Sunday, May 4, 2008

had a post up that I just took down because I think what happened was that I was trying to be witty/amusing about something that was troubling me on a more serious level than I had previously suspected, and in trying to work it out through being witty/amusing I ended up talking all around it, as opposed to talking through it, and being decidedly unfunny and, quite frankly, a big tits offensive to myself. (I ended up making fun of student writers, in an attempt to sort of lighten the tone, and not only was it not an accurate characterization, it was, well . . . just not funny.)

I think that what I was getting at, or trying to get at, is that in teaching creative writing, there's work that crosses my desk that can be, at times, disturbingly troublesome: blatantly racist, or violently misogynistic, or filled with messianic pretensions and utter contempt for all of civilization, for example.

It may not always be intentional. Sometimes it may be a failure of craft. Sometimes it may be a failure of voice/characterization. Sometimes it may be posturing. Sometimes I'm just not so sure.

What I can do: point out troubling content/language and discuss why; stick primarily to issues regarding craft and technique.

What I don't feel I should be doing: censoring content; making assumptions that the speaker/narrator of a given work is one and the same as the author of the work; assuming that the attitudes reflected in a given work are those of the author.

I'm not advocating political correctness, per se, in the creative writing classroom. But I find myself in a very troubling and difficult position when dealing with work that comes across as unabashedly violent, or hate-filled, or misogynistic, or what have you, and I'm unable to determine authorial intent through either class discussion or conferencing. How do I make this a teachable moment without dictating content, or coming across as enforcing my politics/values on creative work? How do I protect other students from feeling uncomfortable?

I suppose that what I was trying to say, in my last entry, had I not been trying to make light of it, was that when this happens, I find myself unsettled and disturbed.