Williams, Jeffrey J. “Teach the University.” Duke University Press. 2007. University of Pennsylvania. April 2008
Williams emphasizes the importance of different aspects of the university and encourages professors to teach it. These aspects include the idea and history of the university, cultural representation, and sociological knowledge. This is one his ways of teaching the humanities. This major step between adolescence and adulthood involves the most memorable and important moments, all of which occur in the university. At the same time it mimics reality “to form the statesmen, legislators and judges, on whom public prosperity and individual happiness are so much to depend.” Cultural representations are not always serious and meaningful, but still express the “expectation of the university.” Students in Animal House expect from the university the best four years of their lives, like most people do in reality. The university should offer a whole new dimension in which one can experiment endlessly.
This is a much more useful way of teaching humanities than Professor Jennings’ ordinary methods in the film. Williams interprets the point of college life in many ways – a precursor to the real world where students can learn to follow the rules of a democracy, and a time for breaking the rules. Animal House of course deals with the latter, and rather rejects the expected dependency on judges and other authoritarian figures. The film itself makes fun of the idea of teaching the university, since Faber College is a joke; Faber was named after a pencil and defines itself with the slogan, “Knowledge Is Good.” Williams rejects college as “an ivory tower” but stresses it’s importance as a passage onto a different, less isolated part of life. Animal House does the opposite: college is the time for students to destroy any dignity they have, but ultimately gain a different kind of dignity. Animal House is university fiction at its silliest, but Williams has a point in that films like this should still be taught and studied.