Because I have been teaching from home, and also because my workplace is going to change floors, I have had the opportunity to go through most of my teaching material and related items at work. I’ve brought some stuff home, I have made some items digital, and I have determined that I may never use some of the stuff again. This has been an ongoing process and is almost complete. Throughout this process, I have come across some interesting (to me) things and this post is about a recent find.
I came across a copy of James Joyce’s The Dubliners that I had brought to work. As I am an English teacher, this is perhaps not so surprising. However, I am not an English teacher in the same sense as a high school English teacher. I teach people how to speak, pronounce, and organize English as a language. Reading does play a part in that, but this book is not on any curriculum that I have ever seen.
I suppose I could have brought it in to work on a story with my class. A good short story can do some amazing things with an ESL class. We can work on comprehension, reading skills, vocabulary, punctuation, lexical patterns, sentence deconstruction (and construction), as well as talking about the story itself. Thinking about it, though, I am not sure James Joyce would be a good choice for the majority of my students.
My first exposure to the author I share a birthday with was a story from the collection called The Dead. Though I cannot be one hundred percent sure, I suspect that was a story covered in my final year of high school. I think that because we watched a film adaptation of the story staring Angelica Huston. That sounds like a high school thing because the only time I watched a movie for a university lecture was during my Japanese History class–and oddly enough, that was an adaptation of the works of Yukio Mishima.
Looking through this copy (a picture can be found below on my Instagram link if you are on the actual blog page) I can tell that I bought it used at the University bookstore for the price of $1.50 (and this was before there was any tax on books). The original price for this Penguin book was $3.95. In University, we studied Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (on two separate occasions I believe–and I seem to recall writing two different essays on it–one was a success and one was mediocre) and I was quite fond of the book, so I probably sought out these works for that reason. I have read Portrait half a dozen times, but I have read Neither Ulysses nor Finnegans Wake. I have always meant to, but it has yet to happen. This is neither strange nor unusual. There are many books I have always meant to read, but never gotten around to–if you are not a reader, consider your “to be watched” Netflix list.
Thinking about it, I still wonder what inspired me to bring the book to work. I know I didn’t take it to read on the commute. If I had, I wouldn’t have left it at school. I would have brought it home when I was finished. It is also unlikely because I have read all of the short stories in the book and would probably read some of Joyce’s other works first before going back and reading them again.
James Joyce is no easy read, so I must have been thinking that the class was particularly strong, or I was so desperate for a new idea that I grabbed the book thinking I would come up with some clever way to use it before the class started. As far-fetched as the last sentence sounds, I have come up with lessons walking from the fourth floor teacher’s lounge to the third floor classroom before. I guess the mystery will continue.