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.
Markley, Robert. “Transgression and Irrelevance: A Reply to Geoffrey Galt Harpham.” Oxford University Press. 2006, American Literary History.
The teaching of humanities has been suffering and its components, poetry and literature, have consequentially been forced into unfortunate roles. The fault lies in those who teach humanities, because they view it as a source of payment instead of cultural enrichment. The instructors’ beliefs sprout from the cultural relevance at the time, which boils down to sociopolitical and economic stance. For example, in the eighteenth century, poetry was called “sacred to the Good and the Great.” Because of the time period, this means that poetry was at the whim of the bloody politics of England and the profits that prevailed in politics.
In modern culture, humanists epitomize transgression and irrelevance because there is clearly no other fulfilling outcome. Therefore, the satisfaction they gain in their teachings is inappropriate and has nothing to do with the literature itself. Markley’s example of this is Donald Sutherland’s character in Animal House. He plays the bored Professor Dave Jennings who attempts to evoke interest in Milton from a completely unresponsive class. He tries to draw a connection between Milton and a teenager’s appeal, asking if Milton was “trying to tell us that being bad was more fun than being good?” Jennings ends up succumbing to this lesson of life and sleeps with one of his students. He admits to the class, possible to again inspire some relevance, that Milton is boring and outdated, only to be interrupted by the bell. Then he lets his guard down entirely when he whines about missing papers. He eliminates any passion in humanities when he yells, “I’m not joking. This is my job!” Markley’s point is that Sutherland’s character categorizes humanities as an artistic matter that can only be expressed by personal means, such as in the novel he is writing. A professor cannot force a love of humanities onto an entire generation that is college students. These students, in return, seem to lose track of anything beautiful in life and scale the purpose down to alcohol and broads. From a different perspective, what if these students do care about humanities, but only in their personal expression, that is to say in a form of a party. Do students fulfill this learning experience in concerts, wooing girls and relationships?