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Monday, 18 December 2006

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Incertus

One of the very few Latin words I know is my internet nickname, but I chose it because of what it means--uncertain. I came from a religious background where uncertainty was akin to sin, and so this was my reaction to it, in a way.

One of the things I try to get across to my students--especially when I teach poetry--is the concept of ambiguity, that sometimes there aren't simple, clear answers to the questions they're asking, and that that makes those questions more valuable, not less so. Occasionally, it works, and I wind up with a student who really runs with it.

Of course, I have to deal with the other extreme--the students who believe that a poem means what you want it to mean. It generally takes a paper or two to convince them that while a poem can have multiple interpretations, it's not an anything goes situation, and that there are indeed wrong interpretations.

I swear, sometimes I think my students believe that all the information in the world has been discovered, and that the key is finding it, accessing it online, and that seriously affects the way they see the world. So to combat that, I sometimes drop a poem on them I don't understand myself, and show them that sometimes, they can find answers I can't, make connections I missed.

I also spend a lot of time discussing the difference between fact and truth, but that's a whole 'nother subject.

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