Like many people, I discovered the writings of Rainer Maria Rilke in college. I took a yearlong Western Civilization class—nine months on history and literature from ancient Greece through Freud—and during the spring term we read Letters to a Young Poet.
When I remember the course, certain images stand out:
Reading Oedipus Rex on the lawn outside the life sciences building and overhearing a student pronounce “Khomeini” with the same initial sound as “challah” (this would have been a month or so before the taking of American hostages). Getting an A+ (my only one in college) on a paper applying Civilization and Its Discontents to D. H. Lawrence’s story “The Prussian Officer.” Hearing our Milton professor speak of Shakespeare’s “two-backed beast” (what this had to do with Paradise Lost I cannot recall). Covering entire paragraphs of Letters to a Young Poet with my pink highlighter. [Read more...]