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Showing posts with the label culture

How to Make Love to a Logophile?

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What does it mean when John gives Mary flowers?For more than a dozen years, I taught an introductory literature course to 60 or so first-year undergraduates, 80% of whom were young women--a number of whom would typically report being interested in questions of love and romance.  Every year in the first class I described the following scenario and asked the class what word they would use to describe this young man’s actions.
John’s eyes always light up when Mary enters the room.  He always talks in a tender, flattering manner to her.  He takes her out to dinner, and buys her flowers and small gifts. Etc. Etc. What is the verb for when a man pursues a woman?As I presented this hypothetical heterosexual scenario, I could feel Judith Butler and the gender police breathing down my neck, but bear with me. So what do we call what John is doing?  Over the years I noticed a shifting in the tenor of the answers.  The typical mid-90s answer was that he “was cruising,” “on the make,” “hitting on he…

Do No Harm Part III: Don’t Joke about the Bible

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Do Not presumeI hope I have made it clear that I have not lived up to my own recommendation that teachers should avoid irony.The best I have been able to do, and I suspect this will be true for most teachers, is to be careful and to be wary of the pitfalls of irony.In recent years I saw a dramatic increase in the multicultural mix in my classes:students from Africa, the Caribbean, the former Yugoslavia, Iran, China, Japan and various Arab countries.Over the years, I had learned from lecturing on feminism and what used to be called “women’s liberation” not to presume to know what individual women want or, worse still, should want.Even though, I was supposed to be the expert on “culture” and “intercultural communication,” I think I knew enough not to presume that I understood my students' lives, and to recognize that I had a lot to learn from them.In general, I was in awe of their openness and resilience.H.G. Wells’ short story “The Country of the Blind” provided a perfect framework…