1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Friday, March 04, 2016

Of scaffolds and substance

"The text, that's right, but they never talk about that" (from Whit Stillman's Barcelona). 

I recently subbed in a freshman English class. They were - yeah! - reading Shakespeare, but merely "Romeo and Juliet." In any event, we listened to Act II, scenes 4-6 on a CD, which is kinda like speed-reading but better than them trying to read it on their own silently.

Their task was to read a summary of the scenes and "fill in the blanks." As we went through some of the answers I was struck by (a) how quickly students could identify literary elements such as foreshadowing but (b) how ignorant [note: this is not meant in a pejorative way] they were of a simple biblical allusion.

I asked one class, "When Friar Lawrence says, 'The two be one,' what is he referring to?" No one knew. A vague sense that they were getting married but no connection to the Book of Genesis or the Gospels.