Sei Shonagon/Gretchen Legler

seiI teach Sei Shonagon’s “Hateful Things” early in the term (on the same day as William Hazlitt’s “On The Pleasure of Hating”), and let’s be honest: a Japanese court lady from the Heian period probably isn’t the most relatable to our Snapchatted (and awesome) students. But later in the term, we read Gretchen Legler’s piece “Things That Appear Ugly or Troubling But Upon Closer Inspection Are Beautiful,” a piece after Shonagon that uses her same form, a piece that let’s the students learn that they are, indeed, in discussion with works from so long ago when they begin their apprenticeship as nonfiction writers.

Both of these are list pieces in a way–just small snippets–which is great in terms of bringing varying structures into the classroom. The pairing is solid, and has worked really well for me. Later in the term we also read a piece from Agni by Greg Bottoms titled “Dinner With Strangers,” and his way in to his essay is through Hazlitt. Another solid connection.


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