Diaries to an English Professor: Pain and Growth in the Classroom

Diaries to an English Professor: Pain and Growth in the Classroom

Diaries to an English Professor: Pain and Growth in the Classroom

Diaries to an English Professor: Pain and Growth in the Classroom

Synopsis

This book is a poignant study of the journals that students have written in Jeffrey Berman's college class on literature and psychoanalysis over the course of fifteen year. Introspective and ungraded, the diaries offer a unique glimpse into the personal world of students' lives.

Excerpt

Diaries to an English Professor owes its existence to the many undergraduate students who have taken my literature-and-psychoanalysis courses at the University at Albany, State University of New York. I began teaching psychoanalytic literary criticism in 1976, three years after arriving at the university. Long interested in psychological approaches to literature, I was curious to see whether students could use a weekly "Freudian" diary to apply psychoanalytic theory to their own lives. in outlining the course, I told my students that, just as we would use our class discussions to analyze fictional characters' dreams, fantasies, desires, and defenses, so would the students be encouraged to turn their attention inward and, with the help of insights acquired from readings and class discussions, examine their own lives. the diaries, then, would be the "laboratory" part of the course, allowing students to pursue the Delphic oracle's injunction, Know thyself.

Safeguards

I knew from the beginning that introspective classroom diary writing was fraught with potential dangers. For the experiment to succeed, numerous safeguards had to be built into the course. My overriding concern was that no student be harmed by the process. the following precautions were therefore essential. First, students had to be assured that their diaries would remain confidential. I alone would read the diaries when the students turned them in every Tuesday, and I would keep the diaries locked in my office until Thursday, when I would return them to the students. No one else would read the diaries or know the diarists' identities. Second, since diaries are highly subjective, recording a person's most private feelings and thoughts, it would be . . .

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