Occupation meets preoccupation: a year of reading

I started to see triadicity everywhere whether or not it was referred to as such. Triangles always worked. One instructor at the University of New Hampshire read a few paragraphs from Susin Nielsen’s young adult novel We Are All Made of Molecules. In it, Stewart describes his mother’s death as the collapse of an equilateral triangle in which his father, mother, and he makes up the triangle’s sides. It reminded me of the sad reliance on dualistic philosophy in the Common Core, in American politics, in many American churches’ hermeneutics, and in Constitutional construction. Like Stewart, I visualized a triangle with a missing base in order to cope with a tragedy.

On rubrics and reading

But I think my grading of your paper with a rubric is not as helpful to you as my reading of your paper. Before I tell you why, I want to explain the difference between grading and reading. When I grade with a rubric, I am not doing the kind of reading your piece deserves. Instead, I am reading for: reading to see if your paper meets some preordained criteria. Your paper exists outside of those criteria, however, and it deserves a subjective reading.

Grading like readers

Rubrics therefore perpetuate the idea that a text can be read only one way and is, consequently, subject to a single standard. The rubric’s poor example, therefore, helps to keep poor readers reading poorly. . . . Part of fostering the art of reading, and the art of writing with it, is “rejecting the preoccupation with some illusory unspecifiable absolute or ‘correct’ reading or ideal reader” (Rosenblatt 140), the notion of a false absolute that rubrics tend to perpetuate no matter how subjectively their cells are written.

James Baldwin, Karl Popper, & other stuff I’ve read this year

Lists of books read are misleading. For instance, I spent the first half of this year reading Karl Popper every night, and I spent the second half of the year reading James Baldwin every night. This slow going through two authors presents a better idea of my reading this year than the more comprehensive list… Continue reading James Baldwin, Karl Popper, & other stuff I’ve read this year

Marginal

On The Tempest. Baldwin says something very similar to what Langbaum says in one of my post’s epigraphs, but from a broader perspective. Langbaum: “. . . romance deals in marvelous events and solves its problems through metamorphoses and recognition scenes – through, in other words, transformations of perception.” Baldwin wouldn’t disagree, I don’t think,… Continue reading Marginal

The Tempest

Outside it’s cold, and a man sleeps against the garage. I’ve dropped Bethany off at the theater, and I’m disoriented. He could be dead. Then a guy comes from the night as if he were the night coalescing. He has a badge on a lanyard, just like the college kids that come to my door summertime in the suburbs. Except he’s around fifty, around my age, or he says he is, but I don’t believe him at first. He says he remembers the riots here after they shot King. He was five years old then. His dark dreadlocks fall behind him down somewhere near the dark street. They pull at the wrinkles on his forehead and make his eyes big and sweet.

Slow reading on a Kindle

I live out essentially two notions of slow reading. One focuses meditatively over a verse’s or small passage’s phrasing. The other digs into an entire book through marginalia and multiple reads. One is meditation and the other is study, though, happily, the lines blur. Over the past seven months, I’ve tried both kinds of close… Continue reading Slow reading on a Kindle

Bad writing instruction: the first-paragraph thesis

Here’s a worthy little book to get you caught up on the sorry state of school essay instruction. I got The School Essay Manifesto: Reclaiming the Essay for Students and Teachers to find out some better ways to write first drafts before shaping them into literary analysis essays. Thomas Newkirk, the author, does describe three… Continue reading Bad writing instruction: the first-paragraph thesis