future with the aditional guidance your work may give them early in their career. Limiting them to the canon, no matter how remarkable, is still a limit.

I am a greatful former student...

Anonymous said...

Why are you concerned about fairness? You are the authority figure; they are the students. It isn't supposed to be an equal relationship.

I'm not making an argument for or against your letting them read your work. I'm just saying they are not your peers within the context of the classroom.

delagar said...

Diane -- I've been thinking about this. I think it's mostly because I know *why* I'm not letting them read my stuff, and it has nothing to do with being in authority over them. It's more that I'm worried they'll figure out that I'm flawed and lame and a bad writer, they'll see all the really sucky bits about me, if I let them see my writing -- so it stems from a need to keep this perfect image of myself before them (hah -- as if they *have* that image, I'm sure) -- and I don't see that as an all right motive on my part. I think that's it.