I have the class I’m teaching today, Literary Classics and Film Adaptations. I’m having several difficulties with the class. Not the students, the students are amazing – I’m so lucky to have such a wonderful, engaged, class. But, the syllabus. Haven’t had a single film adaptation, and don’t have one on the syllabus. The professor said to one of the students in my section that the only reason it has “film adaptations” in the title is to trick students into taking the class. She told me when I asked that she didn’t have any films in mind. So part of my class prep is trying to find films we can use as adaptations, but since the texts weren’t picked with that in mind, so far I’ve only managed to get one. We’re also doing a lot of “non-narrative” texts, which is difficult. Herodotus Histories, Augustine’s Confessions….these are not texts to breeze through in a week. And yet, that’s what we’re trying to do.
The syllabus also includes a number Christian texts. I’m an atheist, and already troubled by the seeming agenda in the reading selections and lecture framework. So from Exodus (and how it was presented in lecture: “the power of faith will keep you free, no matter how much oppression you experience”) to Confessions, which is what we’re doing today, we had Sophocles and The Aeneid. Why not the Oddessey, of which there are actual (great) film adaptations? Because “The Aeneid shows the glory of dying for your country.”
What’s especially troubling me today, though, is my students’ responses to Antigone, which we did the week before last and I just finished grading. Several students cited the lecture in defending Creon for “sticking to his word.” If you’re not familiar with Antigone, well, then you can’t see how absurd this is. But if you’ve read Antigone, then you know that one of Sophocles’s points was that stubborn, angry pride was Creon’s downfall, his fatal flaw if you will. That Sophocles pitted the will of the gods against the will of the state, and the gods came out triumphant. Creon “sticking to his word,” refusing to listen to the gods, the people, or his advisors and change an unjust law, is the sign of a bad leader. Bad! But of course, in lecture this was taught as a good thing, “at least he was strong and didn’t back down.” Which is terrifying to me, because apparently a few of the students who hadn’t thought so in our discussion had their interpretation changed by the lecture.
Should I mention also that our discussion on Antigone is the one the professor came to observe and that she taught Antigone after hearing our class discussion on it? That, according to the student responses, she said that this was the only understanding of the text?
So yeah, I’m going to have to try to address this again today. Any suggestions on how?