Horace, an assistant professor of English, was teaching his university students about Romanticism. He assigned his students a paper about the works of Kant, Burke, Shelley, Blake, Wordsworth, and the like.
He received a number of papers discussing… someone else:
For this assignment specifically, I get a lot of students who reference both the language of, and often the fact of, their personal relationship with their lord and savior Jesus Christ.
I can’t help but roll my eyes when Blake and his visionary cosmology, or Wordsworth and his “semi-atheism,” or heaven forfend, the outspoken atheist Shelley, are revealed to be Christians along the line [of] Joel Osteen and my parents.
Let’s get more specific:
Three papers in a row this evening found references to poets’ beliefs that were both counter to all evidence in their biographies, to what was discussed in class, and which are completely ahistorical: the kind of personal teddy-bear god that has inf(l)ected a lot of popular American religious discourse–especially for teens. I learned that when wordsworth speaks about nature in Tintern Abbey, he really means “Jesus,” that the Tyger solves the problem of evil because it shows us that all of creation is part of God’s Work, God’s Plan and God’s Love. The third paper references the author’s desire to find “the presence of God in Blake’s writing,” but then finally acknowledges that this isn’t an appropriate strategy. I’m not entirely sure why the author felt the need to signpost a rejected interpretive strategy, but I wish more students understood this.
What is the reason for this?
Horace isn’t sure:
Are they witnessing to me? Do they believe that they are taking a stand? Are they so deeply immersed in a kind of totalizing theology that they can imagine no other way through which to view experience?
I have yet to experience this perk of teaching in math class.
Surely, there must be a way to work Jesus into the interior angles of a hexagon…