TITLE: Faulkner Teaches How to Study AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: February 03, 2013 11:10 AM DESC: ----- BODY:
novelist William Faulkner, dressed for work
From this Paris Review interview with novelist William Faulkner:
INTERVIEWER Some people say they can't understand your writing, even after they read it two or three times. What approach would you suggest for them? FAULKNER Read it four times.
The first three times through the book are sunk cost. At this moment, you don't understand. What should you do? Read it again. I'm not suggesting you keep doing the same failing things over and over. (You know what Einstein said about insanity.) If you read the full interview, you'll see that Faulkner isn't suggesting that, either. We're suggesting you get back to work. Studying computer science is different from reading literature. We can approach our study perhaps more analytically than the novel reader. And we can write code. As an instructor, I try to have a stable of ideas that students can try when they are having trouble grasping a new concept or understanding a reading, such as: One thing that doesn't work very well is being passive. Often, students come to my office and say, "I don't get it." They don't bring much to the session. But the best learning is not passive; it's active. Do something. Something new, or just more. Faulkner is quite matter-of-fact about creating and reading literature. If it isn't right, work to make it better. Technique? Method? Sure, whatever you need. Just do the work. This may seem like silly advice. Aren't we all working hard enough already? Not all of us, and not all the time. I sometimes find that when I'm struggling most, I've stopped working hard. I get used to understanding things quickly, and then suddenly I don't. Time to read it again. I empathize with many of my students. College is a shock to them. Things came easily in high school, and suddenly they don't. These students mean well but seem genuinely confused about what they should do next. "Why don't I understand this already?" Sometimes our impatience is born from such experience. But as Bill Evans reminds us, some problems are too big to conquer immediately. He suggests that we accept this up front and enjoy the whole trip. That's good advice. Faulkner shrugs his shoulders and tells us to get back to work. ~~~~ PHOTO. William Faulkner, dressed for work. Source: The Centered Librarian. -----