I apologize for my untimely absence the last couple of weeks. With a brand new puppy, the transition from first to second quarter, and a bunch of classes to teach, I really haven't been reading. Sad but true; I'm starting to have withdrawals.
In truth, I suppose I have been reading, I just haven't been reading what I would normally choose for myself. You see, I'm teaching a class this semester called Literature-Based Research, and essentially it's an introduction to interpreting and writing about lit. As such, I'm re-reading a bunch of old favorites in hopes of bringing enthusiasm and insight to my students. Our course is split into three sections: Short Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. If you've been around this blog for a bit, you know I love me some short stories, and while I do have a great love for my favorite poems, I can't say I read as much contemporary poetry as I should. When it comes to drama, I tend to rely on my old favorites completely.
We just finished our Short Fiction section, and I taught several of my favorite stories including, "A Rose for Emily," by William Faulkner; "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains," by Ray Bradbury; "Hills Like White Elephants," by Ernest Hemingway; and "Everyday Use," by Alice Walker.
I've discovered through years of teaching various courses, including Children's Lit and freshman composition, that my reading changes dramatically when I have my students in mind. This realization might seem really obvious, but it sort of hit me when was teaching a Children's Literature course as a graduate student.
I read my graduate school texts for my own courses with discussion in mind. Looking for symbolism and associations, intertextual references, and all that other good stuff. However, when I was reading with an eye toward explaining a text and its concepts to my students, I noticed even more discussable issues than when I read for my own classes.
My favorite story to revisit was definitely "A Rose for Emily," by William Faulkner. I first read it as a sophomore in high school (the same year I read "There Will Come Soft Rains"), and it was one of those really formative moments when I came to love literature on a whole new level. I've always been a fan of the warped and macabre, so Faulkner's slow build to a disturbing twist was right up my alley. It was one of those first moments when I realized even really "good" literature could take a walk on the wild side.
As I read the story this time, I saw new levels of meaning that I hadn't paid attention to before. Faulkner's story is a biting juxtaposition of the ideals of the Old South in direct opposition to the ideals of the New South. And symbolism...yum. Lots of great imagery that informs the story in ways I never realized before.
If there's anyone left out there who hasn't read it yet, go, right now, and give it a look. It's a quick read and endlessly enriching.
And I'm happy to report...my students loved it.