Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Truth and anachronism

I know exactly how Bing McGhandi feels:
I write because, often, while I talk my brain is pulling me in several directions at once.
That nicely captures the way I sometimes feel when I'm teaching, as my sacred professional duty to pass on reliable information to more or less alert and eager twenty-somethings tends to be marred by my pathological habit of random associationism. One of my New Year's resolutions was: "flick 'full stop' switch more often in class." Guess what: I haven't been all that successful.

The worst thing is: I tend to be completely, schizophrenically conscious whenever my mind gets off according to its own sweet will and urges me to tell students Things-They-Really-Don't-Want-to-Know. I can feel it like an aura – something goes "click" in my brain and and then it’s "oops, 'ere we go again."

So this is what I did on Monday, talking about the significance of Andreas Vesalius’s anatomical treatise De humani corporis fabrica in Renaissance culture (it is relevant - there's plenty of dissecting going on in English literature of the sixteenth- and seventeenth centuries). I casually fling the transparency that I’d made of the book’s title page onto the OHP (I detest PowerPoint) and am about to launch into my extended comment, when all of a sudden I'm gripped in the guts by the knowledge that, rather than neutrally making my point, I am about to go off on yet another tangent.

So instead of simply commenting on Vesalius's place at the centre of the depiction of an anatomical lesson in progress, the body of the woman that he is in the process of dissecting, the moralistic skeleton hovering somewhat awkwardly above and and the flock of enraptured bystanders witnessing this feat of medical science - and then stopping - I ask:
“Do you know Mike Skinner of The Streets? He looks just like Andreas Vesalius.”
In retrospect, this is a not disingenuous conflation of a contemporary musician with the name of Skinner and a Renaissance scientist who skinned dead bodies in the name of science. In fact, it probably illustrates a mighty complex cognitive process. But the awkward silence in the auditorium suggested that this was another instance of the gratuitous anachronistic waffle that seems to have become my trademark.

Anyway, here's the visual evidence that my hunch is more than linguistic:

(Image via).


mikeovswinton said...

For what its worth the bits I remember from my time at Uni are the little tangents and the like that the Profs indulged in. Like the American Government lecturer who, in the middle of a lecture mentioned the the name of Strom Thurmond and put his notes down and went off into a twenty minute tangent starting "The last time I saw Strom Thurmond....". My fellow students used to complain. But I pointed out to them that the rest was in the text books for us to read - the anecdotes were complete one offs. So, I go off on the odd tangent. Did this morning. And last friday, when I pointed out that Edwin Starr was the only Motown star to have see a Swinton Lions game.

The Wife said...

So now you have me wondering, of course, in what kind of context you're going off on your tangents ....

The Swinton Lions, wot? According to their website, the playing pitch is currently in no fit state to be played on. Pity, that.