Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Rugged Ascent

This afternoon I had my students do a close reading of Plato's Allegory of the Cave for the entire class period, and I have to say that they did an amazing job. I remember being wowed by Plato when I first read him as a college student, but several years later (and after one absolutely useless semester at the University of Dallas--the most narrow-minded, ideologically driven mockery of education) I just don't get that excited about Plato. Derrida? Yes. Blanchot? Heidegger? Yes, yes.

I wanted my students to get a feel of how a much more advanced philosophy course might be, doing a hermeneutical exercise for an extended period of time. Of course, we only covered two of the four-page excerpt, but I had students who I had assumed had already checked out of education altogether raise their hands and want to argue/discuss/interpret/analyze. One student in particular--one who has never spoken up in class before--started doing a Freudian analysis of Plato's allegory. Granted, he had never heard of Freud before, but his interpretation was dead-on. (I have colleagues at the university who would've been lost with what this college freshman was saying!) I joked with my students that they were doing advanced philosophy and that I wanted them to dumb it down a little.

In my own philosophy course this afternoon we read a short poem by Celan, taking three hours to barely cover the three stanzas. My head is still spinning. And of course I feel even more like I need to go back and reread all that Plato I haven't been excited about in twenty years. Being/Becoming a professor opens up all kinds of avenues of (feelings of) inadequacy.

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