On the one hand, on the other hand …
On the one hand: a good thesis is worth writing. Learn to distill in a sentence or two the essential nature, as you see it, of the tensions embedded in a particular work of art. Assume that there are tensions: humans show up for tension, drama, conflict, the gnashing of teeth, the renting of garments. Take the thesis as a bold creative act: you are not a student in high school, but a god whose utterance becomes the law upon which culture depends. Speak now.
On the other hand: they are bored, and the insipid paraphrase represents for them the full potential of the thesis. The poem shows that getting old is depressing. The passage shows that love can sometimes lead to obsession. This shows that. This shows that. And what if they’re right, every thesis, however eloquent, is a despotic imposition of order on chaos? So: quit the thesis business. Explore other modes of discourse. Have students write instruction manuals for video games based on the novel.
I’ll have to dig out Dag Solstad later. And maybe Susan Sontag. This was going somewhere. The impossibility of duplicating in a classroom the passion once felt for art when it was new. An erotics of art.
I’m at a bar after the final exam of the night course I teach. Old fashioned in front of me. Football game on a screen. Typing this into a phone. Losing the tail of it. Like when my daughter’s ferret escapes beneath the couch when I try to catch and return it to her room. Lunge, miss.