Tuesday, March 29, 2011


“The remark lay in his mind as lightly as the broken wing of an insect among all the other fragments there, and a chance current had sent it alighting on her.”
-- George Eliot, Middlemarch

The sentence above, in which Eliot is speaking about a casual remark made by Dorothea Brooke’s uncle, gives me a chance to smile, because I see in it something that consistently shows up in English class, and which I welcome and appreciate. Mr. Brooke’s remark was one that apparently rose from no deep source, but rather was skimmed off the surface of his mind, just as one might skim blossoms off the surface of a pond. He simply caught a small, recycled thought in his mind and casually tossed it out to see what might ensue, something that happens constantly in my classes. The truth is that my students and I don’t usually dig down deep for our comments during class; like Dorothea’s uncle, we usually just scan the immeasurable moving parts of our minds and grab any thought that throws itself out to us. Our minds are not orderly offices where thoughts are filed in convenient slots, but more like loose and lighthearted whirlwinds where thoughts swirl constantly and you catch whatever you can. And that’s not a bad situation. After all, thinking, if it’s going to be beneficial, should have some liberty linked to it, some of the bagginess and slackness of winds. Thoughts that come out of our mouths sounding like submissive servants and methodical manufactured goods are of little use in English class. Give me, any day, the broken wing comments scooped off the floor of our minds.

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