Wednesday, September 21, 2005

It's settled

Call in your arguing uncles, let Cain once again sit at the table with Abel: the argument is over. Creative Writing cannot be taught.

Such are my feelings at least after my first class yesterday. Eight students, all lined up in chairs across from me, each looking as if his family were being audited because of something they had done the previous night, while drunk, with the police chief's daughter or Mercedes, depending on where his allegiances may lie.

I explained the course: we will read stories from the perspective of an author, we will discuss what makes a story work, character, voice, plotting, and in the end we will all produce a story to present to the class. "Tuh!" A student sighed, audibly, without even trying to hide the fact that she was sighing, audibly, and turned to the student to her right. I kept my eyes steady. Is there a problem? "But I am not a writer! You must be born for this!"

I had anticipated a problem. After all, in the states I taught only those students who expressed a desire in writing. Here, it's a foreign language class. "I'm sure we'll adjust things here and there as we go," I said.

As for the reading list, it too is in flux, though I was promised I'd have complete control over the syllabus. "About this Stalin story," my faculty advisor said, and I pursed my lips, lifted my brow. "Oh? Something wrong with the Stalin story?" I'd thought not to include it, but then I kept hearing no, no, the Fulbright experience is meant to bring new ideas and approaches into the university, we should welcome this, and so in the end I thought it would have been rude to mention the Stalin story (one of my very favorites, The Twenty-Seventh Man by Nathan Englander). So yes, Stalin was purged from the reading list, a little poetic irony there, and other stories were shuffled around (TC Boyle's "Drowning" was too shocking to start the course, for one). All of this is proving interesting enough to me for me to write an essay about it. Perhaps I'll post an excerpt in the days to come. For now, I'm off to twenty-seven students -- repeat, twenty-seven students. Maybe I'll keep it simple today, focus on the difference between lie and lay or something. Though of course, with my course reading list having already been called very sexual (if you want young people to read, give them stories about love, I say), lie and lay may be the wrong lesson entirely.

1 Comment:

Limey said...

I see that you have linked to Tim's site " Good Morning, Ukraine". He faced very similar problems with his students in Kherson which culminated in less than 10% of them turnning up for the year end exams. Hope that you dont suffer this misfortune.