Thursday, 1 September 2011

The study of the non-existent

We are doing Middlemarch in English, which must be the thickest book I haven't read. During the class, the lecturer kept asking questions about the book and the various characters' behaviour and reactions to certain events, and eventually some people actually responded.

In most of my classes, people do not say anything. I think it is out of fear of saying something silly and being judged for it. Or being afraid of  mispronouncing a word in a foreign language. Or of getting the answer wrong. The other day I had to give a tutor class and the most irritating part is when you have about 80 people staring at you when you have asked them a question. And nothing serious like " What is art?", no, no, I went for "Can you hear me?"

The response? Silence. Not a whisper. And then as soon as I continued explaining, they kept murmuring. The sheep.

So I know how my lecturer must feel when she asks a question and everyone just stares blankly back, and I know that that minute of uncomfortable shuffling on the chairs and people looking at their notes is actually stupid because you WANT people to say something, anything.

But my point is that what I am studying actually does not exist. All of it is words in books on shelves in libraries or bedrooms. I am studying the non-existent, the created and the pixellated. Everything I am supposed to analyse is a collection of interpretations, of personal associations, of imagined ideas that I read into collections of words and images.

It is quite fascinating: I am studying how to imagine a world, differently.

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