Earlier, this afternoon, I hinted in a discreet way to Chris that my former professor mentor Joseph K inflicted Taxi Xum Klo on his students in his Madness in Literature seminar. In an attempt to slyly reveal Professor K’s own perverse (and slender) body of work through links, I kept frakking up on the simple HTML code. I won’t do it here, as it’s been my policy to never directly point the finger at him on my own blog (though he has his own website, an entry in Wikipedia, and tons of generous “I publish you, you publish me” reviews). However, anyone who knows me from the MFA program at my alma mater knows who he is.
Here is an excerpt from my previous entry on Joe:
The literature students were no match for Joe. They appeared to be staid and conservative in comparison to him. The creative writers perceived this and ganged themselves against the MA’s. Joe often favored the MFA’s, showing preference for their ideas in the seminar’s discourse. Joe, or at least his persona, openly eschewed canonical authors. When an MA student proposed doing his final presentation on Virginia Wolff’s madness, Joe dismissively said that was old school. Since I had seen Joe’s personal library, I knew he did not completely subscribe to that view. However, he saw the graduate lit students as orthodox, unremarkable, unreceptive, inflexible, not even worthy of the A’s or B’s he gave them. Then again, was an A or a B even really worth anything in any graduate course?
Many of the literature students were more grounded in the canon, especially the specializations they were drawn to. They were not accustomed to thinking of the avant-garde feeding into literature, unless they were post-modernists. Their ways of talking about literature did not fit in with how he discussed it. They were confronted with the bizarre, the outré, the experimental, the independently published, even stuff that was downright bad. Some of the outsider writers weren’t that good at all, but their ideas were worth discussing. It may have been one thing to be required to read badly written stories, but seeing a sexually explicit German film, Taxi Xum Klo, was definitely much for some. Some scenes left little to the imagination; pornographic, though strong, would be accurate. Like most of work Joe presented, there was supposed to be something beyond the obvious. Or was there?
Beyond Joe’s choice of material, we were treated to Joe’s work. One story of his may have been included in the reader he prepared for the class. During one of the times we met at his home, he did a dramatic reading where he played Charles Manson. His stories were often like two character plays without dialogue tags or description of the characters. His subjects were often sexually unconventional people or murderers, sometimes even both. At this point, he was writing a body of creative work about serial killers, so his work qualified as madness in literature. None of the MA’s cared that Joe was a minor league literary star, a power broker in the avant-garde literary community. I’m sure a certain percentage of the MFA’s also shared similar sentiments. However, the MFA’s in his class treated him like a god. Their reverence was certainly rewarded.
I’m sure this stirs up a huge canister of worms, especially since I haven’t posted about Joe in about a year.
When I was a young college student who majored in French, the French literature professor showed us Fassbinder’s adaptation of Querelle, which some of my classmates had the same reactions as the graduate students who saw Taxi Xum Klo. While I am at a loss to remember the point behind Professor K presenting his German film, the French professor’s showing of Querelle was about Jean Genet, who is very germane to the subject of that course.
Needless to say, I’ll never make students watch a gay, semi-pornographic film. I don’t think it’ll ever happen. I don’t even inflict that stuff on my gay friends.