Friday, October 02, 2009
LAW ENFORCEMENT IN ENGLISH CLASS
One of the definitions of “apprehend” is “to arrest and take into custody”, which suggests to me that the students and I do a great amount of law enforcement work in my English classes. Scenes from old cowboy movies come to mind, where the sheriff rides after a slippery outlaw, over hills and across deserts, and finally lassoes and arrests him. In English class, you might say we, too, are chasing down things that flee from us -- themes, ironies, metaphors, interpretations, and such. We vigilantly ride through stories and poems and essays, always on the lookout for the “culprits” – the veiled meanings, the hidden motifs, the subtle undertones and moods. These so often escape our notice when we are reading; they seem to hide among the sentences like the bad guys hid in the rocks in old Gene Autry movies. My youthful scholars and I are determined, however, to apprehend these elusive details in a work of literature – to hunt them down through close readings and insightful discussions. Like the old-time sheriffs, who were often called “peace officers”, we intend to bring some peace to our literary co-mates and ourselves by uncovering the hiding place of truth in a short story or a poem. We are determined to apprehend the essential significance of what we read, to take it into custody in our minds, no matter how evasive and shifty it might be. We don’t have lassoes or handcuffs, just pencils, paper, and dogged hearts. We’re the posse in Room 2.