It’s been a pretty interesting week of teaching all and all. On Monday I was still feeling the effects of the norovirus so there was some definite ups and downs. And, of course, now that the semester has set in and its has been really quite cold outside, the students were on the quiet side.
But there was some highlights as well. In my Monday night elective, we worked on the first half of On the Road and “Howl”. Students at my college really take to Kerouac and Hemingway (from the week before). I showed them the connection between the two writers, particularly made manifest by their common utilization of Ecclesiastes; for Hemingway, it is in the epigraph and for Kerouac it is in the text. Always a thrilling moment. I think what most draws them to On the Road, though, is that while it admires Dean M/Neal C, it is not written in the spirit of Dean/Neal. There is a great deal of sexual energy, freedom, and desire present. But ultimately the tone is more in keeping with Sal/Jack. The need to talk, the need to connect, before the sexual act. The search for something called God as something to salve the soul.
We didn’t get to spend as much time on “Howl” as I would have liked. But one student was really turned on to Ginsberg and plans to write his research paper about him. Those moments are what make teaching so rewarding.
Meanwhile in my freshman experience class, I tried to mess with the freshmen’s heads by suggesting that literature is actually a form of technology. It is a somewhat daft notion (though not completely daft). If nothing else, it is an interesting thought experiment that gets them to try and discover what literature really is and does. That it is not useless.
I’m back home from a long day of teaching Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus and Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. All in all, I think both classes went well. I brought a different perspective to TSAR than I have in the past. One of the points that has often troubled me about this novel is the seeming anti-Semitism associated with the character of Robert Cohen. The abuse heaped upon Robert never added quite up; it seemed quite out of character for Hemingway.
I recently read The Living Moment: Modernism in a Broken World by Jeffrey Hart, and I think Hart has developed a theory that works for me, at least. He examines TSAR in context with The Great Gatsby and The Wasteland. In any case, he concludes that while Cohen’s biography may have been taken from someone else, Cohen’s personality is that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s. It does make some sense. Cohen’s overt romanticism and sentimentality parallels those of FSF. Cohen is an outcast and outsider at WASP Princeton, much like FSF. Cohen is browbeaten by the woman he is pursuing, much like FSF. Hemingway, Hart concludes, was frustrated by the success of GG and found it overly romantic. TSAR is the response. It is definitely an argument worth considering. (The Living Moment: Modernism in a Broken World: Jeffrey Hart: 9780810128217: Amazon.com: Books)
Today is one of those schizophrenic days you sometimes get in teaching. In one class, I have Christopher Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus. In another class, I have Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. It can make your head swim a bit. But it always good to dive into the richness and the diversity of the our literary heritage. Marlowe and Hemingway — so little to do with one another, but geniuses in their own right. I’m going to enjoy today. Will try to post again when it’s all over.