martedì, ottobre 20, 2009

Teacher envy

I'm starting to have my doubts about Blogspot's search feature, because it's telling me I've never written about Derek Jarrett before, and I have. I adore Derek Jarrett; let me make that clear now, since I mentioned him only tangentially to his smashing book on Hogarth last time. Derek Jarrett is fucking ace.

It was the Hogarth book that done it. I picked it up when I was in a bit of an existentialist, historicistic pisser - you know, the sort where you're pissed off at your race for inventing ore smelting and you wish that you were all just living contented Stone/Golden Age lives, getting high in corridor tombs and not worrying too too much about man's inhumanity to man, and you're definitely super-pissed off about the Industrial Revolution. I like Hogarth so I thought the book would be a good antidote and have pretty pictures, but it was so much more.

Jarrett, who was a history teacher at the English equivalent of a high school once upon a time before moving off to teach history to undergrads at a London college, had an excellent way of discussing big and small picture aspects of a subject or question at the same time. Bewilderingly, in the one little book on Hogarth, you got a feeling for both the man's wider social context - through all the classes - and for the man himself. I'm dead jealous of the students who had him as a teacher. He would have been life-altering. I had my own life-altering teachers but Derek Jarrett, well, I'm dead jealous.

Anyways, I finally managed to get The Sleep of Reason: Fantasy and Reality from the Victorian Age to the First World War after trying unsuccessfully to order it from three different Amazon vendors. It came all the way from New Zealand in the end. 50 pages in and it's awesome. It turns out this hero of mine may be, in part, so good at simultaneously communicating micro- and macro-concepts because of his awareness and use of another of my heros, Carl Jung (by the way, if anybody feels like blowing well over a C note on my upcoming birthday, this would be most welcome). He can comfortably explore from this vantage the way one set of myths substitutes in for another over time.

Conclusion to the introduction, concerning the first world war and persistent establishment arguments that the horrific slaughter it entailed was some sort of necessary sacrifice:

What was the God of the Christians to do? The truth was that if by some miracle he could have made the rulers of the warring nations follow Christ's precepts the values of civilized society might have been saved. The myth was that if he had done so the world would have been cursed and degenerate, dishonoured and disgraced. It was a harsh and terrible myth which defaced and distorted the image of God to suit the needs of men. The image of God never fully recovered. The First World War succeeded in doing what all the sneers and disbelief of the nineteenth-century sceptics had failed to do.

Nessun commento: