ISU’s Teaching Literature Book Award Winner – Jews in Medieval England: Teaching Representations of the Other

As part of our editors’ (questionably successful) attempt to bring something new and/or interesting to our community every once in a while, Kristen has read this year’s award winner, Jews in Medieval England: Teaching Representations of the Other. Check out her comments here!

Idaho State University – Teaching Literature Book Award 2019

Kristen W. –

Jews in Medieval England: Teaching Representations of the Other, edited by Miriamne Ara Krummel (University of Dayton) and Tison Pugh (University of Central Florida) won this year’s Teaching Literature Book Award, an international award presented by English faculty of ISU for the best book for the teaching of literature at the collegiate level.

The collection explores actionable methods for bringing critical discussions of otherness, as specifically experienced by Jews in Medieval England, into the literature classroom. It intentionally interrogates motivations behind the design of literature courses, attaching pedagogy to praxis. In doing so, this collection moves to show how the classroom can be a space for students to connect the history of Othering to their own current realities.

As someone who is just starting to teach, and is trying to find a way to attach my own moral preoccupations to teaching as practice, I find this potential intriguing and the collection provides models of various productive approaches. I am especially impressed with the explicit interdisciplinary elements of the texts and with how it negotiates teaching literature as a lens for such a wide range of disciplines. Throughout, there is a clear attention being paid to providing students with both procedural knowledge as well as conceptual knowledge, giving them the tools to explain both how and why Othering is enacted in texts and (as an extension) in reality. Though literature is not my focus, this dualist approach (which very much seems to be grounded in rhetoric and composition) makes the ideas accessible to me and others from various disciplines.

The texts addressed within the collection are also impressive; the cannon is represented – but not unquestionably – as is some (re)discovered diamonds. Further, the text isn’t limited to narratives as the collection explicitly includes images and performances. While analysis is obviously central to the various approaches, even more interesting is the repeated idea of student driven production and performance (drawing, acting, and other methods are discussed at various points).

I highly recommend educators (both experienced and newbs like me) pick this up. Jews in Medieval England: Teaching Representations of the Other not only provides a model for how to approach the concept of Othering in the classroom, it reminds us why doing so matters.

BR&S Fall 2019 Book Club!

Join us in the Black Rock & Sage office (LA 160) this Wednesday (10/23) at 3:30 to talk about The Golden Compass!

There will be light snacks and stimulating conversation. Even if it has been ages since you’ve read it or if you’ve only ever seen the movie, come on by; all are welcome.

Online Issue Submission Window Closing Soon

Hello everyone!

It has been a bit crazy over here in the Black Rock & Sage office, what with mid-terms and all. But really, we are just sitting on pins and needles waiting to review the submissions for the new online publication. Our team decided to try this out for the first time over the summer and are (im)patientially waiting to put our editor caps on and dive into a this new creative venture.

All that being said, you, our lovely community, still has time to throw your respective hats into the ring. But time is, as ever, running out.

The submission window officially closes this Sunday (October 13th). So, dig out one of your pet-projects and send it off into the world.

Check out the page for more info: https://blackrockandsage.org/new-online-issue/

Your incredibly nervous yet excited editor,

– Kristen

“Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood” – a review

As promised, BR&S editors have been hard at work putting together another a review for something engaging that they have come across – games, music, movies, books, a cornucopia of random points of interest.

This week, Sammy has reviewed Trevor Noah’s memoir, “Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood”.

Sammy S. –

For readers like myself who survive on professor recommends and an unholy amount of Sarah J. Maas and YA fantasy, finding something captivating outside of the go-to genre is challenging. After three years of college English courses my “go-to” genre wasn’t cutting it.

I’m still not sure if I can endorse celebrity autobiographies; some are so poorly written that I mostly cringe my way through it, but that wasn’t the case with Born a Crime by Trevor Noah. I chose this book to recommend to readers who are wanting to discover new reads and maybe don’t know where to start.

First thing to note is that Trevor Noah is currently a stand-up comedian and host of The Daily Show. He brings that sense of comedy to this book. I haven’t laughed so hard while reading a book since Junie B. Jones.

The comedy is well placed in this book as Trevor’s life revolves greatly around the aftermath of apartheid in South Africa. Comic relief is a great technique but Trevor’s comedy throughout the book never seems to cash in on one-liners or making light of a situation. In fact, most of the comedy comes from Trevor explaining how the social norms of modern-day USA are so different from what they were while he was growing up in South Africa. To name one memorable tidbit, was when Trevor praised his friend Hitler for his “killer dance moves.” Trevor of course will explain to you that there is a reason kids were often named Hitler or Mussolini or even Napoleon, but I won’t pretend to fully grasp the culture and attempt to relay it here. You’ll just have to read it (Ch. 15: Go Hitler!).

Second thing to note, Trevor Noah has done a very good job of explaining the culture he grew up in, part of that being the explanation as to why some South African children are named after dictators. That being said, the way he portrays his family and friendships is priceless. Even to a complete outsider Trevor captures the “oddness” of his situation with both family and friends, as he was born mixed race.

I don’t claim to know everything, even as an English major, and so I personally didn’t know much about apartheid and what it even was. I didn’t even really understand the true gravity of racism in other countries, which is something I believe many of us still don’t fully understand. This book helped though. Perhaps it’s not a literary masterpiece, though I’m sure I could argue for it. Perhaps it’s not the most ingenious portrayal of modern cultural instability. However, this book taught me more about how I see myself, and how I see others. Trevor Noah is a good writer, and he is good at keeping your attention. He knows what he’s talking about, he should after all; it’s his life!

I just wanted to leave off with some of my favorite quotes from the book, if what I have written hasn’t been enough to convince you.

  • “We had a very Tom and Jerry relationship, me and my mom. She was the strict disciplinarian; I was naughty as shit,” (11).
  • “I never felt poor because our lives were so rich with experience,” (72).
  • “That experience shaped what I’ve felt about relationships for the rest of my life: You do not own the thing that you love,” (100).

Noah, Trevor. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. Spiegel & Grau, 2016.