Category Archives: Writing Instructor

Digital Students

Back in the good old days—hard even to remember—when you got students in the classroom they were pretty much prisoners.  For the hour and an half or so that you had them—as a teacher—they had no contact with the outside world.  Back then the rooms in which I taught had those old fashioned clocks on the wall.  I don’t know what happened.  They just disappeared at some point.

Now all the students have cell phones, so they can check the time on those accurate by satellite to the atomic minute, I guess.  They also have palm pilots and Ipods or other listening devices.  They also bring laptop computers.  They are hardly prisoners now; they can access the “outside world” at least in digital form pretty easily.  I, the teacher, am still analog. 

They hold those things in their hands.  I don’t know what they are doing with them.  The guy over there with his laptop open could be watching porn or the Simpsons over the internet for all I know.  Or who knows, they could be listening on their Ipods to a lecture they missed that morning because many professors are now posting their lectures to sites that can be downloaded with an Ipod. Most of the time, the students are pretty polite with these things.  The phones hardly ever go off anymore.

But my 3 o’clock class isn’t always so polite.  Over in the left hand corner of the room—way away from me—a group of students have collected in the back.  These pull out their devices—whatever the heck they are–quite a bit in class, sometimes while I am talking.  What am I supposed to do?  Well, I use common tactics.  If they are in groups and using their devices, I walk over to the group and usually they see me coming and stop using their devices.  Or I will call on a person using a device and ask them a question.  That usually leads also to the end of device usage for a while.

I have to say device usage while I am talking tends to irritate me.  But I have gotten sort of used to being ignored over the years.  I got over my issues with the sleeping student years ago, clear back in the 80’s.  One woman starting falling asleep; she was a pretty good student and also on the rowing team.  So she would be up at like 5 in the morning to go up to this big lake back behind the hills and row her ass off for like three hours. 

So one day when she was going off to sleep and even snorting a little bit in a sort of pre-snore way, I went over to her and said, without anger (somehow I managed that), that she needed rest that trying to sleep in a classroom would not really be restorative, and that she should go to her dorm room and take a nap.  She said she was fine, and that she didn’t live in the dorm. After that she never went to sleep in class.  Of course, she missed a few classes, maybe to take a nap in her overpriced apartment in IV.

In any case, one of the young women in the device using corner is quite egregiously using her device while I am talking, and I say, with amazing tranquility, “Rochelle.  What you are doing there; well that’s just fine.  But please don’t let me see you doing it, ok?  Because when I happen to notice it—and I notice about everything—it disturbs the flow of my consciousness and sometimes I forget what I am trying to say.”  And then she, with no sign of embarrassment, puts away her device, and what do you know pulls the Ipod plugs out of her ears—which I didn’t even know were there, because they were hidden by her hair.

And the rest of the time, I don’t remember seeing a single student using his or her device. 

More Treacle

The problem with Pinker—as a representative of the evolutionary psychology movement antiessentialistgenerally—is that there’s something to what he says.  The mind is not a tabula rasa.  That’s as Pinker says, though the British philosopher, Peter Blackburn holds Pinker’s feet to the fire a bit on that one.  He says Locke, for example, did not believe in the kind of utter tabula rasa that Pinker claims he did; instead, according to Blackburn, Locke was  “…perfectly happy with the idea that the nature of the slate or paper may determine what can be written on it.”

I can buy that, but over the last couple of decades, I have felt in my reading around and in my listening to others that in some of the disciplines at least, especially and sadly in the humanities, people have decided that the mind is a “piece of paper” or somewhat more complicatedly now “a computer screen” and the only thing written on either are words.  Language became “fetishized,” it seemed to me, in ways I could not comprehend.  

What is this talk I wondered?  Do these people, though I may interpret them incorrectly, actually believe that, if one can change the way people think about the world, one can change the world.  Too many of my students at one time seemed to me overly familiar with the idea of stereotyping.  Oh, that’s stereotyping they would say or perhaps the more popular word at the graduate level was “essentializing.”  I understood a possible positive motive behind the anti-stereotyping and anti-essentializing movement that made it a bit impolitic to say the whole movement was bogus.

That motive also confused me.  I certainly don’t believe in going around essentializing people or races. Or, in other words, I don’t believe in going around calling people or races bad names or making assumptions about people and races on the basis of their names.  The whole business in my head got screwed up with the political correctness thing.  That’s my problem I guess, but I may be forgiven I hope.  Things do get complicated when an epistemological claim of some sort gets all mixed up with a high falut’en moral imperative of some sort.

I found it hard to say to my anti-essentializing and anti-stereotyping students that they had things all screwed up when the trend seemed to be in part an attempt to be decent people and to treat others decently.  But to get, if I can to the point, I did try to say that they might be throwing out the baby with the bathwater.  One can’t think at all I wanted to claim unless one stereotypes or essentializes. Language necessarily abstracts, but that was hard to convey if one is talking with people who honestly believe that there is Nothing But Language and thus no other Reality from which it might be said to “Abstract.”

So a person was pretty much stuck if he or she, as I wanted to do, wanted to argue against the anti-essentialist movement since to do so would automatically put one in the camp of those who believe in a “reality” beyond the language that shapes it.  I suppose I could have said something like “The painful feeling of gas in my stomach is not the same thing as saying ‘I have gas.’”  But I don’t think my having gas would serve all that much to sway anybody’s thinking. So with mixed feelings, though some of relief, I began to read people like Pinkus as saying to the language fetishists:  Look you delusional morons.  You seem to think you can change people just by changing the way you think about them, when in fact what you can think (or say) about people is circumscribed, hemmed in and dictated, by the very tabula rasa that allows you to think at all.

But I put myself poorly.

Imagine all the Treacle

So I pick up Steven Pinker’s How the Mind Works and flipping to the chapter called “Family Values” lennonshotfind an introductory paragraph almost entirely of quotations from the Youngblood’s song, “Come on People Now, Smile on Your Brother,” Lennon’s “Imagine,” compacted in with a few passing remarks about the dawning of the age of Aquarius.  The next paragraph begins:  “Incredible as it may seem, many of us used to believe this treacle.”

I think “treacle” a pretty hard word.  I didn’t think Lennon’s song was treacle at the time, and I still don’t.  I thought “Imagine” was a pretty nice song and the Youngblood’s song, while silly, still expressed a nice sentiment and I liked the tune.  Still do.  I have to wonder who those “many of us” were exactly that “believed” this treacle.  Who the hell believes in a song?  Only, I have to think, very literal minded and possibly tone deaf people who desperately need other people to tell them what to feel and think.

So still, who the hell are this “many of us.”  I clearly wasn’t one of the many and I was around at the time.  Personally, I don’t see where one gets the nuts, excepting perhaps from pure grandiosity, to claim that one know what many of us believe about anything.  Pinker does try to back up the “many of us” by talking about the sales of Reich’s “The Greening of America.”  But the introduction really boils down to: let’s kick the 60’s around for a bit.

What we have in Pinker is the psychology of disillusionment.  One wants to say, grow up, buddy.  Nobody ever did say it was going to be pretty.  Too bad you fell for it.  Why don’t you get with it and get over it.  Pinker though wants to claim he is over it.  Now he knows treacle when he sees it.  His whole book is an extension of the “tough guy” ethic.  Just perfect for the nasty nineties and the reactionary Friedmanesque bottom line ethic.  Just more of your herd of wimps in wolf’s clothing.  In short your basic follow the leader academic.

And to top it off, Pinker still buys into the very fantasy of utopian thinking he appears to excoriate as treacle.  A perception placed in my head, no doubt, by Rene Dubos’ The Dreams of Reason.  Dubos, himself a scientist, has the character to see the really scary utopian fantasies have not come from lame artists but out of the “science” camp.  These science guys are constantly coming up with some “facts” or some “truths” that will somehow make the misery of human existence less miserable.  Oh, yes, one day we shall conquer, if only we are tough enough and able to look “reality” in the face.

People ARE selfish; people do kill each other, etc.  As if one didn’t know that and as if it took science to explain to us that getting rid of this nastiness will prove quite difficult.  But this again is the academic’s tough guy privilege: to throw the cold water of reality into the faces of unsuspecting students or a docile public.  But as noted, Pinker takes away with one hand and gives back with the other.  I, the tough guy, know,the idealists of the 60’s were bullshit, but I the realist have the answers or will have them when one day science solves everything.

Talk about your treacle, otherwise known as rampant bullshit.

Portal Headings

Noodling around possible chapter or portal headings for my hypothetical reader—one might be “What am I?”  All the headings will have the single letter word “I” in it.  As in “How Do I Feel?” protalheadingThere’s a bit of a pun in that one.  One asks how do you feel and one says well, I feel fine or whatever.  But I mean “how” does one feel in biochemical sense—what are the emotions/feelings/affects biochemically speaking.  This heading too might point in the direction of those “lower” portions, down on the brain stem, that seem to have something to do with the primal fight/flight response. 

Adrenaline.

Dopamine.

Seritonin.

“What Do I Feel,” however, pretty much says what it means.  What is one feeling?

“Who Am I” points in the direction of identity.

But what am I?—that’s a bit odd I think.  I guess one would first say—man or woman.  But I think I am thinking some lower down and a bit more primal than that: the distinction or the attempt to make it between human beings and the animals.  Aristotle: the rational animal, Hegel the sick animal.  My response though would be more in the direction of: human beings: the social animal.

My readings in and around evolutionary theory suggest that may be really What One Is?  The social animal.  In spite of all the nonsense about the selfish gene, human beings appear not selfish but completely gregarious and mutually supportive.  Selfishness is the epiphenomenon of this deeper phenomenon.  People throw out the baby with the bath water on that one, depending on the fish they want to fry.  But what gets us along in any case is not individual, atomistic selfishness, but group being and group creation. 

Thus human beings: the social animal.  And so, sociology points out at the extreme, coming at times quite close to a tabla rasa notion of mind, that what human beings know is what they have learned from other human beings and from the very social structures (quite real structures like building and roads) that guide them in their responses to each other without really having to know anything.  Human beings have moved or changed rapidly because they leave behind them structures upon which the next generation builds.  Genetic adaptation is not necessary, since we build our own environment.  But this capacity to erect a social environment that might be built upon is no doubt the result of a genetic predisposition.

The downside of this or at least one downside—because there are others—is the business about hyper conformity.  Nietzsche emphasizes this aspect with his quite correct characterization of human beings as the herd animal.  Supposedly—this is the ideology—individuality, individual effort, and most especially individual responsibility are prized qualities or values…But it’s well nigh impossible to buck conformity.  Hell, it is impossible.

Remark re: history of ideas.  The enlightenment set off this whole view with people like Helvictius and Rousseau later.  Nietzsche is made possible by the sociological view—in fact his philosophizing might be an attempt to figure out how individuals might arise from the herd.

 

Wikipedia

As I was saying, thinking about materials for a reader I went online.  Who needs a reader, a hard copy one, I mean.  I didn’t have even to go that far into the mess to be overwhelmed by mass of materials out there on every subject known to humanity.

And Wikipedia is turning into a really useful instrument, especially if you are looking for info on current stuff.  They have decent references on the diverse subjects they treat and unlike your regular encyclopedia, mostly because their space is unlimited, there’s no filtering device, i.e. a certain limited number of pages. 

knowledge pyramid 

I wonder if one might construct sort of a knowledge ratio to the effect: limited amounts of documentation, limited space, high or low, produces a greater or less constricted knowledge hierarchy.  In the old encyclopedia Britannica for example one might possibly have found an entry on Andy Capp and his creation, Little Abner, but I don’t think one would have found much more than that Capp drew a comic strip called, Little Abner, that appear in such and such number of newspapers.  Certainly not, as one may find in Wikipedia, a list of every damn character that ever appeared in the strip along with a short “biography” of each.

I wonder if some sort of knowledge flow chart or graph could be constructed: data base plus space plus labor.  The greater the factor under each of these items the more the knowledge curve or knowledge hierarchy would tend to flatten towards infinity, while the less under each category the more the chart would approach a perfect pyramid.  The very peak of the pyramid would consist of the longest of all documents, as the determinative of their importance, with as one went down more and more documents with less and less space devoted to each.

In any case, on the web, there’s plenty enough to go around.  Within minutes, I had located articles, magazine and journal, as well as video on the “topics” I was trying to look into.  This is the “death” of the reader.  Already, one can think of the reader as a portal to web based research, reading and viewing.  Eventually the portal will disappear into the very thing it is opening up.

The web not the book is, without a doubt, the future of reading and writing, barring of course some natural or unnatural disaster that sends this whole electrical thing into the void.  But barring that, the teaching of writing has to become more and more rooted in that digital universe.  The web of course can not teach people how to read and write, but the fact of it will alter individual’s relation to both and the purposes of each.

One of my lit. teachers back in the 60’s let us write extra credit papers on the Death of the Novel.  I forget what I concluded.  But clearly THE NOVEL is dead; or rather the novel has found itself a niche market.  The Book too will die, if it is not already dead, that thing I grew up holding in my hands, the pages of which I turned, slowly or quickly, whatever you did the pages had to be turned—The BOOK will find its niche, but it won’t be where the big bucks are. 

 Information, not contemplation, is the name of the game these days.

 

Death of the Reader

Talk about your misleading entry title.  My subject here is not as profound as the reader might larrybassume.  As the author has died so must the reader, I guess.  But actually I am referring here to “readers” as they are called in the world of writing instructors.  These are collections of articles, essays, and other sorts of writing/readings assigned by writing instructors to their students for the purpose largely of giving students something to write about when they write.

I have hardly ever used these collections myself.  I did for a while when I was the person training teaching assistants to work in our Writing Program.  They were required to use Behrens “Reading And Writing Across the Curriculum” or WRAC, as we came informally to call it, and so I used it too.  That seemed only fair.   

One may find quite an enormous variety of such readers.  Back in the day, when publishers were possibly less cost conscious, I was flooded with the things, new ones appearing every other day it seemed in my mail box.  I think there are still quite a few of them, and they can be money makers for their editors.  Larry Behrens, for example, had an office two doors down from me, and I know he made more than chump change off his book.  Also, one door way, and two doors away are the editors of Common Culture, a reader that has made its co-editors some money.

I have toyed for years with the idea of making up a reader and making some money from it.  Why not?  But I never get very far with the idea.  It just seems like too much work, or too much of the kind of work I don’t really want to do, sifting through articles trying to find ones that might work with your average, generic American college student.  And, well, I must say, I am not entirely in favor of such readers.  Not because they are bad, but because in my opinion writing teachers should always make their own readers.  That’s what I have done, so everybody else should do it too.

Aside though from this rampant narcissism, I have a slightly more rational reason for taking this position.  Making up your own reader tends to compel the instructor to think a bit more about the readings, their over all purposes, their levels of difficulty, and how they might be used in writing assignments.  Your pre-packaged commercial reader doesn’t require the instructor to do this and sometimes I think they act a bit too much as a prop for the writing instructor, though I do know your average free way flier instructor simply may not have the luxury of the time that I have to waste putting together a reader, when they are readily available pre-canned as it were.

My reservations, though, re: readers did not keep me recently from putting together a proposal for just one such reader that I sent off to McGraw Hill.  I haven’t heard from them yet, and I don’t expect them to take me up on the project, since my ideas tend towards the eccentric.  Still, for the heck of it, I started in the last few days to put together a trail run reader that I will use in one of my courses this upcoming quarter.  Looking around for readings, of course, led me to forage on the web, and this foraging has led me to conclude that your basic “reader” is dead, but doesn’t know it yet.

To be continued…..

Workers of the World

Maybe I am just too easily perturbed or maybe things are just very perturbing.  So I am giving The Nation its weekly read and I find a brief essay by Walter Mosley on the class structure of these workersuniteUnited States.  And I am perturbed.  He’s not saying anything remotely new or something I don’t think about nearly every day.  But I am perturbed anyway.

Maybe these things need to be said over and over and over until somebody happens to listen.  The USA, for all its wealth, is a class society.  Funny, Roosevelt said that clearly.  Mosley concludes his little essay with this line: “A man can be rich, but only a nation can be wealthy. And if any person of any age suffers from poverty, then our whole country bears the shame.”  That’s FDR revisited from when he said—and I forget the exact words—the health of a nation is to be judge by the health of the least among us.

Over and over again.  I am glad Mosley is saying it again of course, but I doubt we have one Democrat in office that has the guts today to say what Roosevelt said in his.  I have had the painful misfortune of having lived since almost the moment I was born in 1945 through a period—excepting for a brief outburst of something in the 60’s—of monstrous reaction.

 The money lenders and the merchants of greed came to dominate the rhetoric of this country and managed to draw a veil over the yawning chasm between the classes.  That’s the victory of the consumer society.  Everybody had more crap to put in his or her garage.  Everybody could share in this superabundance of crap.  We could all eat shit equally; and people have bought it for the last 60 years.

Oh, but oh my, people will say, we have now a new global world order.  Things are just not the same.  Painful scarifies will be required (usually of other people).  No, things have not changed.  Marx was terrible on communism (though he did say he was not a Marxist) but dead on when it came to capitalism.  The Manifesto lays it out clearly.  Marx knew about global capitalism back then.  That’s why he wrote, Workers of the World Unite.  He knew more than most know today.

Over and over and over again—and I suppose people should and must say these things over and over and over again.  But I am getting tired.  And I have a pessimistic streak; it’s really hard not to have one.  Perhaps people are not able to recognize their own self-interest. It’s beginning to feel like Nietzsche’s Eternal Repetition of the Same, and, well, that is truly the road to nihilism.

I can’t go on; I go on.  Says Beckett over and over again.  That’s not a philosophy designed to promote social change, that nihilism.  But perhaps the road to Heaven goes straight through Hell. 

Idiot Winds

Yesterday for me was the last day of classes for the Fall Quarter 2006.

I have been teaching since 1976, so I have had a lot of last days of classes.  But I am still no good at “closure.”  Of all the idiot words running around I like “closure.”  But I am no good at it.

rippedMaybe I should bring cookies or bake a cake or barbeque for the last day of class like some of my colleagues do.  I think about it but never do.  So maybe I am no good at closure because I don’t care enough to want to do anything about it.

But I thought I had something that might make the last meeting a little less lame than usual. We sit there usually, and I ask questions about the last paper and ask them if they have questions about the last paper.  The students look all pale and worn out.  I suppose I could give them a quiz to perk them up.

But I had them write their last paper on “Fight Club” because the “theme” for these particular classes had been the consumer society.  I have very mixed feelings about “Fight Club.”  But it’s all I could think to use at the time.  I don’t know if it’s a complex film or with that twist at the end just takes an ironic distance towards itself and so undercuts itself entire.

But that’s another question.  We all had more or less decided on the basis of a few readings that the movie wasn’t just about the consumer society but had something to do also with being masculine or not in the modern world.  I apologized to the young women in the class for a movie so masculine in its emphasis but they didn’t seem to mind.  One even said it was her favorite movie.  She is real bright too but having a very hard time trying to be pre-med—all that biology and chemistry.

But I think, while I am reading the LA Times at breakfast, here’s something that might enliven the last session.  They have a column on another nut form of religion making the rounds.  As the article indicates fewer and fewer men seem to be attending church; the majority of church goers are women.  So the evangelical freaks to get more warm bodies in their pews have decided that modern Christianity is emasculating or de-balling, and are trying to lure more men by preaching a new “rugged” Christianity.

Christ was really a rabble rouseer, a guy who hung out with his homies doing drugs on the street corner and spent lots of time out in the desert living off the land like a real ape man.  Christ as Ripped.  Christ the body builder. And when he was up there on the cross, he really toughed it out.  I asked my students if one of them could photo shop for me an image of Christ on the Cross but really, really buffed up.

But I say this whole thing is about controlling women and quote one of the rules of one of these churches: Rule No. 1: "Learn to work the toilet seat. You’re a big girl. If it’s up, put it down."  But a couple of the young women say that women should learn to “work the tiolet seat.”

I can’t win for losing.  The class ended, as far as I was concerned, having achieved a total lack of closure.

Info and Knowledge

I would hope that if, dear reader, you happened to take my Crime and Punishishment quiz that you got 100%.  If I did not construct a quiz whose answers were self-evident, I failed in my efforts.  I don’t nichtmarthink that my literature Professor would have liked this quiz much because it makes mock of  the idea of the English Department as the warden of a specific discipline or knowledge base.  I mean if nobody really wants or needs the information of the knowledge base or the knowledge base is somehow made to appear transparent one is not a warden of much.

But I would say the word “knowledge” is thrown around these days a bit too indiscriminately; disciplinary knowledge is not a knowledge base but an information base.  Or more precisely if one can find no point to the information, aside from the fact that one might possible call it “interesting,” then it is not knowledge.  Knowledge–or at least preliminary baby steps towards it–is information with a point or meaning.  My quiz provided transparent information arranged in a way to suggest potentials for possible meanings.

That’s a terrible definition for what I think teaching and/or education to be: information with the potential for meaning.  One has, as a teacher, to somehow stimulate in the student the sense that this information is not dead and just lying there, as in having murdered to dissect, but might for the student possibly come to mean something and that in trying to figure that meaning a student might come to a knowledge (meaning, significance, importance plus information).  Professors, however, who say  their job is to teach the subject and not the students don’t see it that way.

People said that—back in the backlash to the sixties which set in by the late seventies.  I was a college student in the late 60’s and I must say personally that I had no idea which end was up about much of anything.  But students a bit older than I or perhaps just wiser began to question the way higher education was being done.  And many, many Professors, especially those who were authorities in their discipline, did not like the questions students were asking at all. 

I remember sitting in graduate school when a Professor said that–I teach the subject not students–and it stung then, and I still feel the sting of it because—and I know I am being presumptuous—anybody who says that and means it should not be allowed to mount the podium.  But I need to get off this topic rapidly.  It perturbs me.

I am too old to spend what is left of my time on this globe being perturbed.  I am all for the powers of positive repression and forgetting.  Still, I remember a very nice Professor, who was an expert on Conrad, visiting my class one time; she had a bit more to say about the class than the other Professor had.  She said, “You really should talk more.”  I interpreted this negatively of course, and said, yes, I knew the discussion had not gone well.  But again we (the writing teacher and the Professor) were talking at cross purposes.  I thought she meant I should have talked more to stir the pot for discussion, but, no, that was not it.  You have, she said, such smart things to say.  Why deny them what you know so well and express so clearly.

Damn—was I in a pickle.  

Nightmare

I do understand the emotions that might have driven writing teachers to want to lay claim to content.  The professors in the English Department, who rarely if ever taught composition, were nonetheless the bosses of those of us who did.  Before the writing program moved off, at least bureaucratically, on its own, my classes were visited, for the purposes of review and rehiring, for a number of years by English professors.

nightmareI remember having been visited by a Renaissance Scholar who made me pretty nervous.  He wasn’t a bad guy but I was pretty sure he was an elitist. He thought poetry was the highest form of literature and, how to say, the highest of all forms of experience.  I was, that quarter, teaching the second course in the sequence, the one that featured, in the closing weeks of the quarter, a novel.  I did Crime and Punishment for old times sake and as a tribute to my misspent youth (misspent reading Russian novels when I should have been out getting more well rounded).  I broke the students into groups to consider directed questions.  They kicked in and I felt the class had gone pretty well.

The professor, as he left, paused for a moment.  He was smiling so I figured I had done OK.  I guess I had, but he didn’t say anything about the class and the students or the quality of discussion.  Instead he expressed mild surprise at my not having called students’ attention in a particular passage to an allusion Dostoevsky had made to Pushkin.  Oh yea Eugene Onegan, I said since I figured he was really trying to see if I had caught the reference.  I had but I didn’t let on that I had never read the damn thing and had no intention of doing so.

And that was it, really, for comment or response to the class.  I had trouble not feeling his lack of response was a cover for a negative one.  But now I don’t think that was it.  I valued the way I had conducted the class, the way I had managed and elicited discussion, and he valued Crime and Punishment and my expert knowledge of it which I did have since I have always been an excellent reader.  He simply saw a different class than the one I thought I was teaching.

I wasn’t trying to impart to students some esoteric knowledge about Crime and Punishment or to use it as a way to teach students about symbolism or the early forms of the naturalistic novel or about C and P as a sociological treatise on the alienating effects of the movement of persons from rural to urban environments.  I didn’t want C and P to be about anything, but more a thing between myself and the students to be kicked this way and that and as offering a communicative scaffolding between the students and myself.  So that as we looked into the book and wrote about it we might also look a bit into each other.

I rather doubt the English Professor would have appreciated the quiz I liked to give on C and P.  We are going to have a quiz today, I would tell the students, and they would look downright shocked since I never quizzed them on anything.  Take out a pencil and a piece of paper, I would say, and then, Oh, forget it, we can do this orally:

Question 1:  what is the sex of Raskolnikov’s mother?

Question 2:  what is the sex of Raskolnikov’s sister?

Question 3: what is the sex of Sonya the prostitute?

Question 4:  what is the sex of the old lady that Raskolnikov kills with an ax?

Question 5:  what is the sex of the mare in the horrible nightmare of the horse beating?

Question 6: what is Raskolnikov’s sex?