Yesterday I was sitting in my office with my office mate, Leslie, working. Our office door was open, and in walked an English professor. Abruptly interrupting our work with an angry soliloquy on students today, specifically students in his class.
First, this professor is a highly esteemed, older gentleman known to be a really “cool” instructor. His specialty lies in Modern Literature, and he has a perchance for the Beat writers. He sits on the table cross-legged while he lectures. Despite his age, he relates well to students, and in return, students adore him. I had him as an instructor years ago and can attest that he is funny, captivating, and brilliant. I loved him.
So this professor, before he came storming into my office, had been teaching an upper-division Modern Literature class. As he explained–disheveled and distraught–he was introducing the novel the class was about to begin reading: To The Lighthouse. To his utter dismay not one student in his 30 person class had ever heard of Virginia Woolf. He asked if they had seen (at this point he assumed that they probably had not read) The Hours. “You know,” he said, “the movie with Nicole Kidman? She won an Oscar for her performance.”
Blank stares. He asked if anyone had heard of the play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Blank stares.
He was besides himself. How could not one of these students not even know who Virginia Woolf was, surely one of the greatest female writers of all time? He blamed Katy Perry. He stomped around my office. Then he blamed Gwen Stefani.
Leslie and I sympathized with him. We too grew upset over the state of our school system. Why aren’t kids reading Woolf in school? But mostly, we just let him vent.
I said, “Well, think of the power you have now. Now you get to introduced them to the greatest woman writer ever. You can change their whole lives!”
He looked at me. Turned around and walked out of my office. As he left, he said, “Bye. I’m going to go kill myself now.”
And that is how you piss off a literature professor.
But, his anger is warranted. These days–and I see it with my own kids–reading is replaced with video games, TV, phones, computers. How sad.
So, as a reminder of the beauty of books, I found this video (it’s gone viral so it’s not like I actually *found* it):