Gordon Sly


As a young graduate student I was fortunate to have worked with Christopher Lewis, whose untimely death in the fall of 1992 took from us a gifted scholar and a devoted and imaginative teacher. One particularly effective classroom technique that he developed involved teaching a piece from very different - even opposing - perspectives in successive class meetings. On Monday he would work through an analysis of a piece, challenging students and drawing them into the process in his usual way. The analysis itself may have been his own, or it may have been taken from the professional literature, in which case the class would have been given a preparatory reading assignment. On Wednesday he would enter the classroom wondering aloud just what may have lead him to develop, or to accept, the misguided views with which he had burdened us on Monday. In any case, he was happy to report that sometime early Tuesday morning he had come to his senses, and that the next hour would be given over to setting things right. He would then carefully lay out the argument for an entirely different analytical stance, and proceed with the new analysis. Friday's class, the final stage in a three-class process, would provide for a discussion of the events of the previous two meetings, and a clarification and examination of the issues raised. Importantly, while Wednesday's class would always have begun by pointing out the serious shortcomings of the views presented on Monday - these shortcomings were, after all, what necessitated the second account to follow - Friday's review would not necessarily hold to this judgment. With one piece it may have, but with another the class may have concluded that the indictment of the first analysis had been hasty, and that the second account, being largely a reaction to that inaccurate judgment, was actually more flawed than the first. Or, more typically, it may have been decided that both analyses contributed valuable insights.