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July 30, 2007

Books I have not read

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Pierre Bayard is a psychoanalyst, professor of French Literature at the University of Paris (VIII) and turns up on French chat shows (warning: head tilt). The ultimate cake life, in other words.

But all is not gâteau for a man expected to have read some books and does not enjoy reading. Worse yet, as a professor he is often expect to comment on books he has never read.

... he divides the works he mentions into four categories: “LI” indicates “livres inconnus” (books he is unfamiliar with); “LP” “livres parcourus” (books glanced at); “LE” “livres dont j’ai entendu parler” (books he has heard discussed) and “LO” “les livres que j’ai oubliés” (books he has read but forgotten). Ulysses, for example, falls into the category “LE”: he claims not to have read the novel, but he can place it within its literary context, knows that it is in a sense a reprise of the Odyssey, that it follows the ebb and flow of consciousness, and that it takes place in Dublin over the course of a single day. When teaching he makes frequent and unflinching references to Joyce.

Good man. There is no other way to survive undergraduate teaching. I knew a professor of philosophy at a certain Canadian university who could not bear the thought of Sartre but could not stand anyone knowing it. Instead of wading through Being and Nothingness she opened her copy to the last page and carefully wrote an exclamation mark after the final sentence. Problem solved.

Posted by Ghost of a flea at July 30, 2007 07:23 AM