2/5/2007

Today we played the new party-game sensation that’s been sweeping all the country, Verbrades (or Charverbs, if you prefer).

A student asked me who the “housewife” was who invented this one, and I proudly declared that “I, sir, am that housewife!”

Anyway, this game, which was ostensibly a review of verb types (see Friday’s post), consisted of each student taking a slip of paper marked as either transitive, intransitive, or linking, and inventing an action with that type of verb to be pantomimed in front of the class. Class members then guessed the action being portrayed by raising their hands and proclaiming a full sentence using the verb they considered appropriate. The winning guesser was then rewarded by being granted the opportunity to say whether the verb being reenacted was transitive, intransitive, or linking.

After completing this activity, we took out and reviewed our digression maps. As we read today, students were supposed to map out one more major digression. (We read to page 90.)

Today’s reading did have a major digression in it, related to Holden’s possible-onetime-girlfriend, Jane Gallagher. Thursday’s reading also contained a large digression concerning Holden’s little sister, Phoebe. Both of these digressions occur while Holden is going about mundane activities, like buttoning up his shirt, or sitting in the “vomity” chair in the lobby of the Edmont Hotel.

It’s pretty interesting the way Holden (well, Salinger, really) represents the psychological processes of a young man who is alone, in some distress, and looking for any sign of hope or connection to people that, at this point in his story, really exist only in his memory. Holden’s memories are stimulated by seemingly arbitrary signs that turn out to have meanings and connections we readers learn about over time. The order in which Holden recounts the important events relates to his own associative memory, not to the passage of time or the readers’ desire for more complete information.

I like reading this book first thing in this class because it lets students (you all) know that it is normal, and in fact desirable, to be in a state of not-knowing. Life–and my English class–is all about learning how to make decisions and judgements in ambiguous and unclear situations. The best writing always reflects the “unknowability” of the universe. When we move on from Catcher in the Rye to Shakespeare, where the unique language prevents many students from accessing all the information they’re used to having, I’m hoping that this experience opens students’ minds to the possibilities of learning from ambiguity.

Also, it’s a good read. If you missed today, come borrow a book during project period and finish your digression maps. Quiz on verbs tomorrow.

Mt

Quote of the day: “Everything illegal is transitive. If you want to stay out of jail, only do intransitive stuff.” Matt Thomas

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