As the Semester Ends...
This does not, of course, alleviate the mingled pain and amusement that comes from the strange things I encounter on final exams. Even some of my best students have gotten certain things alarmingly wrong.
I am getting used to the fact that a certain number of people each semester come to the conclusion that René Magritte was a woman and that therefore I Do Not See the (Woman) Hidden in the Forest must be a feminist work.
I was not really expecting, however, to get an intelligent but wrong analysis of Sylvia Sleigh's Turkish Bath as being set in a gay bathhouse.
It is not okay to call collages, sculptures, and photographs "painting."
Frida Kahlo was not a Social Realist, and Alfred Stieglitz was not a member of the Harlem Renaissance. Surely I can cover more than one movement per week without this sort of confusion?
I am a bit disturbed at the number of people who have classified Vera Mukhina's Worker and Collective Farm Worker (they are holding hammer and sickle) as Nazi art. It appears that even many students who correctly identified it as a Soviet-made sculpture are not familiar with the symbolism of the hammer and sickle, despite the fact that I am sure I talked about this in class. Seeing the sickle referred to as a "chisel" was also rather surprising. I don't think today's youth are using enough hand tools. Even the hammer wasn't always correctly identified as such.
In somewhat the same vein, everyone does a pretty good job discussing Grant Wood's American Gothic, but please, can we call a pitchfork a pitchfork? If I keep reading about how the man holds his tool tightly or grips his tool firmly, I may be unable to continue grading.
I realize that by mentioning these things, I run the risk of making my students look bad, but in a class of about 40, the miracle is that there isn't really all that much to complain of. Overall, I think nearly all of them have learned a lot and I am sorry to say goodbye to them.