[percy-l] The Moviegoer

RHONDA MCDONNELL rhonda_mcdonnell at msn.com
Thu May 11 21:06:19 EDT 2006

Hi David--

Yes, it was me--I taught it again this spring, and again, students loved it. 
And students hated it. It depended on the kid. But they all seemed to get 
it, which was important to me. I used it in AP Senior English (Advanced 
Placement Literature and COmposition), which is taught on a level equal to 
an introductory lit. course at college. I did some things to help students 
out. I told them who William Holden, Rory Calhoun, and Gregory Peck were, 
and what they were known for. I gave them correlating actors in today's 
Hollywood. We had read THE STRANGER, and I'd given them a rudimentary 
understanding of Existentialism. They were frustrated by Mersault, and Binx 
was the answer, so that helped them like him. We spent time looking at the 
humor of the text. I had the students find passages and references that were 
humorous. Following class discussion helped those who had difficulty seeing 
the humor get it. And, finally, and most importantly, before they started 
reading, I had them read Percy's essay "Stoicism in the South" and I gave 
them a Kierkegaard primer (Karey Perkins has a nice overview online). 
Following the novel, during the time we were discussing it, I also had them 
read excerpts from several other essays: "The Man on the Train," "Notes for 
a Novel at the End of the World," and "Novel Writing in an Apocalyptic Age."

Still, some didn't like it. Others have rhapsodized. One young man, frantic 
over having lost his copy of the essay excerpts, requested a second copy 
from me. In my world, these moments are victories.

I have 44 students, a mixed bag, young philosophers, cheerleaders, jazz 
musicians, football players, etc. The only thing they have in common is that 
they're bright and introspective (although some of them keep that a secret).

Good luck with it--If you use study guides, etc, and would like copies of 
mine, let me know.

The best lack all convictions, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. -- WB Yeats

>From: "Beck,  David A" <dabeck at iupui.edu>
>Reply-To: "Percy-L: Literary and Philosophical Discussion" 
><percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org>
>To: percy-l at lists.ibiblio.org
>Subject: Re: [percy-l] The Moviegoer
>Date: Thu, 11 May 2006 20:10:18 -0400
>I see what you mean. But I think students prepare themselves when
>reading, say, Flaubert or Shakespeare, knowing that they are entering a
>different world. Some of the more modern works, however, seem real---in
>that it's their world--but the references don't. (A colleague of mine
>said that he taught Delillo's White Noise recently and realized how
>dated it is and that the "threat" seems less threatening than
>present-day reality.)
>Of course, I could be all wrong. I don't have any strong convictions
>about what I'm saying. In fact, I'm just thinking out loud, trying to
>figure out why I have bombed with the Moviegoer, but not Lancelot or
>LITR. It's easy to see why students like those two--but even references
>in LITR are "dated." One student, who really liked it, said that he
>could tell it was written in the late 60's or early 70's.
>I remember one student complained that nothing happened in the MG. I
>probably should wait for my 200-level class in the fall, but I just
>have a "hankering" to teach it this summer (and, come evaluation time,
>might pay dearly for it).
>Thanks for the feedback.
>Quoting Lawrence Rhu <rhul at gwm.sc.edu>:
> > Isn't it "dated" in the ways Don Quixote or Madame Bovary is dated?
> > Their protagonists fall under the spells of the fashionable fictions
> > of their times -- chivalric romance, sentimental novel -- but they
> > share themes that continue to engage us:  the relations between
> > imagination and reality, moods and worlds, etc.  Try The Movies of My
> > Life by Alberto Fuguet for a more recent similar sort of fictional
> > effort, but I would readily put Percy's masterful novel in the line
> > of those by  Cervantes and Flaubert.
> >
> > Larry
> >
> > Lawrence F. Rhu
> > Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature
> > University of South Carolina
> > Columbia, SC  29208
> > Tel:  803 777 0144
> > Fax:  803 777 9064
> > Email:  rhul at sc.edu
> >
> >>>> dabeck at iupui.edu 05/10/06 10:39 PM >>>
> > 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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> >
> > Visit the Walker Percy Project at http://www.ibiblio.org/wpercy
> >
> > --
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> > http://lists.ibiblio.org/pipermail/percy-l/
> >
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> >
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