Last week I enjoyed a most interesting ‘phone call with the life coach Fiona Harrold who asked me point blank if I had a system that helped students any differently from everyone else.
I replied that I do.
One of the mainstays of Tusitala’s ‘system’ is very simple and it involves ‘you’ as a reader in the very powerful combination ‘act’ of -SELF TRUST and SPONTANEITY.
AND it works.
AND it increases your self confidence in an expansive way too.
But back to Fiona Harrold for a moment. If you have a system she told me, then you can offer it far and wide. You can share it as a transferable skill….
Analyzing my ‘system’ is probably far more difficult for me nowadays than when I was a teacher in my twenties. For teaching like any other skill becomes more instinctive or ‘unconsciously competent’ as the skill is practiced.
But curiously I have noticed this….
You are encouraged to be curious about any moments of strangeness in writing- both in their own and that of other writers too.
There it is.
Be curious about moments of strangeness.
Here’s an example from Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men-a GCSE English favourite!
Both men glanced up, for the rectangle of sunshine in the doorway was cut off. A girl was standing there looking in. She had full, rouged lips and widespaced eyes, heavily made up. Her fingernails were red. Her hair hung in little rolled clusters, like sausages. She wore a cotton house dress and red mules, on the insteps of which were little bouquets of red ostrich feathers. “I’m lookin’ for Curley,” she said. Her voice had a nasal, brittle quality.
Here’s a simple effective system.
Reread the passage and underline any word or phrase that seems ‘strange’ to you, anything that sticks out as you read …
- You may notice the ‘rectangle of sunshine…was cut off’
- Even ‘girl’…
- Perhaps ‘nasal brittle quality.’
- Maybe ‘widespaced eyes’
You have noticed these words because they matter, they jump out for some reason.
Now here you go…
Think about WHY these words or phrases seem STRANGE TO YOU…DON’T CENSOR…BE SPONTANEOUS!
When you are spontaneous you allow your INTUITIVE response to come out from hiding.
So let your mind WONDER and BE CURIOUS….
- WHY you may wonder is the sunshine ‘cut off’ and taken away from the two friends by the entrance of Curley’s Wife? What does ‘sunshine’represent symbolically as well as literally??
- AND why does Steinbeck give us such a precise shape for the door?
- WHAT are we feeling about this room where the men live each day, WHERE even the sunshine is regulated and cut out for them?
- MAYBE this suggests that even the barest, most minimal light ( and by inference, joy or friendship) that they share will be taken away from them through the interference of this interloper?
- AND from her point of view, (as the ‘girl‘) is she also losing her sunshine, even her life force too? For Curley’s Wife is doomed from the moment she meets Lennie. As a ‘girl’ she is vulnerable and naive. Ill equipped to deal with life’s challenges? Think about NEMESIS!
- WHY is the appearance and even voice of the ‘girl’ presented as strange, even bordering on the ugly despite her cliched ‘fashioned’ assembly of red clothing and make up? Is she unhealthy, with an off putting voice unsuited for her dream of being a film star? Is she emulating the pictures she has seen in magazines in a most pitiful and inappropriate way, accentuating her isolated self deluded existence on this harsh, male dominated ranch?
- WHAT is the ironic significance of her first words, her question about her (probably) abusive husband? Is she actually(and ironically) seeking a way to escape Curley and all the misogyny he stands for?
Remember that STRANGENESS is the key to unlock any text CURIOUSLY !!!
Carol Ann Duffy 15 ideas!
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