[percy-l] The Moviegoer

mitchdl at email.unc.edu mitchdl at email.unc.edu
Thu May 11 10:42:57 EDT 2006

I just finished teaching The Moviegoer at the end of a Southern Lit 
class and was surprised at how well the students responded.  Granted, 
this was an upper-level course composed of English majors (and one 
sociology major!), so it's a different bag from an intro course.

I think there's less of a problem with TMG seeming dated now than there 
would have been in the eighties/nineties, for the simple reason that 
the references are absolutely meaningless to students now (William 
Holden??).  They take them purely as fictional names and judge the 
meaning by the context, instead of partially recognizing and depositing 
them in the 'fogey' bin.

The predicament, of course, is unchanged and worse now than ever.

Most surprising, though, was the response to Kate.  If any character 
might be said to be a bit overdrawn, it's Kate, but the students (all 
female) immediately recognized a familiar type.  This, I would say, is 
one path into TMG with these students.  It helps that mine tend to be 
notably less ideologically driven readers, so they don't get distracted 
with the "She's dependent on a man!" business.  They understand more 
about desperate times and desperate measures.

Since this is an intro class, however, TMG will leave many students 
flat.  So my recommendation would be to divide the class as the world 
is divided:  those who love Percy (TWLP) and those who hate Percy 
(TWHP), or sheep and goats. Take the class outside and let the TWHPers 
loll about on the grass with their Ipods while the TWLPs palpitate 
their frontal lobes and gaze ironically at the former group.

All the best,


Quoting "Beck,  David A" <dabeck at iupui.edu>:

> Friends,
> A few weeks (months?) ago, someone posted a message about the success
> of teaching The Moviegoer to a high school class. (I'm thinking it was
> Rhonda.) But the email encouraged me to try it once again, in my Intro
> to Lit class this summer. Most of the class will be bright-faced, eager
> to learn, college freshman--well, college freshman anyway.
> The Moviegoer is one of my favorites, but it's also one that I've never
> taught successfully. Most thought it was too weird (I interpreted that
> as being too dated--replace Tony Curtis with Tom Cruise, etc.) But if
> high schoolers got it, then maybe it is the way I've been teaching it.
> Lancelot has always gone over well in my 200-level lit classes. And
> Love in the Ruins also works pretty well, though it's a little too
> long. But TMG is such a great book that I thought I needed to give it
> one more try. I'm re-reading it now and am really enjoying it again.
> So my question is (to the list and to Rhonda, if she is the one who
> posted the email): What is a good way of presenting this novel that is
> dated (in its references) but is as timely now (if not more so) than
> ever to college freshman?
> Any help will be much appreciated. The class doesn't begin until 6/26.
> Thanks.
> -David
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