Monday, January 23, 2006

Some Velvet Morning

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Would I be risking jinxing my whole teaching world if I admitted how much I love my schedule and my classes this quarter? I teach a class on Poe MWF from 11 to 12, and then on Monday nights I teach queer theory.

The Poe class is a pure pleasure to teach. Pure, chewy, delicious pleasure. I get to teach really interesting and intellectually challenging classes in Womens' and Gender Studies, but I miss the comfortableness of teaching literature. Teaching all Poe, all quarter, is sumptuous, one of those classes where you kind of can't believe you get paid for teaching it (unless you're doing the grading, then you believe). I love it when Berenice's teeth roll to the floor.

Even though I always tell myself I'll do administrative stuff during the long, long break between classes, or maybe work out, or do research, I always end up doing lesson prep, even if, as was the case today, I had been prepping all weekend. The reason I vow not to prep is because I always take exactly as much time as I have to get ready for this class, so by the time 5:45 comes I'm a little freaked out, because this material is HARD, and no matter how many times I've taught it, I always get nervous that this time I won't possibly be able to explain it and that I've assigned too much, that the students will be resentful, and that I'll say things that are just too dirty or, even if I'm explaining a relatively innocuous concept, I'll use the word "fuck" too many times. By the time it's classtime, I'm really, really tired.

Tonight I had assigned all but the last chapter of Foucault's A History of Sexuality. I knew they wouldn't get through all of it, or even most of it, but I wanted them to at least have the experience of working through some of it. So I spent a huge part of yesterday wasting time putting together a powerpoint lecture. I know that sounds corporate and corny, like I'm running a benefits seminar, but I love finding pictures to go with the text, and writing the text in fonts like bloody drippy vampire font (when I write that people learned to confess "all the insinuations of the flesh: thoughts desires, voluptuous imaginings, delectations, combined movements of the body and the soul") or Bajoran font (when I write "the rise of the nation state"). I like that it means I can leave my notes on the podium and walk around the classroom, because my points are already up there. Tonight, without planning on it beforehand, I ended up using furbies as an example of non-normative sexuality. I think it was a safe example, because probably not many of my students are into that. And even if they are, it's not like I criticized or patholigized having sex in animal costumes. I just mentioned it. A lot.

My favorite part of Foucault night is when I have the students read case studies from the 19th century sexologist Krafft-Ebing. I have a 1946 reprint of Psychopathia Sexualis which still has the really naughty parts in latin. I like to teach this one:

Case 211. D., age forty-four; hereditarily predisposed; drinker, and suffering with lead poisoning. Until the last year he had masturbated much, and often drawn pornographic pictures and shown them to his acquaintances. He had repeatedly dressed himself as a woman in secret.
For two years, after becoming impotent, he had felt desire, while in crowds at dusk, mentulam denudare eamque ad nates mulieris crassissime terere. Once, when discovered in the act, he had been sentenced to imprisonment for four months.
His wife kept a milk shop. Iterum iterumque sibi temperare non potuit quin genitalia in ollam lacte completam mergeret. In the act he felt lustful pleasure, “as if touched with velvet.” He was cynical enough to use this milk for himself and the customers. During imprisonment alcoholic persecutory insanity developed in him.

The first latin phrase has to do with rubbing up against women; the second means "again and again he could not restrain himself from completely immersing his genitals in a jar of milk."

Edited to add: I have them read medical case studies to demonstrate one way (one of the most visible and obvious) sex gets put into discourse, and how sexual acts become medicalized as sexual pathologies. I like teaching this one because the milk part is pretty out there, and I like a good gross out.

3 Comments:

Anonymous What Now? said...

I love that the dirty bits are in Latin!

Your Poe class sounds like fun. I'm teaching a Twain class this term, which is the first time I've done a single author class in years and years. And so far I'm just loving it: the putting together the syllabus, the student presentations, the seminar format, the discussion, everything.

11:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

don't know how I missed this entry before. a couple of things...

Bajorans women kick ass.

There are actually a couple of open/out furries/plushies within Spectrum this year. But I don't think any of them are in your class. What puzzles me is why there is such a strong connection between furries and geekdom.

I've actually been suprised by the way people can react to what I think is going to be the most innocuous example for fetish acceptance. I did an exercise in a Spectrum workshop where I had people react to the issues of power and desirability in a series of images. One of them was of a man in a diaper holding a teddy bear. I went into the workshop thinking that diapering and plushie-love were two of the most "innocent" (recognizing that innocence is a problematic idea) fetishes imaginable, only to have everyone in the room immediately jump to the conclusion that this man must be a pedophile. It reminded me of Michael Warner's stuff about deflecting our shame onto other bodies... it's fascinating how eager a group of Queer individuals were to pass the "child molestor" label onto another sexually marginalized population.

~faggot rockstar noah vale

11:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. That guy holding the milk jug is actually kind of hot.

11:24 AM  

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