Well, I am going to keep today's post on the brief side. I read a bit of The Rights of Desire while waiting for my Apocalyptic Literature class to finish writing their final examinations, so I finished my dissertation work relatively early today.
The last day of classes always tends to remind me of why I am writing the dissertation in the first place. This semester, I had the wonderful opportunity to teach two upper-level literature courses: Apocalyptic Literature and Existential Literature. It has been a dream of mine to teach the latter course for as long as I have wanted to work as a university-level teacher, so I can check off that bit of my proverbial bucket list. The former class was something I hadn't planned on teaching, actually. Through a strange chain of events, a course proposal for a Dystopian Fiction course was picked up by the department and morphed into Apocalyptic Literature. Then, after spending the better part of five months preparing for what I thought was going to be a lecture course, I was hired to teach first-year writing and, for a short while, it looked like the Apocalyptic Lit class was going to be cancelled. Fortunately, it wasn't. The weird thing was that, at nearly ninety students, the course was designated as a discussion course.
Within two weeks, I was delighted to find myself with two discussion-heavy courses in which student participation rarely, if ever, lagged. Over the course of the semester, I got to know dozens of fascinating young men and women who made both classes as much a learning experience for me as any course I had ever taken as a student. Today, as students thanked me for such interesting courses, I was astonished to receive gifts in addition to the normal handshakes and pleasantries. And, though I am always extremely flattered when students tell me how much they enjoyed a given class, I could not believe the number of students who said so today. I was moved close to tears on several occasions. I mean, I wanted to thank them for exactly the same thing!
I suppose what I am saying is this: when a student who has always struggled to "get" literature walks up to you and says "I don't know how you did it, but somehow you made English my favorite class this semester!" you can't help but feel humbled. After all, all I have ever wanted to do was share my love of literature and ideas with people, to get other people to join in on the great conversation and to share the passion I feel for my favorite books and authors. You cannot help but feel humbled when you realize that the students tell you this when they know you are not the one grading them (I was assigned a grader), when even the most cynical of perspectives cannot dismiss such comments as sycophantic attempts at obtaining better grades. When my Existential Lit class applauded my return after the auto accident, when my students bought me pizza for the last day of class, when an entire class voluntarily stayed to watch The Seventh Seal after all course work and exams had been completed, I was speechless with gratitude. I mean, to see one's own passion spread to others is a joy unlike anything else in the world and to be appreciated for doing so is beyond my capacity for expression. No, those thank yous and I learned a lots were genuine and I am so very thankful to have had the opportunity to teach and learn from such grateful and intelligent young people.
And, if I can spend my career serving such wonderful people, I will be a very happy man. That is why I write the dissertation: for the opportunity, for the honor of teaching and learning, of friendships formed and passions shared. Truly, I love what I do. So, thank you, students! Thank you for the inspiration to work on my dissertation and for giving me a sense of purpose in life. There really is no greater gift than that.
For tomorrow: Transcribe or read.