Ugh, what a slog this week has been. I feel like crawling under a rock and not coming out. While I’m under there I might watch the Salzburg version of Purcell’s King Arthur.
For those with experience teaching: have you ever felt that your students thought you were completely and entirely nuts? I gave them a primary source about the Salem witch trials, specifically an account by Puritan minister Cotton Mather of the trial of a woman named Susanna Martin. The document contains accounts of several different people giving evidence against Martin. She is accused of causing people’s oxen to act wiggy, of making a man’s wife sickly, of appearing in another man’s room and lying on top of his chest all night so that he couldn’t breathe – very typical early modern witchcraft stuff. There’s also one guy who says that after she refused to sell him a puppy, he was chased by a bunch of little black puppy-like things at night that he couldn’t hit when he swung his axe at them.
They were having none of it. No interest in witchcraft, no interest in the bizarre sexual subtext of several of the stories, no interest in descriptions of strange lights in neighbors’ pastures or demon puppy apparitions. No interest in the little glimpses into daily life in a small town in Massachusetts in the 1690s or the process by which very intelligent people tried to figure out how you proved in legal terms that someone was inflicting spectral torture on another. (Short answer: ultimately, they gave up.) A lot of the students here have this sort of bizarre streak of literal-mindedness, where they are just not inclined to try to get into the heads of people from other time periods. They have trouble avoiding anachronism and they engage in a lot of unnecessary moralizing.
Ah, well. As my dissertation advisor once said about teaching, you can fuck it up, but you can’t force it to work.
I will be headed for the underside of that rock now. With my DVD.