(Lights up on a section. Jargon Boy and Unfortunate Sap are already seated. Enter TA.)
TA. Hi, everyone. Boy, it’s cold out there. How were people’s weeks? (Silence.) OK.
(Enter Student, in a hurry.)
STUDENT. Hi! Sorry.
TA. That’s OK. (in that irritating “gotcha” tone that teachers who think they’re hip have) I didn’t see you in lecture today.
STUDENT. Oh. No, I was there.
TA. Were you?
STUDENT. Yeah. I guess you didn’t see me.
TA. Oh. OK. What did you think of the lecture?
STUDENT(thinking fast). Ahh … well, I was hoping we’d talk about that today. I didn’t really understand. I was having some trouble with the concepts in … how do you pronounce his name?
TA. Her. Heimel.
STUDENT. Yeah. Heimel. I was a little lost.
TA. OK, why don’t we get started. So. Heimel! What were people’s reactions to Heimel’s approach to the material?
(Jargon Boy raises his hand.)
JARGON BOY. (Significant pause.) Agency.
TA (shuddering with a thrill of anticipation). Elaborate?
JB. Agency … decenters the self’s self-self-redefinition of subaltern counter-elision with respect to agency itself.
TA. Agency itself?
TA (satiatedly). Mmmm … (returning for more) so you feel that the agentification of the ego is ultimately self-defeating?
JB. Self-conscious consciousness ultimately ensconces unconscionable conscientiousness in its concept.
TA. Very interesting. (returning to reality) Why don’t we hear from someone else. Kathy, why don’t you summarize for the rest of the class what the main … thrust of the reading is?
UNFORTUNATE SAP. Um … OK … well, there’s this guy, and this girl, and their dog.
JB. A tripartite representation of the inherently unstable equilibrium of the modern American romance.
TA (eager to get back to his mad jargonstyle). How so?
JB. The dog incarnates the Other, the exile, the liminal animalistic side of us all. (The TA liked that) His essentially canine dogginess attracts yet repels his companions, such that they are forced to seek refuge in each other to evade his autochthonic primordiality. In order to escape him, they must enact a narrative which simultaneously fetishizes and reifies his carnivorous virility.
TA. So you’re saying that she does not, in fact, love him, but rather she simply loves his doggystyle.
JB. In an unconsciously sublimated fashion, yes.
TA. Mmm. (Seeing that he’s done.) Well, shall we go on with the summary?
UNFORTUNATE SAP (after a pause). Oh! Um … right. So these three are… (Flips through immensely thick book.) … it doesn’t specify where they are, I don’t think. And … well, it’s open to some interpretation, but they seem to be exploring the limits of the self, I think.
TA. You don’t think the specific action is significant?
US. Well, they are all doing the same thing, but…
TA. I think that their action is key. Let’s look at the bottom of page 294. Note that the action signifier is repeated three times. “Run run run.”
STUDENT(incredulously). Wait a minute. The reading is freaking Dick and Jane?!
UNFORTUNATE SAP. Yeah … it’s Heimel’s new critical edition.
STUDENT. But it’s Dick and Jane! With the three-word sentences and the goddamn K-car! How do you make a course out of that?!
JB. Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. To properly contextualize contemporary texts, we must examine the primary sources which molded the psyche of the authorial construct.
(Student stares at JB for a minute. Then back to TA.)
STUDENT. Dick and Jane?!
TA. I didn’t notice you having any problems when we read Peter Rabbit. It’s a comparable work, exploring the human-animal interface.
STUDENT. We did Peter Rabbit?
TA. Last week. Weren’t you here?
STUDENT. Yeah, but nobody said anything about rabbits. You were talking about some garden gate as a symbolic vagina dentata!
UNFORTUNATE SAP. Well, yeah, of course. Didn’t you read the essay in the packet?
STUDENT. The packet costs a hundred and fifty dollars and I haven’t been able to hire a Sherpa to help me carry it home yet.
UNFORTUNATE SAP. You can hire a Sherpa in the basement of Hendrie Hall this semester.
TA. Sherpa or no Sherpa, if you haven’t done the reading, I suggest you listen to your classmates who have. You can pick it up along the way. Now I’d like to get back to the discussion. We were examining the “run run run” passage. Joel, would you like to pick that up?
JB. Well, in the kinetic dialectic of the text, motivation is key. Their conflicting impulses to flee and yet return are resolved through the inherentification of motion into the concepts of Dick and of Jane. This embedded conceptuality plays itself out in the text.
TA (encouragingly). So … running is central to this text?
STUDENT. I was reminded of the role played by the Christ symbol in the New Testament.
TA. Hmm … that’s good … very good. Now, Joel. Your last paper made a compelling case for applying Aristotle’s Poetics to Mrs. Piggly-Wiggly. Do you think Aristotle’s methods are useful here?
JB. Well, I think anagnorisis makes an appearance in the text.
TA (sensuously). Anagnorisis?
JB. Yes…but not peripeteia.
TA. Mmmmm. Would you…would you say that again?
JB. But not peripeteia.
TA. Ooh. I see. So, do you think Dick is a tragic hero?
JB. In some respects, yes. He is the Othello to Spot’s Iago.
TA. What … makes him a tragic hero?
JB. Well, he dies in the end.
UNFORTUNATE SAP. Metaphorically.
TA (that’s not it) Yes …. and what does he have?
JB. Um … well, he has anagnorisis later in the narrative … but not peripeteia … (doesn’t work this time) … unity of time … unity of place … unity of action …
UNFORTUNATE SAP. Moutarde!
TA (tense). No, Joel, what does he have that makes him a tragic hero?
JB. Um …. choryphaeus? Synecdoche? Strophe! Antistrophe!
TA (that was it). Yes! Yes! Oh, yes! (sort of embarrassed) Well … I think maybe we digressed a bit there. My apologies, I was a classics major as an undergrad and it’s always been my first love. Um … I guess we’re out of time. I … I have office hours this week if you want to talk about your papers. Email me to make an appointment so I know to show up.
(Unfortunate Sap files out. JB looks as if he’s about to say something, then goes out, defeated.)
STUDENT. Say, uh … I’ve been thinking, and I’m getting a bit worried about my grade in this course.
TA. You’re not doing so badly. Your biggest problem was your class participation, which has … improved. Your comment about the New Testament was .. .really insightful. You’ll be fine.
STUDENT. Well, even so I’d really like to do well on this next paper. So, maybe I could come to your office hours on Thursday?
TA. Um, OK. I’ll make a note of that…
STUDENT. And we could talk about … hamartia.
(TA shudders again. STUDENT smiles and exits.)