Three days of exam-scoring down, four to go. Roughly 330 essays read so far. So far, the major trends include:
-- A hell of a lot of essays on The Awakening, Beloved, The Great Gatsby, A Streetcar Named Desire, and Death of a Salesman. While I've read all of these texts at one time or other, or at least seen the movie, Gatsby is probably the only one I can talk intelligently about. (Not that this stops me from scoring essays on these works.) Between Gatsby and Salesman, I am getting very sick of the phrase "American dream."
-- A lot of very bad essays about Shakespeare. Perhaps I'm pickier about the Shakespeare essays than I ought to be, but really, what do you do with a student who argues that Hamlet was written to teach people that they should always think twice before taking action (Dude! That's what got Hamlet into trouble in the first place!), let alone one who thinks "Claudis" and Gertrude are biological siblings?
-- A great many high school seniors seem to be under the impression that the sole purpose of literature is to teach moral or practical lessons, and the quality of the work is directly related to the quality of the lesson it imparts. (I've noticed this in my freshmen as well.)
-- A few students have written essays about works I've never heard of before. (I just score away, because that's what we're told to do.) One of these works is a novel by Camus whose protagonist, apparently, "wants to be known both Biblically and famously." Don't we all?