Instructors’ Teaching Experience

I spent a whole week teaching “The Displaced Person,” and would say that my students did really well with it (it’s a long story as short stories go). Mostly, though, I took advantage of O’Connor’s very complex and rich prose in teaching my students about close reading (learning how the connotations and functions of individual words in a text may hint towards or allude to deeper meanings). The mysterious symbol of the peacock also provided for a great debate. It’s also a story that allows for a “text in the world” approach – not only on the issue of the poor, sharecropping South, but also American reactions to the Holocaust. [S. Allen,]

Classroom Strategies

I think O’Connor’s prose (in this or “A Good Man is Hard to Find”, which I taught for a week after), is a great vehicle for getting students to read closely. I had them, in partners, go through the first paragraph of the story sentence-by-sentence, observing as many things as they could. It is a relatively dull paragraph plot-wise: Mrs. Shortley walks to the top of a hill to look and see if the Displaced Person’s car has arrived, followed by the peacock. Despite this, the paragraph’s five sentences are jam-packed with ominous foreshadowing, language of economic anxiety, an enormous topological metaphor (the story is largely concerned with proper ‘place,’ and ‘displacement’), a sense of Christian mysticism. There is also language that shows an objective narrator slightly biased towards Mrs. Shortley’s position. After working in partners for about thirty minutes, I had them speak as a group about what the first paragraph can “teach us” about the trajectory of the story. I’m a big believer in worksheets (people participate if they feel there are blanks they need to fill in), and partner work. This exercise was extremely effective both in teaching them that reading literature is not a passive activity, and endowing them with some thematic frameworks with which to read this long and complex story. [S. Allen,]