Paula Marantz Cohen reflects on recently published conversations with the First Lady @ The Smart Set.I am trying to get a handle on the latest publishing event: the transcription and accompanying CDs of Jacqueline Kennedy’s interviews with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. in 1964, less than four months after her husband’s assassination. Upon her order, these tapes were not to be released for 50 years, but her daughter jumped the gun by three, publishing them now to commemorate the 50th anniversary of her father’s election to the presidency. I first read excerpts from these interviews in a front page story in the New York Times. The story’s tone was reverent but the quotes were rather bitchy, making me want to see if greater context would help explain the reverence. Thus I paid $60 for the transcripts and CDs.I should note that I never did “get” Jackie Kennedy. I thought she had good taste and was enviably thin, but she seemed wooden and wide-eyed and had that grating little-girl voice. The view I’ve heard expressed is that this is what women were like at the time, but I happened to be alive at the time and didn’t know women like Jackie Kennedy. I am around the age of Caroline Kennedy, and I had a mother who was a clothes horse and spoke French but who otherwise did not resemble Jackie. She had strong opinions and an inflected, exuberant voice. Her friends were a diverse group of people, but none had Jackie’s particular brand of coy femininity.read more
|Blaine Fontana @ Sycamore Review|
Paula Marantz Cohen rethinks the teaching of literature @ The American Scholar.
Although I have been teaching for almost three decades, I feel I have only recently begun to teach. For years, I was doing what was expected: preparing detailed syllabi, grading piles of papers, and pontificating in front of a class about the importance of the subject matter that I had assigned. I thought I was teaching, and some of my students thought so too. But they were the diligent, receptive ones, and lately I’ve come to feel that diligent, receptive students don’t need teachers. The ones who do are the ones I used to gripe about: those who went directly to the Spark Notes, who didn’t proofread their papers, and who gave rote responses in class. They were the students whom I traditionally wrote off as not belonging in college—or at least not in my classroom.Why did my thinking change? I suppose the precipitating factor came when I had children of my own. There is nothing more humbling to one’s self-esteem, more profoundly disruptive of one’s established worldview, than children—those creatures who know nothing of convention or tact, who speak truth to power (that is, their parents) because they haven’t yet learned to pretend or been cowed into doubting themselves. My children, though like me in some respects, were unlike me in others, and I eventually came to see myself through the lens of their difference. Their stubborn individuality forced me to acknowledge otherness in a new way and to question some of my most cherished assumptions. Watching them develop their tastes and interests spurred me to recall how I developed the tastes and interests that define me.read more