Who me, listen to audio books? That was my attitude until recently, a prejudice of my profession that literature is better read than heard. But on a solo road trip this summer I took along the ten-disk set of Marc Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn for the ride.
MOOC seems to have swept us up in its wave. Dazed, many of us don’t know which way to turn. To put MOOC in perspective, let me describe a program that sails against this tide.
Having devoted the last couple of years to the study of empathy and the need to stand in someone else’s shoes, I tried to imagine how our host felt as we appeared unannounced in her courtyard.
No, she insisted, she could never go back to Zanesville. Of course, she would continue to visit her hometown but she would not live there again. My student’s words were adamant but her voice broke with undisguised sadness.
If asked to select a writer to dine with tonight, I would name C. P. Cavafy (1863-1933), the Greek poet of Alexandria.
My adventure in Spanish started a couple of years ago with a promise I threw out to the audience at the Universidad de Cartagena. Feeling elated that so many students had come to my talk, I vowed—via the interpreter—that the next time I came to Colombia, I would speak to them in Spanish.
What was more dazzling, my view of the Bosphorus with the Aghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque or the conversation? In Istanbul last month I rediscovered what I treasure whenever I go abroad: the well-roundedness and cosmopolitanism of intellectuals in comparison with whom we here appear narrow and specialized.
Did they or didn’t they? Only Homer knows for sure.
My livelihood depends on fiction. To this end I have published a book arguing for the importance of literature in life. I have posted personal blogs that combine internal reflection with cultural commentary. In short, I see the absolute importance of narrative in life and work. Yet, I also realize that stories can get in the way of understanding life.
Is it possible to fail aesthetically but succeed ethically? I thought of this question as I read Mario Vargas Llosa’s recent The Dream of the Celt, published in 2010, the year he won the Nobel Prize for literature, and now available in English.
Gregory Jusdanis teaches Modern Greek literature and culture at The Ohio State University. He is the author of The Poetics of Cavafy: Eroticism, Textuality, History (1987), Belated Modernity and Aesthetic Culture: Inventing National Literature (1991), The Necessary Nation (2001), and Fiction Agonistes: In Defense of Literature (2010). His book, A Tremendous Thing. Friendship from the Iliad to the Internet, was published in 2014.