Thursday, January 25, 2007

Conflicts and Convergences

I’ve spent the last two weeks under deadline writing student evaluations, and an essay. And so, I’ve been thinking about teaching, and about “my own work”, the conflicts and the convergences. Recently I read an essay by the Quebecois writer Yvon Rivard, a reflection on his education, his own teaching, his writing. He describes the experience of being taught, and in particular a nurturing relationship with a young priest, remembering mostly the man’s energy and passion. He thinks of this man every time the question comes up: should he devote less time to his students and more to his books? Rivard weighs in on all that teaching represents in his life and concludes “Writing, teaching what’s the difference?” I was startled by this statement, and by the generosity it inspires. I’ve wanted to spend some time thinking about it, and so decided to begin here, with Anne’s request that I contribute to the blog for "My Place". On the surface the two practices seem antithetical: teaching is about giving to the other, writing is about taking time for one’s self. But in fact both are about putting an object of knowledge out into the world, and in turn being fed by it. This reminds me of Norman O. Brown’s concept of “aliment and dejecta”, the fantasy of a generative, self-sustaining cycle whereby the thing that one produces also nurtures - Moyra Davey.


TART said...

Recently I have come to the realization that perhaps the convergence is in the conflict itself. This is a very interesting space to be in but does as I am sure Rivard has explored necessitate a certain amount of letting go - Anne.

TART said...

Dear Moyra, maybe it should be conceived as a dialectic rather than a conflict wherein you try to balance them so that each practice nourishes the other? This is the ideal equation so probably not achievable in the real world. I have to say that I found such balance impossible in the years when I was working full time (NOT as a teacher) but in jobs that fully absorbed my energy and attention so that all I wanted to do at the end of the day was go swimming rather than sit down at yet another desk and try to plumb the depths (or shallows) of the interior. I suppose you could accept Rivard's notion that it's all the same thing -- a Zen/Beuys take on all one's work being a form of artmaking. But we know that's not true. If you're a writer, there comes a point where you just have to say the hell with everything else and go closet yourself in front of your implements, whatever they may be. I do like "Norman O. Brown’s concept of “aliment and dejecta”, the fantasy of a generative, self-sustaining cycle whereby the thing that one produces also nurtures." But that applies only if the things you produce really DO nurture you, yes? - Marcia

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