Monday, February 5, 2018

For complete works

Against “selected passages”:

An anthology will never have the power to stimulate reactions that can be brought about solely by reading the complete work.

Nuccio Ordine, The Usefulness of the Useless, trans. Alastair McEwen (Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books, 2017).
Complete works: yes. An anthology may solve the problem of making work from a variety of writers available to students. An anthology may offer a curious browser unexpected discoveries. But an anthology is, almost always, a textbook. And it is much easier to fall in love with a (whole) work of literature or philosophy than to fall in love with a textbook. I always liked seeing course evaluations from students who appreciated the opportunity to read what they called “real books” — in other words, something other than a textbook.

I recently received an e-mail from a publisher pitching not just an anthology but an accompanying website, with discussion questions, “hundreds of images,” videos by the editors, PowerPoint slides ”featuring images and text,” and an “audio glossary” for unfamiliar words. All of which move a student away from an engagement with the thing itself, the text. An audio glossary: because notes in the text aren’t already enough?

A related post
Norton on my mind (about an anthology)

[“Discussion questions,” &c.: a series arranged from the shorter to the longer. Much more readable.]

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