So, as English major, I have to take class on Goeffrey Chaucer and write a paper on Troilus and Criseyde. This is a pretty long poem with the same name as a play by Shakespeare, though Chaucer wrote before Shakespeare in Middle English. I read the poem in translation and I hated it because the so-called hero, Troilus, was like in love with Criseyde. I forget the particulars but every time the guy made it into an intimate situation with Criseyde where they might have consummated their relation in a physical way the fucker, Troilus I mean, would actually faint or pass out or something to that effect.
So I started writing this paper on how screwed up Troilus was and how he couldn’t be a proper hero and so on if he fucking fainted when he had the opportunity to get some snatch (excuse me). I even read some Freud on sexual hysteria to back up my claim and tied all that back into the religious theme of the poem because it did have a religious theme. And I am typing away on this thing at around 4 in the morning of the day it is due and realize I have just written a pile of crap.
It was a sort of light bulb experience because a number of other things came together. I realized that in attacking Troilus as an impotent and ineffectual jerk I was not talking about the poem “as a whole.” I was making the mistake of actually identifying with a character, Troilus, and I wasn’t supposed to do that at all. I couldn’t do that if I was to understand and write about the poem “as a whole.” And I saw then rather dimly but more clearly later that my dislike of Troilus was an obvious projection of my own sexual problem. Like I was the one who felt like passing out in situations with potential for fucking. So actually writing on Troilus in that way I had been engaged in psychological self-flagellation.
s I said, this was a major break through. I would have to stop identifying with the characters if I were to write about the work “as a whole,” as, as it were, a whole universe in microcosm, complete down to its own laws of gravity. The problem here was that really, unless you were an English major and had to write papers on stuff, if you cut off your identification with the characters you really didn’t have a whole lot of reason to read the book, except that it was a book on the must read list of books for English majors.
So I got a D+ on the paper but an A for the class because the professor gave A’s to everybody that had a beard because he was on LSD all the time. And I didn’t learn how to pronounce Chaucer properly, his being in middle English and all, and that came back to bite me in the ass like 20 years later when I am taking my first orals for my PhD, and I am just flying along knocking them dead with my knowledge of the novel, until this jerk hands me some Chaucer and asks me to read it. I mean hell it might as well have been in a foreign language because Middle English is nearly a foreign language. And the fuckers have the gall to pass me through the orals, but with “reservations” one of them being that I should learn how to speak Chaucer properly.
Now why should I learn to speak Chaucer properly, you might well ask. Absolutely no reason at all. Just that if you were an English major you were supposed to know how to speak Chaucer in case somebody came up to you at a party and asked you to talk Chaucer, since you were an English major. Like in the same way, I guess, that if you are a doctor and somebody has a heart attack at a party you, as a doctor, are expected to act like you know what you are doing. Well, in the 28 years since I fucked up that orals and sat through a whole class on how to speak Chaucer, nobody has ever asked me to speak Chaucer because nobody gives a shit about Chaucer or Middle English, except English Majors.
The whole thing is a like a sociological tautology.