My senior level elective class on the development of the novel will be blogging throughout this semester about the various "classic" novels that we read together. They have blogged in my class and for other teachers before, but we are trying to make the experience more meaningful by giving less specific direction for each blog post and more choice in what they choose to write about. The first criticism that they had about blogging was that blog posts were tied to specific reading selections and weren't worth commenting on later when we had gotten further in our understanding of the novel. We were really using blogs just as a record of the readings completed and a place for reading response. This did not create any kind of conversation and certainly didn't invite any readers outside of our school.
The goal for each blog post now is simply to write about some aspect of the novel, especially including personal reactions and connections. Well, week one is over and the first blog post was due on Friday. Only three out of eight students completed the assignment. Quite disappointing. This was the best one this week. Here's my response to the opening chapters of Robinson Crusoe:
While the adventure novel is not favorite genre, I was pleasantly surprised by many of the events in the first 58 pages of the novel. After 50 pages, he only just got stranded on the mysterious island somewhere in the Caribbean. Movies, which continue to popularize this 17th century novel, don't even touch on what really happens before the island. For anyone who enjoys action, this is the novel for you. Despite the 17th century language, readers will not be disappointed in the drama that unfolds. And, as I read I began to question Robinson in so many different ways: why do you disregard advice from your parents and mentors so readily? why leave the secure yet exotic life that you set up in Brazil? why do you seem to only look out for yourself?
My favorite quote of the novel so far is "I...was born to be my own destroyer." This really hit me when I was reading because I can certainly relate, and I think that everyone can relate to this at some point in their lives. Why do we do the things we do when we just KNOW it's going to turn out badly for us? Why do I always procrastinate grading papers? Why didn't my students just write that first blog post on time-after we had such a long discussion about it in class this week? Maybe one of the timeless qualities about this novel is that we are all Robinson Crusoe a little bit sometime in our lives: our own worst enemy.
How can we "do better next time" and how can we help each other? Because we are not so bad off as Crusoe and can rely on each other to help us with this very human flaw.