Professor Weary’s Castle

“When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.”

― Friedrich Nietzsche

Everyone is tired at the local university. A middle aged professor of English stands at her office window and sees down-clad students shuffling in snow, their backpacks like outer space life support systems, and she recalls a line from a novel by Anita Brookner, something to the effect that “Rachel at forty stood at her window and considered how literature had ruined her life”–that was nearly it…

Everyone is tired.

A graduate student in philosophy, still half a boy reads Haruki Murakami’s Dance Dance Dance:

“Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting.”

He underlines it.

Across campus the STEM building is nearing completion. It has yellow glazed tiles on its outer walls, which causes it to resemble a pottery kiln turned inside out. Despite its barbarous skin the humanities faculty envy it.

Fatigue and discontentment in the humanities. Stop. Old fashioned telegram. Stop.

“No man is rich enough to buy back his past.” (Oscar Wilde)

Less and less funding for the fine arts. Stop.

**

The Dean of Liberal Arts reads the website of a conservative think tank on higher education which argues the humanities have lost relevance (butts in seats) because they no longer teach good, time honored verities, as, for instance, they did when it’s authors were young. “No student reads Shakespeare any more,” they complain. “Students don’t read Plato anymore,” the report says. Instead they take courses with titles like “Post-Colonial Queerness in Anglophone Africa” or “Crippled Ecologies of Post-Capitalism”–the subtexts of which are about what’s wrong with culture and never what’s right.

Poor Dean! He’d like to respond but hardly knows where to begin.

He writes a small note for later use. Says: “after a century of industrial warfare and genocide the critique of dominant narratives becomes the work of conscience”–but he doesn’t send this anywhere. Doesn’t want to offend certain trustees.