Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Maud in the Classroom

We finished and complemented our Jane Eyre study with a brief look at the poem "Maud Muller," comparing and contrasting the setting, scene and themes.  Those who read this blog from time to time  may know that I have a personal connection to Maud; I have long looked forward to introducing the poem to a great class. Yesterday was the day. It was a simple lesson, which the students enjoyed, and it gave me insight into some ways my students learn.

Basically the lesson was a close reading of "Maud Muller." I began by reading the entire poem aloud (they were to read it at home before class) and initiated a discussion of the story arc and themes of the poem, compared it to the story and themes of Jane Eyre in literary and historical context, and finished with a discussion of literary techniques and poetical form. The rhymed couplets and even rhythm in Maud are perfect for quick classroom study, and a fine form to study before Hamlet, our next read.

When we completed all that, I asked, "Is it easy or difficult to write in rhymed couplets?"

"Easy," said He-Who-Always-Answers-First.

How easily the young fall into that old trap!  This was the perfect set-up for a poetry-writing lesson. He quickly recanted, but it was too late. Ha!

Each student was asked to write 3 pairs of rhyming couplets on Jane Eyre. This "easy" lesson was, in fact, easy for some, but quite difficult for others.  I found that the students who struggle with clear prose write beautiful poetry, and the student with the best prose barely eked out the 6 lines. The Well-Coiffed-One stunned me with rhymed, unexpected, polysyllabic words which worked wonderfully. The students' work, read aloud, lead to a refresher lesson on assonance. There were quite a few assy-thingummys* in the work of the Usual Suspect, which made us wonder about the ease of rhyme...or not.

As in any class, talents vary. Discovering those talents is the first step in providing students with an opportunity to use and enhance them, and provides me with another means to enhance my skills in the gentle art of assessment.

* cf. The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Edmund seems unfamiliar with assonance, calling it an "assy-thingummy."


David Roemer said...

Reasons to Believe in Jesus

Reasons to believe Jesus is alive in a new life with God can be found in quotes from two prominent atheists and a biology textbook.

Thus the passion of man is the reverse of that of Christ, for man loses himself as man in order that God may be born. But the idea of God is contradictory and we lose ourselves in vain. Man is a useless passion. (Jean-Paul Sartre, Being and Nothingness: A Phenomenological Essay on Ontology, New York: Washington Square Press, p. 784)

Among the traditional candidates for comprehensive understanding of the relation of mind to the physical world, I believe the weight of evidence favors some from of neutral monism over the traditional alternatives of materialism, idealism, and dualism. (Thomas Nagel, Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, location 69 of 1831)

And certain properties of the human brain distinguish our species from all other animals. The human brain is, after all, the only known collection of matter that tries to understand itself. To most biologists, the brain and the mind are one and the same; understand how the brain is organized and how it works, and we’ll understand such mindful functions as abstract thought and feelings. Some philosophers are less comfortable with this mechanistic view of mind, finding Descartes’ concept of a mind-body duality more attractive. (Neil Campbell, Biology, 4th edition, p. 776 )

Sartre speaks of the "passion of man," not the passion of Christians. He is acknowledging that all religions east and west believe there is a transcendental reality and that perfect fulfillment comes from being united with this reality after we die. He then defines this passion with a reference to Christian doctrine which means he is acknowledging the historical reasons for believing in Jesus. He does not deny God exists. He is only saying the concept of God is contradictory. He then admits that since life ends in the grave, it has no meaning.

From the title of the book, you can see that Nagel understands that humans are embodied sprits and that the humans soul is spiritual. He says, however, that dualism and idealism are "traditional" alternatives to materialism. Dualism and idealism are just bright ideas from Descartes and Berkeley. The traditional alternative to materialism is monism. According to Thomas Aquinas unity is the transcendental property of being. Campbell does not even grasp the concept of monism. The only theories he grasps are dualism and materialism.

If all atheists were like Sartre, it would be an obstacle to faith. An important reason to believe in Jesus is that practically all atheists are like Nagel and Campbell, not like Sartre.

by David Roemer

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