There is much to be learned from the often overlooked Medieval philosopher Boethius, who composed his magnum opus, the Consolation of Philosophy, while he was in a prison cell awaiting death.
Boethius began his work depicting himself completely immersed in misery, “I once composed verses with joy! Forced by grief, melancholy measures I now collect.” He continued, “Torn Muses bid me write- elegies drench my face… Poems, once the glory of my green youth, console me now in old age’s gloom… Death, sorrowful in sweet years, called in sadness is welcomed.”
Boethius continued to sulk and plead with the Muses to immerse himself in sadness and woe, when Lady Philosophy appeared and “caught sight of the Muses of Poetry standing by my [Boethius’] bed, giving me words to suit my tearful mood.”
Lady Philosophy was furious and called out, “Who let these whorish stage girls come to see a sick man? It’s more pain they bring than remedies… They make a mind more used to disease, instead of setting it free from pain.”
There is far more to this passage than a critique of the Drama Department! The “whorish stage girls” refer to romanticism, chivalric courtly love (in the literary sense) and idealized masculine hopelessness.
The Medieval Christians found serious wisdom in Lady Philosophy’s words, and the careful avoidance of the “stage whore muse” remained more or less prevalent until the rise of Geoffrey Chaucer 700 years later. I would maintain that there is still wisdom in Lady Philosophy’s words that has been all but disregarded here at UD.
How exactly does this manifest at UD? This can be best answered by looking to a book in the Core: Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick.” In Chapter Three Ishmael finds himself in the halls of the Spouter Inn, when a painting catches his eye.
Ishmael begins to ponder its meaning, “It’s the Black Sea in a midnight gale. — It’s the unnatural combat of the four primal elements. — It’s a blasted heath. — It’s a Hyperborean winter scene. — It’s the breaking-up of the icebound stream of Time.”
The painting was nothing more than 19th Century hotel art; a generic painting of a ship at sea. Ishmael’s philosophical romanticism led him to later ponder the hopelessness of his way of life in such a desolate world.
How often do we do this here in our city on a hill, overlooking the loud and busy Dallas with our Aristotle in hand, clutching at our philosophical pearls?
Another example is in chapter 94, when Ishmael accidentally squeezes a shipmate’s hand, and finds himself in ecstasy at his own philosophic genius, “Oh! my dear fellow beings, why should we longer cherish any social acerbities, or know the slightest ill-humor or envy! Come; let us squeeze hands all round; nay, let us all squeeze ourselves into each other.”
Does this not remind you of the brilliant Freshman who, after reading the first two books of Plato, suddenly believes they have found the way to world peace? Or perhaps of the Upperclassman romanticizing the poverty of Old Mill?
Where does this problem come from in our school? Where does the poison of romanticism corrupt our youth? The most clear answer is the mandatory Lit TradIV course.
The course begins with a perverted, drama-filled love from Jane Austen. How fun is it to be in on the Victorian gossip, sipping our tea while watching people’s lives fall apart!
It is then followed by Ishmael in Moby Dick: a foolish romantic in love with his own intellect. He boards a whaling ship only to see his crewmates perish. What an adventure for young Ishmael to undertake! How misunderstood is his philosophical brilliance!
And after this romanticism is thoroughly ingrained into the minds of UD’s students, we are dealt a healthy dose of Russian nihilism, just in case you thought you could do anything to fix the broken world.
I could not think of a better way to create insufferable hopeless romantics, dismayed at the state of the world but too posh to do anything about it!
We need to remove Lit Trad IV from the Core, institute forced hard labor on campus and put Dr. Roper in the stocks for the way he reads the Squeezing of the Hand!