He was trying to remember how to pronounce "in medias res," because he didn't want to begin today's class with the Big Bang or the Garden of Eden, and it would sound really erudite and perhaps solidify his credibility if he could rattle off with confidence, "We will begin our class like the epics of yore: in medias res," followed by a manly, rumbling chuckle.
Maybe next time, damn it!
The course, described in great detail here, examined how the depiction of women in grownup, legitimate culture and in shallow, mindless pop culture casts them in junior-varsity roles that fetter and shackle them to this day.
Having not fully prepared for today's class, he would use the Socratic method (called maieutics by the learned) and draw with probing questions knowledge from his pupils the poor little bastards didn't even know they knew.
In the spirit of the course, he would direct his first query to the class's only female, Tally Dolcet:
"Ms. Dolcet, what parallels do you find between 'Hansel and Gretel' and the Sirens of Greek lore? Just take your time, no hur--"
"Okay, both stories see Woman as temptations or, put another way, women as temptresses. Both the witch and the Sirens lure people to their death. The Sirens kill men, and the witch intends to fatten and eat the male, which is basically what 'Hansel' means, if my cousin Elbert is to be trusted.
|Temptation in the Wilderness|
"And both Hansel and Odysseus, for example, are on a journey, the latter literally headed for home, the former -- along with his sister Gretel -- metaphorically searching for a shelter more protective, more nurturing than that which their parents offer."
"Thanks, Ms. Dolc--"
"Wait! I just thought of something else! The witch appeals to the very bottom of Maslow's now archaic and sexist Hierarchy of Needs.
"To witch, I mean to wit, she lures them with something they most desperately need, food their mother withheld from them, symbolizing for Freudians the traumatic weaning process that most of us struggle through and survive before kindergarten, even though some men never do.
"The kids are deprived even of the crumbs' from their mother's table, so they must sally forth into the Forest to eat, and I capitalize 'Forest'* intentionally because I allude to its mythic properties.
"While generalist literary scholars -- speaking of the base of a pyramid! -- claim that eating in literature represents a communion to some degree, often in purely ironic fashion, Hansel and Gretel must eat away from the home, the hearth, the altar, one might say, while simultaneously eating away the witch's home attempting, in fact, to eat her out of house and home.
"Consequently, through no fault of their own, they resemble Eve munching greedily and selfishly on an apple without the company of her partner Adam, in stark contrast to the disciples breaking bread with Jesus --"
Suddenly, D-Bell remembered the correct pronunciation!
"Ms. Dolcet, I regret interrupting you in medias res," and here he releases his pent up masculine chuckle, "but your exegesis may well have unmoored itself from Odysseus' ship and strayed from Hansel and Gretel's trail of crumbs, so now I'd like to call on Mr.--"
"Keep your shirt on just a sec longer, D-Bell, because I never made an adequate connection to the Sirens! On the one hand, the Sirens seduce the sailors with spellbinding songs that saturate the senses on a singularly aesthetic level, and the human capacity to be moved by beauty ranks well above the primal needs that rest at the nadir of Maslow's outdated pyramid.
"On the other hand, the Sirens' songs are significantly sensual and sexual, grasping and groping the grunting Greeks' groins, crooning a far more tantalizing ditty than 'I'm Having Your Baby.'"
"Miss Dolcet, I dare to demand you desist or diminish your deliberate display of disquieting, disagreeable alliteration," demanded D-Bell.
We pause here to make an intrusive observation through a fourth-wall peephole. Many narrators would now point out how remarkable it is that Tally seems suddenly engaged in this subject when she was practically forced into the class by her husband's fear that she thought too lowly of her womanhood and of her sex in general.
We find such an intrusion trite and extraneous. Any thinking reader could reach that conclusion on her own. It's obvious that Tally's value train is preparing to switch tracks and, if it does, she will have much, much more to say relating to the depiction of women everywhere.
We personally look forward to it!
And let us make an observation about our audience while we're in the midst of a mini-metafictional spot: We imagine that many of you in this Great Nation of Ours, gathering around the archetypal water cooler of the workplace, are lamenting the absence of Margaret Atwood's poem "Siren Song" since we've been promising its appearance for roughly three installments.
|Sirens in their bird stage, already irresistible|
Second, if you had the patience to sit through the never-ending torture-fest of Amazon Prime's elongation of Atwood's succinct dystopian novel The Handmaid's Tale, you sure as hell can wait another day or so for her poem.
*D-Bell could not hear the capitalization, of course, but Tally's point is still well taken.