Andrey (azangru) wrote,

Benjamin Boyce, who was a student at Evergreen when the shit hit the fan, has recently published a recording from one of the classes that he attended. The name of the class was Performing the Text: Creative Writing as Dissent, taught by one David Wolach. The recording is interesting in many respects, but what was the most interesting to me was that it gives a glimpse into a classroom and into the characters of the students and teacher assistants at that course. And OMG, does it sound like a therapy session or an AA meeting (as shown in movies) rather than a class:

One of my thoughts after watching this was what a gigantic waste of time this class must have felt to Boyce. Whatever it was he was hoping to get out of that class, he was likely not getting it. This reminded me of my own college experience, when we had a class on medical physiology. The instructor was professor Evgeny Yumatov, who had an impressive way of spending two and a half hours every week (or was it every other week?) with us without ever talking about physiology at all. In his defense, he always started the class by asking us whether we had any questions about the chapters we were expected to read. We usually didn't. But even when we did, it wouldn't hold him for long. Soon, he was blabbering about stuff in general. I am racking my brain trying to remember a concrete example — and draw almost only blanks. I remember his brief exchange with a student about a car that he (the professor) had bought, a Kia SUV; but that couldn't have lasted long. I seem to remember a brief digression about the price of the dollar, and whether the time was ripe to buy or it was better to wait; but that also couldn't have taken that long. What was he filling those two and a half hours, week in, week out, with? I don't remember, but it sure wasn't physiology. The dominant emotion among our class was that of embarrassment. I could understand it if he were simply bored with his subject and wanted to spend as little time with students as possible. We would have actually welcomed that, because during the second half of the class, in the remaining two hours or thereabouts, we had a lab, which generally involved killing frogs in various imaginative ways; and we always felt pressed for time. But no, he diligently spent all the allotted time (and maybe more) torturing us with his inconsequential banter. What was the verb that Saltykov-Schedrin used for his Little Judas Golovlyov — разглагольствовал? how was it translated, I wonder(*). Anyway, that’s what he did. It was all such a massive waste of time that I still feel the pangs of frustration.

One of his favorite words, if memory serves, was осмысление. Никакого осмысления, would he complain about those who didn't show proper understanding. Another mannerism was the interjection вот pronounced either nasally or gutturally, which transformed the word into one big amorphous schwa with a hint of a plosive in the end. Those were the features we picked up when we imitated him in our inside jokes.

Before writing down this memory, I googled professor Yumatov, hoping to find some students' recollections about their experience during those classes — but the best I could find was the story of one of female students about how she thought she was being harassed by him. It's true that he did pick some female students as his favorite victims to whom he regularly addressed his questions (unrelated to anything we were supposed to be studying); but I haven't seen anything more than that. But what surprised me is that no-one has apparently shared their memories about those wasted hours that could have been so much better spent on learning this potentially interesting subject.

*) Inconsistently translated here as "to hold forth" or "sententiousness"

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