2/24 – Critical Essay Reading Day


Remember how I said that Nabokov was our new Foster? He gave us three big skills

  1. Inductive reading – fondling the details of the text, not allowing assumption, generalizations, emotions or historical bias get in the way of reading what the AUTHOR has created.
  2. Re-reading – he said there is no reading EXCEPT for re-reading, since we can’t truly fondle the details until we’ve seen the whole thing.
  3. Read with the spine – Not your head (science) or your heart (emotions), but with artistic delight. We co-create the text with the author.

We did some GREAT work with these skills in F451. First of all, by focusing on the motifs (repeated words, phrases, images, objects) in the novel, you did a lot of detail fondling. Second, in the building of your concept maps, and then in your presentation, you did a lot of re-reading passages from the text to analyze them and use them to support your claim.

I also want to point out that I pressed you pretty hard yesterday when I re-interpreted your maps for you on the idea that what you’ve CREATED often speaks the truth beyond what you intended it to do. This is the co-creation. Just because the author (or concept map creator) doesn’t PLAN for something to be there doesn’t mean that it’s not there!


Well, Nabokov is not the only one who will be our “new Foster.” Today, I’m going to ask you to read two new essays: “Education by Poetry” by Robert Frost and “The Student, The Fish, and Agassiz” by the student. You have printed copies of both of these essays in your critical reading packet (blue cover), but they’re also linked below.

Then, in your lab book, write a NON TRADITIONAL entry responding to these questions:

  1. For The Student, The Fish, And Agassiz – read this parable as if the study of the fish were a metaphor for close reading. If that’s true, what specific tips is the essay offering us about doing close reading?
  2. For Education by Poetry –  Consider and reflect on these question as you read, and write your notes in your lab book:
    • What — exactly–does Frost say that “education by poetry” is? How do you make sense of that?
    • What –as exactly as you can find–does Frost say metaphor is? How do you make sense of that?
    • What –as exactly as you can find– does Frost say thinking is? How do you make sense of that?
    • What does Frost mean by the term “closeness”?
    • How does Frost organize this piece? Can you connect the different parts? If it was a developing essay, how would you outline it?
    • Put the “beliefs” at the end of the essay in your own words. What do you think about these beliefs?

Note that Robert Frost is yes–THAT Robert Frost, the one who wrote several famous poems you probably know quite well. Most folks have read The Road Not Taken and Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening at some point in their school careers.

Also note that the Robert Frost essay is NOT an easy one to read. It’s a talk, so it’s full of digressions and doesn’t arrive at its real MEAT right away. There are long sections that only accomplish a short bit of argument and short sections that contain many important elements all at once.



Word choice: When he talks about teachers as “markers” who “mark” students, the word we would use is probably “grade.”


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