Reading and writing go together, right? The general expectation in a literature class is that students will read, and then write about it. Generally, this is geared toward a literary analysis in which the student finds something smart to say about what they have read. Of course, this is the way it has always been structured. It makes sense.

Sheridan D. Blau contends that the problem with writing in the literature classroom is that “students don’t always cooperate by having the kind of intellectual experience we want for them” (152). This apparent lack of cooperation from the students often results in, to use Sheridan’s words, “warmed over versions of somebody else’s cooking” (153). Perhaps, we need a new recipe.

One compelling idea that Blau presents is an active and engaging journaling exercise which the professor devotes an hour a week to read aloud selected journal entries. This genre choice, one which the understood audience is the student’s own self, turned public is particularly interesting to me. It is more traditional with its materials, the pen and paper as opposed to the keys and a screen often employed in the digitally engaged class. However, it provides a productive means for students to generate their own thinking, or make their own sense.

I am a huge fan of handwritten work. I would argue it slows down the mind enough for the thoughts to really come through. Additionally, Blau recognizes that it is actively engaged with the literary tradition, as those of us in literary studies know those who produce literature often keep their own journals.

As scholars contemplate the shifts in the humanities not only through the digital age, but also the nature of criticism, and the act writing in the literature classroom—how are we meant to best balance these shifts in order to engage the students, but also ensure that they are actually making sense out of what they read?


Blau, Sheridan D. “Writing Assignments in Literature Classrooms: The Problem.” The Literature Workshop: Teaching Texts and Their Readers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann, 2003. 151-63. Print.