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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Work Smart Not Hard

But smart work is hard work. Not tedious, but work of great intensity. I studied poetry as a young kid--from about 11 years old to the present, virtually every day, in order to see what made it work from the inside out. Nobody told me to do this; it wasn't for any class. Anything I learnt related to the subject I incorporated into my knowledge base. For example, in French class in high school we learned versification. I still know French versification. In college I would do enough to get good grades but spend more time with my own study, and so on.

There is a difference in mentality between people who study a subject to know superficial things about it, or to acquire a lot of trivial facts, and those who really want to know how things work. How does a poem work? What makes a great poem so great? Those are the questions I'm still asking.

This makes me a great researcher but not a great teacher. Why? Because the average student is not interested in how things work from the inside out. Even the graduate student doesn't seem to realize that there are these great unsolved problems. The music student loves music, but the Spanish literature student doesn't love literature. Not to complain, because that's a caviar problem as problems go.

1 comment:

Andrew Shields said...

It never ceases to amaze me how few English Lit students in Basel really like English Lit, or Lit at all.

Still, a few of them are utterly devoted to Lit. They're fun to have around.