Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23, 2010

I am not sure what possessed me to start writing a blog.  It seemed a good idea -- a way to get some thoughts down and to share those with a wider (perhaps) audience.  It might spark some response.  It might not.  But we will see.

Most of my days are spent wrestling with ideas, and most of those ideas come out of the reading that I do in various texts from 19th century American literature.  I know that doesn't sound exciting.  I do know that many of our contemporary issues -- from class definitions to racialist thinking -- have their roots in the world of the 19th century.  From the psychological personae of Poe's fiction to the optimism of Emerson's individualism, from the moral code of Thoreau's Walden or "Resistance to Civil Government" to the complicated nuance of Mark Twain in Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson, from the realism of William Dean Howells' fiction to the domestic tensions expressed by Sarah Orne Jewett or Mary Wilkins Freeman or Kate Chopin, we can glean the starting point for a host of aesthetic, moral, and social arguments, all of which we can watch as they play out in our times.  Consider the Puritan voices of William Bradford and Mary Rowlandson, the conservative voices of Jonathan Edwards, and the radical voices of Margaret Fuller, Frederick Douglass, Charles Chesnutt, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman.  Consider the ambivalence toward freedom and equality as expressed by Thomas Jefferson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, or even Abraham Lincoln.  All of these make up parts of my days.  It's quite a chorus. 

In the coming weeks, all of this will take on added focus as I start teaching again.  This year I will be facing the spread of students from first year to senior.  And the ideas that come through will not always be welcome.  So it goes. 

Maybe writing about this will help it come into sharper focus.  My hope is to bring new life to my thinking and to my teaching.  Writing about it will become (I hope) part of the whole process.

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