Things are going well, overall--don't get me wrong. We've analyzed Romantic poetry half to death and are on to Pride and Prejudice (although I always find the first day of a novel difficult in the largish survey--it feels like we're leaving so much out, and it's hard for me to be organized. Whatever, though; it'll sort itself out).
But it seems like every day I get one of those left-field questions. Or at least quasi-left-field. Like, okay, I can see why you'd want to know that, but I don't know everything, people.
This isn't necessarily a problem. But someone in Brit Lit I wrote on hir evals last semester that "sometimes when a student asks a question, [I] say 'hm' and ask the rest of the class what they think, which makes [the student] think that [I] don't know the answer" (not hir exact words, but very close). So, pedagogical blindness of the comment aside, I'm feeling a little sensitive about revealing ignorance.
- What, exactly, does the word "plastic" mean in the context of [a particular Coleridge poem]? Yes, I should know this. But we read like ten pages of poetry for that day, and I read past the word with a sense of what it means, and it didn't occur to me to look up exactly how he was using it. In hindsight, I should've used this as an opportunity to demonstrate OED online, but they were in small groups and time was almost up. I should also call myself out on having a "sense" of something's meaning and actually look it up, especially when I'm teaching close reading. Lesson learned.
- To what extent is [that recent quasi-biographical movie about the author we're currently reading]* based on her real life? Dude, not much, I expect, but maybe a little. It doesn't really matter. I don't go in for biographical criticism, okay? And you shouldn't either.
*edited to avoid Googling, since I did tell the student to find out and let us know.
- How common was wolf's-bane in late eighteenth-century England? I sincerely hope that my ignorance of THIS doesn't reflect badly on me, but who knows.