Thursday, May 18, 2017

Getting Dragged In

One of the several interesting things about teaching, or attempting to teach, works of Literature is the sheer unpredictability of what will happen to the teacher in the process of teaching the text. It's rare for me not to enjoy, in some sense, teaching a text, though I remember once being given the sage advice not to introduce poems which were special favourites into the classroom on the grounds that if a class turned out not to respond to them the teacher was likely to be profoundly disappointed. That's never really happened to me in a devastating way, though I do recall teaching Hughes's lovely Happy Calf from the Moortown sequence to a class and finding a certain frustration in the fact that the majority wanted the calf to be unhappy, all evidence, including the title, to the contrary.
But the unpredictability of teaching texts has tended with me to go in the opposite direction, in that I've set out to teach texts with which I'm barely familiar and of which I've not been exactly a great fan only to find an immense pay-off in the classroom. I fall completely in love the text and, when the process is at its most intense, find my own way of looking at the world being reconfigured.

I think I've mentioned in this Far Place some time back being overcome by Long Day's Journey Into Night in a way I don't think I've ever entirely recovered from. And just lately another play has been having a similar effect on me. I've previously only ever looked at snippets from Pinter in the classroom, bits of The Birthday Party, and I didn't count myself a fan by any means of the erstwhile Nobel Laureate (far less deserving than Dylan, I'd have said.) So I wasn't exactly looking forward to teaching The Homecoming, which I'd only ever read once before and not quite taken in, except for vaguely recognising it as typical Pinter - very Pinteresque indeed, if you know what I mean.

But just a quarter of the way into the play with one group of students, I'm finding myself so entirely consumed by Pinter's vision of things - if that's what it is - that I'm seeing the world as I thought it was through his spectacles and recognising what I've always known but never quite wanted to articulate, until he did it for me. Gosh, I'd love to direct this for the stage. But fat chance, which, in truth, is not such a bad thing in this case.

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