Saturday, July 25, 2009

On an English teacher's Ning I've been following, I came across a complimentary reference to a series of lectures on the teaching of writing, given by Barrett Wendell, a professor at Harvard, in 1891. I downloaded it in its entirety, and have been reading and highlighting it most of the morning. He writes brilliantly, with a touch of Emerson and Ruskin, and his thoughts on teaching composition are intriguing, and in some cases inspiring. Here is one wonderful quote about reading and grading student essays:

“A dull business this [reading of student papers] seems to many, yet after ten years' study I do not find it dull at all. I find it, rather, constantly more stimulating ; and this because I grow more and more aware how in its essence this matter of composition is as far from a dull and lifeless business as earthly matters can be ; how he who scribbles a dozen words, just as truly as he who writes an epic, performs — all unknowing — one of those feats that tell us why men have believed that God made man in His image. For he who scrawls ribaldry, just as truly as he who writes for all time, does that most wonderful of things,— gives a material body to some reality which till that moment was immaterial, executes, all unconscious of the power for which divine is none too grand a word, a lasting act of creative imagination.”

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