I guess I can't fight ignorance when I'm up against my American Lit professor

I’m pretty sure there was some drinking involved at some stage, too. Huh; given your location, we might have been dozing in the same lecture theatre…

This reminds me of the English teacher who said that Holden Caulfield wore his hat backwards because he’s a CATCHER, and the catcher on a baseball team wears his hat backwards. I asked her in class how that sheds any light on the story, and she just repeated that he wears his hat backwards, you know, because he’s a CATCHER.

I really, really hope you’ll report her to whomever she reports to. This sort of blatant religious discrimination should not be allowed to stand.

How, exactly, is that “religious discrimination”?

Ooh, I’ve got a good ignorant teacher story: World History, 7th grade (um, 12 and 13 year olds).

Teacher: “is anyone in here Jewish?”
Class: …
Teacher: “Okay, well then, we’re all good little Christian girls and boys and we know all about biblical times”

She then skipped that portion of history class and went on.

Me: :eek:

I tried to say something but I got ‘shushed’.

Fine, Catholic bashing. Whatever it was, she shouldn’t be allowed to denigrate Catholics like that. Particularly when she’s so clearly ignorant of Catholicism. There’s no defending her behavior.

Of course it does. It should never happen at all, and yet chances are some professor somewhere, right now, is injecting some sort of bias or teaching some falsehood to their students. Therefore, it happens more often than it should.

Nevertheless, these continual ragefests over the state of higher education generally leave me unconvinced, as there never seems to be any hard data to quantify the problem. If it is a rare issue that is generally dealt with properly and swiftly by universities, then there is little more to be done about it. I’m a college student, and only rarely have I witnessed any professor injecting any strong bias into their teaching - in fact, most of my professors seem to consider it necessary to carefully address multiple perspectives on what they’re teaching, and to heavily encourage students to present alternative views.

There seems to be something of a movement afoot to delegitimize higher education with claims that students are somehow being coerced or misled into certain political viewpoints, and I simply don’t see how that could be the case. Interestingly enough, this movement never seems to focus on law schools or political science or economics departments, and someone more cynical than myself would probably examine the political makeup of those departments and draw certain conclusions about what set of factors might in actuality underlie the frequent claims of bias.

College students are adults, even if they are young, and if they were so easily swayed by what they hear as to be virtually brainwashed by their higher education experience, it would indicate something rather frightening not about school but about the malleability of the human mind. Fortunately, even explicit brainwashing seems to be generally completely ineffective, and thus I think we can rest assured that very few students heard what this professor said and emerged from the class with a newfound disgust for Catholicism.

That said, the professor certainly has no right to make such claims, and if there is a way to complain anonymously, it wouldn’t be a bad idea. I can’t imagine any university would like even the appearance of religious bias in its classrooms. The professor in question really ought to learn to shut her yap rather than make claims she can’t support. I still remain unconvinced that this is an institutional problem.

Make a formal complaint against the bitch for religious hate speech in the classroom.
Most colleges are so PC, she’ll think her ass was set on fire.
Complain, in writing to her Dean, & anybody else you can think of.
Also, find out if there are any prominent Allumni that are Catholic.
Write to them, too.
And check into a Catholic Student’s association. There usually is one.
If the Dean asks to meet with you, see if you can get a Priest or Nun to accompany you. Watching them swallow their tongues with nervousness will fill you with glee.

Hardly. If someone who’s supposed to be wise and authoritative makes a stupid mistake and refuses to be challenged, how much stock am I gonna put into what they say after that point?

Maybe it’s because I grew up on Cecil and Life In Hell, but once someone shows that their mind is closed, I have a hard time accepting anything they say.

But this completely fails to address the issue of whether it is justifiable to extrapolate from this particular person’s behavior in order to make a gross generalization about all professors.

This is a general reply, so if I miss any replies anyone wants me to respond to, just let me know.

First off, I think some background info will help:

University Info
I go to a small, private university in the Metro Detroit area; the undergrads number maybe 4,000 or so (grads add maybe another grand or so to the total). This is a university known for its engineering and architecture programs (I’ll bet some Detroit-area Dopers might be able to figure out where I attend school now). Since I’m a Computer Science and Humanities (a.k.a. English at this uni) dual major, I’m already a minority. :wink:

The only religious organization on campus is Campus Crusade for Christ, which I try to stay far, far away from since they seem to be, from the discussions I’ve had with members, “I love Jesus! Bible? It says stuff? Church history? Huh? What are you talking about?” The place is too small to have a Catholic Students organization or anything like that.

There are only about 12 Humanities majors total in this uni and I’m one of the most prominant students in the entire College of Arts and Sciences (heh, not to toot my own horn or anything). This is good and bad; bad since if I do have a complaint, professors do know who I am, so it’s a bit risky.

Professor Info
When this prof sticks to what she knows, she is a wonderful teacher. She was extremely good in my Speech class last year. But if you’ve ever heard the phrase, “Jack of all trades, Master of none,” she’s more of the type who truly believes she is “Master of all trades, Jack of none.” When you add in the fact that most people who take humanities courses here are engineers/architects just fulfilling their requirements who basically fall asleep during lectures, she’s really gotten used to no one challenging her claims.

She also doesn’t believe in grade inflation. I’m fine with this, because I do think that most profs here grade far too leniently (in Humanities courses, anyway). However, she doesn’t tone down her compliments. It wasn’t unusual to hear, “That was an excellent speech, very well organized and delivered”… and then get a B as a grade (c’mon, if it’s excellent, it should be an A. If it wasn’t an A speech, just say it was good).

She teaches the seminar in literature “Bible as Literature”*, so perhaps that will shed some light on her. Every single time something might possibly have a religious allusion, it has to be that. Even if the writer was an atheist, well, they grew up in a society heavily influenced by Judeo-Christian beliefs so that is why her interpretation is valid.

Now, what really pissed me off was her refusal to accept what I said. I don’t mind if she didn’t know that nugget of Catholic trivia, especially since she’s Jewish. I also wouldn’t’ve minded her being doubtful but saying, “Hm, I haven’t heard that before; could you bring in some references that give me more information?” But to look at me smarmily and say, “Yes, well, Catholics don’t read the Bible, do they?” goes beyond not knowing about information or not agreeing with that belief, but leaps into denegration.

And honestly, in context, it didn’t sound like just a historical thing, but also, “Well, obviously if they actually read the Bible, they’d see that they were clearly wrong.” That jumps from intellectual discussion into beliefs.

And throughout most of Christianity’s history, most Christians haven’t been able to read anyway, so it was rather a moot point. If you look at my link to the Duoay Bible, it was an English translation made in the 16th Century. Like Polycarp said, study of the Bible wasn’t discouraged, but you should read it with guidance from clergy to fully understand context.
Something good IS coming out of this, as long as I keep my gumption: we have to do a research paper and the topic is our choice. I hadn’t had any good ideas yet, but I think that now, I’m really driven to research the importance of names in The Great Gatsby. Those links Sample_the_Dog posted should be extreeeeeeeeemely helpful. Muahaha. :: insert devious look ::

  • A seminar in literature is required for the Humanities degree. Because I really didn’t want to take that class (I didn’t want her for a lit seminar class AND after years of religion classes, I’m really sick of analyzing the Bible, even if it’s in a non-religious context), I got another one formed instead: South American Fiction, and it rocks!

zweisamkeit, I would recommend looking at Fitzgerald’s letters. There was some correspondence between FSF and his editor regarding this book while it was in production (including some laughably bad titles that FSF wanted it to have), and he also commented on the book in letters to his daughter and others. There may be something in there that could shed some light.

That was clearly just a bit of Rye humor! :wink:

And in the Peanut Gallery groaning is heard among the ruffling sound of those searching for rotten tomatoes to throw. :stuck_out_tongue:

My true geekiness is showing here, but…

If you’re interested in “brother” theories related to the James -> Jay namechange, may I also suggest looking into the autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.

Jay Gatsby is a sort of anti-Franklin. When his father shows up at the end, we see that Gatsby, in his youth, followed a very Franklinesque self-improvement routine.

But Gatsby puts the lie to Franklin, who left his apprenticeship to his brother James and went off on his own to establish his own business and, as we all know, become THE icon (in his day and ours) of self-improvement and upward mobility. It is Franklin, more than any other figure, who embodies the American Dream.

But Gatsby discovers quite a different 20th century America. Despite his financial success and connections with the famous personages of his day (similar to Franklin’s days in the courts of France) he is never accepted by the Real Money in East Egg. He is, after all, only nouveau riche.

Fitzgerald often wrote about his feelings of alienation from those born into wealth and privilege. Gatsby, in addition to being social commentary, was also part personal exploration and confession. But it had little (or nothing) to do with religion. It was about class, and human pettiness and weakness.

The James->Jay transformation represents Gatsby’s attempt to make a Franklin of himself, to break free of James a la Franklin and become a JP Morgan, a Jay Gould, a Jay Cooke by his own merits. We all know how that ends.

Yes, we mentioned Gatsby’s attempt to be a 20th century Franklin (and I like that interpretation a lot). But see, she’s this genius who has found another interpretation. To her, there are three layers of Gatsby:

1 - a love story (the basic no-symbolism-here level)
2 - the American dream or failure thereof (the Franklin connection)
3 - Gatsby as Jesus (in a deeper, anti-religion sentiment)

If you want, I could point out the specific passages she used to support her view of 3 (I take notes obsessively in classes :D). I don’t necessarily buy it, but I’m guessing that since she brought it up in class, we’re supposed to just agree with it and fawn all over the brilliance.

And if people want to start discussing Gatsby here, or even other moronic professor stories (they’ll help me feel better about mine, heh), feel free.
And to add to the humor, I received an email from an SDMB lurker who not only knew what university I go to, but also who the professor is! Ha ha! He reminded me of how the professor does not allow any PowerPoint presentations for her speech classes (or Tech Communication) because “technology WILL fail you when you need it to be there”, along with people cramming too much info onto a PP slide. So instead, we need to hand-make posters or make overhead transparencies. To me, it’d make more sense to say, “Make a PowerPoint presentation, sure, but make SURE it is designed correctly (brief bullet points, etc) and that you have a back up, such as transparencies. If you go to do your speech and you can’t get your PP presentation to work, and have no back up, sorry. You will be graded accordingly.”

I’d be interested, if it’s not too much of a hijack.

Of course, Jesus (like Mary in an oil stain) can be seen just about anywhere if you tilt your head the right way and use your imagination.

I am not an advocate of the purer forms of reader reception theory. I feel that claims of Jesus imagery (or any other intertextual allusions) must be supported by looking at the entire work, its literary context in its own day, the author’s other works, the author’s life and letters, etc.

So do post if it can be done briefly while accurately reflecting your prof’s entire argument. I’d be interested more in her James theory than her Jesus theory, btw.

Sorry, I spent all weekend doing research and reading for my classes. But I am back! With Drivel!

Okay, according to my professor, there are three levels to Gatsby:

[li]Love story (the basic “Gatsby loves Daisy” surface story)[/li][li]American Dream (you have to look forward, to the future, but Gatsby looks backward and thus fails)[/li][li]Anti-Church/Religion (I’ll detail this in its own paragraph)[/li][/ol]

Prof says that Gatsby is a Christ figure, but in a way that paints religion in a negative light. Here are some Gatsby as Christ and Anti-Religion points she used:


  • There is a car that gets into an accident when leaving Gatsby’s party. The man who first gets out of the car is called Owl Eyes, which she seemed to connect to Dr. Eckelberg, the optometrist who had the billboard of giant eyes and thus was GOD. He is confused at the accident and says, “I know nothing whatsoever about mechanics… It happened, and that’s all I know.”

  • The man who gets out after him, who was the one driving, is supposed to be symbolic of the devil: “a pale, dangling individual stepped out of the wreck, pawing tentatively at the ground with a large uncertain dancing shoe”. The ‘pawing’, she said, is symbolic of hooves, like the devil is often depicted as having. To her, this says that Fitzgerald was commenting that God isn’t in charge anymore and that the devil is who is in charge of the world.

  • When the guests had gone, “a sudden emptiness seemed to flow now from the windows and the great doors, endowing with complete isolation the figure of the host, who stood on the porch, his hand up in a formal gesture of farewell.” I can’t recall what she said this was specifically symbolic of; it was either the fact “host” was used to describe Gatsby or that he was supposed to be illuminated against the house, above everyone else (waving from up on high).


  • 7 paragraphs in: "“The truth was that Jay Gatsby of West Egg, Long Island, sprang from his Platonic conception of himself. He was a son of God – a phrase which, if it means anything, means just that – and he must be about His Father’s business, the service of a vast, vulgar, and meretricious beauty.”


  • After Myrtle’s death, her husband is talking to a friend and he is looking at the eyes of Dr. Ekleburg (the billboard in the field of ashes) and he says “God sees everything” and his friend says, “That’s an advertisement”. Again, this connects the eyes on the billboard to God, but also the anti-religion theme she sees, since “it’s an advertisement” that God is supposed to see everything.

  • When Gatsby goes to the pool, he shoulders the air mattress, which is symbolic of Jesus carrying the cross to his crucifixion.

Those are what I can remember. I can see it, but I don’t know if I buy it. As for James -> Jesus’ brother, she only said it as an off-hand, “And his real name is James, who of course is Jesus’ brother.” Which seems to make NO sense and has NO context whatsoever in what we were discussing. And that’s what led up to her snarky comments.

Prior to Vatican II, Catholic children of the 20th century studied Latin to read the Bible and follow Mass. Fitzgerald, as a prep school kid, would have learned Latin as part of prep school - as was normal in having an early 20th century classical education, even for Protestants. So even though the Bible was widely available in English - even to Catholics - in the 1900s, Fitzgerarld probably could have gotten through it in Latin.

On the other hand, Fitzgerald certain hung with a non-Catholic crowd and certainly would have been exposed to the idea of James as the brother of Jesus, even if he wasn’t raised to believe it. And he could have been using the allusion despite his personal beliefs.

Don’t worry about “buying” literature interpretation. Deconstruction is about what you can see, not about what was intended. If anyone claims they know what Fitzgerald intended, they are lying - he simply didn’t deconstruct his own books in that manner.

You, maybe. I liked the pun, so I’m Holden onto mine.