David Foster Wallace would fail you for rolling your eyes


Because critical reading and prose fiction are such hard, weird things to try to study, a stupid-seeming comment or question can end up being valuable or even profound. I am deadly-serious about creating a classroom environment where everyone feels free to ask or speak about anything she wishes. So any student who groans, smirks, mimes machine-gunning or onanism, chortles, eye-rolls, or in any way ridicules some other students in-class question/comment will be warned once in private and on the second offense will be kicked out of class and flunked, no matter what week it is. If the offender is male, I am also apt to find him off-campus and beat him up.

David Foster Wallace sets his expectations for class discussions in the Syllabus for his “English 102—Literary Analysis: Prose Fiction Fall ’94”.. (Comment by Katie Roiphe at Slate). This could be read as swagger, I guess, but I don’t think it is. I think Wallace just wanted to stand up for the ideal represented by a university classroom in the plainest possible terms, uncouched in institutional argot. (via John Gruber).



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