I browsed in David Eagleman’s book Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain and read about the strange training of chicken sexers in Japan. According to him the masters of this ‘do’ do not know how they do it, the visual clues are too subtle to be described. All they do is examine the vent of the chick and they know. The novice then guesses what sex the chick is and this guess is confirmed or denied by the master. After a good deal of training the novice becomes a master and can do 800 to 1000 chicks per hour. That is 12 plus a minute picked up, examined and placed in a bin as male or female which is dexterous one has to admit but is it true that there are no visual clues that can be discriminated in a slow scan of the vent. Here I learn that there are:
So is the ‘do’ of chicken sexing a cognitive science myth and brain magic voodoo? My illative antennae tell me that it is a likely story. I don’t know how I do it, really.
What I was going to do before I did a little research, very little research, was draw a parallel with Rhetoric and Composition training and M.F.A. training in the writer’s craft. Can it be done? Maybe is the definite answer to that. Clearly you are better off having a teacher that is a practitioner with good taste. You also need to examine the vent of many good examples, negative and positive. And then you have to be prepared to murder your darlings or put them in the dog food bin.
There are sample and pattern books that emanate from the U.S. and end in Byrne’s bins for ein Euro bitte generally. I have a few here beside me. Using Prose: Readings for College Composition (Lee & Moynihan eds. pub.1961) Ableism forbids any remark on that title. Within there are section with such bolster banging heads as Reading, Writing, and Thinking, The Meaning of America. There’s a nice essay on Making Coeducation Co- by Lynn (he) White Jr. (born 1907) He tells me:
Most women’s colleges keep a considerable number of men on their faculties, on the ground that it is important for their students to know how men’s minds work.
That can only be a good thing, say I, and I trust they are exercised regularly. ‘Look at me Lynn, look at me, are you being ironic with me? Ok, ok, calm down I believe you’.
Lynn is a liberal sort of man:
One hesitates in the United States to cite Russian precedent; but even the most ardent red-baiters seldom accuse the Communists of stupidity.
Next on the stool before me is Literature. Structure, Sound, and Sense ed.Laurence Perrine. pub.S.M.U. in 1956. reprinted several times up to 1970 and likely beyond. An excellent collection of short stories, poetry, and several plays running to 1425 pages. Naturally there are questions for the guidance of the academic helots who gave these courses. To torment the shade of Flannery O’Connor the first question after her story Greenleaf which comes in the section on symbol and irony is:
The characters and events of the story are seen as reflected through Mrs. May’s mind. How objective are her evaluations? How far are they reliable testimony and how far only an index of her own mind.