Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Sorry everyone

I'm going to a seminar at the English Subject Centre tonight, called 'On the Offensive', in which we're going to discuss how to teach subjects and texts which students may find challenging. Of all the quangos I've dealt with, the ESC is by far the best and most useful as I've become a university lecturer - so obviously the government is going to abolish it.

It's going to be very useful: I've had complaints about the immoral nature of the two books we've given the first years this semester (Samuelson's Beauty and Davies's Freshers). I've also (inadvertently) shown the students the Laurence Olivier 'blacked-up' Othello, and colleagues regularly examine the nature and role of pornography in a module on social taboos.

The Othello was a bit unfortunate. I actually only picked it because it was the only one with a running time of under 3 hours, which is the maximum teaching slot. Not only was Olivier's blackface a disgrace, it's an awful production. Hammy, stagy, melodramatic. As to Beauty and Freshers: they're both very flawed books - Beauty makes me more uncomfortable every time I think about it - but the fact that some characters do offensive things is the least of my concerns. If you can't deal with imaginary characters' behaviour, you probably shouldn't leave the house: there are a lot of bad people out there.

So basically what I'm going to say tonight is that your beliefs should be challenged by reading. Otherwise you may as well content yourself with the ingredients list of your favourite cereal for all the intellectual nourishment you'll get.

At this point I'd like to show you a clip from one of my favourite films, Clueless, but I can't find it on Youtube, so you'll have to make do with one of Cher's best lines in text:

Until mankind is peaceful enough not to have violence on the news, there's no point in taking it out of shows that need it for entertainment value.
Many, many more wonderful lines from that film here.

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