Monday is the first day of this academic year for the high school classes I teach. The missus and I have been frantically working to get ready. But will the students be ready for us? Even more, will they be ready for the tales of weal and woe that will be visited upon them this Fall?
In thinking about this, I just realized that almost every reading assignment this quarter is a tale of woe and suffering. My sophomore humanities class begins with Homer’s Iliad. The great thing about Homer is that in the three thousand years since the Iliad has come down to us, there has yet to have been a writer or storyteller who can match the vividness of his violent death scenes. He is the poet-par-excellence of gore.
My junior humanities class has the privilege of entering into another form of suffering. Dante’s Inferno is our first book of the new academic year. Dante created new forms of suffering for those who did not suffer enough in this world! However, there is some comic relief for the juniors, because in the English class I teach them, we begin with Canterbury Tales.
But we are not finished yet! The seniors, having already been exposed to the this-worldly violence of Homer and the hellish violence of Dante will enter the dystopian worlds of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley with 1984 and Brave New World, respectively.
Thankfully, the Latin classes I teach are pretty straightforward and methodical. Otherwise, I might need to undergo a psychiatric evaluation after inundating myself with all of these forms of suffering for the next eight weeks!