Feb 19 2010
Did Joyce teach unplugged as an EFL teacher in Trieste or Yssel entertaining and talking at his students the Limatt to what he did?
We mostly know Joyce as a modernist writer,a little less as a linguist and proficient language learner,even less as an EFL teacher and rarely for his love of rivers.
all thim liffeying waters (the role/roll of the rivers)
river run,past Eve and Adam’s from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recircultation back to Howth Castle and Environs (the opening of Finnegans Wake)
Rivers flowed through the whole of his life and his work. While living in Zurich,(and check out the James Joyce foundation if you ever go there) he often frequented the confluence of the Limmat and the Sihl. Being by these rivers mirrored an experience in Ireland where he had sat at The Meeting of the Waters - a famous beauty spot where the Avonmore and Avonbeg Rivers meet to form the Avoca River.
He had grown up on the Liffey in Dublin and the Livia part of the main female character in Finnegans Wake, Anna Livia Plurabelle, is partly an echo of that river.
In the main Anna Livia Plurabella section in Finnegans Wake, hundreds of rivers are interwoven into the text. Of course he had the Danube in there too (Duna in Hungarian): “For the Dove of the Dunas (FW page 203) ” He deserves a starring role on this blog if only for this!
Joyce’s lingustic background, how he became an EFL teacher and my visit to Trieste
By the time Joyce went to university he had already studied French, Latin and Italian.
At university, alongside his English degree, he continued to study French and Italian both with native speakers in small groups. All of this experience will have influenced the way in which he taught later.
“He even ran away with hunself and became a farsoonerite, saying he wold far sooner muddle through the hash of lentils in Europe than meddle with Irrland’s split little pea.” Finnegans Wake (p 171)
Like many native English speaker teachers, Joyce left home to see the world and teach English in the process. In 1904, at the age of 22, he ended up in Pula by the sea on the Istrian peninsula teaching English. He was undoubtedly a talented linguist but without any formal CELTA, DELTA, PGCE or any other university teacher training qualification in ELT; his BA degree from University College Dublin was flatteringly translated for him into a “dottore in filosofia”.
Interestingly, later in 1912, he did take written and oral exams in Padua, over a period of 3 days, to become a teacher in an Italian state school, his marks were excellent, English composition 50 out of 50 points, dictation in English 50 out of 50 points, translation into English of a pasage by an Italian author 50 out of 50, although there was no methodology component, surprise, surprise! However, unfortunately for Joyce, the Italian authorities would not recognise his Dublin degree and the whole thing fell through.
In Pula though, he was proudly paraded as the new native English teacher in the local Berlitz private language school, no problem with lack of teacher qualifications, but the owner hoped his new asset would attract more students merely by being an educated native speaker of English. It worked, and, happily for the owner of the school, most of the students were rich, including officers of the Austro-Hungarian navy. In Pula there is now a cafe named after Joyce in the town centre,well worth a visit if you are ever in Istria. A year later in 1905 he moved to the Trieste Berlitz school.
Five years ago I attended the annual Joyce summer school in Trieste, organised by John McCourt and Renzo Crivelli and promptly fell in love with the town and the joys of Joyce.
I had been a fan for a long time, but experiencing Trieste first hand gave me much more insight into his life than I had ever got from being in Dublin. In fact, the Dubliners, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake are all deeply influenced by Joyce’s time in Trieste. Ulyssees would never have been written in the way it was, if Joyce hadn’t left Ireland and he turned the whole novel into an exploration of the wanderings of a Jew with a Hungarian background through the streets of Dublin, such was the impact on him of the Jewish community in Trieste.
“For much of the Oriental, Jewish and Greek elements of Ulysses, for much of the multilingual chaos of “Circe” and Finnegans Wake, Trieste was his principle source, his ‘citta immediata’ (FW p228) ” ( The Years of Bloom. John McCourt). John’s book is a fabulous read and the best book I know about Joyce in Trieste.
As a challenge to both British nationalism, negative forms of Irish nationalism and anti-semitism in general (particularly here in Hungary today), a reading of Ulyssses has a key role to play and it all came out of Joyce’s experiences living amongst many different nationalities in the port city of Trieste.
James Joyce, unplugged in Trieste, 1905-1915
This ELT blog has given me both a pretext and a context to write about something I’ve mulled over for many years: James Joyce the EFL teacher. When attending the Joyce summer school, it was this aspect of his life that most intrigued me. Renzo Crivelli, a teacher at the English faculty of Trieste university, was kind enough to photocopy and give me pages from a notebook of one of Joyce’s private students, the surgeon Adriano Sturli.
In this notebook are notes written by both Joyce and Sturli, giving a powerful insight into the way in which Joyce must have taught. These notes suggest a methodology which is very close to “the learner participating in activity with a ‘better other’ (Thornbury) and ‘a teacher and a learner as co-participants in the generation of classroom discourse’ (Kumaravadivelu). (Teaching Unplugged, p11)
Unfortunately,we don’t have access to the classroom discourse, but the page in the student book itself, when subjected to close analysis, is very revealing in itself.
Looking at the notebook of any student that we teach always gives us valuable insights into what students notice in a lesson and consider worth writing down. In one2one teaching situations, writing in the student’s notebook alongside the student’s own notes can be very useful for the student. We sometimes do it in groups anyway, but it gives the student’s notebook a more personal, dialogic, interactive feel that may be remembered and relived when the student opens their notebook at a later date.
It is to Renzo Crivelli that I am indebted for the raw material in this post,but contexualised within the broader more recent Dogme tradition, as developed by Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury, it allows a fresh perspecitive on how he taught and focuses on positive aspects of his teaching.
Key dogme principles are highlighted throughout this post, echoing those listed at the bottom and suggest that Joyce, as a language teacher, may have been employing many aspects of this approach to language teaching 100 years ago. As the founder of the most famous of the early cinemas in Ireland in 1909, the Volta, Joyce may well have appreciated an approach to ELT
A dogme analysis of Adriano Sturli’s notebook
Page 10 of the notebook: The student was a post-beginner. (Click on the notebook page to see it properly.) The handwriting takes some deciphering, at least Joyce’s does, but it’s worth the effort and it’s not much.
At the top of the page there are two words: “why?” and “because.” Not a bad place to start! If Joyce believed that the words “why” and “because” were important to emphasise, then we might conclude that he was interested in his students thinking about language rather than just performing the drills outlined in the Berlitz book he was expected to teach from.
Sturli’s notebook contains a mixture of items that Joyce probably copied out from that book,but all of the spontaneous language mixed in there suggests that he was happy to digress from the textbook whenever he could and this is confirmed by those who knew the students who Joyce taught (see below).
After the words “why” and “because”, we can see “language”, “spell” with an Italian translation alongside it and “pronounce”, all good enabling language for students to know and be able to use to be a “co-constructor of the skills and knowledge” emerging from the lesson.
Soon after these words come “ask, receive, answer and dare”, suggesting that Joyce was interested in getting his students involved in the kind of scaffolded conversations characteristic of dogme classes.
Maybe he was telling his student that he should dare to ask questions and take risks in the classroom.
Joyce then moves on to teaching punctuation markers, “a note of interrogation” (?) and ” a note of exclamation”. (!)
Totally out of the blue, we then see the expression “By Jove”, followed by “still” and its Italian equivalent “ancora” and “the goddamn weather”! Made me laugh out loud! If you look closely, he started writing “By G…” and then wrote the J over the G.
Jove is derived from Jehovah, a form of the Hebrew name of God and saying “by Jove” is a useful way of calling on the Almighty without using the blasphemous “by God”. Once a Catholic! Interestingly though, it didn’t stop him writing down the expression “goddamn” straight afterwards. One of the reasons Joyce left Ireland was what he considered to be the suffocating influence of the Catholic Church.
At that moment in the lesson, one can probably deduce that through the window Joyce could see one of those dramatic Adriatic electric storms; he was very scared of lightning. He then writes down “still” probably meaning that it was “still” raining or something connected to the storm and then chooses to turn it into an learning opportunity for his student by writing it down. (Affordances: the teacher’s role is to optimize language learning affordances through directing attention to emergent language.} I dare say there followed a brief exchange, maybe in Italian, about the aspects of the Northern Adriatic weather Joyce so disliked:
I went out yesterday for a walk in a big wood outside Trieste. The damned monotonous summer was over and the rain and soft air made me think of the beautiful (I am serious) climate of Ireland. I hate a damn silly sun that makes men into butter. I sat down miles away from everybody on a bench surrounded by tall trees. The Bora (the Trieste Wind) was roaring through the tops of the trees.
After the little weather interlude he returns to the punctuation work,writing down “full stop” with its Italian equivalent “punto fermo” and then “empty”, in Italian “vuoto”, followed by “half” and then “phrase”before then writing the word “comma”. The word “full” then led to Joyce writing down one of its antonyms “empty”, and almost certainly led to him saying “Is the glass half empty or half full”,
otherwise he woudn’t have written down the word “phrase” immediately afterwards.
We can also imagine him using his glass of whatever he was drinking at the time as a prop to then perhaps go on to talk about optimism and pessimism.
The last word at the bottom of the left-hand-side of the page is bookcase, probably referring to a bookcase which was actually in the room that Joyce was doing the teaching in. Joyce often asked questions about the furniture in the room and the pictures on the walls where the lesson was taking place, encouraging students to observe their immediate classroom reality and see it as a resource for language learning.
The “goddamn weather” and the word “cloudburst”, which appears in the middle of another page show that he was interested in what was going on inside and outside the classroom and saw these things not as unwanted distractions but as something to draw on for language learning.
At the top of the second half of the page in the notebook Joyce wrote, “Doctors differ and patients die” showing clearly his awareness of the profession of his student and recognising the student’s voice, almost always helpful in teaching adults, if they have a profession or job. It may well be that here a discussion ensued on the lines of the sentiments expressed in a later Irish poem using “Doctors differ and patients die” as it’s first line. Here’s the whole poem. Obviously we don’t know what happened next, but it would be fair to assume that the doctor will have had something to say about this humorous statement which will have created more job related language content to work on. ( students are most engaged by content they have created themselves)
To wrap up the note book analysis, it’s worth mentioning the “neither…..nor” phrase which follows the doctor/patient expression and the word “pupil” translated into the Italian “scolaro”. This is a chunk of emergent grammar which Joyce obviously wanted to deal with and to get his student to practise in some way. Chances are that he didn’t think of introducing this at the beginning of the class and that it came up spontaneously as a result of the doctor/ patient expression. Maybe that phrase was common in spoken English in 1913, it isn’t used much in spoken English now but it may still be a structure that is taught. (Emergence: language and grammar emerge from the learning process. This is seen as distinct from the ‘acquisition’ of language.)
Finally, Sturli himself found the lessons very light-hearted and wrote about the difference in his and Joyce’s handwriting: ” You can see what a difference there is in our handwriting: mine gothic and rigid, his characterised by a nervous, Latinate cursive, which was probably also due to the less than sober state in which he would often present himself, hungry and thirsty in via del Carradori.
Anecdotes from people who knew Joyce, were taught by Joyce or who collected stories about Joyce.
1) An Italian teacher, Alessando Francini Bruni, who was on very good terms with Joyce, said this about him in “Joyce intimo spogliato in piazza. (1922)”
Joyce’s lessons were filled with digressions and references to his personal life. In fact, during the conversation exercises which were intended to give the students practice in using specific words, Joyce was fond of quoting phrases and proverbs and recounting humorous situations on the spur of the moment.
2) Miss G, a former pupil of Joyce’s quoted in a 1948 article in Nuova Stampa Sera:
” Lessons never followed the same pattern but changed according to the teacher’s mood. Sometimes he would come into the sitting room, light a cigarette and say: ‘Listen, talk to me about something.’
(Engagement: students are most engaged by content they have created themselves.)
3) Richard Ellman in his seminal 1959 biography says of Joyce that:
“James invariably arrived late for his lessons, and after a brief drill began to converse about all manner of subjects: the lessons would end with teacher and pupil singing an Irish song together, after which James would slide down the bannister and leave, also very late. This “free and easy” appoach could certainly enthuse and, in objective terms, might even be more effective due to its immediacy…”
Ellman also describes a class Joyce had with three 14-year-old girls where
“almost anything could serve as text of the girls’ lesson: a Shakespearean song or,one day, a fortune which Joyce had purchased from a beggar.”
It seems that Joyce had little difficuly in using whatever was available as material to be talked about in class putting him firmly into the materials light camp.
4) Mario Nordio,who was taught both by James Joyce and his brother Stanislaus and wrote about the differences between the two:
“The latter was the typical professor, rigid and deliberate. Jim was just the opposite…His mind was extremely agile, quick on the uptake and prepared to discuss all the topics of current interest and the most varied subjects imaginable. His conversation was always vivid and incisive, and so diversified that it was impossible to predict what he would talk about next. “
5) Renzo Crivelli says that when Joyce was teaching and giving encouragement to the most famous Trieste writer, Italo Svevo, their lessons were “hardly limited to exchanging textbook phrases”. Svevo was impressed by the cultural breadth of the lessons and “while the professore (Joyce) used the standard texts of the period, such as the First Book for Teaching Modern Languages: English part for adults (Berlin, New York, Paris, London, St Petersburg: 1907,
used in all of the Berlitz schools, and Hermann Berger’s English Grammar, he would generally leave them lying open and unused on the table, instead preferring to invent extemporaneous topics of conversation that were often connected with the daily lives of his students. (Relevance: materials (eg texts, audios and videos) should have relevance for the learners)
Dogme principles revisited
Finally, if we revisit the 10 key principles of Dogme as listed below then I think we can say that Joyce was probably engaged in all of these to a greater or lesser extent in the lessons he taught, either one2on or in small groups. There is enough in the remarks of former pupils and the 20 pages of the student notebook, only one of which I’ve looked at in this blog post, to suggest that his classes had a strong dogme element in them.
There are many other wonderful pages in the notebook including foods that Joyce liked, zuchette, the Triestine form of zucchine, and melanzane (egg plant). Parts of the body feature too, obviously important for a surgeon!
Thanks Luke and Scott for assembling such a great collection of ideas and activities.”Teaching Unplugged” (Delta 2009)
Teaching Unplugged, by Luke Meddings and Scott Thornbury, was unveiled as one of this year’s British Council ELTons winners at a ceremony in London on 3rd March.
- Interactivity: the most direct route to learning is to be found in the interactivity between teachers and students and amongst the students themselves.
- Engagement: students are most engaged by content they have created themselves.
- Dialogic processes: learning is social and dialogic, where knowledge is co-constructed.
- Scaffolded conversations: learning takes place through conversations, where the learner and teacher co-construct the knowledge and skills.
- Emergence: language and grammar emerge from the learning process. This is seen as distinct from the ‘acquisition’ of language.
- Affordances: the teacher’s role is to optimize language learning affordances through directing attention to emergent language.
- Voice: the learner’s voice is given recognition along with the learner’s beliefs and knowledge.
- Empowerment: students and teachers are empowered by freeing the classroom of published materials and textbooks.
- Relevance: materials (eg texts, audios and videos) should have relevance for the learners.
- Critical use: teachers and students should use published materials and textbooks in a critical way that recognizes their cultural and ideological biases.
Of course Joyce wasn’t a conscious, reflective dogme teacher in action, but I think there is enough evidence to suggest that he did spontaneously display some of the characteristics that we describe as dogme today. As a Joyce enthusiast rather than a Joycean, I have certainly benefited from and enjoyed taking a look at an aspect of Joyce which is hardly ever attended to out there in the scholary world of Joycean criticism. I can’t thank Renzo Crivelli enough for the local work he has done in Trieste and I hope that this post brings some of his observations to a wider ELT world, the dogme take is all my interpretation and responsibility and the first thing I want to do is to write to Renzo and see what he thinks of the angle I have taken on one of the most famous writers in ELT who more than just dabbled in English Language Teaching over a period of 10 years. ( See Lindsay Clandfield’s six things)
Five minute Joycean activities
I hope you’ve enjoyed the bits of Finnegans wake in this post. There are so many laugh out loud moments in the text and now and again I take into class an odd sentence or two for the students to read in groups and see how many words or connotations they can find. Here’s a couple of quotes which have usually gone down well, the second one involves seeing how many countries you can identify. It all keeps the brain ticking over and if you can’t get to sleep, Joyce’s book of the night is one to keep by your bedside, there is no book in the world anything like it!
1) He would wipe alley english spooker, multaphoniaksically spuking, off the face of the erse. (FW p178) This is a good one to do with German speakers, there are about 70 languages in the wake.
2) You’ve seen all sorts in shapes and sizes, marauding about the moppamound. How’s the cock and the bullfight? And old Auster and Hungrig? And the Beer and Belly and the Boot and Ball? Not forgetting the oils of greas under that turkey in julep and Father Freeshots Feilbogen in his rockery garden with the costard? And tid you meet with Peadhar the Grab at all? (FW p 464) It’s good to read out “the oils of greas” in a Dublin accent, let me know how many countries you managed to identify!
As for comments, “I amstel waiting. Garonne, garonne! (FW p 205) And you know where I’m leaving and where I’m on my way to on my twitter avatar, don’t you?
Trieste, ah Trieste ate I my liver (FW p301). To eat one’s liver in Italian means to be eaten up with anger. Verlaine wrote: “O triste, triste était mon âme”. Oh, sad, sad was my soul. Joyce was ruining his liver with drink and Trieste ( était, ate I) was his livre (his book, Finnegans Wake and of course bits of Ulysses and the Dubliners) and his oeuvre (his work). The Guinness is on me for anyone who can find any more meanings hiding in there waiting to get out! Fun inn it, isn’t there?
If you are ever in Trieste we might meet up there one day, I go there regularly, swim in its sea, drink its wine, eat its fish and often wonder what life was like there in “old Auster and Hungrig” when Joyce lived there. It would have been great to observe one of his classes, wouldn’t it? Not that he would have let us sit quietly in the corner taking notes, so he wouldn’t!
” La nostra bella Trieste. I long to see the lights twinkling along the Riva as the train passes Miramar. After all Nora, it is the city which has sheltered us.”