i started classes on wednesday. im taking three this semester. one is a post WWII american literature course, another is a film and human rights course, and the third is an independent study course, where i will be writing a longer project and communicating with a professor via email, and not necessarily attending a class.
wednesday was the american literature class.
ive been back in school for about 3 years now, maybe even longer if i really do the math, and although ive had some fairly inspiring and encouraging professors, ive yet to experience a class with that oh-my-god-you-make-learning-so-exciting teacher. i havent gone through a dead poets society type semester, where the lines of academia, inspiration, and fun intertwine to create a near magical experience i'll remember for the rest of my days. ive had smart teachers and unorthodox teachers and teachers that spoke to their students in a humble, understanding tone. ive had annoying teachers and condescending teachers and teachers that seemed like they had long ago checked out of the profession. ive always done a good job in the classes though, and assumed that the exhilarating, change your life or at least the way you think about things type teacher and course was something of fiction. a thing that hollywood made up.
i might be wrong.
the professor for my literature class is fairly young, just a bit older than me. he was tall and thin and good looking in that intellectual literary way. he wore glasses and smiled a lot. i imagine if he taught at a bigger university, he would be the teacher that new students swooned over. something im sure, in this speculative world, would land him in trouble. but thats neither here nor there.
he started off by handing out a small, seven page print-out. im going to do things a little different this semester, he said, and i'll explain that to you in a while, but first were going to read the prologue to ralph ellison's "Invisible Man," and while were reading it, im going to play a little Louis Armstrong.
ive read the prologue to invisible man before, its an iconic piece of writing in one of americas most important novels. a novel i read years ago and was so floored and intimidated by, that i never dared pick up the book again. it would be good to read it in a class, to discuss its many themes with a group of people also reading it. and reading it while listening to jazz, well, that just seems appropriate. hell, its a great idea. this class is looking good, i thought. whats the catch?
he then went on to explain that he felt that literature after WWII, especially american literature, was greatly influenced by music. particularly jazz music. i couldnt argue with that, in fact, i believe i have said something similar in the past.
i felt myself getting a boner. things shifted down there.
we read the prologue and its just as mysterious and brilliant as i remembered. the whole time louis is playing the trumpet or singing the blues. the entire class is swaying along with the meter of ellison's prose and the broken heart of armstrongs horn. im dizzy in words and music and all the grand thoughts behind them. we finish the piece and in the background like a pleasant whisper satchmo keeps playing.
the teacher says: usually my courses are a great deal of intensive writing. but this semester it wont be like that - this semester will be intensive reading. see, i got into this profession because i love books, particularly novels, and i love to study them and talk about them. there are some great novels to read, and i want you all to enjoy and appreciate what they have to offer.
i stiffened a little more, still wary of it all. this class cant be that good, can it? he handed out the syllabus. then went on.
you'll notice there are only four essays due this semester, he went on, all at about five pages each. most of your grade will involve class discussion, as well as participation in a blog i have set up just for this course. you can post your own ideas -ideas about the books in the class- as they come to you, but mostly you will be commenting on post i put up asking you to explore certain elements of the work we'll be doing. the comments are public, so even though this is somewhat informal, choose your words carefully and think about what you are saying before you post. i'm sure some of you might get a little happy with the reefer and post at 3am [the class chuckled at this observation] , in this case, depending on the content of your comment or post, i will give you the opportunity to rescind your statement. but i am curious as to what one might say at 3am, so ill allow posting and commenting 24 hours a day.
wait a minute? most of our grade will depend on blog post and comments? about the books we are reading? and hes aware of and allowing to some extent, the posting of comments/post while possibly inebriated, just because hes curious what we'll say? at this point my boner is raging.
then we go over the books we will be reading during the course of the semester. the aforementioned Invisible Man, then a book by phillip roth, a memoir i wanted to read a few years ago but never got around to, a don dellilo book i already own, a cormac mcarthy book i already own, and a few other, decidedly great novels. the fact that its got probably the three greatest living american authors on the list [and my personal favorite] just made things that much more exciting.
and he says, after discussing the novels and their merits for a bit, ok, you all have a lot of reading to do, so i'll let you go early tonight. see you next week.
i looked at the clock then, it was only 7:30. i would have time to stop and get a drink on the way home and still be able to watch LOST at a reasonable hour.
thats when i came my pants.