All Sociology students read Durkheim.
As an anthro undergrad I read Durkheim. And now I am preparing a lecture & activity for Intro to Soc class based on an excerpt of Durkheim's The Rules of Sociological Method. Not my favorite read. I fought with each sentence. Some I fought with repeatedly. So many words to say something that could otherwise be much clearer... at least to my 2009 ears.
What a way with words they had in 1892-1895ish. As one of the SOC students put it, "why can't they translate this into Modern English?"**
**1) I'm pretty sure this is a translation from French
2) And it is in Modern English -- technically speaking (As opposed to Old or Middle English... go read the
Canterbury Tales for a sampling of Middle English or Beowulf for Old English.)
I can say that the despite quibbling over the technicalities (see above**), I am not a fan of Durkheim's writing style, and I share my student's lack of enthusiasm for it. But it's not very inspiring when your teacher doesn't like the reading. As a reader, I am not known for my patience or attention to detail. However, I think that persevering when things get tough is really important. Just because we can read doesn't mean we should stop learning to read.
On to the 50 Cent Word part: Durkheim brought up another familiar wordy phenomenon (other than spelling pet peeves.) You know when you are reasonably sure that you could use a word correctly or give an example of its use, but your mind goes blank when you are asked to give a definition for the word? Well, the essay was littered with those and a few completely out-of-my-ballpark words. So, surprise. Teachers have that experience too. It's just rare that students ask us to define a word. It's usually the teacher asking the student. That has to stop. Or the reverse should start. I'll argue it should go both ways. I don't use desideratum in every day speech... or ever, up to thank-you-Durkheim. (Long live online dictionaries!) To address this students of Introduction to Sociology are calling me on those words. And I thank them... and ask them to continue. (Which made me really nervous about the day I sprung ontology, epistemology, and 5 other ill-timed related -ologies of them.)
We call it the 50 Cent Word. Though with inflation and all we might want to refer to them as $2.50 Words. It started with me telling a story about a program I did at the Boys & Girls Club called 50 Cent Word. The gist of the program sort of a riff on the Pee-wee's Playhouse word of the day. But it became something more. Any time I used big, unfamiliar word the middle school kids there would inform me "that's a 50 Cent word" -- this was generally said while rolling their eyes or acting somewhat exasperated. And that was my cue to break it down a bit. I told this story to the sociology class. And now we collect words. So this is the list that the Durkheim essay produced: annul zealous ascending dogma indignation atrocities Sui generis immanence amalgam (*Check the opening scene in Parenthood with Steve Martin. Trust me.) aphorism ascertainable fathom substratum coalescence anatomical (* Anatomy anyone? The man was making a metaphor here.) morphological
Please be kind. My typo catching editor is on break. (So I'll post this now and inevitably be irritated by the typos I find tomorrow... but someone asked if I was still writing. I'm aiming for once a week - but last week was break, so I'm behind.)