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The Erotics of Instruction. – book reviews

by Mike E. Ogbeide

The Erotics of Instruction takes an intriguing look at the process
of pedagogy. Although the book points out the male and female
connection, mentoring, and academic professionalism, the writers’
stylistic approach has a metaphorical manner to it. Anyone in the
teaching profession should feel its impact.

The editors, Regina Barreca and Deborah Denenholz Morse, are both
English professors. Barreca, an associate professor at the University
of Connecticut, is the author of Perfect Husbands and Other Fairy Tales
(1993), The Penguin Book of Women’s Humor (1996), and Fay Weldon’s
Wicked Fictions (1994). Morse, an associate professor at the College of
William and Mary, is the author of Women in Trollope’s Palliser Novels
(1987). Their target audience for this new book includes teachers,
college and university professors, administrators, trainers,
counselors, and everyone else in the education profession — with
specific application to English teachers and poetic writers.

Although the title might beguile the shallow-minded, the text is
challenging and vividly written. The paradigms described by the various
writers can be found in literary texts ranging from Villette to
Middlemarch to The Turn of the Screw to Educating Rita.

The editors of The Erotics of Instruction portray the real-life
stories from both the teacher’s and the student’s perspective — and
through their choice of contributors, make their opinions very clear.

Eroticism is a two-way street. This brings to mind the word
“communication.” For true communication to take place, the information
must be understood by the person receiving it in the same way that the
person imparting it intended. For instance, words such as “share,”
“exchange,” “interact,” and “interchange” reflect two-way communication
as opposed to one-way information giving. Therefore in two-way
communication, some form of feedback is necessary to make sure that the
message has been understood. Communication is a dialogue during which
people can share their thoughts and feelings.

This is how teachers and students react to one another during class
lectures. These reactions germinate into fruitful ideas for the
students to assimilate and put to good use. With that in mind, we
cannot deny that everything we do around our colleagues or friends is
erotic. The way we dress, the fragrance we use, the method of our
discourse are all erotic.

If all of this is true, then we in the academic arena should pay close attention to the method we use in our daily discourse.

The key ingredient in this book is motivation. For instance, in the
section on “Instructive Energies,” the contributor brilliantly focuses
on how to get students to pay attention to the subject of discussion.

In every human institution, there are various forms of mentoring
taking place. The search for a mentor — or a father figure, as
expressed by one of the editors — is amazingly reflective of all
humans, regardless of their background or race. We are all looking for
“the real deal” or the “perfect” something-or-other/ someone-or-other
in our lives.

The strong literary writing in this book will he hard to surpass,
and the vividly metaphoric expressions of thought are specifically
directed at those of us who are connected to institutions — be they
churches, community organizations, schools, or workplaces. Hence, the
authors might consider being more catholic in their future writings so
that the general public might also benefit from their experiences.

All the writers acknowledge and have wrestled with the intrinsic —
and at times erotic — friendliness between teacher and student.
Although metaphoric, I suspect that this book may be banned in many
areas because many people do not want to talk openly about sexuality,
or gay issues, or crises. Topics of this nature are usually handled in
camera. The courage to openly teach topics such as these is seldom
displayed in a community of scholars.

Nevertheless, I whole heartedly recommend this book — especially
to those in literary circles, students of journalism. English majors,
future teachers, and those currently in the teaching profession. And
when you’re finished reading it, discuss the book with your friends and
colleagues. The topics covered demand further. The topics covered
demand further discourse.

COPYRIGHT 1998 Cox, Matthews & Associates



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