"I am a Minnesotan by birth and a traveler in wild places by vocation and compulsion." -Paul Gruchow

Friday, January 24, 2014

IWC 100 (NDN): Ground Blizzard #4

From Wednesday:

There's a certain deliciousness to the fourth ground blizzard of the winter landing on a day that my NDN classes meet.  We're still talking about earthquakes, but it's still relevant.  I don't know what it is about ground blizzards--as opposed to regular snow-from-the-sky blizzards--that have this special quality.  I was a bit nervous about leaving the house this morning, because where I live in south Fargo is basically open country, which equals white out.  But once I got out of my maze of apartment complexes, the roads were protected enough that it wasn't too bad.  Could be worse.  I'm just glad the roads weren't slick.

Today we finish Jonis Agee's The River Wife--and on Friday, we get to Skype with her.  I'm excited about that, just by itself, but I've had a lot of caffeine already this morning, so I'm even more excited.  To back up a few days, I introduced them to the concepts of the Southern Gothic--which this book fits into--and asked them to pay attention to a few things in particular.  First, instances of the supernatural--ghosts and other weird things (like references to Jacques staying young and fit as he ages).  Second, the role of the built environment (the inn, the house) in the formation of the plot, as well as the natural environment.  These ideas seemed to catch fairly well, and in the days since we first talked about this, they've been able to discuss them in class.

The other major concept I introduced them to was Othering.  I had them read two brief pieces on it--and this coincided with one of their weekly Think Pieces, so many of them wrote on it.  As I expected, they mostly wrote about high school cliques, the treatment of jocks and nerds, as what they knew of Othering--and so in the last couple of classes, I've asked them to go further.  Where does Othering happen?  How and why does it happen?  What's the role of power in Othering?  One of my students, who is of Latino descent, however, wrote about his experiences Being Othered--and it always breaks my heart to read about how terribly they've been treated.  It's one of those teaching moments that I want to bring to the large group, but I would never embarrass the student like that.

We talked about MLA on Wednesday, which chewed up a lot of our class time, so we didn't get as much time to talk about the book as I wanted--so that's our plan for today.  It's always a risk to teach a book you love (and always so delightfully surprising when students write about how surprised they are that they like it)--but this book is so, so good.  I think we'll also do some in-class writing

I'm still struggling to get my students to pay attention to the news and current events (West Virginia--Elk River, in particular), but I think that will come as we get into talking about more current things.

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