A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 47: Royal Assassin, Chapter 22

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The chapter that follows, “Burrich,” opens with a brief note on Lady Patience, the former Queen-in-Waiting of the Six Duchies. It moves thence to Fitz waking somewhat confusedly in bed with Molly; they evidently had a tryst, of which Fitz remembers nothing. Molly departs his chambers, and Fitz responds thereafter to a summons from Chade.

Commande - Lady Patience pour FlorenceIl va encore me falloir quelques essaies avant de maitriser correctement les peaux foncées à l’aquarelle, elle a l’air bien blanche quand même. Merci pour cette commande, j’aime beaucoup ce personnage et la...
Commande – Lady Patience pour Florence by Aadorah on Tumblr.com
Image used for commentary

Fitz reports in detail to Chade and, with the older man’s premission, voices his suspicions of Regal’s plotting. Chade accepts the explanation as a possibility and affirms that he will work from his own resources to confirm or deny the explanation. He also voices concern that his secrecy is not as secure as once it was.

In the coming days, Fitz is wary, particularly of the Skilled ones Serene, Justin, and Will. And on one day, he is summoned in haste to the stables. Burrich has returned, injured and thinking that messages have gone before him. They have not arrived, and he has Fitz help him to report to Shrewd. The Fool greets them and, seeing Burrich’s condition, moves to assist. At length, Burrich is admitted to Shrewd’s chambers and reports of the difficulties that faced Verity’s party along their path, including a curiously well-disciplined and -equipped group of bandits that focused their attentions on Verity near Blue Lake.

Shrewd dismissed Burrich, who is taken aback by his king’s condition, and Fitz takes Burrich to his own room to tend to him. He goes out in search of medicines, leading him to Patience. She quizzes Fitz as she makes ready to tend to Burrich herself. Burrich rouses during her ministrations and argues with her, but relents and accepts her care. Kettricken arrives and lends her own supplies to the efforts, the specifics revealing that she is pregnant–and Fitz begins to worry for the child yet unborn.

I once again find it hard not to reread the text against the current political climate, I really do. But even if I am successful in not doing so, Hanlon’s Razor comes to mind as a factor in the current chapter, one which Chade appears to prefer as an explanation and that Fitz rejects. Said Razor is the warning against attributing to malice what stupidity can easily explain; that is, if someone could be ignorant or a jerk, that person is probably ignorant. It is an ultimately optimistic explanation of things, assuming that people will be good if they but know what the good is.

Experience and a quick glance at the world suggest that such an assumption is a dangerous one. While some might argue that making any assumption is fraught, and there is merit in such an argument, it is also the case that an assumption always has to be made about how a given person will re/act–and that it always is so, even if tacitly. And when a person has demonstrated a tendency towards being venial or malevolent, it is far safer to assume that the person will continue to do so than that they will not.

I remain thankful for what you give.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 46: Royal Assassin, Chapter 21

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Dark Days,” opens with a rumination on the political future of the Mountain Kingdom during the conflict between the Six Duchies and the Red Ships. It moves on to treat the continued tension surrounding Duke Brawndy of Bearns, whom Regal is slighting. Kettricken meets with him, showing him great honor and mollifying him substantially in doing so. But the slight from Regal remains.

Image from Prophets become Warriors, Dragons Hunt as Wolves on Tumblr, here
Image used for commentary

The slight is compounded when, days later, Brawndy is summoned to Shrewd’s chambers and afterwards departs with news of no forthcoming aid. Kettricken intercedes, acting on her own initiative and in her own prerogative to gift Brawndy with significant monetary aid. Fitz finds himself obliged to pay court to Brawndy’s daughter, Celerity, and he observes as the Bearns party makes its way away from Buckkeep.

After, Fitz calls on Shrewd. Following an awkward physical encounter, Fitz finds himself serving as a Skill-bridge between Shrewd and Verity. He is made aware again of Shrewd’s bodily condition, and he is privy to Shrewd’s messages to Verity–tidings which he vehemently denies. Verity seems to take his side and pleads to have Fitz tended against his exertions.

In the wake of those exertions, both Shrewd and Fitz are exhausted. Regal barges in and takes Shrewd in hand, bidding the Fool, who is customarily present with Shrewd, to tend to Fitz. The Fool does so, staying with Fitz for a while for their mutual safety. When the Fool leaves to retrieve medicine for Fitz, the Skilled Serene and Justin enter Fitz’s room with ill intent. They psychically assail him, and Nighteyes psychically leaps to his defense. The Fool’s arrival dissuades any further action, and Serene and Justin depart in anger, leaving Fitz to his pain.

There is much that can be said about Fitz’s construction as a liminal figure. He operates in several grey areas: as a royal bastard, as a sanctioned assassin, as an informal advisor, as someone who is and is not adept with multiple magics. His liminality in those respects, while allowing him more freedom of motion than many other characters might have, also serves as a set of in-milieu reasons to hold him in low regard. He can be read–and perhaps should be read–as problematizing many of the traditional aspects of fantasy literature. He does not only nuance the warrior-hero that pervades Tolkienian-tradition works (despite the primacy of Frodo and Samwise), but he calls into question the stability of such categories. Fitz is far from the only character to do so, of course; there are frustrations of archetypes even in such characters as Malory’s Arthur and the Classical Hercules. But fantasy literature tends to operate in terms of such types (with a few notable exceptions, as Shiloh Carroll and others discuss far more eloquently than I am apt to do), and having such a character as Fitz, who almost fulfills the demands of many types while conforming to none of them, remains, to my mind, a refreshing thing.

Your ongoing support is kindly appreciated.

Sample Assignment Response: Analyzing Debatable Claims

Another of the assignments students are asked to do in ENGL 135 in the November 2019 session, following a course redesign, is an analysis of debatable claims. (A previous assignment is discussed here.) Students are asked to “select a TED Talk that presents a persuasive argument on a debatable issue,” record its identifying information, and draft a two- to three-page (so 650- to 975-word) summary that addresses a number of points evocative of other classes’ rhetorical analysis. To continue my practice of providing models for students to follow, I offer what appears below:

Image taken from the thumbnail on the TED talk treated in the present sample, here, used for commentary

As with earlier sample work, the first task is to select a subject. To do so for the present sample, I went to TED.com and ran a simple search for one of my major areas of interest, using the search term “medieval.” Doing so yielded 92 results, which is a larger set than admits of effective parsing within the confines of the session and its demands. Accordingly, I restricted myself to the first page of results returned–which, at 30, was still a fair number. Given that the assignment calls for only two to three pages of work (plus title and references pages), I determined that the talk I would treat should be a shorter one. I was fortunate that two of the first three results returned fit that criterion, and I decided to treat the less formal of the two, since I want to make my work as fun for myself as I can reasonably do.

With a subject selected, I went ahead and set up my document, stubbing out a title page, main text, and references page and ensuring that the document as a whole was set to double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman type with one-inch margins on letter-sized paper. I also inserted running heads and page numbers as appropriate. I also made sure to enter an APA-style reference entry for my selected TED talk to make sure that it got done.

To help keep myself oriented in what would come, I copied and pasted the series of questions from the University’s assignment materials into my document. I then highlighted it in green so that I would remember to remove it later; I tend to give myself writing targets (such as theses for more formal work) in my documents, coloring them thusly so I know what I need to write towards and that I need to get rid of it later. It is a method I recommend, though I know others’ results will vary.

That done watched the talk, doing so twice. The first time was simply to get a feel for the talk as a whole. The second, though, I took notes, using the assignment questions as a guide. It made for somewhat jerky watching, to be fair, but it did allow me to get a basic outline down of the sample assignment.

With my notes ready, I began drafting. The first pass consisted mostly of expanding my notes into cohesive, coherent sentences and paragraphs, as well as adding introduction and conclusion. Revision ensued thence, focusing mainly on smoothing out transitions among materials–I opted to retain the order of the assignment’s questions in large part, mostly for ease, though I did alter their groupings somewhat–and on making the language accessible to student readers (as determined by Flesch-Kincaid grade level).

All that done, I reviewed my draft to make sure it adheres to usage standards that will be applied to student work. Once done with that, I rendered the draft accessible; it appears below, iteration of my continued hope to be of use to others: G. Elliott Sample Debatable Claim Analysis.

I still continue to appreciate support for drafting new teaching materials.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 45: Royal Assassin, Chapter 20

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Mishaps,” opens with accounts of the hardening of attitudes and Chade’s findings on an expedition to the Outislands. It moves to Fitz calling on Shrewd; the latter has the Fool serve tea that contains an addictive herb, upon which the Fool comments acerbically. Regal soon inserts himself into the meeting, taking the chance to upbraid Fitz with his manufactured financial crisis. As Shrewd slips into addled delirium, Regal intensifies the personal attack on Fitz, taunting him to physical assault; Fitz stops himself and excuses himself from Shrewd’s presence, beginning an anxious wait for a summons from Chade.

Fool by FloorSteinz on DeviantArt, image used for commentary

When the summons comes, Fitz answers it with many questions for his mentor. They are uncomfortable questions, and Chade’s replies to trust in the system and the wisdom of the nation’s leadership do not satisfy. Nor yet does the revelation that Chade has been providing certain chemicals to Shrewd for reasons that he refuses to discuss. Nor still does the line of reasoning to which Chade leads Fitz, that the Red-Ship Raiders want only to instill terror, that Verity’s mission to the Elderlings is their only hope.

Fitz’s narrative resumes days later, when Duke Branwdy of Bearns arrives at Buckkeep. He describes his experience of the necessary festivities to welcome the duke and his entourage, as well as the calculated slights offered them by Regal. Too, he has some contact with Celerity that makes him uncomfortable.

After the welcoming dinner, Fitz retires to his chambers, where the Fool awaits him with a sensitive question. Fitz turns to strike the Fool in his anger, only to see that the Fool has already been battered–by Regal’s thugs. As a chastened Fitz makes to tend the Fool’s injuries, he asks why the Fool asks after whether he has fathered a child; the Fool explains as he is able, which is not necessarily clear to Fitz. He also warns Fitz that attempts on Kettricken are likely before making his exit.

After the Fool leaves, Fitz calls on Molly. He asks her if she is with child, and she denies it–but quizzes him on what he would do if she had affirmed being pregnant. Fitz has no good answer and stammers through a poor one. Molly rebukes him for it, using Patience and Burrich as an example of what she means; Patience hates Burrich, she reveals, because she had loved and been spurned by Burrich in favor of his sworn service. The revelation gives Fitz pause and more to consider than he had thought before.

The strangeness of gender norms and expectations comes to mind in reading the present chapter. Fitz is, admittedly, not in a position to have much of a sense of family, given his circumstances, but even so, the dichotomy between his perception of service’s demands and Molly’s protestations about family are striking. There is more to untangle in them that I can give space to here–but there is always another venue for such discussions.

Molly’s protestations line up reasonably neatly with things I have spent a perhaps unfortunate amount of time considering, given my own history trying and failing to make a career of academe. I am recovering now, but earlier in my life, I spent a lot of time trying to be something…other than I am, thinking it somehow of paramount importance that I do. I fear I much neglected my family in making the attempt. Even now, when I give my time to outside concerns in the community, I worry that I am misspending my time. I like to think that I am doing some good in the world, I am told that I am, and I know that my daughter needs to have an example of a parent who tries, at least, to work to the betterment of the community. But I also know that the time I spend on such things is time I am not with my wife and daughter, whom I profess to love; how much love do I show them, being away? At least when I am secluded off, working on some freelance project or another, I am contributing to the support of the household, but when I work with the local PTO or band boosters, I cannot claim such a thing.

It is never an easy calculus to figure out, and my skills at math are less than they perhaps ought to be. But, as Chade points out in the chapter, “Thinking is not always…comforting. It is always good, but not always comforting.” And I have much on which to think.

It’s my birthday, precious. Send me a gift?


A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 44: Royal Assassin, Chapter 19

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series soon.

The following chapter, “Messages,” opens with a gloss of Verity’s expedition–ostensibly to seek military aid from the Mountain Kingdom, but in truth to seek the Elderlings of old–setting out. It moves to Fitz considering the time between Verity being given permission for the quest and setting out on it; having a task enlivens Verity, as many notice with no small approval. Verity sets tasks for Fitz, as well, and remarks upon the ineptitude of the other Skill-users that are set to his service.

Marc Simonetti’s Assassin’s Apprentice, by Robin Hobb on DeviantArt, used for commentary;
the scene’s from the earlier book, but it appears to have played out again…

After Verity’s party departs, Fitz has a few good days, though he marks the potential for problems that emerges almost immediately upon Verity’s departure. He also notes that word of Verity’s true mission spread quickly, and Regal has turned it to ridicule. Fitz also marks that Chade is unusually distant, perhaps as a result of aging working upon him.

The wary peace in Fitz’s life is broken by news of another Forging, one that should have been prevented by forces that were supposed to be in place but had been reallocated due to a putative lack of funds. At Verity’s Skilled suggestion, Fitz returns to Verity’s chambers, finding they have already been searched to an uncertain end; while Fitz retrieves items at Verity’s bidding, Kettricken enters, and they confer about his absence. They also confer about the irregularities in messaging, and Kettricken arrives quickly at both the conclusion of Regal’s perfidy and a burning desire to redress it directly. Fitz manages to dissuade her from rash action, and Kettricken departs to see to what she can.

After she does, Fitz goes to the stables, thinking to find ease in his old childhood haunt. He comes across a scene in which an inland noble is attempting to buy horses from Regal, who has no authority to sell them. Fitz manages to defuse the situation, but it reveals to him just how quickly Regal is acting to undercut and usurp authority.

Fitz makes to return to his chambers, but he is intercepted by a message from Kettricken, who bids him attend on her. After freshening up a bit, he does so, and Kettricken bids him call upon Shrewd before noting her own experience with doing so. Regal had claimed that Verity withdrew forces from Bearns, effectively ceding territory to the Red-Ship Raiders; Fitz denies the idea, but he hears Kettricken when she notes that Shrewd is effectively in Regal’s thrall.

It is damned hard not to read the chapter against present political circumstances, and I have to caution myself that there is corruption in all groups, in all times, and in all places; the only thing special about the times in which I live is that I live in them, and that is not so special as such a statement might make it seem. But there do seem to be parallels between the present chapter and the surrounding realities, and I cannot help but notice them–or comment on them, as should be obvious.

One of them that comes out as I think on it is the issue of the improper sale at the stables. It is clear that a power-play is in progress, and the solution of papering it over by following forms and procedures seems…unsatisfactory, in the novel as in the enfolding world. But “legal” and “right” are not often the same, and they never have been, so it should not be a surprise to see it in fiction.

Tonight, I play again. Help me buy some reeds?

Sample Assignment Response: Current Event

One of the assignments students are asked to do in ENGL 135 in the November 2019 session, following a course redesign, is a summary-and-response piece that looks at two treatments of arguable topics in current news and related media, summarizes each, and compares the two. Each of the summaries is expected to be three paragraphs in length, formatted appropriately; the comparative passage should be some two to three pages. Since APA formatting is requested, a title page and a references list are likely expected, as well. And, following my long-standing practice, an example of the kind of work I hope to see on the assignment and a narrative of how I put it together follow.

Murder of Abel from BL Royal 19 D II, f. 10v
Murder of Abel from BL Royal 19 D II, f. 10v; I’m told it’s a public domain image.

Clearly, the first task to do to complete the assignment is to select a topic. I tend to restrict topics I’ll accept from students, and I am doing so for later assignments in the session, so I will follow the restriction as I generate the present example and steer away from treating abortion, gun control, legalizing marijuana, LGBTQIA+ rights, political ideology (in the sense of party alignment), and religious ideology. Doing so avoids “hot-button” issues about which most people have preconceived ideas that are more or less articles of faith. Experience suggests that most students–indeed, most people–are not willing to concede that they can be wrong about them, and a willingness to be wrong is necessary for learning. But even aside from the obvious topics, there is much to discuss, and in some detail.

Among the things to discuss is an issue prevalent in the academic field I sought to enter (about which more here and here). That field, medieval studies, is currently grappling with its racist appropriations and underpinnings, with a particular event (recent to the time of this writing, meaning within the last 60 days) and reactions to it standing out as exemplary of the struggle still ongoing and still needing to be done. There are many articles surrounding the event, as a quick Google search for it revealed (and I admit to being helped by being familiar with the topic already), and I selected two such, one from the Washington Post and one from Inside Higher Ed.

After selecting the topic and the articles to treat in the example assignment, I opened a Word document and began to format it for use in the assignment. That is, I set it to double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman type with one-inch margins on letter-size paper; inserted my running head, headers, and page numbers; and stubbed out sections for my title page, main text, and references list. Doing so obliged me to develop a title–easy enough, given that APA asks for descriptive paper titles–and it allowed me to record citations for my articles so that I would not forget to do so later. The latter is particularly important, as I’ve had many students lose points or fail papers entirely because they “forgot” to add citations that they “meant to go back and put in later.”

That done, and knowing I would need to summarize the articles, I read them. As I did, I made marginal notes (I printed the articles, as I read better and more swiftly from a physical page than a digital) and identified major points of argument, as well as strengths and weaknesses of the pieces as I read. I began with the earlier-published piece, the chronology seeming to make sense.

Having read the pieces, I began to write my summaries of them. As with the reading, I began with the earlier-published piece. Even before moving through the summaries, though, I stubbed out the direction I wanted my text to go, making sure that movement between the parts of the paper would be clear and indicate to readers how the new part connects to the previous. It also allowed me to move towards a thesis–which I hold a comparative piece should have. That is, comparative works should move past simply listing similarities and differences to make a claim about the things being compared–usually in terms of some value-judgement (“Ð is a better example of writing than Þ because…”).

Once I had my thesis in place and my summaries done, it came time to actually argue the thesis. That is, I had made a claim, so I needed to support it. The response portion of the paper is supposed to take some two to three pages. I average 325 words per page, making my target length somewhere between 650 and 975 words for the portion–figures which I looked at because my summaries ended at a strange point on the page. My habit in all but the shortest papers is to make a counterpoint and rebut it before moving into my central argument, and though 650 words is quite brief, 975 allows me space in which to make the more nuanced presentation.

As I wrote, knowing that the piece is intended for student use as an example, I strove to make the text accessible to first-year composition students. Consequently, I wrote in relatively short paragraphs (approximately 85-150 words), keeping the average reading level right around the end of high school, per Flesch-Kincaid grade levels. I revised to keep the reading level in line as I composed, thinking it important.

After arriving at a decent stopping point that fell within the word-count range I’d established, I reviewed the text I’d written for overall adherence to APA usage standards. Finding no problems (but acknowledging that my own eye for my work is not without flaw, and that proofreading immediately after writing is other than optimal), I put the text in a form others could access, which I present here in the continued hope that what I do will be of use to others, both in my class and in others that may be taught: G. Elliott Sample Current Event.

I continue to appreciate support for drafting new teaching materials.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 43: Royal Assassin, Chapter 18

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Elderlings,” opens with an account of the defection of one of the warships Verity had had put into service and outfitted; the vessel turned to piracy rather than fight for the kingdom that had supported her. It moves to Fitz working on a garden with Kettricken. He puzzles out that the Fool has taken to using her to see to Shrewd, since Fitz and Verity do not, and she quizzes him over what he knows of the Elderlings. As they talk, she arrives at the idea of seeking them out to request their help, as legend had said an earlier King in Buckkeep, Wisdom, had done. At Verity’s Skilled behest, Fitz takes Kettricken to her husband to discuss the matter, and Verity takes the idea to heart–to her sorrow.

kettricken - Google zoeken
Image found on Susan Botes’s Pinterest page, here, and used for commentary

After being dismissed from Verity and Kettricken, Fitz muses on Molly and the looming courtship with Celerity. Seeking distraction, he calls upon Patience, who subtly suggests to him that his repeated assignations with Molly are having an easily anticipated effect. Neither the time with Patience nor the later brief encounter with Burrich do much to ease his mind. Nor does his response to Shrewd’s summons–which is, in fact, Verity’s; Fitz is to witness Verity’s request to depart to seek the Elderlings. Shrewd is somewhat skeptical of Verity’s own going, though he sees the value in making an attempt.

Regal inserts himself into the discussion, and the tension between the half-brothers is made abundantly clear. Regal capitalizes on an opportunity to eliminate a rival, and Shrewd assents to Verity’s request. As they leave, Verity reminds Fitz of the import of his witness, and Fitz purposes to visit Molly only briefly, to thank her for what she does. In the event, though, he is overwhelmed by Verity’s Skilled interlude with Kettricken, the memories of which linger.

In the chapter, Fitz muses on the unseen sacrifices made for him, noting that he does not know them and feeling some angst at that lack of knowledge. The novel is written perhaps early to make much of the name, but the concept of emotional labor is clear in the text. Again, I find myself reading affectively, and I find that I cannot help but think about the emotional labor done on my behalf during my adolescence. (Some is still done, I know, but I am more aware of it, and I try to minimize the need for it. I am told that I have some success in it, but I have to wonder if that telling is not itself emotional labor…) Certainly, I was not as aware of it as Fitz seems to be, and he is not very aware of it–and the awareness seems apt to fade, though adolescent hormones are strange and powerful things, indeed…

Another point comes to mind, one less bound up in my own affect. The comment is made that the earlier king, Wisdom, was thought eccentric or worse in pursuing the aid of the Elderlings, for which he had later renown. Given the Six Duchies’ propensity towards emblematic names, it seems quite telling that a putative religious madman is called wise…

I ate the Frito pie; help me go get some antacid?


A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 42: Royal Assassin, Chapter 17

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

The next chapter, “Interludes,” opens with a brief and enigmatic statement about the Elderlings before moving into Fitz responding to a summons from Shrewd. He notes his refusal to call on his king prior to the summons, despite the imprecations of the Fool and Verity. He also notes his coldness towards Shrewd as the latter presents him a scroll that Celerity had sent with a missive from her father. Shrewd also commands that Fitz will compose a reply to be sent back that afternoon.

Shrewd also takes the time to explain himself to Fitz, a strangely warm gesture from the aging king. He still intends to see Fitz wed Celerity, looking at it as a way to offer Fitz legitimacy and a more “normal” place. Shrewd also tacitly sets aside the idea that Fitz and Molly might wed. When Fitz pens the commanded reply letter, he does so with that idea in mind, and his thoughts turn to dark places as he delivers it back as he is bidden.

Later, after making contact with Nighteyes, Fitz heads into Buckkeep Town. He shadows Molly unobtrusively and “ambushes” her with an impromptu picnic that turns into another assignation. Narrating, Fitz glosses informing Molly of matters with Shrewd and Celerity, to which she responds as could be expected: with a solid understanding of what is to come, what the political circumstances will mean for them. Fitz does not share her maturity, and he grouses after they part.

Chade summons Fitz that evening, and they confer about Shrewd’s state of health–and Fitz’s impending betrothal. Chade tries to be sympathetic, but Fitz, enrwapped in adolescent passions, cannot accept it. Fitz apologizes for his outbursts, and Chade warns him that apologies will not always suffice before telling him the reason for the summons: Fitz will be hunting Forged Ones again. They commiserate over the work to come.

The bit about forgiveness late in the chapter seems to stick with me as I read again. I know that I have had something of a mouth on me for quite a while, and there were no few times in my childhood that my lip won a fist in return, suddenly applied. There were no few times, too, that my mouthiness hurt one or more people I really ought not to have hurt, and while some of them have forgiven me my faults, there are some I know never will. There are even a few of those to whom I have apologized, to no avail. (I am arrogant or evil enough to think that some of those I have mouthed off at have deserved whatever pain I have caused them.) I regret many of those words, even those that others seem to have forgotten or passed over–but the arrogant ass that I was in my youth would not believe in such regrets.

I am glad to be less of a fool now, though I am still very much a fool.

(In case the image caption doesn’t show, it’s fitz + molly from risoria’s Tumblr, here; the image is used for commentary.)

I’ll be at a football game tonight; pick up my Frito pie?

A(nother?) Rumination on Teaching

With another session of teaching looking at me, it occurred to me that I might take stock of the teaching career I have had–as opposed to the ones I had wanted to have and clearly now do not. After all, I’ve been at the work of teaching college classes since 2006, and I’ve been working on being an educator since 2000, at least; I’ve got a bit to look back over, and I’ve kept records of most of it. Maybe I can even get something good out of the data.

I do have to admit that my records are incomplete; there are some teaching sessions for which I no longer have my gradebooks. I am not sure why. Too, there are other gaps in my records because there are gaps in my teaching; while I was in constant rotation through Spring 2012, after that, my teaching grew more…intermittent. And, owing to different grading practices at different institutions, I have had to normalize grades reported, making them all conform to a single, simple standard (percentile grading to three decimal places, reported on an uninflected A/B/C/D/F scale, with some scores rendered negative by departmental policies rendered as zero). So there is that to consider, as well.

Even so, I can provide a fair bit of information. I have records of 1,547 students completing the college classes I have taught since the Summer 2006 term (again, noting that there are several terms I taught from which I no longer have student records). Those records cover 34 terms of teaching (with concurrent terms at different institutions considered different terms), for an average of 45.5 students taught in each term. Their average grade was 66.139/100 (D), with a standard deviation of 22.595. Some 104 of those students (approx. 7%) earned an A or the equivalent, 418 B (27%), 375 C (approx. 24%), 220 D (approx. 14%), and 429 F (approx. 28%). Percentages are approximate due to rounding.

Student Grades to 20 October 2019
Student Grades to 20 October 2019
Number of Students by Term to 20 October 2019
Number of Students Taught by Term to 20 October 2019
Average Scores by Term to 20 October 2019
Average Score (out of 100) by Term to 20 October 2019

Breaking grades out by term taught yields some interesting information, some of which has been reported in this webspace previously. (I have offered grade reports for many teaching sessions I have completed, although not all. I did not anticipate I would be offering a report on myself in such a way as to need a comprehensive record. I probably should have, though.) In reporting the distribution of letter grades across time, I have worked in percentages, since a teaching term with 99 students will necessarily report higher direct numbers than will a teaching term with 45.

Percentage of Students Earning As by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning As by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Bs by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Bs by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Cs by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Cs by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Ds by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Ds by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Fs by Term to 20 October 2019
Percentage of Students Earning Fs by Term to 20 October 2019

Notably, the proportion of As has risen, as have those of Cs and Ds, while the proportions of Bs and Fs have fallen (overall; I am looking at trendlines). Even so, there are some definite troughs in students earning As, and there are some tall, tall peaks in students earning Fs. While some of that is on the students (I can only award one score to work not submitted, and a lot of students have left a lot of work not turned in), there are some I would adjust at this point if it were available to me to do. There have been times I have been overly harsh in assessing my students’ performance (not as many as the students think, however), and I realize it now, with the benefit of a perspective I could not summon while I was doing more teaching–much more–than I am now.

In truth, I am not sure what the data show. That is, I know what the numbers are, but I am not sure how to parse those numbers to extract any meaning from them. I am sure some will say that the facts speak for themselves, and perhaps they do, but if they do, they do not do so in a language I can understand or at a volume I can hear.

Teaching still doesn’t pay much here. Care to help?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 41: Royal Assassin, Chapter 16

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.

Coming after, “Verity’s Ships” opens with a gloss of early military actions against the Red-Ship Raiders. It moves on to Fitz glossing the shape of his days for the rest of the season, which keep him quite busy. They also begin to include postings to the Rurisk, the first of Verity’s warships, where he learns seacraft and some of the language of the Outislanders.

Image result for longship
The ship’d be something like this image from Britannica.com, which is used for commentary.

At length, Fitz is able to find a private moment with Shrewd, during which he broaches the topic of marrying, thinking to wed Molly. Shrewd, however, has been approached by Celerity of Bearns and her father, Duke Brawndy, whom Fitz met earlier in the novel and seems to have impressed. Fitz attempts to speak out, but Shrewd harshly rebukes him, conflating him with his father for a moment.

Noting his heartsickness, Fitz continues relating the passage of the season, laying out the disposition of the Skilled with whom he had trained under Galen and their arrangement on the warships of the chapter’s title. It ranges to a training exercise that is ostensibly Skill-assisted, and that is interrupted by Skilled orders from Verity that direct the Rurisk to Antler Island, where a Red-Ship raid is in progress. The crew of the Rurisk joins the melee, and Fitz makes quite a showing for himself in a berserk rage that falls upon him. He does not comport himself as well in the wake of the battle as in the midst of it, and he has little time to rest; more fights follow in the succeeding days and weeks. During one such, Fitz glimpses a white-hulled ship that affects him oddly. It is not present after the battle, and others do not recall seeing it, but it remains disquieting.

Fitz continues to work the Skill with Verity, and he learns him in doing so. He also has something of a sour patch with Molly, and not because he relates Shrewd’s words to her; he does not. And when he calls on Kettricken, he finds he mulling over some thought to bring an end to the realm’s troubles.

I’ve argued before that there is a tendency, owing to Tolkien, to read fantasy novels as borrowing largely from the European medieval–particularly Celtic and Germanic Europe, and that tendency ranges to Hobb’s Elderlings novels. Such chapters as the present one help prompt reading Hobb as European medievalist fantasy, with the single-sailed clinker-built ships and some of the geographical descriptions, as well as other such tropes long present in the series.

It may be the case that the Realm of the Elderlings moves away from the European in the author’s mind as more work gets done on it. Hobb notes her own grounding in Tolkien, and Tolkien’s influence is…substantial, as many, including Luke Shelton, argue and attest. And it makes sense that earlier compositions will cleave more clearly to established patterns, both for the author’s own ease (deliberate or not) and for the audience’s. So there is some cause, even if other interpretations come out better as the series goes on.

Stand me a cup of coffee?