|As befits a bleak early December, I’ve been digging through the archives examining early modern burial records. Here are some endings to seventeenth-century lives.|
George Soveraigne, an owld man, a bagpipe player of no certayne dwellinge, dyed at Ware End and was buried the viijth of Maye
One whose name wee knowe nott beinge founde dead in the feilds was buryed the xxith daye of Maye. 1615
Henrye Shambrooke, an able yonge man of the Heath, by the prick of a thorne festering died
George Soveraigne and co. have got me thinking about endings, more generally. Last words. Not necessarily of the morbid kind: it’s the last week of term, and classes are finishing. My final Shakespeare is on Thursday: I’ve just been doing Taming of the Shrew with a class in which five of the 12 students are, coincidentally, called Kate. There is also a Kerry and a Kayleigh. But no Tranio.
One of the endings I’ve been wrestling with is pedagogic: I realised, suddenly, a few weeks ago, that I don’t know how to finish a class. What do you do? ‘You’ve been wonderful – thank you and goodnight’? Pull all the meandering discussion into a taut little pellet of provocation? Set up next week? Walk from the room, wordlessly, dropping sheaves of notes, page by page, to the floor? Lectures are fine: (semi) scripted, so you can build in a little crescendo. Not that I want my undergrads to leave the classroom punching the air with delight. But at present my seminars just dribble out, like jokes without a punchline. Like Gordon Brown. Like England.
So this is my question to you: how do you finish a class? What do you do? Or, if you’re on the receiving end of this pedagogic aposiopesis (look it up), what floats your boat?