Anonymous said: what were your favorite classes at uchicago?

If you dig through the archives, people talk about their favorite classes but I’ll tell you about mine. I took it in the fall quarter of my 4th year.

First, my professor. Paul Friedrich is an 80+ year old man—who made a name for himself in anthropology and linguistics in the 1970s and then moved onto studying every language ever and alllll the poetry. He lived an incredible life and sometimes, he’d let us in on snippets of his tremendous life. Noting his time as a paratrooper, or a translator in post-WWII Germany, for awhile he lived in a small town in mexico studying an obscure dialect, he had been married four times and he taught himself mandarin around the age of 70. He also writes beautiful haikus.

The class. It was a graduate level course at the school for Social Thought and it was on Ernest Hemingway, Spain and For Whom the Bell Tolls. The class was 9 students, 5 graduate and 4 undergraduate.

We read works by Hemingway, at first short stories, his early writing (poems) and simultaneously, we studied works and poems that influenced his writing, reading both Spanish and English translations (many of us, including myself, knew little Spanish but he made the language and diction choices very accessible).

Sometimes, we’d read poems in French or Latin or study the works of Wang Wei. He’d have a connection for us to hold onto, easily incorporating myth or proverb or biblical allusions. He also brought in the great critics of Hemingway and instead of dismissing them, talking about the depths within Hemingway’s writing and how his characters can be misperceived. He asked us to argue against and with the critics.

The best part about Paul Friedrich was that he didn’t have to teach and even if he did, he didn’t have to listen. But he cared about our opinions, our analytical findings, he could remember a comment I had made two weeks ago and tangle it into a debate we were having. As a professor, he was compassionate, he was earnest. He was outstanding.

A particular moment that stands out to me: In our second to last class, we discussed the final 10 pages of The Old Man and the Sea, a book which many of us had read in 8th grade and hated but now, we no longer did. The discussion took off from Friedrich’s points and soon we were discussing if the old man was a figure of Jesus and if that mattered. Could an atheist “appreciate” the morals and very fiber of the story if they overlooked this analogy? But is the metaphor of Christianity so important that it shrouds the text? And Paul Friedrich was quiet and we kept debating, politely but passionately. We conceded when we realized we were wrong because it wasn’t about who was the smartest or had recalled the text best, we were all searching for the truth, the kernel in the story.

  1. eternalblumenkraft said: I didn’t think it was possible to love the school anymore than I did, but you now guaranteed that I’m going to cry at least 20 additional tears when I’m inevitably rejected approximately 62 hours from now.
  2. fyuchicago posted this