June 18, 2017

"[A]fter more than 20 years of teaching, boys and young men police each other when other guys display overt interest in literature or creative writing assignments."

"Typically, nonfiction reading and writing passes muster because it poses little threat for boys. But literary fiction, and especially poetry, are mediums to fear. Why? They’re the language of emotional exposure, purported feminine 'weakness' — the very thing our scripting has taught them to avoid at best, suppress, at worst... Why do we limit the emotional vocabulary of boys?"

Writes Andrew Reiner, who "teaches at Towson University and is working on a book about masculinity," in a NYT piece called "Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls."

I wondered what Reiner taught that would give him the opportunity to observe his students policing each other. Here's his faculty page. From that, I can see that he teaches writing and honors seminars  that deal with "how and why we are turning away from—losing touch with—our larger communities, with neighbors and (harmless) strangers, with friends and lovers, with ourselves."

108 comments:

campy said...

Why do we limit the emotional vocabulary of boys?

Any possibility that maybe it's good that boys are not as emotional as girls?

Virtually Unknown said...

It's not the boys policing each other, it's the culture browbeating the boys. But it is far easier in this political climate to blame the victim.

rhhardin said...

He must be teaching girly poems.

David Smith said...

I certainly didn't experience that during my school years back in the Bad Old Days of the '50s and early '60s. There was a difference between Art or English class and Phys Ed or after school Drama or Football, but individuals were able to be Jocks and still perform in Choir or Musicals or write papers on Wordsworth. I have a feeling that there's either some confirmation bias involved there at Towson, or maybe a combination of enlightened schooling and what, having digital entertainment constantly fed to our young people, is taking its toll.

David said...

Stereotyping is great because it allows people to avoid close observation and thought. Boys are not by nature emotionally blocked. They display the emotion differently than girls, but they experience and they do share it. Observers in rapture to the stereotype miss a lot of this.

rhhardin said...

Not one English teacher in ten points out the Shakespearian pun in Robert Frost's The Need of Being Versed in Country Things.

robother said...

Writers and teachers of fiction "observe" many things that fit the narrative. That's what they do.

rhhardin said...

Thylias Moss

...To believe in [God] would place Him in the center of the universe,
when He's far more secure in the fringes,
so He doesn't have to look over His shoulder to nab the backstabbers who want promotions,
but are tired of waiting for Him to die and set in motion the natural evolution.
God doesn't want to evolve.
Has been against evolution from its creation.
He doesn't figure many possibilites are open to Him.
I think He's wise to bide His time, even though He pales in the moonlight to just a glow...
just the warmth of hot chocolate spreading through the body like a subcutaneous halo.
But to trust in Him implicitly would be a mistake,
for then He would not have to maintain His worthiness to be God.
Even the thinnest flyweight modicum of doubt gives God the neccesity
to prove He's worthy of the implicet trust I can never give
because I protect Him from corruption,
from the complacency that rises withim Him sometimes,
a shadowy ever-descending brother.

Laslo Spatula said...

Not my experience when I was a young boy.

Young Laslo wrote stories, too.

Friends were fine with that.

And with my stash of Playboy magazines.

I am Laslo.

Cath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rhhardin said...

Stereotyping is great because it allows people to avoid close observation and thought.

Stereotyping is normal because it supplies information that you don't have for the case at hand.

David Hume pointed out that there's no reason to expect it to work; Kant suggested it's what makes you human.

Bob said...

He must be teaching girly poems.

Aye. He must not be teaching Milton.

Nine days they fell: Confounded Chaos roared,
And felt tenfold confusion in their fall
Through his wild anarchy, so huge a rout
Incumbered him with ruin: Hell at last
Yawning received them whole, and on them closed

Tommy Duncan said...

As a contemporary of Ann Althouse I was exposed in high school to the concept of the ideal greek man, a person of all around talents who could compete in athletic games, fight a battle, study science and write a poem. I'm guessing our sons today are not exposed to that kind of thought in many public schools today.

Can indoctrination in social justice issues replace literature and poetry written by dead white men?

ddh said...

Given the current fixation of English faculty on "gender," race, and highway intersections in minority communities, I'm sure that professors can turn anybody off poetry and literature in any language.

Owen said...

This guy is just doing what he needs to make himself heard in a crowded noisy market. Nobody sells books or gets tenure by pointing out that there isn't a Crisis.

Loved the Frost quote!

Peter Irons said...

He's such a typical idiot for an English professor. Working in a discipline that knows so little, even about itself, he presumes to teach biology and psychology and child development and parenting. Talk to boys the way we talk to to girls? Why would we do that? Their bodies and minds and lives are quite different.

Saint Croix said...

"[A]fter more than 20 years of teaching, boys and young men police each other when other guys display overt interest in literature or creative writing assignments."

It's funny because the first part of the sentence is absolutely true!

boys and young men police each other

This is right. This is an accurate description of male behavior.

I thought the next half of his sentence was going to be something like, when a boy is a bully and threatening the weak, another boy will come in and kick his ass. Because that's what males do. We police each other. We kick ass when we need to.

And then I read the second half of his sentence.

when other guys display overt interest in literature or creative writing assignments."

What kind of "police" work is he imagining? I'm reading a book and some big man yanks it from me and tells me to never read again?

He's like the worst novelist in the world. He's imagining unrealistic bad men who don't exist. It's like Lee Child writing the next Jack Reacher, and he's out there fighting the awful men who don't want anyone to read. Or 007 has to stop that evil male-conspiracy that discourages literacy and book-learning.

Bad Lieutenant said...

confirmation bias involved there at Towson,

Oh wait. Towson = HBCU, right?

Kevin said...

with friends and lovers, with ourselves. And right there you've lost most of the boys.

Man: Why do you do that.

Boy: I don't know.

There is nothing beyond that. The boy just is. He may be a baseball player or astronaut or class president, but the core of the boy just is, and there is no need for him to question himself.

We can all stand here and point out that it means he won't grow as a human being without introspection and reflection. But it also means he's not filled with a sense of his deficiencies which need correcting, or a sense of self-destructive self-loathing.

We should be careful about "fixing" the first, lest we inadvertently break the second.

Saint Croix said...

And i do think there are people who "police" what boys read.

These people are called adults.

And they feel that boys should read "appropriate" books.

So they don't like us reading comic books or vampire books or decapitation or sex or whatever the hell they're policing.

These bad people aren't trying to keep boys from "literature." They're trying to control what kids read and make them read what they want them to read.

I think both boys and girls are "policed" by adults who want to control and protect them. But the controls are in regard to specific types of art, not all art.

Kate said...

It's like when you look at a painting and think, my 5 year old could do better.

When I hear a professor, with the greats of literature at his hands, peddle such pitiful excuses -- anyone with moderate curiosity could do better. Please defund federal money from every university.

Robert Cook said...

"It's like when you look at a painting and think, my 5 year old could do better."

And almost always, such a thought is wrong.

"Please defund federal money from every university."

Do you want the American university system to completely collapse? This is what would happen if every university were to lose federal funding.

Saint Croix said...

I was feeling bad because I started ranting before I clicked on the link.

Then I clicked on the link.

Researchers believe that these discrepancies in fathers’ language may contribute to “the consistent findings that girls outperform boys in school achievement outcomes.”

1) What a shitty father's day article, NYT!

2) Maybe girls perform better in school because they talk more, and our educational system rewards those who are verbal.

3) Maybe girls perform better in school because teachers are often women, and they subconsciously favor girls.

4) Maybe girls perform better in school because our education system rewards those who please authority, and girls are better at pleasing authority than guys.

I don't know what the answer is. It's not my research study. But when a female-dominated institution rewards females and males are doing poorly, I am going to scoff at the theory that fathers are to blame. But keeping drugging boys with Ritalin and wondering why they aren't reading the poetry you assign them. You're doing great!

Mark Caplan said...

There is a tiny subset of poems geared toward the masculine point of view: Gunga Din, Charge of the Light Brigade, Casey at the Bat, If, the devilish parts of Paradise Lost, the Iliad, the Odyssey, Beowulf. A college course featuring male-oriented poems would have to be conducted at an undisclosed location, far from the eyes of diversity deans.

Owen said...

Robert Cook said: "Do you want the American university system to completely collapse? This is what would happen if every university were to lose federal funding." We can dream, can't we?

But seriously: one need not de-fund them in order to produce very deep and rapid change. One need only credibly threaten to do so. Look at what happened when the Department of Education issued that absurd and illegal "Dear Colleague" letter in 2011 "suggesting" that the schools dismantle due process for Title IX proceedings, or face scrutiny on their receipt of federal money. The schools fell over themselves in their haste to adopt whatever Uncle Sugar might want.

Once trained, an animal need not be beaten to make it obey.

Angel-Dyne said...

Am I the only one who noticed, and was annoyed by, the teacher's thudding grammatical mistake in the headline?

"[A]fter more than 20 years of teaching, boys and young men police each other...

Boys and young men do this stuff after they've been teaching for 20 years?

Matthew Blaine said...

Boys are not blank slates that can be socialized with current-year values. And I question the motives of those who would try.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

For some reason I think that; "Why do we limit the emotional vocabulary of boys?" translates to "Why don't my male students get weak in the knees when we read Jane Austen, like I do?".

rhhardin said...

The sun doth shine,
The world is mine,
My bones are full of marrow;
O for a wench
That has a trench
Where I may push my barrow!

A.D.Hope, national poet of Australia

rhhardin said...

James Tate The Blue Booby a poem boys will come to understand later.

Virgil Hilts said...

When I co-majored in English (a few decades ago) a big academic movement was to go back and re-characterize great authors and poets as gay. Shakespeare, Melville, etc. Several papers tried to prove that Hemingway was gay. The subtext was pretty obvious - if you were a great writer or artist prior to 1980 then you were probably gay and hiding it. Not sure what message this was sending to young men who loved literature. It did turn me off from the idea of ever becoming an English Professor and having to waddle in this twaddle.

Roger Sweeny said...

Bad Lieutenant, Towson is not a Historically Black College or University. It is located in the largely white suburbs north of Baltimore and gets many of its students from there.

Saint Croix said...

I think there are some good points in the article.

I think our culture--most cultures--don't like emotional men. We don't like men who cry, we don't like men who are afraid, we don't like men who are angry.

I've had people get irritated at me because I'm too happy and laughing too loud.

Emotions can be bad, of course. But you can go too far in repression.

It's interesting to read the Bible and see examples of Christ being angry or being sad. And how much his ministry focused on emotions, specifically the importance of love.

traditionalguy said...

He is postulating a reason why men are not emotionally sensitive. But why should a man trust authority figures in a world they can see is 100% dedicated to affirmative action to render women successful and punish men for taking up patriarchal roles.

In other words, literature that normalizes men being men is treated as the enemy of the people's and sanctioned. Be caught as a Writer of Freudian psychoanalysis level insight through character development , and you will see what reward you get from the Female EDU Establishment.

Any man with the sensitivity to read the signs of the times is not stupid enough to expose himself to be targeted to that cruel establishment.

And we are back to DJT again. He doesn't fear what is said about him being a real man in public, and that Patriarchy,that is celebrated in good literature breaks them.

It's time to read John Steinbeck again.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

He must be teaching girly poems.

My first thoughts too. (Sorry, can't read the article, because NY Times paywall)

I'm a female. I think poetry is mostly stupid and pointless. There are exceptions to the vapidness of poetry, but in general trying to analyze poetry is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree. If the poet has something to say, be clear about it. I can't read their minds, nor do I have the desire to do so. Emily Dickenson should have stayed home! It was one of my most detested classes.

"Talking to Boys the Way We Talk to Girls."

Well.....DON'T. Stop it. In fact stop talking to "Girls" the way you talk to "Girls". Talk to people as what they are, individuals and not some interchangeable units in your imaginary machines.

Fernandinande said...

"Indeed, a Canadian study found that college-aged female respondents considered men more attractive if they used shorter words and sentences and spoke less."

Me like north girls.

Say to boys: “I can see that you’re upset,”

Damn straight.

or ask them, “What are you feeling?”

Need coffee.

or “What’s going on for you right now?”

Planning coffee run.

There doesn’t have to be any grand plan beyond this, she says. “Just show up for them. Get them talking. Show that you want to hear what they’re saying.”

"Yada yada yada" says I.


Angel-Dyne said...
Am I the only one who noticed, and was annoyed by, the teacher's thudding grammatical mistake in the headline?


No, you're the only one too stupid to notice that AA created that sentence fragment, as indicated by the fact it starts with "[A]fter".

Sebastian said...

“Why do we limit the emotional vocabulary of boys?” Because language is a tool of prog politics. Case in point: Bonderman vs. Huffington. Shut up, boy: the ladies don’t like it. Express your emotion at your peril: you’ve been warned.

“when these lyrics are passed down as the defining soundtrack to masculine identity, we limit children’s understanding not just of what it means to be a father but of what it means to be a man” Inching toward an insight here. Any policing of regular men by regular men is done to warn each other and protect ourselves against the prog proganda prog teachers might want to stuff down our throats in the form of “literature” or “poetry,” as illustrated by this “teacher.”

Dust Bunny Queen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dust Bunny Queen said...

Do you want the American university system to completely collapse? This is what would happen if every university were to lose federal funding.

No it wouldn't. Federal funding only shores up the already rotting corpses of the elite institutions (and I mean that in the sense of a mental institution or jail or gulag) that are wobbling on.

Removing Federal funding would create a more competitive system of private colleges, State or locally funded Junior Colleges, trade schools and, yes, even religious schools that would vie for students. That would trim the crap,trim the waste, teach actual subjects, less SJW classes, give choice in curriculum, choice in degrees that are more than participation trophies.

Would less people be going to college. YES and that is a good thing. Too many people are wasting their time and getting into incredible debt for absolutely no good reason. The ROI [return on investment]of college is negative in most cases. They would be better off, and the economy would be better off if many just got into the work force. Trump's push for apprenticeship programs is brilliant and will be beneficial to many who are now doomed to a lifetime of disappointment by being forced into an "institution" that is really just a rip off.

Instead of being gorged on Federal Funds and being subject to the idiocy of the DOE micromanaging rules, people could choose what colleges to attend and be able to avoid the propaganda mills.

Angel-Dyne said...

Fernandinande: No, you're the only one too stupid to notice that AA created that sentence fragment, as indicated by the fact it starts with "[A]fter".

Fair cop.

Paddy O said...

Change writing or reading poetry to writing or reading song lyrics, the whole conversation changes. The best poets in our era write songs. Though certainly not all songs are good poetry, but not all poetry is good poetry either.

Culture shifts the expression in different directions, mostly directions that can pay money.

Not everyone can be an English professor, even most English PhDs can't get a job like that.

Much better to become a musician.

Maybe this is where the social policing comes into play.

Angel-Dyne said...

DBQ: No it wouldn't. Federal funding only shores up the already rotting corpses of the elite institutions (and I mean that in the sense of a mental institution or jail or gulag) that are wobbling on.

I wouldn't go that far (all Federal funding), but the American "higher education" system is in large part a reeking corrupt racket and we'd be better off burning at least half of it to the ground. (That's a hyperbolic metaphor, Robert, don't get excited.)

The student loan racket, in particular, is an obscenity. Allegedly trustworthy and responsible elders feeding the young egregiously bad financial advice and outright lies so that they can keep their obscene racket going...hangings too good for 'em.

chuck said...

Silly, but maybe Reiner is a lonely guy?

exiledonmainstreet said...

Saint Croix said...
And i do think there are people who "police" what boys read.

These people are called adults.

And they feel that boys should read "appropriate" books."

When I was in 7th and 8th grade my parochial school periodically held "read-ins" for the upper classes. There were no classes for an afternoon. Everyone just read a book of their choice. They couldn't be comic books but they didn't have to be classics; the books had to be approved by the teachers, but our school had a pretty wide selection of novels which appealed to pre-adolescents and young teens.

The boys read Westerns and thrillers. Some YAF novel about drag racing was very popular. The girls read teen romance novels and books about horses. I remember being engrossed in "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn."

Everyone looked forward to those afternoons, because they got to make their own choices and nobody was trying to push PC down our throats. They just wanted to encourage the habit of reading for pleasure.

Matthew Blaine said...

The good professor should just tell the boys that the better they get at writing, the more pussy they will get.

Matthew Blaine said...

OT no Philando Castile thread?

mockturtle said...

DBQ at 9:23: Very well said. I nominate you to head up the Department of Education.

Owen said...

Mockturtle: re DBQ as the next Betsy DeVos. I second that.

The drug of Federal money affects all schools. Research-based institutions, which is every university, all depend on NIH, NSF, DoD, D of Energy, etc etc etc. They cannot operate without this $ stream to pay for grad students and professors pumping out papers and results. Some of which may be useful but all of which is vulnerable to political pressure.

Saint Croix said...

The good professor should just tell the boys that the better they get at writing, the more pussy they will get.

major plot point in Dead Poets Society

why do we read poetry?

to woo women

Paddy O said...

The fallacy is assuming that all creative writing or reading takes place in English departments.

Who becomes a poet in our day and age when the money and popularity is in songwriting. So where do the best poets spend their energy?

Saint Croix said...

Sorry, can't read the article, because NY Times paywall

google the title of the article

click on the link

avoid the paywall

Saint Croix said...

Who becomes a poet in our day and age

I wrote a pro-life poem in my 20's

Up and down goes the wave.
Mr. Soul, say hello!
If you dream you're alive
You are, you know


Alex said...

Men are busy building muscle, hunting, fishing, blacksmithing, shooting, building shit. You know stuff civilization actually needs.

Alex said...

But keeping drugging boys with Ritalin and wondering why they aren't reading the poetry you assign them. You're doing great!

The schools are still drugging boys on Ritalin? I thought that had gone away...

Zach said...

Let's be honest, though: modern literature is extremely feminized. The genres men read don't count as literary, the giants of the past are exactly the "dead white males" that everybody is supposed to hate.

There are exceptions, but the late teens and early twenties are when boys are figuring out how to be men and girls are figuring out how to be women. Instead of trying to androgynize everyone, why not speak to them in the emotional vocabulary they're trying to learn?

I wonder if Reiner has considered appealing to males by putting together a class focusing on male poets writing about male topics. It's not like you would be starved for content.

The Iliad and the Odyssey have spectacular poetry, and men have been reading them for millenia.

Want to be anti-war? Try Wilfred Owen, Dulce et Decorum Est, or T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland.

A doomed love affair? How about Yeats' No Second Troy?

Why blame the customer for not liking the product when there's so much fantastic product out there that you could be offering, instead?

Yancey Ward said...

Here is the entire paragraph from which Ms. Althouse quoted:

"Even boys’ literacy skills seem to be impacted by the taciturn way we expect them to speak. In his book “Manhood in America,” Michael Kimmel, the masculine studies researcher and author, maintains that “the traditional liberal arts curriculum is seen as feminizing by boys.” Nowhere is this truer than in English classes where, as I’ve witnessed after more than 20 years of teaching, boys and young men police each other when other guys display overt interest in literature or creative writing assignments. Typically, nonfiction reading and writing passes muster because it poses little threat for boys. But literary fiction, and especially poetry, are mediums to fear. Why? They’re the language of emotional exposure, purported feminine “weakness” — the very thing our scripting has taught them to avoid at best, suppress, at worst."

I think the real problem is simply glossed over here in the Kimmel quote- the adults in control of education are trying to feminize the boys, and the boys are right to resist it. Where exactly do you see the "traditional liberal arts curriculum" being taught these days? I suppose people like Reiner think themselves John Keatings when they write these essays. Maybe he is, but I suspect he really isn't, but I would have to sit his classes to be sure.

madAsHell said...

The Towson State debate champions!!

Anthony said...

Modern literary fiction is the lamest genre of fiction. There tends to be better wordplay in it because the stories are so boring - ordinary people doing ordinary things - and nobody would read it otherwise.

As for poetry, The Ballad of East and West certainly packs an emotional punch, and would get boys much more interested than the mawkish crud that English teachers so love.

Achilles said...

Ann's Synopsis of Reiner:

"From that, I can see that he teaches writing and honors seminars that deal with "how and why we are turning away from—losing touch with—our larger communities, with neighbors and (harmless) strangers, with friends and lovers, with ourselves."

The left hates diversity of thought. If they can turn boys into girls that reduces diversity of thought.

They are turning away from those groups so they can limit the common experiences their students have with other people who might think differently.

Simple when you look at today's college campuses.

Zach said...

I was exposed in high school to the concept of the ideal greek man, a person of all around talents who could compete in athletic games, fight a battle, study science and write a poem.

There's a deeper critique of the modern humanities hiding in all of this. The humanities have become so politicized, they've lost their importance even to themselves.

The ideal greek man is not learning the humanities to advance a social agenda. He's learning the humanities in order to know the content. I actually agree with the author that what people get out of poetry is an expanded emotional language, sensitivity to metaphor, and ability to express themselves.

But all of those things are the interior content of the subject, and all anybody is interested in these days is the exterior impact -- whether a particular marginalized group is advanced or retarded by devoting attention to a cultural artifact. The people who promote poetry for its own sake are seen as horrible reactionaries or impossible fuddy-duddies.

rcocean said...

"Let's be honest, though: modern literature is extremely feminized."

Exactly. Publishers always knew the main readers of fiction were women but at some point, maybe 20-30 years ago, women started to take over book publishing too. No one like Hemingway could get published today, unless he left out all the bullfighting and wrote mostly about bi-sexual women living in Paris.

rcocean said...

"There tends to be better wordplay in it because the stories are so boring - ordinary people doing ordinary things - and nobody would read it otherwise."

Yep. I think Updike is a great stylist but I got 2/3 through "Rabbit Run" before I decided I just didn't care about an ordinary guy with ordinary problems, and went back to reading "Lord Hornblower".

Lewis Wetzel said...

Reiner; "But literary fiction, and especially poetry, are mediums to fear. Why? They’re the language of emotional exposure, purported feminine 'weakness'"

Oh, this is grade-A bullshit.
Pound's Canto I:


But first Elpenor came, our friend Elpenor,
Unburied, cast on the wide earth,
Limbs that we left in the house of Circe,
Unwept, unwrapped in sepulchre, since toils urged other.
Pitiful spirit. And I cried in hurried speech:
“Elpenor, how art thou come to this dark coast?
“Cam’st thou afoot, outstripping seamen?”
And he in heavy speech:
“Ill fate and abundant wine. I slept in Circe’s ingle.
“Going down the long ladder unguarded,
“I fell against the buttress,
“Shattered the nape-nerve, the soul sought Avernus.
“But thou, O King, I bid remember me, unwept, unburied,
“Heap up mine arms, be tomb by sea-board, and inscribed:
“A man of no fortune, and with a name to come.
“And set my oar up, that I swung mid fellows.”

Alex said...

Funny how Robert Heinlein, Orson Scott Card, Larry Niven or Frank Herbert aren't considered literature. Oh, science fiction is misogyny!

Alex said...

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

-Robert A. Heinlein

Alex said...

Make sure to die gallantly last, otherwise no time to solve equations.

mockturtle said...

why do we read poetry?

to woo women


And Rilke is particularly effective, I understand.

OTOH, my ideal 'wooer' would read me Kipling. :-)

Richard Dillman said...

After 42 years of teaching literature to college students, I find it impossible to draw definitive conclusions about how young men respond to fiction, poetry or drama. Male responses are infinitely variable and complex. The author's thesis seems like a theory in search of data.
I could write a book n this topic. Maybe I will.

Lewis Wetzel said...

Writing poetry can be seen as a means of problem solving: how to best use language to express an idea. C.S. Lewis said the world is perceived as symbols. The creation of our individually experienced world is a work of imagination, and this work is expressed with language as allegory. There is nothing particularly feminine about doing so.

Fred Drinkwater said...

From James Thurber's essay "What Price Conquest?", about John Steinbeck's "The Moon is Down" and Laurence Stalling's (?) "What Price Glory?":
---
Let us listen to Lieutenant Tonder in "The Moon is Down":
"I want a girl. I want to go home. There's a girl in this town, I see her all the time"..."What do the reports say about us? Do they say we are cheered, loved, flowers in our path? Oh, these horrible people waiting in the snow!..."
"[We are conquerors but] we're surrounded [by] the faces in the doorways, the cold faces behind curtains."

Now listen to Lieutenant Moore in "What Price Glory?":
"Oh, God, Dave, but they got you. God, but they got you a beauty, the dirty swine. God damn them for keeping us up here in this hellish town. ... [My men] look at me like whipped dogs- as if I'd just beaten them. ... And since six o'clock there's been a wounded sniper in the tree by that orchard angle crying 'Kamerad! Kamerad!'... Why in God's name can't we all just go home? ... Flagg, I tell you you can shoot me, but I won't stand for it."

The Steinbeck story will make a very pretty movie. I wonder what the people of Poland would make of it?
---
(And apparently Thurber wrote a review of "Moon" which "Moon"'s publisher [Best] claimed was a slap in the face to Steinbeck, to which Thurber replied) "by [Best's] fuzzy mental distress and public heartbreak I am approximately as deeply moved as I would be by the tears of a real-estate agent. I am sorry about that slap in the face. I didn't realize my hand was open."

Great stuff. But (at least back when I was in school) only Steinbeck was taught, and not Thurber. And who ever heard of Laurence Stallings?

Balfegor said...

As everyone else has said, the choice of poems is probably going to have a big effect on whether boys have an interest or not. If every poem presented reads like Invictus, for example, I think boys are going to get a kick out of poetry class. It's probably true that "the traditional liberal arts curriculum is seen as feminizing by boys," as the chap quoted in the article says, but that's because of what teachers put in the curriculum, not because a liberal arts curriculum is intrinsically feminizing. Let children read The Three Musketeers.

The first time I cried reading a book was as a child, reading The Man in the Iron Mask, where D'Artagnan is killed just after hearing he is to be named Marshal of France. So there's "emotional exposure" of a sort there, if that's what you're looking for. I am a somewhat weepy sort, though -- all sorts of poems make me choke up. The ending of Tennyson's The Passing of Arthur, for example:

Then from the dawn it seemed there came, but faint
As from beyond the limit of the world,
Like the last echo born of a great cry,
Sounds, as if some fair city were one voice
Around a king returning from his wars
.

Or even -- nowadays -- the second stanza of Larkin's An Arundel Tomb:

Such plainness of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with a sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand
.

But now we're into the soppy stuff that young boys are not going to like. And they don't have to!

mockturtle said...

Shakespeare's Henry V has some great verses that boys should like. And I already mentioned Kipling. Very manly poetry, indeed. Gunga Din should be required.

Balfegor said...

Re mockturtle:

I don't think Gunga Din is a bad poem, but the use of quasi-dialect would make it a tough slog for young or uncertain readers. English reading proficiency isn't great in the US, so I would hestitate to lay Gunga Din on them. Like much of Kipling, it's a poem better heard aloud than read.

Balfegor said...

Also, re: The Charge of the Light Brigade, I find that a difficult poem, mostly because the rhythm is a bit hard to get a hang of -- the repeated line "Into the valley of Death" in particular seems to break up the rhythm (every other line has two stresses in it, so I think it's Into the valley of Death, but I find it hard to read smoothly).

Unknown said...

Do they still teach the poems written to get laid?

To His Coy Mistress

By Andrew Marvell
Had we but world enough and time,
This coyness, lady, were no crime.
We would sit down, and think which way
To walk, and pass our long love’s day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side
Shouldst rubies find; I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Till the conversion of the Jews.
My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires and more slow;
An hundred years should go to praise
Thine eyes, and on thy forehead gaze;
Two hundred to adore each breast,
But thirty thousand to the rest;
An age at least to every part,
And the last age should show your heart.
For, lady, you deserve this state,
Nor would I love at lower rate.
But at my back I always hear
Time’s wing├Ęd chariot hurrying near;
And yonder all before us lie
Deserts of vast eternity.
Thy beauty shall no more be found;
Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound
My echoing song; then worms shall try
That long-preserved virginity,
And your quaint honour turn to dust,
And into ashes all my lust;
The grave’s a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.


(Or as Marvin Gaye later summarized: "Let's Get It On!"

mockturtle said...

Balfegor, in my junior high school English class one of my classmates recited Gunga Din very powerfully and with the dialect. Although he was a rather unattractive and unpopular guy, I had a crush on him for a while after that. At my last high school reunion I spoke with him and told him that I never forgot his recitation of Gunga Din and how it make me a big fan of Kipling. I especially love On the Road to Mandalay "Where the flyin'-fishes play, An' the dawn comes up like thunder outer China 'crost the Bay!"

Alex said...

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Alex said...

Or from 'The Lion in Winter':

Prince Geoffrey: I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it.
[smiles]
Prince Geoffrey: We're a knowledgeable family.

Balfegor said...

Re: Alex --

Honestly, I don't like Flanders Fields as a poem. It's better than For the Fallen, overall, though it falls short of the most famous stanza of the latter:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.


It's almost shocking how in the midst of a muddle of indifferent verse, that stanza stands out suddenly as though it were etched in gold. Or perhaps it's just the thrill of recognition -- indifferent verse that has become poignant through its long repetition across generations of memorials to the dead of the Great War.

My favourite Great War poems are The Farmer Remembers the Somme, Here Dead we Lie, In Memoriam (Easter 1915), Praematuri, and The Wind on the Downs. That kind of makes me look like an anti-war hippy or something, so let's toss in Rupert Brooke's The Soldier to round things out. Also, I like Larkin's MCMXIV.

Freeman Hunt said...

The St Crispin's Day Speech from Henry V was popular around here. One son went outside and set up something like a lemonade stand where he would recite it for money. ($3 for the whole thing, $2 for a great part, $1 for a little bit.) He made $36.

Classic Poems for Boys.

buwaya said...

Interestingly we had much of the "masculine" poetry mentioned above in our readers in grades 3-5, way out in Asia. That would be Kipling and Tennyson, as well as Poe, Frost, Whitman, Longfellow and Walter Scott, plus any number of others. I dont think this sort of thing is necessarily a matter for higher ed.

We memorized (a forgotten skill!) the Light Brigade, and The Village Blacksmith, and Lochinvar, parts of Hiawatha, and etc.

Modern US K-12 would never touch such things.

As for dialect in Kipling, that wasnt much of a problem. We were (nearly) all what would today be called ESL kids, but familiar enough with English media to know that Elvis spoke differently than Cary Grant. What mattered is that Gunga Din has a story, it is about something, not someone.

Class accents worked differently in our world. The best native speakers of Tagalog at the time were the rural poor, as since the 19th century the urban upper-middle classes adopted foreign languages, Spanish and English, often imperfectly, as a class marker. Much like in Russia really, Nabokov's memoir has a lot of parallels.

Anyway, of course the professor is an idiot.

Anthony said...

Dust Bunny Queen said...
I'm a female. I think poetry is mostly stupid and pointless. There are exceptions to the vapidness of poetry, but in general trying to analyze poetry is like trying to nail Jell-O to a tree. If the poet has something to say, be clear about it. I can't read their minds, nor do I have the desire to do so. Emily Dickenson should have stayed home! It was one of my most detested classes.


I used to think that way about poetry. Then sometime in my early 30s I took up my old college lit book and started reading some of them again (it was, I admit, a terribly low point in my life). You can't really just "get it" by reading it through one time. I had to read, for example, Ulysses (Tennyson), probably 20 times and get used to the language (and be a bit older) to really get the emotional gut punch of the thing. "Emotion" in poetry doesn't have to be breaking into tears or anything like that. But the way the language is structured it gives a more profound, really more intellectual, emotional impact. What male over a certain age can read this and no feel half a dozen different emotions at once:

Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.


I read that and I can feel the sadness at being older and not having the same vigor one had in youth; even though I didn't fight any wars, I get it. But there's also the hope that one can still accomplish something even without "that strength which in old days moved earth and heaven". Earlier, is the line:

[Y]ou and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.


Every line has something to say. You might not get it the first time you read it or even the hundreth. I certainly wouldn't have (and didn't) appreciate it until I was older and was dealing with a lot of the same stuff. It does take a certain amount of intellectual work, but it's definitely worth it.

Lots of people like to bash Dead Poets Society, but it does, in a way, ring true in that analyzing poems with all sorts of technical terms may be intellectually stimulating to people who study that sort of thing, but you don't need it to get much, if not most, of the meaning out of it.

Anthony said...

Dickinson didn't do squat for me either, and most of her stuff still doesn't but some of her stuff, once you read it carefully a few times, is really something.

buwaya said...

"Light Brigade" has a cavalry charge, and cannons, and sabres and heroes. Its a spectacle. Little boys can forgive (or ignore) the rhythm.

mockturtle said...

Freeman Hunt recalls: The St Crispin's Day Speech from Henry V was popular around here. One son went outside and set up something like a lemonade stand where he would recite it for money. ($3 for the whole thing, $2 for a great part, $1 for a little bit.) He made $36.

Good for him! I love that speech! A pep-talk for the ages. I get goose bumps and a few tears every time I hear it. Kenneth Branagh does it very well.

Hey Skipper said...

When my kids were in HS, their English classes subjected them to morass of prog chicklit: think Poisonwood Bible as the archetype.

My son revolted, and my daughter was scarcely less offended.

Why can't High Schools figure out that the crisis of boys not reading might very well be solved by including one book from the Flashman series, or Master and Commander?

Richard Dillman said...

A word is dead
When it is said,
Some say.
I say, it just begins to live that day.

Emily Dickinson

Bob said...

We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

campy said...

Why can't High Schools figure out that the crisis of boys not reading might very well be solved

Maybe they don't want it solved.

Angel-Dyne said...

"Thought shall be the harder, heart the keener,
mood shall be the more, as our might lessens.
Here lies our earl, all hewn to earth,
The good one, on the ground. He will regret it always
who seeks to depart from this war-play now.
My life has been long. Leave I will not,
But beside my lord I will sink to earth,
I am minded to die by the man so dear." (Maldon, death of Brythnoth)
(That's from memory, and I went to an all girls' school.)

Freeman Hunt: The St Crispin's Day Speech from Henry V was popular around here. One son went outside and set up something like a lemonade stand where he would recite it for money. ($3 for the whole thing, $2 for a great part, $1 for a little bit.) He made $36.

Freeman, that is wonderful.

Angel-Dyne said...

Hey Skipper: Why can't High Schools figure out that the crisis of boys not reading might very well be solved by including one book from the Flashman series, or Master and Commander?

OMG, Geroge MacDonaled Fraser and PatrickO'Brian, doubleplusungood old white guys writing about Problematic white men. (My kids, of either sex, devoured both series and begged for more.)

Michael K said...

Yeah, lets have all the boys read Maya Angleou.

That will get them interested in reading !

mockturtle said...

I admit my high school was heavy on Keats and Shelley. My Eng. Lit. teacher was a woman, of course. But at least we did read Iliad and quite a bit of Shakespeare so I can't complain too much. She was a far better teacher than those of today, methinks.

Darthtude said...

Here's the poem that's the antithesis for this whole insipid article.


IF

Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

Joe said...

Some poetry the boys may be interested in:

Back in black
I hit the sack
I've been too long I'm glad to be back
Yes, I'm let loose
From the noose
That's kept me hanging about
I've been looking at the sky
'Cause it's gettin' me high
Forget the hearse 'cause I never die
I got nine lives
Cat's eyes
Abusin' every one of them and running wild

Sebastian said...

If you are going to "express" "emotions," do it like this, as one tough old woman showed:

"Now that I have your face by heart, I look
Less at its features than its darkening frame
Where quince and melon, yellow as young flame,
Lie with quilled dahlias and the shepherd’s crook.
Beyond, a garden. There, in insolent ease
The lead and marble figures watch the show
Of yet another summer loath to go
Although the scythes hang in the apple trees.

Now that I have your face by heart, I look.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I read
In the black chords upon a dulling page
Music that is not meant for music’s cage,
Whose emblems mix with words that shake and bleed.
The staves are shuttled over with a stark
Unprinted silence. In a double dream
I must spell out the storm, the running stream.
The beat’s too swift. The notes shift in the dark.

Now that I have your voice by heart, I read.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see
The wharves with their great ships and architraves;
The rigging and the cargo and the slaves
On a strange beach under a broken sky.
O not departure, but a voyage done!
The bales stand on the stone; the anchor weeps
Its red rust downward, and the long vine creeps
Beside the salt herb, in the lengthening sun.

Now that I have your heart by heart, I see."

Michael K said...

"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, "

That was framed on my bedroom wall as a boy.

Lewis Wetzel said...

I had three English lit instructors in college -- all women, no men.
Ironically, the college librarian was a retired Marine. He had a big, booming voice you don't usually associate with librarians.
in my 'umble experience, based on my three female instructors and watching lectures on Youtube by male English lit instructors, male instructors tend to focus on the context of a work in history and in literature, and, especially in poetry, on the mechanics of its construction. Women lit instructors tended to emphasize the biography of the author -- Poe's disastrous personal life, for example -- and explain the poem as an expression of personality.
Emily Dickinson was a virgin, a recluse, and led a fairly pampered life. She was self-cloistered, she had no master to rebel against, and served no cause. That type of life is much more admired by women than by men.

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

The professor seems threatened by masculine traits. Going so far as to invent a class of masculine behavior. This seems to be a hunt for an excuse to control boys through indoctrination and suppression. It's a derivative of transgender conversion therapy that targets prepubescent and adolescent boys and girls. This is the same ideology that targeted black males with perpetual smoothing functions (e.g. welfare), destroying their spirit, and forcing progressive dysfunction in urban ghettos. The same ideology that set women and men at each other's throats. The same ideology that deprecated human evolution and debased human life for political progress. The same ideology that normalizes dysfunctional behaviors and imports replacements from second and third-world nations, and refugees of elective wars, elective regime changes, etc., in order to disenfranchise and replace native populations.

Anyway, people self-segregate to form communities with common principles, interests, personalities, etc. There isn't a central authority or policing structure that targets these communities to conform. Find another community that prefers sports, arts, literature, science, or whatever is your personal flavor.

The professor probably had an early experience with the wrong community, which now informs his perception of human relationships.

Fen said...

It goes back to the feminist denial of differences.

Males experience the same emotional range as women, but I think evolution has wired their brains differently to ignore emotion so they can skewer the charging boar or ambush the rival tribe's raiding party. Wouldn't be at all surprised to read a study confirming the part of the brain that allows us to push back emotion is more developed in males. I do it all the time (because I'm too sensitive), it's like flicking a switch.

Whereas with females, the ability to ignore maternal instinct or a babies cries would quickly self-exterminate out of the gene pool.

Fen said...

Yah, upthread.

The Second Coming and Charge of TheLight Brigade, along with Count of Montecristo are what led me to major in English Lit.

That, and a radiant blonde that made the sun seem brighter. She was a junior, so I took Lit 300 courses as a freshman. Didn't catch the soulmate, though we are still close. Maybe next lifetime.

Women...

Balfegor said...

Re: buwaya:

"Light Brigade" has a cavalry charge, and cannons, and sabres and heroes. Its a spectacle. Little boys can forgive (or ignore) the rhythm.

It has fantastic rhythm! That's one of the things called out in textbooks -- that its rhythm echoes the rhythm of a cavalry charge: DUN-dun-dun DUN-dun-dun DUN-dun-dun, etc. It's just hard to read it with the rhythm, at least when reading it cold. Like Kipling, it's best heard in recitation, rather than studied in a book.

Jamie said...

"To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."

"The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;"

"O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,"

"Out of the night that covers me, Black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be For my unconquerable soul."

Only a few of the best known. Poetry is meant to be muscular. Even love poetry is meant to express strong emotion in strong language. But - okay, I'm a member of the NLAPW (hi, my name is Jamie and I sometimes consort with silly folks) and I seldom read any poetry therein that could qualify as "muscular."

Sigivald said...

Or, poetry is just bollocks.

At least the kind the schools encourage and showcase now; as above, Kipling's breed of poetry is superior for people who aren't English Majors or trying to be Deeply Sensitive ... and is so out of fashion that it might as well not exist, both in form and politics.

Martin said...

Anyone who thinks poetry cannot express the masculine side need only pick up almost anything by Kipling, to be disabused of that idea. And any teacher who wants to interest boys in poetry should start with that and work outward from there.

Michael K said...

"That type of life is much more admired by women than by men. "

Elizabeth Barret Browning was destined for such a life until she met Robert Browning.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.


She did die, but first she lived!

Fred Drinkwater said...

From Kipling's "Tommy"

We aren't no thin red 'eroes, nor we aren't no blackguards too,
But single men in barricks, most remarkable like you;
An' if sometimes our conduck isn't all your fancy paints,
Why, single men in barricks don't grow into plaster saints;
While it's Tommy this, an' Tommy that, an' "Tommy, fall be'ind",
But it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind,
There's trouble in the wind, my boys, there's trouble in the wind,
O it's "Please to walk in front, sir", when there's trouble in the wind.

for
Thomas Claiborne, 2nd Lt. USMC
&
Fred J. Drinkwater III, Col. USMCR
(I finally found the rest of your logbooks.)
Both, no doubt, working on new and more Heavenly ways to smuggle beer.