Monday, January 11, 2010

Teachability and Isherwood's A Single Man


If you've been following this blog regularly, you've likely seen a lot of information about the movie tie-in edition of Christopher Isherwood's A Single Man that we've recently published.

What hasn't been covered in any great depth is the fact that this book is a very valuable tool to teach in the classroom. Until now.

James J. Berg, who is dean of social sciences and arts at the College of the Desert and editor of Isherwood on Writing, and Chris Freeman, a lecturer at the University of Southern California, have directly addressed this in a column in The Chronicle of Higher Education. They discuss Isherwood's background, his relationship with Don Bachardy, the new film directed by Tom Ford (which is due out in wide release on Friday), and the award-winning documentary Chris & Don: A Love Story. Berg and Freeman analyze Isherwood's history and accomplishments with regard to A Single Man, as well as the teachability of a particular scene from the book that takes place, of course, in main character George's classroom:

What is astonishing about this part of the novel is that Isherwood anticipates the discourse on diversity in higher education from the last 20 years. Rather than paper over the differences he sees in the classroom, Isherwood calls for acknowledgment and discussion of diversity. As to the issue of hating without a cause, George says: "A minority is only thought of as a minority when it constitutes some kind of a threat to the majority, real or imagined. And no threat is ever quite imaginary. … There always is a reason, no matter how wrong it is." George is talking about the Jews and blacks present in the classroom, but his subtext includes the gay minorities too. Isherwood's wishful thinking here is for real engagement instead of benign tolerance.

Read the entire article here.

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