The wisdom of my mother is rarely expressed in aphorism. Oh, she has lots of aphorisms, but so far I haven't found them very wise. Her wisdom is best expressed in certain non-verbal habits.
I have found one of her aphorisms very useful in life: "A new broom sweeps clean." Every time a new foster child came to live with us, after a few weeks people would ask how the child was adapting, and my mother would usually reply, "You know ... new broom sweeps clean."
Yesterday began the new semester. My first class, 8AM, was my upper-division Studies in Medieval Literature: Love, Sex, and Marriage in Medieval Literature. When I arrived, the class seemed tired, and slightly bored to have to go through all the first-day housekeeping chores (like discussion of the syllabus).
Given the topic, I'm trying to keep the tone rather light, so that no one feels threatened by the sex stuff (which is rather tame anyway, for the most part). My strategy is to employ little risque jokes throughout the lectures, ribald but not raunchy. In that way, I'm hoping to keep the focus on the literature, and off of the individual students' anxieties.
When I began discussing "the problem of love," however, the room got very quiet. Several students leaned forward in their desks. In earlier posts (here and here), I've discussed the lack of good theoretical thought on romantic love. I realized yesterday that the lack may be felt even more than I had originally thought. These students seemed genuinely interested in giving deep and prolonged thought to the problem of love in literature.
Of course, all that is on the first day of class. We'll see if they are able to persevere through the semester, or if they are merely new brooms sweeping clean.