5/23/2005

On Rizal and Teaching

Found a wonderful surprise at Leny's space, namely a reference to the warrior history of Jose Rizal (see Rizal: Zen Life, Zen Death at Rene Navarro's space). Like many of my generation, I know little of Jose Rizal, other than he being the literary voice of the Philippine Revolution. I visited the Jose Rizal Memorial in Manila when I visited in 1997, and gained what little I know as I usually do...by absorption of what was presented there. Because his life happened 'there' rather than 'here' I have tended to focus on the lives of Carlos Bulosan and Philip Vera Cruz when researching...

But there is another part of my story that touches on things Buddhist, Taoist, Warrior in nature, so to come full circle in a sense, and discover that Rizal not only knew of, but practiced various forms of martial arts, both native and European, is to smile in wonderment. A surprising, but welcome connection, that I'll be musing about for awhile.

Leny's May 16th post struck home, though, a reverberation from classes I had first TA'd then taught back at Western. I was pinch hitting for a prof out on medical leave last year, and took on the 300-level PostColonial Lit class for the English department. I had hoped it was the beginning of a long relationship with the Western, but with only an MA and no book publications, my phone has been silent since finishing my stint.

Oddly though, the echoes of the class persist - this last weekend I found myself one moment purchasing pet food and the next exchanging pleasantries with a former student working at the pet store. She told me that the books we read the quarter she took my class were her favorites, and I, of course, beamed proudly. I took risks that quarter, fashioning the class the way I wanted it to be, rather than replicating what the previous instructor had done. I finally taught the class I had envisioned while a TA - an entire quarter devoted to the post colonial literatures of the US.

Most times, when talking PostColonial, folk seem to mean Post-Euro contact, and I had yet to see any anthology on literatures from Post-US contact, in particular those colonies gained through the Spanish American war. I taught Babaylan that quarter, along with a Boondocks collection, Loving Che, and Mestizo. I taught selections from Black America, alongside Native America, Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. The war in Iraq had just recently started, and I wanted to lead my students to a knowledge that what had happened before could and was happening right now, that the US colonial movement was not over, but had changed it's masks, making it more difficult to see and to critique. Some got there, most just got credit for their required class. It was good to know that at least one thought the book selections were worth holding on to.

I've had friends ask if I really want to teach again, and part of me does - I'd like to hone this class into something really solid, use newer anthologies like Pinoy Poetics (so recently and vibrantly reviewed by Ver) and Screaming Monkeys, and find their counterparts in the other cultures I try to cover during the course. But I have to admit to a certain laziness - in order to get this project off the ground and make a living at it, I'd have to get my PHD and there's other things I'd like to do with my time and money.

Seeing my former student though and reading Leny's words was like looking through a mirror into a different future, a wistful smile on my lips.

1 comment:

Leny said...

hey, rebecca - glad to hear that the post on Zen and Rizal plus the post on teaching resonated with you! are you teaching now or doing a phd?