Monday, August 20, 2007

verse makes comeback on campus circa '95

I love teaching English 88, my modern & contemporary American poetry course, in part because the thing has evolved in such a way that it is something of a three-ring circus. It's created a life of its own, and certainly the vitality of the poetry hasn't hurt any. As the century ended and a new one began, of course I added new contemporary materials; as online technology improved, I added more e-features; as my disinclination to lecture deepened I abandoned even the 5-minute set-piece, no matter how instructive. So unlike my Holocaust course, which is, alas, inert in several respects, this course is dynamic, a moving target, as digressive as some of my favorite verse.

Anyway, the first time I really felt I was in the sway of this course, it was 1995 and I was teaching it to 90 students in a large cavernous space in unrenovated Bennett Hall on Penn's Campus, and the thing just went wildly off the rails, which of course was just what made it so terrific. The Philadelphia Inquirer somehow got word of this, and sent Lily Eng, who was then covering higher ed for them, to see what was going on. She made a "trend piece" of it, consulting with others about how and why poetry was "making a comeback." But the article nonetheless gives a sense of what fun we were having.

And anyway, how often does one read about the Baroness Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven in your local daily newspaper?