Friday, November 16, 2012

the lessons of victory

I guess everyone has done it and if they haven't, you kind of wonder why they haven't -- thrown caution to the wind and stood up four-square for what they believed in. Win, lose, or draw ... fuck it! Do it!

In college, all language majors were required to take a course called "Germanic Literature." I was a French major at the time and so ended up sitting in the Germanic Literature class, listening to a professor who pissed me off worse and worse and worse as time went by. The man was elderly and used the same notes this year that he had last year ... and the year before that and the year before that. Perhaps he was simply spent or lazy. I didn't know and I didn't care: To my student mind, the guy was a fraud as a teacher.

My righteous anger built and built. I really wanted to nail this guy to the wall and eventually I got my chance.

Henrik Ibsen
It came in the form of an assignment to write a paper. The assignment arrived on a mimeographed sheet of possible topics from which to choose. One of those choices was the Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen, whose plays I had mostly consumed as a matter of pleasure in the past. No way was I going to do any original research for this nitwit teacher, so I chose to do my paper on Ibsen because I pretty much knew the material... an easy-peasy ten pages, or whatever the required length was.

But as I sat down to write the paper, my anger with the teacher bubbled up all over again. I'd show the son-of-a-bitch or go down in flames trying.

It was a pretty-well-crafted paper, as I recall. The quotations that I cited in support of whatever thesis I had chosen were all real -- they all came from the actual plays. But the secondary source material -- the supporting wisdom of those who had written their own published critiques of Ibsen -- was all entirely bogus. I made up the names of the authors; I made up the quotes attributed to them; I made up the pages on which those quotes appeared; I even made up the publishing houses that had published the secondary-source critiques and I manufactured the publication dates. Naturally, all of my phantom authors agreed with my thesis for the paper.

I might have gotten an F.

Instead, I got an A-minus ... and the only reason I hadn't gotten an A, I was convinced, was because I wasn't one of the goodie-two-shoes girls who sat in the front row of the class and dotted their I's with little circles.

When I saw the grade, I was chagrined. There was something so disheartening about being right that it overwhelmed my youthful outrage about the teacher's being wrong.

There's nothing like victory to teach some valuable lessons about 'victory.'


  1. I had a similar experience in college. I took a class called Asian Ideas and Values taught by a lady from India who had a picture of herself and Indira Ghandi on her desk. The class focused entirely on the Bagavad Gita. But believing there was more to Asia than India i wrote my final paper on why i thought she was a cultural nazi. I was young, and failed the course. lol

  2. olcharlie lol :)

    genkaku, I don't get it: where was the fizz part? The guy was not clued on no? Oder..