Thursday, July 4, 2013

Fiction of Relationship

Truth be told, I had little idea what I was signing up for when I joined Arnold Weinstein's online "Fiction of Relationship" course through Brown University and Coursera. Matter of fact, it was my dear friend and fellow book lover, Olga, who tipped me off. I wasn't sure if I could keep pace with the requirements of the class, given my often chaotic and fragmented schedule of teaching violin and  film recording gigs, though I knew the price was right—(it's free). But when I heard the words from my husband, "You won't have time for that—" in defiance, I signed up. (Nothing beats reverse psychology in our house.) Within moments, I found myself taking a survey. Had I joined the class because I knew of the professor, in this case, Arnold Weinstein? My answer was, shamefully, no. I admit my ignorance in having not known beforehand of Professor Weinstein's fame as Brown University's Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature and esteemed writer and critic of numerous books, including one I now hold dear, "A Scream Goes Through the House: What Literature Teaches Us About Life."

What I have discovered during this journey is a whole new way of attempting to uncover the layers of selves in oneself and others. It is almost as if, on a few occasions, I've felt myself stepping out of my body to witness my words and actions while at the same time wondering: what is it you think I'm thinking? Yes, the professor has really gotten to me, entered my pores and seemingly crawled inside my head. He has infected me with his ideas. At a time when the information age and technology might be blamed for producing a senseless, soulless society, Weinstein's "Fiction of Relationship" works as a humanizing and vivifying force; an antidote to bland, boring, narcissistic, paper-pushing, solipsistic manners of existence. And lucky for us, we can attend his lectures and peer right into his classroom at Brown University with the click of a key. 

Weinstein has a way of penetrating, of inoculating, as do the literary masterpieces of Brontë, Prévost, Kafka, Woolf, Faulkner, Morrison, Coetzee, Melville that are on our reading list. The dead and forgotten are no longer dead and forgotten. They can, and shall be, resurrected. Weinstein, quite rightly, likens the absorption of literature and art to intercourse. The written word and creative act, when potent, has the capacity to enter our bloodstream and become part of who we are. In "Fiction of Relationship" as we "try on" the various literary characters we meet during our journey, Weinstein suggests that we imagine ourselves as psychotherapists being told these narratives from characters/patients lying on the couch. How to make sense of the character/patient? Oh, Professor Weinstein, if only you knew how much I love to diagnose! Just ask my daughters and violin students!

I recommend Arnold Weinstein's "Fiction of Relationship"  to every person in the world.