"this is not a pipe"
- painting by René Magritte (1898-1967)
Tomorrow, aside from teaching my regular rhetoric class (ENG 150), I get to embark on the journey of guiding twenty-three undergraduates toward a better understanding of postmodernism in my other class, ENG 101. I decided to subtitle my 101 “Discovering Postmodern Identity.” Of course, my inclination is to spend the entire class period rambling about existentialism and Sartre’s seemingly defeatist (but ultimately, in my opinion, liberating) theory that we are all “condemned to freedom.” Maybe throw in a great quote from his play No Exit, where he says, “Hell is other people.” I’ll definitely devote time to Ihab Hassan’s table of binary oppositions between Modernism and Postmodernism: Hierarchy/Anarchy, Form/Anti-form, Purpose/Play, Design/Chance etc. I’ll mention metafiction, talk a bit about alienation and the idea of literary entropy. I may devote at least a quarter of the class time to an explanation of phenomenology, as best I understand it, in relation to the subjectivity of experience and its relationship to reading literature. And perhaps a little rundown of literary movements from like the Dadaists to Joyce and them on up to Calvino and the other Oulipo writers, using whatever shoddy timeline I can concoct considering my limited reading history. I intend to discuss the idea of postmodern meaning-making by showing them the 1929 surrealist short film Un Chien Andalou by Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, which runs about fifteen minutes, and depicts, among other things, a woman’s eyeball being sliced by a razor, a man with a hole in the palm of his hand with ants crawling out of it, another man pulling two baby grand pianos with dead donkeys under the lids across a living room. I’m excited to get their reactions.