February 06, 2005

A Professor's Nightmare

Well, I had my first experience as a college lecturer on Friday. I spoke to a class of about 15 Japanese students on Ernest Hemingway's (very) short story "Indian Camp." I'd say about 6 or 7 of the students had read the story, while the others were kind enough to at least bring a copy of it to class (assuming the professor didn't distribute these copies to them before I arrived). After doing intense "close reading," bringing me back to my years at UC, and a lot of research on the web (no library to help me out here), I decided to wing a talk on coming of age stories, rites of initiation, and the collapse of value systems that is a pervasive theme in modernism. I rambled, sweating profusely in my sweater and coat (take your coat off Jeff, take it off), for about 40 minutes not knowing it was that long. I covered questions like "Daddy/Mommy, where do we go when we die?" and the all important adage "It ain't like it used to be." Ater getting past my failed attempt to bring Yeats's oft-quoted poem "The Second Coming" into the (lack of) discussion, things really did fall apart. I performed some simple tests (show of hands, etc.), made bad jokes, smiled at the one cute student in the front who was avidly listening, and then made more bad jokes. To wrap it all up, I covered the issue of "gendered writing" (if such a thing exists) and the importance of reading literature for its own sake (not for a class or for some preparation for a test which will always lead to more tests), which left me with about half of the class there (literally they were walking out, as I overran my time limit). So much for teaching at the collegiate level.

Afterwards I went to the professor's office, drank coffee, talked about Berkeley, about Japan, and about Japanese movies (mostly just Kurosawa) with two of the professors there. I learned a quote that is from Kurosawa's Ikiru (I missed this quote, along with most of the dialogue, when I watched it last year without subtitles): "Inochi mijikashi koiseyo otome," meaning "Life is short, love women." Then they laughed when they told me this quote...laughed a lot.

Saturday went down the tubes to teaching EFL to my students Naoya and Kazuto and then drinking a lot of coffee and doing nothing. Today went by too quickly--I had lunch with a new friend, spoke for a long time with her, went swimming, ate spicy curry at the Indian restaurant near the station, and now I am being as productive as hell by sitting here in this expensive I-cafe (would it be a typo, or sudden revelation, to call it an "internet cage"?...f and g are so close...) when I should be reading the fine and disturbingly beautiful/complex work of Oe Kenzaburo.


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