Sunday, April 27, 2008

Torrential Downpour

Why I read: "for here there is no place that does not see you"
On Friday, I wrote about the very real impact literature has had on my life. And perhaps I should also recall my reading of Rilke's "The Archaic Torso of Apollo." I have rarely been able to separate my reading from a religious quest. I believe reading can be a deep, spiritual experience, a journey into the soul. Perhaps I should be embarrassed to speak of reading this way, but I am not. I read to know myself, to push myself into a deep and sometimes difficult journey into humanity.

Treat for class

In the past when teaching Pinter's "The Dumb Waiter," I've been tempted to bring in some contemporary comic versions of Absurdism to show the class. I think I may finally do it: it's a good lit class, engaging and thoughtful. They deserve some laughs. I'll show at least one sketch of The Kids in the Hall (there are some nice vaudeville riffs), and one sketch from Saturday Night Live (my favorite: Tim Meadows as the straight man census taker and Christopher Walken as a completely wacky fellow). I ought to borrow a DVD of Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

I sometimes feel a low-brow guilt in my teaching: I'm perhaps too willing to incorporate popular culture into class. In my lit class, I've compared works we've read to things like The Simpsons, Office Space, Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle, Nip/Tuck, The Sopranos, Big Love, and a whole host of other movies and TV shows that would probably make the professors I admired throughout college throw up. In comp class, it's somewhat more justifiable to focus units on pop culture: as students work hard to improve their writing, it can be useful to allow them to write about something they are familiar with.

Summer Reading
Between here and summer are still roughly 25 moderately sized papers, 25 lengthy final exams, 75 research papers, and a few other things thrown in. That makes it seem rather far away, which makes it difficult to process the fact that indeed it will be full-throttle summer in less than three weeks.

gave myself a rather arbitrary rule for summer novel reading. As most of my novel reading in the past year had been devoted to Dostoevsky (who writes rather long books), I plan to read novels 200-350 pages in length by several different authors. That may be tough: it will mean resisting my constant temptation to give up and just re-read The Brothers Karamozov. Of course I hope to read a fair amount of poetry, drama, and non-fiction as well.

At The Philosopher's Magazine, James Garvey considers the difficulty of utilitarian arguments for vegetarianism. Worthwhile and interesting stuff, though I admit I don't think of my vegetarianism in utilitarian terms.

Martin E. Marty in "Imagine There's No Islam" (Religion Dispatches):

"Rather than seek to “'destroy' Islam and the Muslims, one infers, it might be better for all peoples of faith to look more in the mirror and less out the window, to promote peace."

Center of Gravitas on attempts to limit what professors talk about and assign for reading:

"Republicans give faculty way too much credit while giving university students none at all. If, as a professor, I had the power to 'indoctrinate' my students, do you think that Bush would still be sitting in the White House? I have no special power to brainwash my students into being radicals. Heck, I can’t even convince my students to use the spell checker on their wordprocessor before submitting a paper. Just imagine how little power I have to foment revolution."

Rohan Maitzen in The Valve:

The Practice of Reading (1998), Denis Donoghue also calls for renewed aestheticism--but in the interests of an enhanced ethical engagement: 'the purpose of reading literature is to exercise or incite one’s imagination; specifically, one’s ability to imagine being different' (56). My own impression of what the broader public is interested in--and also of where they might both need and appreciate ‘expert’ guidance--would be ethical as much as aesthetic criticism, at least of fiction. Amateur book bloggers, Amazon reviewers, Oprah’s viewers, even many newspaper book reviewers are preoccupied with plot and character, with what happens to and to whom and why, and with judging the people, their decisions, and the results."

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