The MacLamity

The News That Stays News, Reported Live

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

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Renata Adler meets the kids:
I don’t mainly teach journalism. I am in two departments. I am in the University Professors department, in which I have a course called “On Modernism and Feeling,” which is mainly a fiction course. And then in the journalism department, I have a course called “Misinformation.”

RB: [chuckles]

RA: So it’s a different thing. But as always, some of them are really, really good. And then the ones that are to me something new, which took me too long to understand, are people who wouldn’t think of reading what they have been assigned. I mean, it can be a four-page story and they won’t read it. They go directly to the Internet. I hadn’t realized this until the middle of the second semester, when I had just assigned Bartleby and I got the strangest papers, including one about Eros and Thanatos.

RB: [laughs] They wouldn’t think about reading the assignment because—

RA: It’s completely new to me, about three generations away from what I remember. I assigned a short story. There was no way to get it wrong. It was Salinger. And I got this piece in which everything was totally, inexplicably wrong. I thought, how can you get this wrong? I kept noticing that the footnotes were to people, critics on the Internet. And it turns out they are people with ‘blogs’ and they have theories—about stories they may not have read either. It would have been so much easier to read the original story, instead of these web commentaries. So I said, “OK, no more quoting from anything but the text for while.” And things have looked up.
So, there are limits to the almighty blogosphere after all.