Teaching always involves re-reading.
Going into the first week of this semester I’ve re-read a book, four articles, and part of another book for two courses, one undergraduate, one graduate.
Yes, and, indeed. I came across a blog this fine about-to-become-football-frenzy Saturday morning and skimmed a brief passage on the teaching of reading (as opposed, I suppose to only writing) in order to make students better readers (i.e. more careful readers). No harm, no foul here. Who doesn’t want students to be better readers (or better everything, for that matter). At the same time, however, that we dish out such encouragements, we also must remind ourselves of our own reading practices. We should also return sometimes to our own re-reading practices.
A few weeks ago, Paul had a nice post about reading, mostly written as advice to students. The ability to internalize and to work with internalized readings is a difficult one, and it is one that comes with time and experience. At some point, you feel the database inside you, you mentally assemble positions, you see connections and patterns without consulting texts, you put together conversations based on your own private database. I am completely dependent on my internal database. But when I go back and re-read, I am always pleased by the forgotten detail, the missed strand, the unexpected or neglected phrasing, the chance juxtaposition as what I re-read (for the X amount of time) meets up with what I have since read. I was re-minded this week, for example, of Joe Harris’ choice of the word “network” to describe the “process” of writerly exchanges that occur in intellectual work. A small moment? Maybe. Or maybe not. But this moment will be introduced into a current project in progress as well as a more recently invited project. And here is the great lesson from Linked regarding the concept of growth (also a key word in Harris’ A Teaching Subject). Our own intellectual networks – which reading is a part of – must grow. That growth includes adding new texts and ideas to the database which shapes the network. But it also involves going back to the database and re-reading its contents.