Remember last week? How things have changed.
Students were asked to bring in a favorite passage from our reading, or a passage they wished to look at in more depth. We read about young Jerry's imagined flight from an animated coffin. We read about the "hospital procession" and later discovered that the very excellent Stanford site could help us see that it was simply a description of a piece of furniture. And we were most disturbed to reread the chocolate preparation scene after we heard a student tell us of his research, revealing that it might be a darkly satirized Catholic Mass, a revelation which certainly changed our view of the passage.
This was supposed to be our last meeting on Dickens, and our first on the next book, but the latter part of the plan did not work out. Everything we tried to discuss in the next book steered the conversation back to England and France.
I have created monsters who can't stop talking about A Tale of Two Cities.
The big argument? Miss Manette's role in the story. The astute students complained that she did nothing in the story. Yet, we considered the story without her; would it work?
It sure would have been shorter, they mused. But that wasn't the end of the chatter.
While she is not the active subject of the story, she is the object of several story lines. Is it fair to her character to say that she's the object that drives the story? Remove Miss Manette, and what motivates each character? Some considered it thoughtfully. The Usual Suspect was not stirred, and would have her removed from the story no matter how dull the story might become. In his revolution, Miss Manette would be the first to lose her head.
We tried again to go on the the next book, but there the female characters are stronger, prompting more comparisons. Students could not resist turning back once more to Dickens. They needed to express their admiration for Miss Pross, and even for Mme. DeFarge and the seamstress. The conversation went on and on...
But we don't just chat about literature. We are using the Lost Tool of Writing course as a guide to better rhetoric. The students completed a deliberative essay on TTC last week, yet several of my fine young scholars have opted to write a second essay on TTC rather than go on to the next novel. They have, it seems, discovered that there is something about Dickens, something that makes one like him more as understanding of his work grows, something revealed only by rereading, something which makes us unwilling to move on, as if moving on will mean leaving a good friend behind. In short, there is something more to be said.
As an added delight, during our history lesson on the French Revolution a student announced that it was easy to remember the events because of TTC. And there was much agreement.
I declare success.