Gerald Graff is now arguing for a pedagogical formalism. What is apparently a counter-intuitive argument is--to my mind anyway--consistent with his advocacy of meta-pedagogy, a teaching of subject matter that is always in some sense about the teaching (the form of the teaching), such that "content" matters less than one might think under the liberal rubric of "teach the conflicts." In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education article, Graff and a colleague argue in favor of "formulaic" teaching. Here's a paragraph:
Unfortunately, bad formulas have been so pervasive in American schooling that it has become easy to dismiss formulas altogether. In attacking formulas, we feel we are being democratic, striking a blow against top-down oppression and defending the diversity of student voices. If it is true, however, that certain formulas can help students engage in true democratic dialogue, then it's time to rethink that logic and stop using "formulaic" as if it were a four-letter word.
Here's a link to the whole article.
And here's a link to an earlier entry here on Graff's early 1990's proposal that we teach the conflicts.
Thanks to Val Ross for sending me in the direction of this piece.
A while back Bruce Andrews went on Bill O'Reilly's conservative TV talk/news show and went toe to toe with Bill. Mike Hennessey links the YouTube recording of the encounter and has a few good words to say about it.
After viewing this again I went to my bookshelf to pull down some Andrews and re-read, and I listened to several of his more overtly political poems on his deep PennSound author page. One of my favorites there is "You Made This World, We Didn't", which is the final section (of 100 sections) of I Don't Have Any Paper So Shut Up (or, Social Romanticism), a book published by Sun & Moon in 1992. Listen to this marvelous poem (Andrews reads well) and imagine how Bill O'Reilly would have--could have--responded had he asked Bruce to read a poem on the air and Bruce had read this. There's a politics in which one person tries to force another to speak the common already-corrupted language, a point at which we still believe the common language hasn't entirely broken down, although one has to deal with evasions and dodges on both sides; and then there's the politics of a Bruce Andrews poem, in which it becomes clear that the poet bespeaks the breakdown, which has already occurred before the poem began, and in which that breakdown is a sign of confidence and health, and an openness to other possibilities. Bruce is willing to talk in both worlds, thank goodness, so I am intrigued to hear him in both at once. What are the differences? Yes, but what are the similarities?
I read Grand Text Auto as often as I can. It's a "group blog about computer narrative, games, poetry and art." In a new entry, Nick Montfort satirizes Google by showing a black Google home page along with this note: "It warms my heart to see that a major Internet company has turned its Web page black, joining the protest against the Communications Decency Act only 4433 days late."
Charles Bernstein points me (and us) toward Google's blackle which Google claims has saved (at the moment I went there) 536,868.931 Watt hours. Given this rhetoric, I suppose Nick is wrong in thinking Google belatedly red or pink; they're trying to be green.
During the era since the emergence of digital media and, now or very soon, of ubiquitous connectivity—-and as the effect of these advents on the delivery of materials to the classroom but also their storage outside such a space becomes profound—-the irony of the classroom lecture on modernism has become more obvious than before and increasingly disabling.
I want to explore that irony and lament the disability.
I've written this here before, and I've noted that the main problem is not diagnosing the ill. It's easy to mock someone lecturing on modernism as a failure to admit any measure of the form of its innovation into the room. Which is to say: the problem will be to define or at least describe an alternative.
So I've turned to ideas about noise as a possible model - I mean, poetry as noise or what Bruce Andrews has called "athematic ‘informal music’”. Aligned with the spirit of this, I've been wondering here from time to time if the poetry classroom might be filled with such noise.
One working assumption is that the “use” of new technologies to abet the teaching of poetry is not going to make a bit of difference unless some sort of fundamental pedagogical change accompanies it.
Is it possible that quality of that changed environment might indeed sound something like Andrews’s athematic informal music? If it is true that “An onomatopoetic expression automatically entails the specification of what is being described,” then the teacher of that expression who wishes to describe specifically must to some extent reproduce sound-sense.
Because of the difficulty of effecting such reproduction, most advocates of an historically capacious modernism — I mean, the radical modernism that embraces archaic, pre-literate forms, the non-Eliotic mode that defies New Critical analysis — have argued that such poetry does not belong in the classroom. If one accepts such a contention, such as that put forward by Jerome Rothenberg in 1975 in his “Dialogue on Oral Poetry,” then one must either remove this poetics from the curriculum or rebuild the space and the role of the teacher. Rothenberg:
“As for poetry ‘belonging’ in the classroom, it’s like the way they taught us sex in those old hygiene classes: not performance but semiotics. If it I had taken Hygiene 71 seriously, I would have become a monk; & if I had taken college English seriously, I would have become an accountant.”
Yet Rothenberg did and does teach, and so admits to the realization that “the classroom becomes a substitute for those places (coffee shop or kiva) where poetry actually happens & where it can be ‘learned’ (not ‘taught’) in action.”
Twelve hours of reading aloud Lolita, to mark her 50th yesterday. The "program" prepared for the event (by Thomson Guster, Kaegan Sparks, and others) was a dossier of pages typewritten on a portable manual Olivetti slipped inside a clear plastic "evidence bag." Writers House staffers walked around all day in orange or green t-shirts emblazoned with alluring or boldly declarative ("HUMBERT HUMBERT") words.
This morning's Daily Pennsylvanian, in part:
Audience members were treated to a lunch taken straight from the pages of the novel, featuring treats like cherry pie, candy, ham and eggs, figs, bananas and ice cream sundaes. Each plate was accompanied by a bright pink slip of paper with a quote from the book related to the snack.
College sophomore Thomson Guster, who works at the Writers House, explained that sweet food is symbolic in the novel because the character of Lolita, a bratty little girl, can be bribed with candy and lollipops.
Food is "part of the whole seduction" of the book, said Jessica Lowenthal, director of KWH.
Here is the whole article.