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ERIC Number: EJ960066
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2011
Pages: 19
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0882-4843
What We Talk around when We Talk about "The Dick"
Savage, Elizabeth
Feminist Teacher: A Journal of the Practices, Theories, and Scholarship of Feminist Teaching, v21 n2 p91-109 2011
Some years ago, the author had her first opportunity to teach an undergraduate American Romanticism course, which meant she had a chance to teach "Moby-Dick" the way she thought it should be taught. Meeting two days a week, her course was set up so that students read about thirty pages of "Moby-Dick" for one class meeting a week paired with readings by another writer for the other meeting. For example, they might read Poe's "Philosophy of Composition" on Tuesday, followed by sections of "Moby-Dick" including "Cetology" on Thursday--or the other way around. Three weeks or fewer than one hundred pages in, colleagues, men and women both, cornered her in the copy room and hall to mock scold or interrogate her about this pretend aberration: "What? YOU teaching "Moby Whale"? Those poor kids. Nobody teaches "Moby Whale"," or more revealingly, "I heard you were teaching "Moby-Dick"?? I thought you were a feminist." As Charlene Avallone notes, "[T]he work that [Melville's] texts have been made to perform in reinforcing an androcentric and misogynist American culture" certainly explains the foundation of some of these remarks. Then and since, her defense for teaching a book that has all of two named women characters, both played for laughs, by an author who operates as synecdoche for the white male canon has been insufficient. This essay is an effort not only to defend herself but also to examine and to challenge some of the assumptions central to this anecdote: first, that nobody wants to read "Moby-Dick" anymore, even when one thinks she should read it, and that nobody likes it when it's required. Second, that the teacher-scholar model, typically employed to defend increased publishing requirements by casting scholarship as prerequisite to teaching competence, means only that scholarship serves students rather than that their work with students often leads them to new specializations. Third, that "Moby-Dick" and other canonical keystones are inimical to feminism and feminism to "Moby-Dick". Finally, that what teachers teach is always more important than how they teach it. (Contains 17 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A