Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Biggus Dickus moment

Last week was a looong week, which, because of an overnight field trip, didn't really end until Saturday night.

And Monday was a loong day.

We had two candidates on campus on Monday, for two different positions: one in my department, and another which is not in my department but on whose search committee I'm serving. So, long story short, on Monday I got to campus at 7:45 and went home at 4:15. During the eight and a half hours that I was on campus, I taught for one hour, went to one meeting, and spent five solid hours with the two different candidates.

Then I had my Chaucer seminar from 6-8:45.

So I was tired when I got to class. I had changed into jeans and a sweatshirt and taken out my contacts, declaring a one-woman casual day (not that anyone, in class or on faculty, would care), and taken a little nap, but I was far from refreshed. We were reading MT and RT,* though, so at least the subject matter promised to be interesting.

And it was interesting. I was engaged in class, becoming more energized as the discussion went on; of course, given what we were discussing, there was also a lot of humor and some degree of silliness accompanying our Very Serious Exploration of the Literature. The class, I should mention, has fifteen students in it, nearly all of them very bright, talkative, and fun. (I'm lucky.)

But I do think that the fatigue, the lingering stress of driving a vanful of students around all weekend, the exhausting small talk with job candidates, etc., was still there, underlying my enjoyment of the class. And that it was these factors that contributed to my completely losing it about halfway through.

We were talking about female sexuality. One student had posited the possibility that these fabliaux are in some way affirmative of female sexual pleasure. But it's hard to say that this is what's going on in RT, which contains what we could call rape. So I asked them, What image of female sexuality does this tale present us with?

One student raised his hand. Slowly, thoughtfully, he began to speak. It seems like...women have sexual desires, but they don't show them. [I'm paraphrasing, badly, but it'll do.] And then these opportunities--arise, and they seize them.

A flicker of a smile, a smirk even, passed over my face. I quelled it. Immature! Get a grip! I quashed the giggle that I could feel brewing. But I also caught a smothered smile on the face of a student to my right...and across from me...and to the left.... So I did what was probably the worst thing that I could do, then, and forcibly arranged my face into a very solemn expression. If he doesn't say "arise" again, I'll be fine.

He went on, becoming more impassioned as he spoke. It's like the text is saying that they don't normally express these desires, but then these unexpected circumstances just...arise!

The laugh was there. I could feel it actually in my mouth. For a moment, I contemplated running from the room--but I wouldn't have made it. I looked at him, tragically, and managed to say, "I'm sorry," before bursting into laughter, laughter wild and uncontrolled, tears running down my cheeks. I covered my mouth, I looked down at the table, it didn't matter.

The class erupted, as you'd imagine.

Oh, my God, it felt so good.

*I'm acronyming these titles in the EXTREMELY unlikely event of a student's googling them + some other key words and finding this. Sorry for the obscurity, non-medievalists.


What Now? said...

Oh, that sounds like so much fun! Did the arising student start laughing as well once he realized what he'd been saying?

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Good for you for letting it out. I once had myself nearly in tears and my class shouting out panicked helpful suggestions when I drew a freehand map of the Mediterranean where Italy looked less like a boot than a penis. Trying to fix it by drawing blobs (meant to represent Sicily & Sardinia) off the tip just made matters worse. Like you, I realized that I was going to need to actually do the hilarity meltdown if I wanted to get back on track at all.

Dr. Koshary said...

Love. It.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Do you mean to tell me you normally try to maintain total solemnity while teaching MT and RT? Oh, well, I always knew I was a lightweight.

heu mihi said...

WN--I have no idea. I don't think that I could even see straight at that point. But I'm pretty sure (knowing him) that he was.

Dame EH--oh no, not at all! But somehow all of the earlier chuckling and innuendo just didn't compare to THAT moment.

Anonymous said...


There's got to be an article in there somewhere...

Bardiac said...

The mix of humor and rape in RT is really something, isn't it?

Glad to hear your class went well :)

Jeremy said...

Nice story, there are days that are just so unlike any other before.