Students Writing the Ghetto into Short Fiction
An Experiment in Teaching (Literary) Analysis
GLENN D. KLOPFENSTEIN
When a particular teaching method, regardless of past experience, no longer yields very encouraging results, it is, of course, time for honest reappraisal. The following essay describes the theoretical and practical steps I have taken to become more effective in teaching literary analysis at an urban community college.
As is the case for so many English TAs and journeymen adjuncts, I received my on-the-job training almost exclusively in the composition classroom. My limited chances to teach lower-division literature courses became for me golden opportunities to feel and act more like a “real” college professor. Thus, to perform well as a lecturer, to be able to think on my feet and orchestrate class discussions by imitating the standard professorial model of Socratic heuristics—further, to do this with an easygoing combination of tolerance and good humor (those outstanding and manifest qualities I had so admired in my own favorite professors when an undergraduate)—were the primary talents I sought to develop as a neophyte instructor in the literature classroom. And I confess that I enjoyed the authority, the aboveness of it all, the novelty of respectful distance my students (most students, that is) automatically granted me. I gripped the lectern and it felt good.
Meanwhile, I was a very different teacher and person in the composition classrooms of my suburban university (SUNY-Stony Brook, 1986