Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Lunch with the Rektor

The UiB rektor. Nah, just kiddng. There is no possible way
Faulkner could look like more of a clotpole in this picture.
I had a great session with my students today on Faulkner. There were, of course, moments where I checked on simple plot points to get “uhhhh…”s from everyone, but since Faulkner buries his key action deep in parenthesized side points, that was the very reason I was checking. Towards the end I allowed some of my vitriolic hatred of him to seep out. The truth is, it’s as much directed towards the professor who first taught me this book as to its author. I have plenty of “static, impotent rage” towards the guy who was such a man’s-club kind of jerk, he used to invite a select couple of the guys (the ones who said maybe Eudora Welty’s heroine wanted to be raped) back to his office for drinks. And who actually said “she’s a mature feminist” of Toni Morrison. Afterwards I could have kicked myself for not sneering, “I’ve never yet met a mature misogynist, why must we needs be mature feminists?” I’ve sneered it a thousand times in my dreams (yes, my best dreams are of repartee unrealized). Anyhow, I offered the students Beloved as a panacea to all Faulkner’s offensive yet intricate assholery (the man who wrote that woman lead lives "not only divorced from, but irrevocably excommunicated from, all reality" can be nothing but a jerk) and was proud of setting aside my rage for most of the discussion so we could play with all his brilliance instead of dissecting his woman-hating.

One of my high schoolers wrote a facetious comparison of the US and UK and, at the end, apologized “for being troll.” I’m not sure if that’s a Norwegian expression, or if he meant “droll.” Either way, it earns a =) -plus.

Today the rektor (equivalent of president) of the University in Bergen had all us Bergen Fulbright folk over for lunch. I was exhausted, having skyped late the night before and then planned my lessons, which started at 8am this morning. At midnight, reading an entire chapter on the concept of “the uncanny” just doesn’t mean a whole lot, and even now I’m still inclined to exclaim at the surprising amount of nothing the author fit into a whole lot of words.
Me in a week. 
Anyhow, all eight of us Bergen Fulbrighters met up for the first time since orientation. Embarrassingly, there was a setting with a bright yellow card with “obs” printed on it for me, to clue in anybody who hadn’t noticed my strange eating habits. At first our American instincts commandeered the conversation, as we all cheerfully chatted and caught up on the past few months. Then the rektor took control and steered the conversation back into an introduction routine where we explained where from, what doing, what the university could fix for us…  I meant to give a simple review of my activities (ETA in Bergen, love it, thanks so much, Mr. Rektor, sir) but somehow got us all sidetracked into a discussion of the pros and cons of equality in education (Norwegian egalitarianism versus American competition). It was actually kind of fascinating to sit in a room full of academics and listen to their perspectives. Also, normally with that many smart people in one place, someone gets peacocky and struts their stuff. But we all have Fulbrights, so everyone pretty much pleasantly assumed we’re all tops and just enjoyed themselves. It was a nice preview of the Fulbright seminar next week—I’m starting to look forward to it. They’re taking us to Lillehammer to ski. Winter Olympics, anyone?

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