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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Back to Reality.

You know you're back from your conference fun when you get 10 minutes into a discussion on "To Penshurst" in an upper-level undergraduate seminar before realizing that at least half the class believes the poem to be a literal description of some really bountiful place where eels actually jump into your hand when you want them to and partridges are totally excited to be killed and servants looooove being servants, because of how delicious the meat downstairs is. Of course, no one in the class has ever been a liveried servant or gone eeling. Nor have I, come to think of it. Maybe eels do that? And how do we know what partridges think? Perhaps their painted outsides are masking sad, sad partridge hearts, and they are excited to be killed. I suppose that would explain the depressive/obsessive pear-tree dwelling I've observed in other partridges. Anyway, I am forever surprised by all the things I shouldn't take for granted in the classroom. Like, that suicidal eels are a signpost of fantasy.

  • At 4/11/2007 01:20:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    A bit tangential, but...

    I'm in grading hell, and have read the following.

    1. Apparently, the play is titled Antony in Cleopatra, not Antony and Cleopatra. This is quite fitting, in a way.

    2. Apparently, Shakespeare subscribed to eugenics. (Scary.)

    3. Apparently, women universally cause "tragedies, accidents, and other misfortunes." (Ugh.)

    I wish I could have such a reading of To Penshurst.


  • At 4/11/2007 07:02:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    I've never been a liveried servant either, but boys at my small rural elementary school did go eeling, and one of them once brought one to school with him. It may have jumped happily into his hand, but by the time it reached the bucket it looked about as depressed as a partridge...


  • At 4/11/2007 10:29:00 AM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    Anon: Your comment made me say "Antony and Cleopatra" out loud, and I noticed that in my American slurring way, I pretty much call it "Antony n Cleopatra". Reminds me of when my student asked me where all the nuts were in the play that I realized I had been calling Much Ado About Nuttin.

    Ok. that didn't happen. But it could have!

    And lucy: Freud would have a FIELD DAY with that particular memory of yours... or, perhaps, with my analysis of it.


  • At 4/11/2007 10:58:00 AM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Anon: I think your students have just discovered a beautiful egg corn.


  • At 4/11/2007 11:30:00 AM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    T: when I taught Penshurst, I found it helped immensely to show them some paintings of the Land of Cockayne--this one is great: the pig who carries his own carving knife on his back, the guy waiting for cakes to fall into his mouth (I think), the goose with the pre-broken neck. They liked it and got it more easily in visual form. But what is that guy in the background doing on the very thin tree branch?


  • At 4/11/2007 02:26:00 PM, Blogger Flavia wrote…

    Is anyone else hearing "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" right about now?


  • At 4/11/2007 02:31:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Flavia: Funny you bring that up, because I mentioned Big Rock Candy Mountain to my students when I taught Penshurst. None of them had ever heard of it. I guess the 60s folk revival is well and truly dead.


  • At 4/11/2007 02:41:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    Not to mention the Coen brothers.


  • At 4/12/2007 08:59:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Not to mention the Coen brothers.

    Don't be so sure...on my way home from SAA, actually, I was happily surprised to see that The Big Lebowski was showing on the E! Channel. (Hooray for Delta's DirectTV, not as good as Jet Blue, but good enough). E! was showing it under their "Movies We Love" series.

    I'm not sure how this all relates back to the Renaissance (and stuff)...although...surely there's a 16th century encomium about bowling??


  • At 4/12/2007 02:53:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Falstaff = early modern Walter Sobchak


  • At 4/12/2007 03:34:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Anon: it's not a bad comparison. Although I think Walter is actually brave, just an asshole.


  • At 4/13/2007 10:15:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Funny, I had the opposite experience teaching it -- my students were so immediately cynical and dubious about the self-sacrificing eels (and servants evidently suffering from Stockholm-syndrome) that I had to work to get them to take the poem itself seriously, and not dismiss it out of hand.

    You know the comment: "Like, it's just SOOO unrealistic. . ."

    Yeah, it's poetry.


  • At 4/13/2007 11:06:00 AM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    What I wouldn't give for some generative cynicism from this particular group of students. They are a very literal-minded bunch this semester, which means I have to shift my pedagogical orientation from what I usually do (unraveling social fantasy and politics in/through poetic forms) to what I usually don't do (leading discussions about the powerful symbolism in a poem that helps us understand the heartfelt intention of its speaker).


  • At 4/13/2007 02:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    I really don't have anything of substance to add here, but I couldn't resist posting a comment when my word verification read "ofouk".


  • At 4/13/2007 09:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    Ben Jonson, "heartfelt" . . . that's funny! I could see how that could hurt.

    (now who's the cynic??)

    As for "ofouk," does the gang at BTR have archaic profanity programmed into their comment function? Maledicta, where can I get me some of that?


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