Monday, July 2, 2012


[Now imagine that Indiana
Jones wrote this book.  Or
starred in it.  Or was mercilessly
mocked by it.  I'm not sure which
[Imagine that this is a video clip
of Indiana Jones righteously
claiming that things he wants
belong in a museum in a cheap
attempt to get Western viewers
who were bottle-fed on museums
to sympathize with his cause.]
So I have this Indiana Jones thing.  I'm sure I'm not the only one.  But when he loudly declares that "It belongs in a museum," I can't help but wince and take onto my shoulders the guilt of centuries of white people being assholes.  And then I create some personal guilt for having ever been in a museum.  And then I angrily tell whoever is sitting next to me that Indiana Jones is a terrible person and that now we can't go to the movies or museums anymore.  And this is why nobody ever wants to go places with me.

So, if you've never read Possession, I'm sure you're wondering what exactly the connection is.  Well, there's this guy in Possession who is American and white and likes to take away people's treasures and keep them for his very own and also give them better conditions than most human beings have.  Like temperature control and gentle breezes on command and remote-control curtains.  And he is all indignant that people should wish for their own possessions to moulder away in obscurity and let the past be in the past and let sleeping dogs lie and several other idiomatic expressions, when he could be having the things.  And it's pretty much like Indiana Jones is running rampant through the streets of 1987 England trying to steal people's stuff.  And it makes me so angry because why do old things belong in a museum rather than in the place that they were made and/or will be destroyed?  And yes, there are a lot of people in the book who are all like "British people should study British things because that's the nice way to be" and even then I'm all like, dude.  These people were skeletons before you were even born, who cares who attended some skeleton's breakfast party?  Because they care far too much.

So I've been debating this with myself for a couple of days because it kind of sounds like I'm saying that we shouldn't study old literature and that is not at all what I am saying.  Because I like old literature.  But the thing is, I'm starting to kind of feel like studying old literature and the old people who wrote it beyond what you do in a college or maybe a master's-level classroom might just be a waste of everyone's time. Maybe Possession isn't a very accurate portrayal of these kinds of advanced studies, but I really just don't see what anybody is getting out of it.  The associated drama is just ridiculous and the contribution to human knowledge is completely unapparent.  So what if these two skeletons diddled when they still had skin?  Why is money being spent to refrigerate old manuscripts whose pages are too delicate to be turned when it could be spent to refrigerate meals for homeless children?  Okay, I'm kind of going a different way with this now, but do you see my point?

Don't get me wrong, I think I got some valuable skills out of being an English major.  It definitely honed my writing and analytical skills, and gave me some less tangible but perhaps even more valuable skills in understanding real people.  These are transferable.  And yes, some advanced study is needed to teach students about this literature and help them develop these same skills and show people where we came from, but devoting your life to analyzing every last word of some skeleton's journal just because her husband wrote some famous poems speaks of some sort of disorder to me.  Not all knowledge is helpful.  Some things - most, even - belong exactly where they are and have been; it's not our business to resurrect them and take them from their homes.

Am I being completely ridiculous?  Or do you see what I mean?  I am actually enjoying the book, I just don't get it!

1 comment:

  1. I giggled at this only because it wasn't until the end that I see you're enjoying the book! I thought you weren't and I kept thinking "Doggone it, this is a book I want to read because it always sounded good and now I'm scratching my head feeling guilty!" But, now I feel better that you are enjoying it :)

    I see your point, no question about it. And I agree to a certain extent. Some things do need to just be left completely alone because it might come across like a disorder (or it actually might be a disorder). But...selfishly, I'd give my appendix (because you don't really need it anyway, ha!) to be studying these old literature texts, or who's hanging out with who (or what!), just because it would be a whole heck of a lot more fun than what my current day job is! :)