About Playin’ in the Rye

My name is Vincent Bissonette, and I teach English at Allendale Columbia School in Rochester, NY. I use this blog to post reflections on teaching and literature as well as to showcase student work.

The blog started as a place to host audio discussions from AP Literature. In the Spring of 2012, after the AP exam, we decided to discuss some poetry and to record those discussions for podcasts. The whole experience of recording a conversation is pretty cool. The students intuitively understand this: Making yourself clear to the person sitting across from you is no longer sufficient. You have to make yourself clear to the unseen audience who can’t ask for clarification. You can’t just have a discussion. You have to perform it.

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Trapped in his own winter of discontent, Holden Caulfield wanted to save children from becoming adults. This show is dedicated to the proposition that the discussion of literature is a summertime activity, made glorious by the free intermingling of the childlike and the adult, of innocent exuberance and well-seasoned experience. This is playin’ in the rye.

Each podcast begins with these words, along with the beginning of “Summertime” from Jesca Hoop’s 2007 album Kismet. There is then a short, student-written introduction to the poem, followed by the discussion itself. We did talk about the poems a little before recording, but the discussions are unscripted. In some cases I have lightly edited the discussion, but only to remove one or two very long pauses. After the discussion, there is a song that I think goes well with the poem or our discussion.

Many thanks to the students who participated in this project!

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