Well Marked

A couple of weeks ago, Nigel Beale posted some tips from Mortimer Adler on ‘How to Mark Your Books “Fruitfully and Intelligently.”‘ The recommendations sounded pretty familiar, though understandably there’s no mention of my own must-have accessory, the Post-It Note. I think anyone who teaches literature has to get over any initial reservations about making a mess on the page; a large part of what we want to convey to our students is that reading is an active process, for one thing, and writing on the text is one way to make sure you are actually engaging with it. Textual annotations can also serve as prompts and guides for lecture and discussion. As someone who mostly teaches ‘loose baggy monsters,’ I also feel that one of my primary responsibilities is just being able to find important passages to help students make their observations and analyses specific. Herewith, some samples of a well-used teaching copy of Middlemarch, marked up Maitzen style.

First, the Big Picture Post-It Index and Finder’s Guide.

Next, the Inside Cover Index to Essential Information:

Here’s a sample of a key passage annotated for teaching point of view and free indirect discourse:

And a sample of a Cross-Referencing Post-It–probably the most important kind (it’s blue because it marks the blue-green boudoir passages, of course!):

Here’s this year’s Post-It opus:

See how you can track Jo through the novel? And the hot pink tabs point to the clues to Lady Dedlock’s past. Hmmm. It starts to look a little obsessive, doesn’t it?