Daily Archives: June 11, 2012

_Dead Poets Society_: or “Let’s Guess Which of These Depressed Teenagers is Going to Off Himself First”

Recently watched _Dead Poets Society_. Not sure what to make of it: conflicted on Keating’s methodology/literary theory; contemplating the question of a non-Catholic committing suicide due to the world telling him the pursuit of money is all there is; wondering how many of the faculty at such boarding schools would be homosexuals; fascinated by the mockery of monastic life embodied in Protestant and secular boarding school. . . .

Part of me is tempted to say it’s the “inspiring story of a time back when teachers were fired for being too liberal,” but Russell Kirk would probably have argued that the faculty are the “liberal” ones in the sense that they’re promoting an economic progressivist, materialistic view of human nature, and Keating is the conservative for promoting the ‘permanent things.” The school talks of “tradition” but only a superficial tradition that is, again, a mockery of Catholic Tradition separated from the Church as mere cultural artifice–interesting that the last line from the Latin teacher is, “The entire school is aedificum,” which serves as a kind of double-entendre.

Keating’s problem is that he fails to realize that poetry precisely *is* about tradition. When the student says early in the film that the purpose of language is “communication,” that is the start of every one of my classes–that we use language to communicate, to try and “become one with,” that language is a form of Communion, and we use literature and poetry to communicate the thoughts in our souls that we cannot express in straight-up language. Where Keating argues that poetry is about *non-conformity,* I precisely argue that it *is* about conformity in the sense that we use poetry to try and get our minds aligned with one another–that’s what meter represents.

And I find it ironic that the headmaster scoffs at the notion of skipping the “Realists.” You would think that the last thing a school would want to teach after a suicide scandal is literary “realism.”