“Not that this inward amazement of Dorothea’s was anything very exceptional: many souls in their [youth] are tumbled out among incongruities and left to ‘find their feet’ among them, while their elders go about their business.”
--- George Eliot, Middlemarch
My students must sometimes feel like they’re being “tumbled out” into a fairly crazy world in my classroom, a world of written and spoken words that often feel foreign, and that sometimes cause them to feel like they’ve lost their footing – all of which makes me think I’m doing something right. It’s reasonable, it seems to me, for my young literary scholars to feel misplaced and nomadic, since the books we read and the essays we write require them to take trips into the vast universe of thoughts and feelings. They’re used to thinking thoughts that they know and feel comfortable with, but in English class we often work our way into nameless territory where odd ideas dart around us, and where feelings flow past us like shadowy beings. The scholars are often “tumbled out” into a literary work in which the words are spread out like strange signals, and they have to “find their feet” and follow their minds and hearts as best they can. There are “incongruities” beyond measure in the stories and poems we read, and the best the scholars can do is dare to make sense of them for themselves, dare to stand up, however shakily, inside an unusual book and bravely travel it, page by page.