Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Reading Faulkner - Vol. 2

Today was our first class, and it was a full class, 95% of whom raised their hands and admitted to having read The Sound and the Fury in their past lives and nearly the same number who admitted ot having finished the book recently, for this class.

Scarlet and I may be in over our heads.

The professor looks like someone I could be friends with, someone more concerned with words than appearance.  Once she got into the swing of the audio-visual set up and stopped reading her notes, she gave a concise history of literary criticism from the early 20th century to the present day, clearly establishing which camp she favored. 

She also told us that sometime during his sojourn with the Canadian armed forces (he was too skinny for the USofA) he added a u to his last name.  It was moments like those that kept me engaged during the paragraphs of dense critical theory; I had to pay attention in case she dropped another nugget.

That's what I like about the Humanities Seminars - they manage to satisfy a wide variety of students at the same time.  I'm certain there are those who wish  for more detail, just as I'm certain that I wasn't the only one who sometimes felt a bit afloat.  But we're all in it together.  Even if I can't read a word she's put up on the screens, I can follow along in my own text.

In fact, the section she planned to examine was the section I'd read an hour before, over lunch.  I understood my Cajun Po'boy more than I did the words on the page before me.  I got into my car remembering my feeble attempts to understand the medical students chapter in Ulysses and laughing as I realized that I was, once again, up against the inexplicable.

So, in the questions period after the lecture, I asked if she had any suggestions for how I should read the work.  I'm not stupid, but... and I was interrupted by knowing laughter.  At least I wasn't alone.
She told me to just plow on through it, not to worry about the details of the plot, that somehow I'd come to see that I knew exactly what was going on.

She admitted that it was confusing.  Since she'd started the lecture by wondering how many of us had wanted to throw the book across the floor at some point... or many points.... I knew she felt my pain.  She sympathized.  But she promised that it would be worth it.

So, instead of Ulysses I'm going to approach it like The Big Sleep, a book and a movie that I respect, that I love, that I can be amused by over and over again even though following the plot is nearly impossible.  Think you know who killed Eddie Mars?  When called to the movie set to answer that among other questions, Raymond Chandler said Who cares?  Who knows?

The plot is kind of the point, and it's not.

That's all I've got to go with.  We shall see how it turns out.

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