GREAT BOOKS & DEMOCRACY PINSKY.flv

good evening and welcome to the inaugural event in this colloquium presented by the NPC great books program I am David Clemens the program’s founder and coordinator this colloquium was made possible by a generous grant from the Apgar foundation and is co-sponsored by the Monterey County weekly thanks to both of them special thanks are also due Michelle Brock Rosa Arroyo George Reed and Jeanette Haxton before I introduce our speaker please take a moment to power off your cell phones now let us begin tonight and continuing for the next two weeks three distinguished speakers will consider the relationship between great books and democracy this week we will hear one view from a literary master next week we will hear a different view from a classicist and military historian and two weeks from now we will be offered the perspective of someone who spent years at the junction of culture and politics I hope you can join us for each of those the views our speakers will express are their own including line MDC as always is committed to institutional neutrality and to being the host of ideas not their sponsor in this case the question of a relationship between great books and democracy proceeds from three provocative perhaps even controversial assumptions that books and reading differ in a significant way from other forms of expression that some books are greater than other books and that the reading of these greater books in some way nurtures both the individual and democracy itself behind the historical notion of a great books core curriculum which dates from about 1920 at Columbia University has always been the presumption that one must have knowledge of certain fundamental ideas and texts in order to function as a responsible citizen in a representative democracy conversely democratic civilization is placed in jeopardy when its citizens have never absorbed its intellectual and moral heritage the future of the West’s focus on self criticism and individual rights grows dim when citizens have never studied the sources for the values founding documents laws history and when they have never experienced the imagination of their civilization that being the case you may be shocked to learn that there are only three great books programs in all of California’s a hundred ten community colleges that means almost three million students systematically deprived of any structured and coherent introduction to the western heritage instead our colleges are increasingly preoccupied with technologies profit-driven and spiritless training up and down the state most colleges are economizing by streamlining curriculum and cutting courses like Shakespeare now considered a dispensable luxury happily MPC enjoys more enlightened leadership under the guidance of dr. garrison it’s people like him who realize that such economy moves culminate in what Jaron Lanier calls the hive mind with students who graduate knowing how to work but neither how to live nor why the constant noise of modern culture distracts them from even asking such uncomfortable existential questions and they end up empty and Confused wandering in what lewis lapham calls the enchanted garden of the eternal now the extinction of the liberal arts in general and literature in particular is well documented and the subject of many recent books and studies the disquieting question at the center of our colloquium is whether the fate of the liberal arts might be tied to the fate of liberal democracy itself whether the fate of literature is entwined with the fate of the West tonight’s speaker

Robert Pinsky is known to us all as a superb poet essayist and teacher what you may not have known is that Robert is also the author of democracy culture and the voice of poetry his collected Tanner lectures delivered at Princeton you certainly know that Robert was United States poet laureate three times but you may not know that he loves jazz plays jazz in the shower I believe and then and performs his poetry to jazz you may know that Robert founded the favorite poem project but you may not know that Robert has written the libretto for an opera you may know that Robert appeared on The Simpsons but you may not know that Robert is also an aficionado of robots a number of which perform in his opera you may know that Robert is the poetry editor of slate ezine but you may not know that back in the 1980s Robert wrote a video game called mind wheel ladies and gentlemen please welcome a true 21st century Renaissance man Robert Pinsky thank you very much David and thank you all I’m going to speak to you informally and very much from the heart about this topic which is close to my heart attack and I’m within the large topic of great books and democracy or great literature and democracy I’m going to take as my starting point and the center of what I’m talking about the human voice I believe that if you ask most people about their favorite teachers were most important teachers are there great teachers it might be a science teacher might be a teacher from different culture in its language might be a literature teacher might be any of a number of things most people have an answer she was great he was really great teacher if you ask them what can remember that she ever said what did he teach you most of us stammered a little bit and a common answer is I can still hear her voice talking about the structure of the cell or I remember the way he sounded when he read that poem by Schiller or i can remember how passionate she was about the Constitution as it was whatever it was remember the sound of the voice and I believe that in both pedagogy and in art the somatic or bodily component is quite central I think it’s in our evolution as a creature I’ll give you an example my example is a 2-line poem always written the author was born in 1865 here is the pawn unloved ungreased and every human think time sprinkles in fees water with his wing so short I can say it again on love I’m green and every human thing patent sprinkles leave these water with his wing you don’t have to know what leaf he is Lethe is whatever time sprinkles on everything the author was an upper-class Englishman a very wealthy family he was very learned in Greek and Latin he was considered Walter savage Landor the 19th century poet he was considered one of the greatest lightens fourth poets of his time in 19th century people all over the world respected Lander is the best living poet writing poems in Latin as well as Greek he was upper class he was classically learned he was a crazy radical he said he’d like nothing better than see the King of England hung between the Archbishop’s of your candor pack and he had a great imagination but I don’t think he could have imagined me sort of lower middle class Jew from New Jersey

in America but when I say Landers palm three times at the beginning of the poem i put my upper teeth on my lower lip on love on grief and every human Tom’s sprinkle sleepies water with his wing three times at the end I personally lips time sprinkles bd’s water with this point I don’t think Lander had to think about those things he was an artist he just in them it’s not likely than he thought himself all three times of a fricative the upper teeth lower limb that’s not how one writes but he orchestrated what I do to my breath that I take in and when I expel it from my body and consciously or unconsciously anyone who sees the notation of the palm on a page or hears me read it consciously or unconsciously on some very important level you imagine yourself saying on love on grief on every human thing time sprinkles need these water with his wing and that physical imagining of that physical experience gives you an important component of your energy to think about how great it is to point out that wings don’t only propel they can sprinkle off to and what it means for forgetfulness to be sprinkled not engulfing but a dab of it a sprinkle of it and indeed verse the technology that I’ve been describing to you acknowledge view all the muscles we use the special organ we have here is part of this process of culture that we need as an animal in a famous flag tag it’s it’s a classical literature it’s a Shakespeare is it Swift it’s in the Bible the animal is kind of pathetic its claws are not very good weapons its teeth they’re terrible weapons its fur grows and silly patches I can’t run that well I can climb a little I can swim a little other animals much better but it has thrived and survived and even dominated because of this ability to communicate not only horizontally with the fears but with the predecessors and the descendants that by some combination of what we now divided to dance and music and poetry you can retain through a griot you contain not only property rights and family descent but where’s the best food at what time of year were the best marriage customs were the best funeral customs before we had digital ways of saving information we had print before print we had size things and I assume that our first technology had to do what we could do with the body itself my great teacher when I went to college made me aware of this I remain aware of it I think of poetry which in many ways is a not a democratic art you can think of poetry in english its origins and courts on the other hand implicit in what i’ve been saying to you is that the medium of a poem is not words that the medium of a bomb is not images certainly the medium that is what comes in between now the news media come between the events in the person teach the medium of tea lose the spirit medium between the Otherworld this one I’m suggesting to you that what comes between the audience for a poem and the reader is the readers body your own voice speaking personally I don’t write for my voice will didn’t read my palms to you by right for your voice I want to make you feel the way I feel about that poem by land or I like saying it if I’m right then poetry the art of poetry inherently and by the nature of its medium inherently and by the nature of its median is on a human scale this is not to say that poem might be stupid and a TV show might be a great work of art the medium of the TV show inherently and by its nature is on a mass scale the poem inherently and by its nature is on a human scale an individual scale my grade teacher Francis Ferguson in his book about Dante Dante’s dinner the mine had a very big

influence on me when I was 17 or 18 I thought I couldn’t understand the book I I admired Ferguson so much was frustrating to me that i read it and felt I was not really understanding it imagine my pleasure when I came to work on Dante myself much later and went back to the book and realist had depleted influenced me he says in that book about education in his book on Dante he goes back to Aristotle would Ferguson unlike me could read in the original Greek he says the formula he relates this to the working of literature of the theater the classical idea of how education works the classical formula is poema pat baima muffin that order poema pas fema muslimah making heard owning this poem suffering feeling is pat fema and then third mithila knowing i’ll quote from Ferguson he writes Plato and Aristotle both flawed that man had to burn by doing first trying something and suffering the consequences only then could he come to know consciously and intellectually both of them prescribed practical training for the young as a preliminary to intellectual training gymnastics music the inculcation of right habits through experience and then the philosophy which frees the market makes him his own answer in this sequence poema do we go it’s interesting as the word that means poetry is the word that means doing and I think I these made a step towards demonstrating that to you by saying that first of all the way you consider the lander poem as you consider it’s being it is primarily something you hear it’s something you do with your breath and your mouth that’s primary I think a lot of well-meaning teaching has given people the idea that a poem is first of all a challenge to see if you can say something smart about it I’m in favor of smart things I I would choose them over stupid things every time but a poem is not primarily something to say smart things about it is primarily something sense terrific when you say this theory relates to the psychology of learning the psychology of poetics Ferguson taught us not to speak about the meaning of a work of art he told us to speak about the action of a work of art Francis was himself a provincial he was from Albuquerque New Mexico and he won a rhodes scholarship to study biology with a hug sleep and on his vacation from Oxford he went to Paris and saw the Russian art theater and that was the end of biology for him and in that theater they took Aristotle’s Poetics seriously as a cookbook and Aristotle identifies the soul of a tragedy and that’s how this Ferguson taught us Aristotle says you can have a tragedy without choruses you can have tragedy with that spectacle you can have tragedy without poetry believe it or not even says it’s there in the poetics you can have a tragedy without character all these things are not the soul of the tragedy the soul of the tragedy is the action and the action is imitated or conveyed by the plot and he’s a great definer he says the plot is the arrangement of the incidents if the plot is good enough you may not even need to know the language to get something out of the play and here’s the difference as Ferguson Todd made between the plot and his start in the story there’s a king and the King goes the fortune-teller unfortunate says your wife is going to have a baby it’s going to be a male baby when it grows up it’s going to kill you its controls father and he’s going to marry

his own mother the Queen becomes pregnant she has a male baby and the King tells his counselor kill the baby counselor calls an assault for assistance soldier killed with a baby soldier takes the baby out into the hills and drives a spike through its angles into a rock and runs away some shepherd’s find the baby it isn’t doesn’t die of exposure it isn’t consumed by wild animals scheppers fun and freedom grows up to be a very likely young man very good at sales solving riddles riddles very strong though he lives a little blah blah blah blah blah that’s the story in Sophocles this plot eat up is turning us you may not need to know Greek because the chorus is there and they’re saying this the community is suffering their miming and dancing and chanting that something is wrong and then from the altar from the altar comes out this figure were in the high busking tragedy and says I will help you I’m the king and then you see him interrogate the series of people and his action depending upon what you decide as director is to heal the city to help the people to find the murderer to find out what is wrong to see the truth and the Russian art theatre they expressed this always as an infinitive and that’s what Ferguson taught us to do and the action of each speech in each scene is a component vector and he’d seen as a component vector of the overall action to save the city so when the messenger comes and the messengerĂ­s action is to protect himself and not tell too much what obey to obey but not tell and eda mrs. action is to find out and Jocasta’s between them and her action is the slow down eat abyss and she says be careful this may not be for your own good and he says my own good snaps my patience he wants to get the truth and the way friends is Todd who these little kids at the State University Rutgers and he would say a regardless of gender neuro failure your Hamlet your Polonius read it and then they meet a couple of speeches in our alternative voices and he’d say what’s our action what’s this action and we come up with an infinitive and this is consistent with the idea of poema my name that you hear it what is it doing what does it do to you and the drama is a model for literature he told us it’s important to say was the State University a land grant University and the context of my topic tonight it’s important to honor senator Morrell of Vermont senator Morrell the author’s morel land grant act of 1862 and eighteen eighty senator Morrell was a self-educated son of a blacksmith and he proposed that each state would have a university that would have land where would teach mechanical skills and agriculture and he also specifies in the more or less that it would bring the liberal arts that would bring liberal arts learning study of languages and philosophy and literature to the children of mechanics and farmers this act when it was first proposed was defeated it was defeated largely because the votes of southern senators and after secession when they were there it passed and president abraham lincoln signed it into law so thanks to the civil war ah I was there to here Ferguson described having told me what a plot is and that it’s the soul is the action of a work of art I could then hear him describe the performance of these tragedies he told us they took place on a holy day so it was like Christmas or Yom Kippur or something they were performed in front of the altar so it had a religious meaning it was also

civic and communal the familial families brought picnics they brought food and wine as they set to watch the tragedies and rich men would sponsor we’re appease or Sophocles er Aeschylus to train the chorus and the chorus were men and they moved a certain way that’s the way they moved in battle you were trained to become part of the machine had a shield and a sphere and they chanted it was like the manual of arms you chant and you thrust and you trust everybody next to you to be holding up even if they get wound they’re lifting the shield and then thrusting in rhythm together so it has military / times and it’s a competition prizes are awarded first second and third best tragedy so it’s like the world series or the Olympics and Yom Kippur and the Academy Awards and a Christmas and the fourth of July when everybody has a picnic in short the tragedies were the center of this culture it was the fear of the entire culture mysteriously for some reason this did not make my peers and many of my peers wrote books i was in college with allen shoes Henry Dumas and Peter Najarian a lot of those people in those classes did write books and we were like a world war two infantry movie was an Armenian and a thought you know Jude my god and for some reason it was inspiring to realize that we were not in such a culture that it was the theater of our own minds that these would take place and that’s sitting in this class saying what was the action of Uncle Vanya whatever we were in our own imaginations in acting what happened in that theater and his book is in her eventual book of all the wonderful addition of the poetics is called the idea of a theater and one of the things that title means is the idea of a human soul aun soul that becomes like a great capital city and i am here to tell you that i was thrilled by that and that the intensity of those works of art made possible for me about the moral Act I was there and the equivalent of that combination of the Super Bowl and christmas mass and the Academy Awards all happening in one place with everybody in town they’re having a picnic and watching it that was happening in my imagination is the center of civic life religious life military life patriotic life family life and somehow it made me very proud I’m now going to quote as is required by law to reveal it’s possible that that unlikely exhilaration rather than despair comparing New Jersey in the state university to Athens is related to what Tocqueville says about American poetry Tocqueville says quote I am persuaded that in the end democracy diverts the imagination from all that is external demand and fixes it on man alone the van persie tends to divert the imagination from all the other things that are in the world and focus it on the humans salt a few sentences later he says among the Democratic people poetry will not be fed with legends or the memorials of old traditions when I read that sentence I think how much I admire Longfellow for trying to create American mythology with Pocahontas Hiawatha Paul Revere and it didn’t work women somehow didn’t know what we wanted for our national mythology and it’s there and took vil sentence that will not be fed with legends or the memorials of all traditions I do like being the Avatar the present a descendant of Walter savage Landor but

it’s not mythology it’s got to do with the humans saw all these resources he stole feel says about the democratic citizen fail him legends traditions but man remains and the poet needs no more he concludes his speculations about Polytron by saying such are the poems of democracy such a the phones of democracy the principle of equality does not then destroy all the subjects of poetry it renders them less luminous fewer things than the French sure the Italians are the Chinese have to write about fewer less numerous but more vast that for me is the beginning of an explanation why the idea of the Athenian theater is Ferguson described it was inspiring and thrilling I didn’t sell helmet jerseys not like that at all on the contrary I thought how exciting this is and now i am going first class so that that i was reading Sophocles and check off and homer and serve on days and way that driving a BMW or having a mink coat could not it made me princely and this brings me to another hard to avoid aspect historical aspect of this subject which is the debate the debate that booker t washington had with web2 boys booker t washington had the sensible sounding idea that first you give people you start out giving people manual training it teach them to be cooks or mechanics you give the Career and Technical Education then after generation of Career and Technical Education instead of just coax and you have many skilled mechanics teach them how to work on machines and then you can have some of them become nurses and orderlies and four or five generations later you have something become teachers and doctors and eventually some of them could become scholars and studying Latin literature for whatever and the boys the boys takes that sensible sounding proposition and says it is the souls of black folk and as great as education education of freedmen the sound he says now you should begin with universities and art and literature he says it’s to begin backwards to begin with manual training schools it’s backwards to start out with career training surely we have wood enough he says to found a Negro College soul man and equipped he says teach teachers to work oh why saying teach workers to work fingers to think make carpenters of carpenters and philosophers of philosophers and Fox of fools and in a kind of Emersonian passage he writes above our modern socialism which means come on concentration on society out of the worship of the mass must persist and evolve that higher individualism which the centers of culture protector there must come a loftier respect for the sovereign you saw they must come a lofty earth respect for the sub sovereign human soul and then there’s this passage the peroration of that essay it begins with a line of blank verse it’s certain kind of nineteenth-century prose where it almost this blank verse the peroration begins with this terrific sentence w needy boys black man educated in Massachusetts Dubois rights I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not I sit with Shakespeare balances not I

don’t know if he knew it was a lot of blank verse or not and then just like I said to you that for me coming from the family that my parents had not gone to college no one of my family had ever gone to college that for me feeling that Ferguson was showing me what Aristotle said how it applied to racine I was now in first class I was I was having the education of the ruling class which presumably in a democracy were all supposed to get the ruling class education the ruling class always got these things available to them the whole paragraph is I sit with Shakespeare and he winces not across the color line I move Armand armed with Balzac and dumas we’re smiling men and welcoming women glide in gilded halls from out the caves of evening that swinging between the strong Lynyrd and the tracery of the stars i summon aristotle and aurelius and what’s all I will and they come all graciously with no scorn or condescension I son Aristotle or Aurelius and what soul I will and they come all graciously with no scorn are kinda senshi so when with truth I’d well above the veil is this the life you brought us Oh nightly America that’s que ni ght loi is this the life you Rogers nightly America is this the life you want to change into the dull rent hideousness of Georgia are you so afraid less appearing from this his God Philistine an Amalekite like the promised land it’s interesting that he incorporates the traditional language of nobility of social class we glide in gilded halls and nightly America even I summon what soul I will that there’s um old aristocratic terms like nightly America are being applied to this quite different ideal and for what in my experience my experience of being introduced to that sequence poema ephaea ma FEMA do they to feel what the work of art is doing say about the inferno what happens in the inferno they started off on the beginning of a journey they go down down down the earth they go so far down they get to the devil himself they grab the devil they put their noses up against his fur that is matted with ice they passed the point where Dante says the haunch is at its thickest which is the devil’s penis or as lures navel and it’s the center of gravity and it flips and they come out on the other side and they come into the light and Dante is very bewildered so why am I in the light it was night and why does the devil look upside down and at the almost very end of the inferno it would seem the crazy digression Virgil explains the physics that you went through and gravity flipped well the moral action is like physical action Dante has the sin of despair he’s afraid and he’s consumed with the desire for revenge and he has to go into it as a main especial should we go into it and he goes through and he comes out into the light as his despair flips or changes and the souls eat speaks with very often say I will tell you my story I will go into my story so that you can take it to the world of light to get it to go into it in order to go through it or to go into the dark to get to the light is the physical action of the bomb it’s the moral action of the

problem and it is a theater of the mind I’ve said to you what I have to say to you I’m going to close by reading you upon it’s a poem that when I was at the same fun in my life I read it I was so struck by the poems i typed it out and I ended on the wall like a picture of the toaster where I was living so we’re not having breakfast I could sort of stare like how did he do that and in the poem their lines that I often I’ve quoted it’s the immigrant of books I heard them and my students and it’s when young poets asked me for advice how to get better at writing poetry what do you do to write poetry in the very or gates it’s more clear because in his early drafts of the palm he just said there is no singing school but studying monuments of its own magnificence the only way you can learn to say study not just take a look at study monuments of its own magnificence and here I have to remove the theory of read books a little bit I don’t believe there is this great books I don’t believe there’s a curriculum I’ve mentioned check off I once went to dinner party with the president para ver SI didn’t see what checkoff was so great people don’t necessarily agree about these things and different periods of time disagree with other periods as I’m and in different pairs of one’s life disagrees it isn’t that there’s a list that York your way through much more stringent than that the requirement is thinner and harder than they gave the list and the list you must make the list you must decide what you think is monumentally magnificent the idea that there are works that are monumentally magnificent must be conveyed I’d like the lander company you may not I think the Odyssey is great you may think you’d rather watch John Ford’s The Searchers any day there’s no there r curriculum but the curriculum is not the culture it is our responsibility that those of us who are professional teachers to provide a curriculum I’m not coming to demand but ultimately the culture rests on things that people are convinced are good and the the inferno on that the whole red oak Oh media the committee it is not live because it’s been assigned or people say it’s good for you I find myself disgusted by a lot of things nonprofits do I’ve come to loathe the poetry foundation because the market poetry oh it’s good for you it’s like it’s an ailing brand of soap we’re going to market it it’s a fundamental human heart it’s basic it’s like singing or dancing or cuisine as this thing for nutrition it’s like making love as this thing for procreation it’s fundamentally can’t picture a culture without it and we need to protect it and take care of it we should a curatorial but to reduce it into as though it were a brand of gelatin dessert or shoe polish to be a missionary or marketer about it is it’s the convey the idea to people that it’s not so hot to demonstrate many things that I’ve said to you tonight i will recommend the website for the favorite poem project where you can see a video of the construction work of reading women talking about winning it very cogently and you can see all there’s a great one of a Jamaican guy who beats plastic in the candlestick it talks about it it’s people who are not poets or professors of poetry reading poems and talking about why they like them and I’m proud to say I did not tell those people to like poetry I didn’t tell them anything that sometimes described drive by I’m always vincible different people described as having been an advocate for poetry now I asked then I asked Americans to write me a letter or an email to write a few sentences about a

poem they loved I got tens of thousands of responses and you can buy anthologies that printed responses it’s not marketing it’s the same here here’s a platform tell us what you like and sometimes it isn’t necessarily what I like either far better than you be passionate about something and I do agree with me or pretend to agree with me teachers should teach them as the teachers then sometimes teachers certainly what poetry should I teach the poetry you love things you think are monumentally magnificent you won’t do a good job of just teaching where I think it’s good teach what you think it’s not just pretty good or cure I think the students will like this it’s about a student oh it’s about a teenager they can victim though they’re too stupid to read the opposite because there are 17 clauses a key that is no country for old men young in one of others arms birds and the trees those dying generations their song the Salmon Falls the macro crowded sees fish flesh or fowl commend all summer long whatever is forgotten born and dies called in that sense home caught in that sexual music all neglect monuments of an aging intellect an aging man is but a poultry thing a tattered coat upon a stick unless Soul Clap its hands and singing and louder sing for every debtor in its mortal dress nor is there singing school but studying monuments of its own magnificence and therefore I have sailed the seas and come to the holy city of the Xantium ooh stages over sages standing in God’s holy fire the gold mosaic of a wall come from the holy fire burn and be the singing masters of my soul consume my heart away sick with desire and fastened to a dying animal it knows not what it is and gathered me into the artifice of eternity once out of nature I shall never take my bodily form from any natural thing but such a form as Grecian Goldsmith’s make of hammered gold and gold enameling to keep a drowsy Emperor awake and set upon a golden bough to sing to lords and ladies of Xantium of what is past or passing or to come thanks Robert will take some questions now is what there does seem to be an and agreed on set of our favorites and you mentioned so many of it changes we tragedy was a non-serious entrance the endless people with havoc and yet it was a very seriously and then I think was during the 19th century conservative crowd John Thomas forgot will be getting attention and then poets in the early 20th century starts up jumped on the way call it when my parents were the school showing environment considered very good cause I don’t really show you or myself no and I could be wrong so it’s not that there’s no cannon but the cannon is alive it’s different at different times in its different in different places it’s not a list it’s not a syllabus and I was saying earlier that every generation there’s some professor who’s having too many graduate students be in awe of him too many people have admired him and he decides it’s time to write a book or put out a listed these are the wolves and always 15 or 20 years later it looks a little silly because it has moved on time as we thought and it’s fun to make the list it’s fun to think about

the list but one shouldn’t take it too seriously tissue there’s art is art there’s knowledge and I think one should listen to Authority very very carefully so that what we will say are the great what is great music what’s great fiction what’s great thought one takes it very seriously and one also reserves my instruction or you’re not really part of the game you can even if you’re treating just the kind of a tool to keep the culture alive if you’re thinking all the time making your own discriminations I’m a great fan of evaluation I think evaluations pound says the highest form of criticism is composition that is the poet has to decide whether to say thin or skinnier whether you say which part of the sentence to support may cry knows means the truth so the writer is choosing all the time and the reader chooses to so we listen to Authority respect is already but you don’t automatically think that it’s right and the cannon is provisional tend to do doesn’t mean we don’t respect it but we have to realize it’s organic its changing its developing and we’re revising it all the time and everybody’s is different Nabokov has that passage where he sneers at the campuses where every year the professor’s explained that the students that stand out as a great writer double go to say p use the dog is not a great writer I don’t use or not but it is not an automatic list there’s nowhere you can go to get any definitive list it’s the job of each of us to say you know the Odyssey breathe is about the greatest thing I’ve read but translation you’ve read this and I read the room pros translation it’s a great novel as well as a column cetera so they’re kind of is a cannon and it kind of isn’t in my opinion yes ma’am great Contemporary books break books by living people you know I think none of you has there may be three or four people in the room have heard of James McMichael his book about Pasadena for good things it’s a book-length poem i think it’s great I’m just crazy about it on the opposite end of things being known i agree that people who think that garcia marquez is hundred years of solitude is great i do think it is great those were a couple of examples at the different and I’m trying to demonstrate how the cannon is different for everybody i gave you a what may be an eccentric choice of mine or a prophetic one I think we’re in a golden age of comedy I think that the TV shows right now are like when people talk about the legendary cabarets of Eastern Europe and the drug Germany in the twenties I mean my god we have the nominee via Colbert and Jon Stewart shows we have the South Park guides any eggs the Saxons I’m not a comedy right now I’m anything since Cesar was a great artist he’s still alive I don’t think they’re quite a mental level of art but as a sort of suddenly we have a used to be a truism that American comedy doesn’t have any good satire it extended you know it’s Bob joke making Bob Hope making golf jokes and put an Eisenhower into the Gulf joke and suddenly we have actual political satire in the country so I think that’s great Sonny Rollins is still alive and he’s a great artist have already been exposed sure you don’t vent it yourself yeah they need a curriculum I’m saying dismantle it the curriculum they need agree but needs to be introduced to them is not you revisit this an S in anything if you go to battle score or get an MBA or your said that you got the main things no this is what I stand behind my voice to go back

to that I the teacher say to you son Thomas great this is thus the S key since you know whatever things are and implicitly or explicitly I’m saying and this is a lifetime’s journeys the lifetime’s work into culture authority is important and yes it is our job those of us who are teachers to stand beside the things we think are great and say this is sailing to byzantium about when the butter yeas I think it’s great I read you and i’ll talk to you like talk to me about why i think it’s great i’ll i’ll talk to you about it so yes I think we do owe a lot to the young and if you know a little kid I think you should buy the little kid dr. Seuss and Stephenson’s trials gardener versus and by the kid Edward here and because I think those are great things and it’s a lifelong journey for that child to have things that give you that feeling this is something just feels great has my own conscience of my own can’t changes constantly when I was in my 30s I didn’t get frank O’Hara and by 40s at something like I’d love for a guy I put off meeting Willa Cather’s song the Martin for decades in craft that but such a corny tight the song of the bar and then I read it ethics is what it’s the best thing I ever read that an artist so yeah my hope that I spent my cannon will keep on changing and expanding contracting things I used to think we’re so great I don’t get there quite that group homes i love when i was 20 I’ve different from the ones I love now and my person that thought they have here is my thing that I rely on a security blanket it’s an autobiography I commend the day book assignment everyone here for yourselves and if your teacher for your students anytime you suddenly think is great type it out put it your day looking at a computer file called a book or technology just anything you like type it up dump it into that an apology and it’ll be it’ll be a record of yourself as well as the question we can find all the things you love and think are quoted great and all the great you know whatever it was you know I really kinda had to do with Asian things you love and wouldn’t give for futures let me say the writing this anthology son is sometimes quite painful thing i like my students talk together and at the end of the semester i get for engages me to them and sometimes a lot of things the babies I think how she liked that and its proper it should have and I should you remind and far better than the person loves something that I don’t think it’s good that person just learned stayed I think they had thing in American education sometimes is the greek class no one the students come out of the great much now that was a great class self-sufficient you know carabar was about as a great performance is like ultra movie and more important than the great glasses had maybe somewhere in that class stood at 30 students 25 photo with your damn dick but five of them would never forget onion the we had a favorite part meeting at the MLA MLA and woman who’s a French woman who was a professor of German read I wish I could remember it wasn’t sure Paul and she talked about how it she’s a schoolgirl in France she hated the provincial town she lived in she was very unhappy adolescent and she applied for this what seemed the very stupid fellowship for students to go to Germany then she described gone to Germany and she took

the course with this guy the guy had some kind of emphysema PB he was dying and in this voice he read the poem shipwreck for it she described how as he was reading it she understood from the first time in her life what poetry was and realized how much he loved the German language you’ve been stirring with the kind of methodical good students meaningless commitment and you can’t track that you know you can’t make a statistic to keep track of that and when I look at my students anthologies and sometimes I delighted they have something in there that I admire a lot and sometimes they make home no they fell for that I I say to myself this is exactly right because they’re engaged they’re not just following orders they’re engaged with what they’re engaged in which is why you’re doing this books curriculum and I was wondering what your thoughts might be on the great books that have liberal arts more broadly perhaps making a renaissance in education not only in California but more broadly in the nation or are we on this evening I could foresee it on any be romantic I could foresee it happen I would like the great books to be taught everywhere then I could make phone I would love that teach the students have had them and then I could carp and have exquisite reservations about but I wanted to talk so I could do that and if I were hiring if I were hiring pirate business person I was hiring something to take over some management position or sales position or analyze my marketing and I interviewed I saw the bossiest would save about 35 students and a lot of them are majors in economics and Women’s Studies or their majoring in business administration with a minor in American Studies and in this is one kid who’s majoring in ancient Greek or studying Japanese language I think this person is not doing what everybody else is doing and this person was demonstrated she knows how to learn something hard she’s not following fashion I bet you would be great I certainly be eager to interview her because she’s studying just learn Chinese he says she was just curious as I already like it or this guy can read Greek ahaha that’s impressive to me and so i could see i could see it because i think basically Dubois is right in an argument it’s naive i think a lot of people who try to tamper with education they’re naive they think that you should have training and practical training you talk to people most people will tell you about their job they’ve learned their job on the top most of the things they knew they didn’t learn at school they learn how to do it on the job in school learned to respect your intelligence and lose your intelligence I have a lot to do with a high school it’s called the Boston Arts Academy Boston Arts Academy the kids audition I have to play an instrument or sing or act from drawing they give you a proper massage and it’s a public school it’s not a charter school city of boston public school right next to fenway park for a year it might be you offices and the idea is not Fame the idea is that by doing hard these children learn how to focus themselves had to believe in their own abilities if you do musical instrument you have far greater other people also with the past start understanding tradition Boston Arts Academy the ignitions it’s probably about 75 ratings and minority kids lesions are academic blind the headmaster is under nathan is kind of genius she sends about about ninety percent something Community College something brown or be you and the atmosphere of the school is fantastic and she has written very cogently against our objective tests are and cast test and she sees through the kids always come out near the top of the school huge drastically do well on the test she has a recent book called the hardest hardest questions are not on the test but then and I citizens the delusion that you can give people

practical training I could see it as I sat in great books the concrete books info about everywhere yes the war and what we found we felt he was talking about was 24 hour news and really is a demon advising I began about how to catch the souls of human beings but it sounded so much like the internet search engine sounds like so much of our lives today but i wonder if you come across something like that we found something from the past really seems to speak more today what do it was subject totally outside with the offer could foul i would say everything but i would read much for social choose so Heidi honesty and I just think how great it is that he’s a clever hero and he makes things up he’s a great liar and the kind of woman I am sure you know are you know Dante I’ve already intimated I think Dante is the greatest book firms a great book about depression that despair and I deceives I love great literature it’s not things like CS Lewis anticipating a manipulation of being minds by the mass media it’s moments like when I what does this gets home he’s finding back in ithaca and he’s got his Treasury eyes his treachery i strictly walking along as he’s walking along the shore he means this youth and three Athena she’s disguised himself and he says they’re to CSS people who are you what’s your name where you come from or your parents and this is mix of this it’s like enough he says well I’m from Crete and I was a very good runner and I had a running competition that’s other bad and I beat him and he was very angry ratified Mike Hilton in the fight his family but I’m rear D so I have it is like a little knob and the feenin says in effect that’s what I like about you she’s the goddess of wisdom she says anybody else after being away from over so here’s was Elmer disi a significant ear but you you’re so cautious than you immediately hello and that’s why I like you and that’s you know yes jaffray josh has to be a personal question on give me your personal answer I tend not to read for that kind of social issue I tend to read for moments of psychological revelation and times like would not a another comic moment with a few comic moments in Dante he sees a guy i forget the guy’s name he says wait a second what’s going on that guy hasn’t died I see him he wears pants in each food I’ve seen him up town and and the devil says the devil it is talking to expense both yeah some souls are so evil that they come down here before they die there’s a devil driving his body around graceless all communities I pressing consciously it was nothing in the media with the infernal great themes from it was a technical challenge you know I had a way I could do it that would make it fun to read and going had ever done that so it was technol it was like I want to go to spoke my basement or this knitting pattern is so far out it was that it was the technically subconsciously it might have had to do with with what all Jewish people do in the majority Christian culture which is this a combination of bending your neck do it arrogated like Murphy rotating writing white christmas and i miss finisher that for good measure he wrote Easter Parade and on some unconscious level they’re handed that our Cristiano okay but I wasn’t

thinking that I want to be hot at the beginning when you were thinking about the lander coupler sort of made me think that you thought language apparently beautiful and if so can there be ugly culture and to be ugly poetry I think art the question is I thought the lander line is beautiful can there be ugly poetry there’s a kind of awkwardness it little awkwardness it sounds that can be very engaging I’m not trying to think of an example of it right now something it’s so hard to say it’s good it’s like dis courts in music or a rhythmic moments in music like I hear this once the word enter the consonant mix there or it begins with it need disobeying disobeys you know that line of Milton that pound tries to make fun there’s something great about the ugliness of the widening distortion of English since in taxes and me who disobeys him disobeys me Berta surveys and disobeys me and me who disobeys in disobeys and one level that’s a grotesque horrible distortion English syntax it some other level there’s something on each party’s of that so I think it’s a familiar aesthetic principle that violating an expectation of pushing something very far and you are engaging just on st. textural level nice talking about texture landlines moral ugliness state of the material art art engages all kinds of things I think important 20 the Earl of Rochester is a terrible person we should kindness palms like that that are quite good on his wavering he’s just doing great job expressing his corporate citizen is talking about nothing it’s very good Ezra Pound the words of food paradise evolved in which heart you think about poetry and then I’m saying it’s physical Ezra Pound says poetry is a center that is as in prose you’re shooting an arrow to hit a target the way the prose writer does but poetry this the physical human bodies you’re doing it while riding a horse the other paradox related to that one is that you study technique you read great books you study these things so that they are called second nature athletes do this all the time you know the boxer does not think well he’s throwing the left hook quite a lot so if I waiting if I you’re finished and when the point guard is coming down the court and has a sense of where different people are he’s not he’s done it so many times it doesn’t have to think about it another way to describe it is the actor memorizes the lines so well that you can just concentrate on the emotion you’re not thinking about the lines you’ve memorized them you’ve perfected them this is again a paradox of all art I recently watched again one of the most famous scenes in all of film and involves a decay of first perfection first great technique and then you see the technique dissolve and fail it’s the famous scene in duck soup and for some crazy reason in the plot Chico is made himself look like Groucho they both have on white nightgowns and Chico has put on the glasses and the mustache and in fact it makes you realize that family there’s a strong family resemblance one of them how to wear a blonde too curly wig you wonder how to become Italian because they really look alike and in this scene there’s an archway you know a doorway basically a wide arch and the actors treat it as though it were a full-length white mirror so when Groucho does this Chico perfectly and there so it’s someone I think it’s a silent sequence I can detect one cut words been edited somebody probably was clapping or they were listening to music because they come out and then grout Rose not out in the hallway we can see him here the

camera shows us he’s thinking he goes he pushes his glasses down on his nose and he goes like this and there’s Chico with his glasses down on his nose then he gets away down puts his head out and Chico’s but his head out there and they’re doing it many hops across a silly way and he hops across just in the right rhythm it is like a mirror and it’s just they’re doing it perfectly and then it starts to decay and Groucho goes and gets the idea puts on a hat and he goes back Chico has a hat but brachos had his black Chico’s had his white although later turns black to confuse us the more and Groucho such fine because he’s getting he knows this is definitely not a me the whole thing is insane you know it is a fantasy but it’s a fantasy they first built up perfectly the technique it’s the equivalent of the actor murmurings and aligns perfectly or mastering the piece of music and then you show that you show that it’s made up you let and there’s an even greater mastery and letting it dissolve and I think that’s the paradox they’re so good at it and then they have to show you how they can let it fall apart to feel the whole elation the acceleration of it and I will let that great scene be my finish thank you all very much