This is what I had to read for my history class this semester. Yeah, the one where I’m getting the B.
I just returned from that class. It was every Wednesday from 5:10pm to 7:40pm, and except for the very first class that I missed because my best friend’s wedding was more important, I’ve been to every lecture.
We read Postmodern and Multicultural writers for today’s assignment. We talked about Thomas Pynchon, Raymond Carver, Toni Morrison and Gloria Anzaldúa.
That bunch of students are among the most articulate and thoroughly thoughtful I’ve ever been honored to be in the same room with.
The professor is excellent, and he encourages dialogue and moderates debates. The class is so intellectually stimulating and intimidating at the same time.
Anyway, we got to the part of the classtime today where we focused on Toni Morrison. I wanted to be able to comment, because she’s one of my favorite authors, and seriously, she blows my mind and I can’t recommend her strongly enough.
The piece we discussed has racially ambiguous main characters. It is set in and around New York City.
So, there’s my first comment: With the names of surrounding towns in the NYC area, I tried figuring out the characters’ race, because we know some towns to have a certain economic status, and that status we typically ascribe to race. The professor responded with his fascination of the microcommunities and vast diversity of New York City.
That comment came out more clearly than I expected. Most of the time it’s “ga-ga, goo-goo.”
Regarding multicultural literature, the trope of the “usable past” describes parts of history that relate to us but cannot recover, so we use what we can recover and make the rest of it up for our own benefit, so we can feel we have heritage. The characters in the Morrison piece are a good example of this concept.
So, for my second, which was also my last comment of the semester for this class, because it was the last time we would formally meet, I related the idea to another trope from earlier in the semester. I said something like how the story makes me think of the nonrecoverable past as the “anti-frontier,” and the usable past is comparable to “imagined communities” in that it is an attempt to become part of a community we can’t access. So the professor responded saying he can follow the thought of “imagined communities” but could I talk more (and when he began that part of the sentence I looked down at my notebook and started to laugh, because I honestly hadn’t thought further on the idea) about the “anti-frontier.” Without pause, I clarified that the frontier is where we haven’t been, and the past is where we came from so it’s the anti-frontier, and the term was my trying to articulate the thought.
Then he said, “That sounds really smart. I’m going to write that down.”
The class giggled. I blushed. Then he wrote it in blue pen in the margin of his notes.
Not a bad last comment, for getting a B and all.
He concluded the lecture with a rousing speech about how he’s never had a brighter English 293 class. He’s enjoyed the dialogue throughout the semester. He encouraged us to go and do great things by being critics or writers, or just by continuing to have wonderful ideas. I felt a little heat in my throat and my eyes well.
It was a truly amazing class.