Reinventing the Teaching Machine: Looking for a Text in an Indian Classroom
How can we reinvent the teaching machine? Can we introduce disciplinary eros into our ways of teaching literature? What happens when transcultural envy is imported into the classroom? How does that change the desire lines, introduce a sense of loss and limit, create problems in the identification of paradigms of understanding, schadenfreude, the pleasure at the expense of someone’s discomfort and unease? So what gain does this unease bring? This chapter introduces a whole new reading of Beckett’s Endgame in an Indian postgraduate classroom with students of varying cultures and linguistic backgrounds, a performative classroom that looks into the play within certain paradigms of Hindu ethics and religious philosophy. Within such a restless aesthetic, a kind of revenge of the aesthetic, Beckett’s Endgame builds a disquiet that beckons transcultural momentum and movement, provocatively dislocating the play from its Eurocentric anchorage by relating it uncannily to a world with which its apparent relation looks contradictious and ambiguous. An elaborate exegesis of the play shows how a classroom must encourage aesthetic and reflective judgments that stay circumscribed by cultural difference and the denationalization of literature. The chapter also demonstrates how effective teaching is about finding surplus and also encountering deficit.
Should We Read or Teach Literature Now?
Miller’s chapter shows how much a comparison with Ghosh’s chapter 7 reveals about the authors’ situations as teachers of English literature in what were in such different ways once British colonies. Miller then asks, should we read or teach literature in these days of rapid climate change, of a state of apparently perpetual war on terror in the United States, of the almost universal acceptance of new digital media, often used as a way to promulgate lies, of the rapid appearance of Massive Online Open Courses, and of online universities, along with the transformation of many colleges and universities more or less into underfunded trade schools educating students for jobs in science or engineering? W. B. Yeats’s wonderful short lyric “The Cold Heaven” is an example of a literary work that might still be good to teach for two reasons. First, the pleasure it gives and the intellectual challenge understanding it poses are goods in themselves, ends in themselves. Second, reading and teaching literature might have a further use to educate people in how to identify and resist the lies that surround us these days in advertising, talk shows, and the new media generally.