A Life in School: What the Teacher Learned
Jane Tompkins established herself as a major critic by rebelling: against the accepted canon of great literary works, against the elitist approach of literary criticism, against the sterile conventions of scholarly writing. Here she tells the story of how she came to rebel against the very norms of the Ivory Tower she had once struggled to enter. In retelling her own experiences as student and teacher, she makes us keenly aware how the pressure to perform - to show how smart we are - silences the creative and emotional life. In a memoir that begins with her earliest school days, proceeds through college and graduate school, and arrives at her hard-won professional successes, Tompkins shows how her education shaped her in the mold of a high achiever who could read five languages but had little knowledge of herself. As she slowly awakens to the needs of her body, heart, and spirit, she throws out the window all the conventions of classroom teaching and discovers what her students' lives are like. Tompkins comes to develop an attitude toward learning that accepts the importance of the inner life. With this new-found pedagogy, one is educated not only through reading Melville or T. S. Eliot, but also through more unusual channels: a karate lesson, Buddhist meditation, cooking a meal, walking a dog.
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