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 He admits to the class, possible to again inspire some relevance, that Milton is boring and outdated, only to be interrupted by the bell.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?