Tuesday, November 30, 2004

getting more real

I cannot put my finger on why or what it was that occurred today, but my students were serious about our discussion of the human spirit, and it went deep and got beautiful. We spent about 45 minutes just talking about vocabulary words and terms that I took from William Faulkner's Nobel Prize acceptance speech, including such as agony, glory, ephemeral, endure, human spirit, the heart in conflict with itself, pinnacle, anguish, verity, inexhaustible. They were forthcoming. At the end of class I read the speech to them. I stopped to explain the one part, about how people become inured to fear and that, after a while, it doesn't even register with them anymore. I told them about how sensitive I am to the violent and cruel things that occur every day in our halls, and pointed out that maybe I'm sort of a barometer. I also pointed out that I'm getting, unfortunately, accustomed to it too. And maybe I'm wrong to say this, but I told them that they've become numb, and that that's a shame. It's exactly what Faulkner writes about. And I don't think I'm wrong to point out that reality is relative. Reality is relative. That's what I think, but I know I'm not necessarily in the majority thinking such a thing.
We'll see. I only hope for something to register.
My plan for these coming three weeks is this: this week we're reading essays written by living authors (Faulkner could be living had he not ended his life early) and looking at themes, trying to become aware of subjects we can write about, about how essays address the human condition. Next week we're reading poems and looking at the same thing, about how poems address the human condition. The third week, well, I want that to be a celebration of the human spirit, perhaps a time to define what the human condition is. Somehow. I want my children to see how writers are heroic in that way, that writing is a way to show us who we are. But how do we do that? I depend on something occurring to me, something happening that inspires me, so I'll know how to proceed. But just as I'm writing this I'm thinking that maybe I should present the question to the children. Ask them to help me come up with the proper culminating week's study. I could let that be the question on the Monday before the end.
Writing made me figure that out.



Blogger leslieg said...


Your blog reminded me of the semester my Short Story and Novel students chose their own final. I think I told you about the Color Purple party. The reason I bring it up is that I wanted to tell you something one of my students said. When I expressed to the class that I wanted to end the semster with a celebratory event rather than a traditional final, Robert said we would be having a wedding instead of a funeral. I liked that.

Now that I think about it, we could have had a funeral. Have a funeral for Faulkner, for Whitman, for an era. Could that be cool? Assign a eulogy to each student? Now I've got my own wheels turning for next Fall semester. Maybe this is too far out. I can never tell.

11:25 PM  

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