“I think this quote is important and stands out from others because it is a quote that stood out from others.”

As I’ve said in previous posts, these circular, self-defining sentences always raise the question of whether the student lost track of an idea mid-sentence and then didn’t proofread the final statement, or actually thought he’d said something. And sometimes you have to make a guess as to whether something a student has written is a stupid statement, a cry of despair, or a bit of wise-assing. In other words, you have to figure out the subtext.

With today’s sentence I still haven’t decided. In class the writer always seemed pleasant and attentive but sometimes confused; on tests, ditto. Grasp of the material sometimes pretty sketchy; willingness to try usually apparent. Attendance okay. Never came to office hours or lingered after class.

This one was a journal entry. As a way of getting students to do at least part of the assigned reading, focus for a moment on the actual words in a piece of literature instead of glomming onto some fuzzy general idea, and come to class with something to say, I habitually assign a weekly “journal” in literature courses: List title, author, and date of composition or publication of an assigned work; present a passage of at least one sentence from the piece; and then write a paragraph or two in response to the quotation, showing its significance to the whole, its relevance to any other literature being read the same week (in the case of poems, we read more than one poem, and sometimes more than one author, in a week), or some aspect of the quotation itself that makes it memorable. “In short,” I say, “comment on what made this passage stand out for you.”

Well, here’s the answer: It stands out because it stands out.

Who can quarrel with that? A rose is a rose, a horse is a horse (of course, of course). Or, as the lawyers are so fond of saying, “It is what it is.”

I knew what the student meant, but what did he mean?


About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

3 responses to ““I think this quote is important and stands out from others because it is a quote that stood out from others.”

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