An Entire Novel

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“We look at teaching literature as teaching particular concepts and skills. So we maybe aren’t teaching an entire novel, but we’re ensuring that we’re teaching the concepts that that novel would have gotten across.”

Kimberly Skillen, the district administrator for secondary curriculum and instruction in Deer Park, N.Y

In the tenth grade, my English teacher Ed
“God’s Gift to Warthogs” Cupp, who hated
teaching, though he loved to teach, awaited
with a hungover sense of flush-inducing dread
the answer to this question: “Having read
the brief excerpt from Melville’s Moby-Dick,
complete the sentence: Call me [blank].” Some prick
whose name I’ve now forgotten coughed and said,
“Crazy!” Now, I give the kid some props:
illiterate though he was, it was a joke
with a certain literary sense:
Melville’s underrated comic chops
do suggest you read a vast, baroque
jest, unless it’s stupidly condensed.

3 thoughts on “An Entire Novel

  1. “Teachers should not be afraid to teach part of a novel. Advanced students may, in fact, read the whole work anyway.”

    This seems like nothing more than a formal recognition of the way English classes have worked since time immemorial, or at least since the invention of Cliff’s Notes.

  2. snok: Cliff’s Notes also sprang immediately to my mind. Still, to a (truly) educated man of wealth and taste like IOZ, that quote has simply got to sting. Outflanked on the left by complete idiots.

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