“Not at all like Henry James” (My future as a subject for discussion in a grad school seminar)

Daily Prompt A Name for Yourself Some writers’ names have becomes adjectives: Kafkaesque, marxist, Orwellian, sadistic. If your name (or nickname, or blog name) were to become an adjective, what would it mean?

“Hi everybody! Welcome to the University of Devoid. Is this your first grad school class?” asked Prof. Doltz as he entered the room with his customary lop-sided limping swagger. The first grad school experience for these new students would be Doltz’ famous seminar on the novels of Kennedy. Doltz the short, the cynical, the wizened, the one-eyed, the lecherous. If Richard III lived in the modern day, and to the ripe age of 60, he would have looked like Prof. Doltz. “You, in the front, taking a selfie. Yes, you, in the short skirt, the crossed legs, the sandals…” A drop of very intellectual drool appeared in one corner of his mouth.
“Sir?”
“Is this your first grad school class?”
“Oh yes sir, and I’m very excited to be studying the work of Kennedy!”
“Kennedy. Yes. Well, ahem, erm.”
“Didn’t she study here?”
“She did, but…”
“But what?”
“We…well, we…”
“I know,” said a young man in back, his skateboard leaning against his seat, his faux hawk razor sharp in full Woody Woodpecker glory.
“Tell us,” said the curvy young woman beside him. The stack of books beside her showed she was working on a thesis in “body image issues.”
“You threw her out, right? The University of Devoid? Threw her out.”
“I wouldn’t say we THREW her,” mumbled the professor. “More like we, uh, you know, pulled in the welcome mat. We did allow her to finish her degree.”
“Why did you ‘pull in the welcome mat’ as you say?”
“She was, you know, not quite the thing we want in a literature department. We want scholarship, the real thing, scholarship.”
“You mean you wanted her to help you with your scholarship? The way I heard it, you took her back to your place and tried seducing her with ping-pong and brandy. You grabbed her tit, right?”
“Well,” the jaded one-eyed prof cleared his throat. “We’re not here to discuss ancient history. We’re here to attempt a clear critical analysis of Kennedy’s work and come to some kind of idea of how it fit into the paradigm of late 20th century early 21st century American fiction.”
“I don’t think it does.”
“Why is that, young man?”
“She was a medievalist and, in my opinion, tended to imitate the style of medieval poetry and stories. Pocket epics, if you will. Less is more type thing. She certainly did not write like Henry James.”
“When she was studying here, her focus was 19th century American popular fiction, right?” asked the buxom maiden in the back row.
“Yes, sweet cheeks. No one knows how she got into medievalism.”
“You can’t call me ‘sweet cheeks’. That’s harassment.”
“Sorry, babe. You’re right. For that matter, no one writes like Henry James, with his superb attention to complex and abstruse grammatical constructions,” sighed the professor. “I doubt anyone will again. So how would you characterize her style? Works today are often labeled ‘Kennedyesque’ but what exactly does that mean?”
“That is if words HAVE meaning, and that’s certainly up for debate, or am I wrong, Prof. Doltz?” A young man in the front row wearing beige slacks, a beige Banlon polo shirt, sporting beige skin, dirty blond hair and zits, resembling a well scrubbed white potato.
“True enough, but let’s say for the sake of discussion, that they do. We’ll hold off on any semiotic rants for now, all right Mr. Dent?”
“Certainly. You’re the professor.” Though he said this, the student referred to as “Mr. Dent” did not seem at all sure that should be the case. With his wide knowledge of modernist, post-modernist, post-partum, pre-bit, over-bite, semiotic, post-semiotic, new and old, prestidigious and flatulent schools of criticism, Huntley Dent was pretty sure he “out knew” Prof. Doltz.
“What, then, does ‘Kennedyesque’ mean, if it means anything?”
“I think it refers to a certain carefully crafted restraint, the process of ‘unwriting’ to which she adhered with such ferocity.”
“Ferocity?”
“Uh, yeah. Ferocity. All her biographers describe her as a fierce little person who decorated her living room with tigers.”
“Not tigers, idiot. Tiger chairs, a tiger blanket, a stuffed tiger — stuffed animal, not taxidermy.”
“Still, how many normal people decorate with tigers? It has to have meant something and affected her writing.”
“Maybe she just liked tigers, I mean they ARE pretty.”
“Could we back off a little from her decorating preferences and get back to her work, to our discussion of the term, ‘Kennedyesque’?”
“We could talk about it in terms of themes. It seems that the question of Christianity is a common theme in her work.”
“What exactly do you mean by ‘…question of Christianity’? Since when is Christianity a question?”
“Sigh…”
“Writing style? Definitely ‘minimalist’. Right? I mean Kennedy might be the new Hemingway.”
“Capote.”
“Oh yes, definitely. The success of Kennedy’s work late in her life brought a renewed interest in the work of Capote. ‘I believe more in the scissors than the pen’ right?”
“Can we talk about the influences? I mean, no writer writes in a vacuum, not even a Dyson.”

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/name-for-yourself/

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  26. Daily Prompt: A Name for Yourself – Long live Angloswisslogical

8 thoughts on ““Not at all like Henry James” (My future as a subject for discussion in a grad school seminar)

    • I’m happy to know that — I was afraid the last sentence, uh, sucked. 🙂

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