[percy-l] The Moviegoer

Karl M. Terrell kterrell at sheastokes.com
Thu May 11 13:41:14 EDT 2006

* * This communication is CONFIDENTIAL * * 

I took an American literature intro class at your university/my alma
mater, UNC-CH, in the late 70s (I was not an English major), and it was
then and there that I was introduced to Percy.  We read the Moviegoer.
I've been under his spell ever since, having read everything he has
written, solely for pleasure.  

I don't pretend to know why I got turned on to this particular writer;
I'm not the literary type, and don't analyze such things.  I just
appreciate good writing, by a writer who has something to say, and
peppers it along with wonderful observations about the planet and the
people around us. 


-----Original Message-----
From: mitchdl at email.unc.edu [mailto:mitchdl at email.unc.edu] 
Sent: Thursday, May 11, 2006 10:43 AM
To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org
Subject: Re: [percy-l] The Moviegoer

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
> --
> An archive of all list discussion is available at 
> http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/percy-l/
> Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy

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