Thursday, August 9, 2012

Teaching Toni

Life is beyond amazing as a professor when you've taught Toni Morrison's *The Bluest Eye* for the first time to astute 2012 students who are on their way to universities to study any discipline but literature, and they engaged the text enthusiastically. But their willingness...taking community college courses during summer - gives me chills, makes me proud, means hope. Not all of my students enjoyed the book. Some commented it's too dark while others chimed it's too difficult to follow...non-linear is never a cinch for budding intellects - but this style challenged them along with the vast complexities in Morrison's work -- just the story itself and the language. They enjoyed and often seemed appreciative of this challenge. I was thrilled at their engagement in the text.... they were responsive, questioned, and were able to critically think about the literature, especially in terms of how Morrison uses Pecola to symbolize the dangers and perilous nature of what Beauty means and how it is the ideas and ideals of Beauty threatens the nature of our senses or in the author’s own words ...“The concept of physical beauty as a virtue is one of the dumbest, most pernicious and destructive ideas of the Western world, and we should have nothing to do with it.” I wish I could spill some of the specific dialogue Pecola and Morrison sparked in my classroom – maybe another time. Of course, the manner in which I taught this work was darn-awesome too I must say! My theme this semester was scapegoatism and marginalization. In most of the short fiction and plays read white women were certainly Pecolas, and Marquez’s old man angel too. They became quite excited after reading “Desiree’s Baby” as well. This latter story sparked interest and enthusiasm beyond belief. Glad I took those fab black history courses at U.C. Davis and am well read in the area! …and thanks Riché Richardson and Clarence Major for the phenomenal lessons and classes too. The stuff really comes back when you need it most…one drop rule…passing…the tragic mulatto…those moments in history and themes in literature that we thought were passé or at least worked over...just when we believed or assumed our young students are solely interested in technology and this is the best way to get them interested in literature. Use of technology, however, is more prominent in my English 1301 classes. I attribute the balance to the school of Faris-Guertin-Richardson & May – my grad school mentors. We end this summer II on August 16. My students’ final exam project for the semester is a discussion lead/presentation on any one of the works on our reading list, and it was a hefty one. The presentation must include one scholarly article, a short visual (powerpoint, prezi, snaptz, video or the like), and a well written, critically thought-out short paper with a works cited, an annotated bibliography, and 3 to 4 questions for their classmates. A final note: I suggested to my students when someone asks what they read in their English 1302 Literature course this summer and they respond *The Bluest Eye* by Toni Morrison - surely the interrogator will ask “what was is about” – not to say “about a black girl who gets raped by her father” – they laughed at my saying this because already they are in the know.

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