Last Wednesday, in my evening World Literature class, one of my students complained that Gilgamesh was "stupid" and "meaningless." If you've read my blog, you know that Gilgamesh is fairly significant to me personally, so them's fightin' words. It turns out that it was the character Gilgamesh that bothered my student. It was his hanging on to his grief and acting like he was the only person who ever lost another, that bothered my student. I like to think we both learned something Wednesday. I think I learned that sometimes resistance comes as a result of not having the tools to appropriately analyze a text. My student simply did not have the vocabulary to critique; he thought "criticize" and "complain" were synonymous. I was also reminded that our personal response to characters often colors our understanding and appreciation of a text. I remember a fellow student hating the Great Gatsby because the characters were jaded and spent. "But that's the point," I thought! And Gilgamesh deals directly with the issues my student raised. It IS self absorbed and self serving to act as though you are the only person who has ever grieved: it is a lesson that Gilgamesh has to learn. While I learned about patience (which I was sorely lacking) and understanding, my student learned (I hope) that critique and complaint are not the same thing.
Then, this Saturday I had a post from an online student complaining about Shakespeare. I don't blame him. I don't really know how to teach Shakespeare online, but I am learning. In a face to face class, I can always show a video, which surely helps in the understanding of the text. But online, the student is faced with the daunting task of reading a play without seeing it performed. My student's complaint has really got me thinking, though, and I am writing an essay about why we should read Shakespeare. I'm hoping to get it done soon (so that this semester's class might "benefit" from it), and I will post a link to it when it is done.