J. Alfred Prufrock on Viagra: Online Education Caught With Its Pants Down

T.S. Eliot

It is not easy being online education or J. Alfred Prufrock. As you may recall from reading the poem, Alfred was obsessed with whether or not he would “have the strength to force the moment to its crisis.” He was, of course, referring to whether or not he would have the balls to engage in sexual relations with a woman, likely a prostitute.

Already it does not look good for online education, with the words “crisis,” “have the balls,” and “prostitute” in such close proximity to one another. And when you take other parts of the poem (no pun intended), such as Alfred’s wondering if the mermaids will sing to him, his fantasy-ridden mind receives the intrusion of a rather sane thought, because after he has professed, “I have seen them [the mermaids] riding seawards on the waves,” he surmises that “human voices wake us, and we drown.”

Metaphors, imagery, thoughts that connect to the state of online education or those that hold the purse strings and have had such great hopes for what online education would bring, anyone?

I am reminded of Jack London’s “To Build a Fire,” another work we read in the American literature survey I teach, with the man trying to execute at all costs his journey to a camp where he knows all will be well. In the bitter cold, he is accompanied by a dog. Jack London tells us about the man, “The trouble with him was that he was without imagination.” Now the dog, he has what it takes to keep on living: “But the brute had its instinct. It experienced a vague but menacing apprehension that subdued it and made it slink along at the man’s heels, and that made it question eagerly every unwonted movement of the man as if expecting him to go into camp or to seek shelter somewhere and build a fire.” Not to be a spoil sport, but the story ends with the man dying and the dog surviving. The man is filled with all sorts of practical knowledge and knows what he should not do, if he wishes to survive the wilderness and 75 below zero, but he thinks the rules don’t apply to him.

Class, how does this apply to online education?

While we are reviewing for our essay exam, “John, what does James Dickey mean in ‘The Heaven of Animals’ when he says, “They tremble, they walk / . . . / They fall, they are torn, / they walk again.” “You are right it is a kind of heaven for animals, they are invincible, and it is possible that Dickey is criticizing people for making heaven out to be just as they want it to be. Flat screen TV, hot tub, no reading, insert your own fantasy here!”

If you want to bring in politics, you can certainly write about that, those of us who don’t buy into this heaven will have to teach in a really hot place, or not at all.

Now I know you don’t want to review the poem “Diving Into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich. Yes, she is difficult to read.

“Professor!”

“Yes, we have a volunteer! Thank you, Jenna.”

“She says, ‘I came to explore the wreck.’ She also says, “I came to see the damage that was done.'”

“And she has also come for the real thing, hasn’t she?! ‘The wreck and not the story of the wreck / the thing itself and not the myth.'”

After I have read that part of the poem I tell the class about women seeking their own way of saying things, not having to give in to patriarchal language and its structure. Some of the students nod knowingly and approvingly, while other faces signal they want this part to be over with.

“Now if you were going to apply the words of the speaker in Adrienne Rich’s poem to the entire business of online education, what do you think you would come up with? Where do we fit in?”

No takers on this one. Just as well. We are running out of time. Is this last sentence a metaphor or simply a signal that today’s class is coming to an end?

And so we end where we began, with poor Alfred J. Prufrock, “In the room the women come and go / Talking of Michelangelo.” What the heck does that mean for online education?

One thought on “J. Alfred Prufrock on Viagra: Online Education Caught With Its Pants Down

  1. Pingback: J. Alfred Prufrock on Viagra: Online Education Caught With Its Pants … | Area Delvino

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