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Parody of myself in the classroom

August 27, 2010

Hi there, so this class is called Introduction to Literature. Wow. What does this mean. I mean, Literature? What is literature? Does anyone here know? I don’t really know. Is it Faulkner? Is it Winnie the Pooh? Is it Charlie Brown’s Christmas? And what about Gilgamesh? Why is this stuff literature and the stuff you read not? Or is it? Or should it be? Do you read anything at all? How can I introduce literature to you? Not that this is my job. It is your job to introduce it to yourselves. Because actually I can’t teach you anything. You have to teach yourselves things. Have you ever heard of Dewey? No? Well, that’s ok, because this is a literature class. But you should know who Dewey is. Actually, you should probably feel badly that you don’t know who he is. You guys could look a little more excited about this class. I mean in Ramallah, the kids would be psyched to be here. (Blank faces). Do you know where Ramallah is? Do you know what Ramallah is? (polite silence). Do you know what the Middle East is? How many of you follow the events in the Middle East? Or the world? So what happened in Chile today? Have you heard about these miners? You are very quiet. Does this mean that you do not follow the news at all? What newspapers do you read? Do you listen to the news? No. No. Of course you watch the news — you may as well not bother. But if you insist on watching it, do you know what channels to watch? Oh wait, of course this is a literature class. So, who here has read any literature? Actually before you answer that, do you know where the word literature comes from? How many of you have taken Latin? Well, that’s ok. I will teach it to you. It comes from the Latin, littera, letters, or words. But really letters. So literature means the alphabet? Ha. Ha. That was kind of funny. Why aren’t you laughing? Did you think this class was about the alphabet? Well, actually that would be a great class, wouldn’t it. How many of you know the history of the alphabet? Like where it came from? Have you heard of the Phoenecians? No, I have no idea how to spell them. It is all transliterated from the Aramaic anyways. Oh, do you know what Aramaic is? Here, I will write that on the board. Isn’t this fun? Isn’t this great? Look how much you are learning. Just on the first day.

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Beth permalink
    August 27, 2010 8:46 am


  2. August 27, 2010 8:54 am

    Thank you. I am so sick of myself!

  3. Emily permalink
    August 27, 2010 9:03 am

    Just had a flashback to 1991- amazing.

  4. August 27, 2010 9:11 am

    So nice to hear from you, Em. Was it as long ago as that?

  5. Norrie permalink
    August 27, 2010 9:30 am

    Please tell me you will introduce them to Grendel!! “Anhaga Anhaga Anhaga”!! Can’t think of a better Annie Sullivan for your Helen Keller’s….

  6. August 27, 2010 9:35 am

    Norrie!! I forgot that I used to say Anhaga at everyone. So absurd. But I love that you remember —

  7. Sadie/Sarah J permalink
    August 27, 2010 10:59 am

    Love it – I still remember my impression of you your first day in what, 1986? All wild hair and serious passion. And I remember the test you gave us after studying Macbeth all that fall, giving us random quotes and we had to cite the scene and the speaker, and we all aced the test because we knew Macbeth inside and out. I was 15! Thank goodness I had you and Jim in high school, because I learned nothing at art school.

  8. August 27, 2010 11:10 am

    This post reminds of a W. S. Merwin poem: “Questions to Tourists in a Pineapple Field.” I’ve even taught it as literature.

  9. Heather permalink
    August 27, 2010 11:27 am

    I was just thinking to myself this morning how much I missed Charlotte, and my middle school English teacher Penny, and my old college lit prof Caroline, and here you had to go and reinforce that. 😛

    I’m taking EN101 (went back to college, FINALLY!) this term and it’s not nearly as interesting.

  10. August 27, 2010 1:49 pm

    This is so great to hear. I am gearing up to teach Macbeth again to these poor intro to lit students. This gives me courage to grill them, too!

  11. Alyssa Criscuolo permalink
    August 27, 2010 9:14 pm

    Should I still say Professor Gordon? I took two classes with you about four years ago. You recently came to mind when I found myself in a heated debate about the Mormon creation story so I decided to look you up. This post brought back a lot of memories because it is EXACTLY how you teach your classes. I learned so much from you and I hope you’re well!

    Alyssa Criscuolo

    p.s. No worries if you don’t remember me, I slyly disappeared from Endicott College, never to be seen again.

  12. Ruth permalink
    August 28, 2010 11:24 am

    As ever, I do so wish I could take a course from/with you. Best for a new season!

  13. Liz permalink
    September 6, 2010 10:07 am

    Loved this! We think this is the opening of your new best seller on teaching, “College Year” (a la Tracy Kidder but MUCH funnier )

  14. September 12, 2010 5:54 am

    Very nice to hear from you. Where are you now? Thank you for saying you learned something!

  15. September 12, 2010 5:54 am

    Thanks, liz. That might be kind of a dull book. But I am glad this was funny.

  16. Alyssa Criscuolo permalink
    September 13, 2010 8:15 am

    I’m at Harvard studying economics. Finally back in school after a long break!

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