Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Sunday Salon - A Late Participant

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 students loved it.


  1. I love that Faulkner story!! His novels are still a bit scary to me, but his stories are just wonderful. :)

  2. I've never read any Faulkner but the story sounds like a good place to start. Congrats on the new wheels, btw!

  3. Thanks for the tip - I've never read any Faulkner either, time to start, I think.

  4. That Faulkner story really is a wonderful one. I haven't read the Bradbury one, but you've made me curious. I'm going to have to look for it.

  5. There's always that worry, isn't there, that you will enthuse wildly about a text and the students will just look at you as if you've obviously gone mad. The last time that happened to me was with Philippa Pearce's 'Tom's Midnight Garden' which surprisingly has really dated and hasn't worked with any of the groups I've tried it with. I'm glad you had more luck.

  6. I had the pleasure of teaching "A Rose for Emily" as well this year. And my students also loved it. This was a great time for them to practice the art of careful reading. Most of them said they had to read it twice to catch what happens.

  7. Eva, his novels scare the pooh out of me, but "Rose" is wonderful. Sadly, I haven't read any of this other short stories, but I need to dig some up. I think I'd love them.

    Nat, you should definitely give this story a try. I'll even post a link to the text online. :)

    Clare, it's a great story. I hope you enjoy it!

    Nymeth, the Bradbury story is TOTALLY YOU. You would adore it. I'll post a link to it, too.

    I don't think I've read "Tom's Midnight Garden" myself! The biggest falling flat of a story I ever experienced was Edith Wharton's "Roman Fever." I remember LOVING that story the first time I read it, but my high school students, back in the day (2003) didn't enjoy it at all. *sigh*

    Smallworld, same here! And I was really surprised and pleased that mine took the time to read it twice, since I honestly expected they would read through it too quickly and not go back to explore the meaning. I have an online class reading it this week, so I'm looking forward to their upcoming discussion board.

  8. Not reading much contempory poetry? Could this be because far too much of it is pretentious, self centred drivel? If you haven't already, try Sophie Hannah's work for modern metrical poetry. It's mostly light, but there's invariably a harder edge lurking under it.

  9. You know, as much as I've always said I loved southern literature, I've not read much Faulker, and I've not read that story. SO, I will rectify that situation, on your recommendation :)

  10. I like that Faulkner story. Did you know they made a movie of it? I remember watching it in high school. Its not particularly good or anything, but it does star Angelica Huston.

  11. Hi Andi. I tagged you for 6 word meme. I hope you have the time.

  12. Thanks, Stu! I'll give it a go.

    RR, I think you'll LOVE IT. Love love.

    Kim, I vaguely remembered watching it in high school, and I couldn't remember the star. Thanks for reminding me of Angelica Huston.

    Thanks, Chris! I always have time for a 6 word memoir!

  13. I've not read that Faulkner story (actually I've read very little Faulkner), so I will have to add it to my list and read it one weekend soon. I'm terible with picking out symbolism--I always feel like I'm missing something when I am reading--like I'm not reading deep enough. But maybe I pick up more than I think. I do try and read some sort of criticism, too when I can find it. I loved the Bradbury story when I read it last fall--I think you suggested it to me!

  14. Oh, will LOVE this Faulkner story. It's right up your alley, I think. And I'm still so tickled that you enjoyed "There Will Come Soft Rains." It's another one my students really enjoyed.


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