Saturday, 25 August 2012

Academic footprint

Some time ago Julia sent me a link to a radio programme and said I had to listen to it. The name of the speaker didn't ring a bell, it didn't feel urgent, and the message got lost among dozens of other messages. Tonight I was sorting old emails, found it and listened. A young woman was talking about her first evening literature class, many years ago. She talked at length about the uncertainty of being in a university classroom with lots of strangers, and then she finally revealed what it was: Fantasy and Horror. I was in that classroom of her memory, in front of a horseshoe arrangement of desks she described so vividly. She was looking at her classmates, and she was looking at me. I don't remember her, but she remembers me, although she didn't mention my name. I might remember her final paper. Her writer career started that evening in my class. I must read her books.

I've had many weird experiences with former students. Someone sitting opposite me in the underground would suddenly start talking to me about this class in Young Adult Fiction. Or the young bartender, who asked Staffan to tell me, sitting at a corner table waiting for my beer, that my class in Text Analysis was the best he had ever taken. (Sadly, it didn't get him a better job).

The most gratifying episode was when I had an induction class for masters students, talking about planning a thesis and considering your topic and doing the bibliography correct from start. To flesh it out, I asked some students to share their topics. A young man said he was writing his masters thesis on Spanish female poets. After class, as he was leaving the room I couldn't help asking him how he had come up with this idea. "In my first year, he said, you did an introductory lecture on feminist criticism".

1 comment:

Jude Inggs said...

I always tell students to get their bibliography correct from the beginning. Why don't they listen?