The eros of souls

I spent 20 minutes reading this piece over at the American Scholar website, so I thought I’d share. The link came to me through my Arts & Letters Daily RSS feed (you can currently find a link in my “Other Sites” section in the right column).

The author, William Deresiewicz, a professor of English at Yale, discusses several recent movies that depict English professors as failed writers, sexual predators, bad husbands, deadbeat dads, etc. and analyzes possible causes for this new academic stereotype (the old stereotype was the absent-minded professor). At the end, he explains that a kind of eros does exist in the best of student-teacher relationships, but that it is a mental, not physical eros. I enjoyed this piece a lot. Here’s how it ends (note: it’s not possible to “spoil” this piece by giving away the ending):

The Socratic relationship is so profoundly disturbing to our culture that it must be defused before it can be approached. Yet many thousands of kids go off to college every year hoping, at least dimly, to experience it. It has become a kind of suppressed cultural memory, a haunting imaginative possibility. In our sex-stupefied, anti-intellectual culture, the eros of souls has become the love that dares not speak its name.


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