Monday, June 15, 2009

Teaching writing*

Some important aspects of the craft can be taught, but the art of writing must be taught in the same way that art is taught in art school, and music in music school. Nobody would dare turn up to the door of a music school saying ’I’d like to be a guitarist, but I don’t have a guitar, I don’t have time to practice, and I don’t listen to music’, but people do that in writing courses.

From here, a long and detailed interview with novelist M. J. Hyland and a great read.

*The title I've given this post has reminded me of a particularly fraught staff meeting in my former workplace, where we were hammering out, at glacial speed and temperature, all the new subjects that were to be taught the following year, all aspects of all of which had to be subjected to the democratic process and agreed upon unanimously before proceeding. We spent at least three hours on the title of a new first-year subject that eventually sported the title 'Reading Writing', and then moved on to the question of a title for another new subject about literature and religion. Quoth the then head of department: 'Well, if we're going with the double gerunds, how about 'Seeing Believing'?

Needless to say, sadly, that one didn't get up.


M-H said...

I was in on one of these 'naming' meetings at a smallish NZ university once - I was the (mature) student rep on the Faculty committee. The discussion ground on and on, but got truly stuck on a subject in which students would read recently published NZ writing (both fiction and non-fiction). Previously, non-fiction had been considered not sufficiently literary to occupy the attention of English students, so this was a politically-charged discussion. "Recent writing in Aoteoroa/New Zealand", the choice of the person who would be teaching it, was initially rejected as too long. The discussion wound through various other suggestions incorporating post-colonial, modern, post-modern, local, and combinations thereof, until I broke in with "Post-recent local writing." Several people appeared to seriously consider this until I laughed and they realised **it was a joke**. And of course we settled on "Recent writing in Aoteoroa/New Zealand". Such events really do happen, although it's hard to believe if you haven't sat through one of them.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't in the meeting that decided on "To Hell with Dante" as a final year Italian subject, but I did manage to pass the subject, and it makes me smile on those rare occasions I look at my transcript.

So does "Medieval Monasticism and Governance", because the lecturer had told us he liked to give his subjects the most boring names he could think of to deter the less dedicated students.