Literary Fog

9 March 2017

Gag Reflection: Remembering Why I Didn’t Major In Lit

by Freddy J. Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + College Grad Still Trying to Figure Out What He Should Have Majored In…

As much as I love reading and writing, I was just reminded how much I fear and loathe the study of it.

Back in high school, I enjoyed discussing the symbolism in “The Heart of Darkness” and “Grapes of Wrath,” and hearing all the different ways we teenagers used the word “irony” without really understanding what it meant.

Then I entered college and slammed into the GREAT FOG BANK OF PRETENSE, with essays so dense I didn’t read the words so much as chew them. The act of gnawing got in the way of knowing, and the best I could do was regurgitate what little I swallowed into thick, billowing essays of my own.

I relived that sensation today while reading an article in one of my alumni magazines. I won’t name the titles or people involved — my policy is to not slam individuals unless they’re trying to scam people. And while some may say that academic pretension is a scam at today’s tuition levels, in the age of Trump, we’ve seen worse.

So instead, let me just share with you a couple of sentences that sent me running outside for fresh air (only to realize that I’m in L.A., so please send oxygen). Quote:

“The essay suggests the influence of [a certain writer], whose hallucinatory satires mine the absurdities of racism for comic effect, highlighting how their surreal and grotesque contortions are refracted in language and sublimated in collective phantasmagorias: television shows, music videos, and the movies.”

Then, just as I was beginning to digest that, I bit into this:

“[The author] has drawn just the opposite lesson, wagering that irony not only sustains the postmodern novel — but that it can even deepen the stain of allegory.”

Gee, there’s a new use of “irony” — wish I had known that one in high school.

So every now and then, I wonder if I should have majored in English. Or literature. Or some other non-business subject that would have gotten me closer to writing the Great American Novel (my lifelong fantasy). Then I stumble across samples of academic discourse and remember that studying great writing somehow turns people into bad writers.

How ironic.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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