Le gai savoir

When it comes to choosing classes here at UW-Madison, you often find yourself stuck with a monumental load of bone-dry, categorically unsexy reading; but every once in a while you’re dealt an amazing hand. Two of my classes this semester, one on Vladimir Nabokov and one on Soviet/Russian Cinema, seem as though they’re going to be excellent. This morning, as I settled down at Barriques on W. Washington Ave. and prepared to dive into a few chapters of Nabokov’s The Defense, I realized just how lucky I am to be enrolled in a class whose reading requirements consist of novels that I probably would’ve been reading anyway as side projects, as diversions from scholarly pursuits.

So many people select their classes not according to what they’re most interested in or what they’d like to learn about most; they sign up for classes that will help them slowly inch towards a degree which itself is merely a front for a vocation; these sorts of students regard college as an opportunity to specialize in a certain field and thereby land a respectably high-paying occupation (and the comfortably bourgeois lifestyle that comes along with that occupation).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not poo-pooing the logic that informs those kinds of students–they’re definitely going to have considerably higher incomes than I will come next summer. Even so, I’m really pleased to be receiving credit for reading novels by a writer who is rapidly becoming one of my favorite authors, and to be receiving credit for watching films from/reading up on an incredibly fascinating national cinema. I don’t often say this, but: Three cheers for higher education. UW, ya done good.


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