After a frenzy of post-Marxist theory and post-Freudian analysis–that is to say, after reading up on the last decade’s scholarship for my end-of-semester papers–I’ve dug into Robert Fagles’s translation of Homer’s Iliad. To say that such a shift is a relief simply does no justice to the joy of reading old books without the nattering critics and their little academic careers. (I’m harboring no illusions–I’m certain that during my comps year I’ll be sending off my own forgettable little articles to attempt to shore up my own little academic career.) I dusted off a reread of Virgil’s Aeneid last Christmas, and if I have a few quiet hours this year, I’m probably going to consume another ancient epic.
Speaking of old books, my Plato course’s evaluations came in today, and they were even better than the ones I got for last Spring’s Hebrew Bible and/as Literature class. (Not sure if the latter link will work; I’ll update it when I get access to the department page to post spring syllabi.) I could claim some sort of grand skill in teaching freshmen, but a year ago, I got some of the most wretched reviews I’d ever gotten. (That was my fourth year teaching college.) The change is not in my ability but in the texts at hand; college students know good books from mediocre ones, and when I started teaching Job and Republic instead of “Divinity and Pornography,” they started reacting better to my classes. Now, as I gear up to teach Joseph in January and the Psalms in February, I know that I don’t have to be a fabulous teacher to make this work, and I also know that if I do perform fabulously, I’ll be leaping forth from the shoulders of great texts.
It makes one want to get back to school, no? 🙂