Despite making the resolution – sometime last year – to blog more often and make time for writing, it’s fair to say I’ve failed miserably. To my defense, I’ve been working hard behind the scenes to finally get some proper creative writing done, finally get that much-desired brown belt in karate, and to get me a new job. At least one of my ambitions has been fulfilled. Sadly it’s not the brown belt.
I’ve just started as an Associate Tutor, teaching first-year students the basics of cultural theory and essay writing, and discussing crime fiction with second-years. The former took me right back to my own undergraduate years, when I ploughed by way through Marx, Deleuze, and other white men with beards. I vividly recall the despair I felt when I realized I had eighty more pages to go – without a clue as to what the person who’s work I was reading was talking about.
Not the best experience for a tutor to have, one might say. However, I’d argue that the opposite is true. Because I’m so acutely aware of the challenges and headaches this type of text tends to provoke I’m less likely to fall into the angry-lecturer-trap. You all know at least one, maybe you’ve even been one yourself: that person who stumbles through the corridors of their institution sulking about the lack of motivation and intelligence their students possess. Not me. Because I know how hard this shit – pardon my French – is. And I’m committed to help my students to get through this, just like I did. In the end.
As to crime fiction, the fact that I read most of the reading list before even being asked to teach the module says it all. It’s fun! I find myself reading novels that we won’t be discussing for another month, including the great Chester Himes’s Cotton Comes to Harlem. But last week, the students and I agreed that the fun-factor actually made crime fiction difficult to analyze. How do you move beyond your own enjoyment to look at some of the problems and issues this type of fiction presents? This week we’re talking about Sherlock Holmes, and I’m looking forward to hear what my group will make of the famous detective so admirably embodied by Benedict Cumberbatch.
It’s great to be back, and I’m excited to find out what the year will bring. There’s a lot of work to be done: articles to write, papers to present, job applications to despair over. But first things first: I want to get that brown belt. Dammit.