I went to one of the few "talks" that the literature department puts up. They bring in an eminent professor of something. The format turns me into a somnambulist, but I go anyway.
Cameron teaches at Johns Hopkins University. She read a paper about the philosophical underpinnings of Herman Melville's Billy Budd, which my uncle Robert seems to like, but I have not read it. Thus the talk was tougher to follow, although I caught on when she was talking about Moby Dick, of which I have read 200 pages or so. It's not that tough of a read.
I wondered why the AZ Quarterly people wanted to have the talk in a small room, right off from the main English office. Not too many people showed up, but the room was a bomb. Prof. Cameron nearly passed out! She had to take off her jacket, sit down and read, and then take a break to "wash her face," as it was sweaty. A couple opened windows didn't really aid in confines.
Of course, I was warm, but not really bothered by it. The professoriat, especially in English, seems to be less than hardy folks. I probably intimidate some people -- I don't look like your average English grad student; I lack the secondhand dusty blazer and throwover satchel. I've grown to like it when I go into an office that serves me in my teaching, and they ask me, "What can we do for you?" Or, "We're closed." That really happened. I guess as long as I look like an undergrad, I don't have to feel weird, like some of my late-30s colleagues, making a killer $10,000 a year.
With the heat, and the fact that I played 90 minutes of basketball at noon, my eyes were droopy. It was just like wanting to fall asleep right after lunch at high school -- oh that physics teacher Mr. Sindberg!
The question after going to a talk is always, What did you think about the talk? I thought the physical reaction by Cameron pretty comical. I just think elderly professors should retire. The talk: she had an impressive mix of Derridean deconstruction-style reading, talking about binaries, heirarchies, and erasures in the text. I really liked her definition of "characterization" (actually she had a neologism for this, but I forgot it) -- her idea was that stories actually erase the character traits that characters begin with. Her mixing in of Schopenhauer's World as Will and Representation was great, but maybe I just like that stuff. I considered asking a question about that, but I couldn't think of a decent way to frame it -- I've not read Billy Budd. Of course, Schopenhauer's Eastern philosophy-influenced idea that "will" erases all traces of individuality -- that's a sweet idea. Overall, I'm always impressed by the scholars who do what I wish I could do. They have years on me, and unlike me, think of "working out" as absurd. But I'm the one that didn't nearly pass out. --a