Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Back from the teaching abyss…

So, how did it go? I hear you cry. Or are you just crying?

Well, the Shakespeare class was mixed. Attendance was 75%, which is a bit disappointing. 9 of the 15 had copies of King Lear, which is a tad infuriating given it's week 4 of their second year at university and the seminar is published weeks in advance. Some of the rest tried to use e-editions on their mobile phones. And a couple just spent the class texting and not speaking to any of their colleagues.

Folks: I like electronic editions of things. You can search through them, for instance. But free electronic editions are usually rubbish for high-level textual criticism. My students couldn't tell me whether they had a Folio, Quarto or mixed edition. They had no explanatory notes or glossary. It was a useful way in to a discussion of editorial practices and publishing history, but I don't think it will persuade them to spend £0.01 + postage on a decent second-hand paper edition.

Also: you just can't work on a text for two hours if it's on your mobile phone screen. iPad - fine. Phone - damaging and decontextualised.

That said, those who were prepared had a really good go. They didn't know much about the play's history or context (despite my colleague's excellent lectures), but they grasped the alternative interpretations very impressively, demonstrated considerable abstract thought and critical reading abilities, and we ended up running out of time - always a good thing.

My second class was on the nature of truth and objectivity with regard to media production and consumption. It was a tough crowd, understandably: nobody wants to argue the toss about Kant when they've only a year or so of Media Studies or Religious Studies under their belts. But we got there - applying the concepts to climate change discussions, Milly Dowler and famine reportage, plus the Living Marxism libel trial helped a lot, and they realised what Newsnight fails to acknowledge: that if you invite Peter Lilley MP on to discuss climate change, you should point out that he's a director of an oil company. After that, we got from Kant to structuralism and post-structuralism. They coped very well with structuralist semiotics but found post-structuralism and the idea of language shaping us a bit of a stretch - which is great.

Anyhoo - time to prepare tomorrow's class before going fencing. I feel the need for something simple, and sticking a foil into somebody's chest will do nicely.

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