Grading Obama’s love letters: women swoon, men see through them

What kind of grade would he (Barack Obama) have gotten for such T.S. Eliot analysis…a reading that was admittedly done without perusing the footnotes? We checked in with some current members of the Columbia English department.

Matthew Hart, who specializes in 20th- and 21st-century Anglophone culture with an emphasis on modernist poetry, was not terribly blown away, as he wrote in an e-mail.

Considered as homework, I’d give the future President a B-minus…the allusion is forced and the connection specious. You get this a lot when students try too hard. Still, I think that’s the point here. This isn’t so much literary criticism as flirtation.

The best part is at the end…this is what the letter’s really about. It takes a certain amount of chutzpah to use The Waste Land as a come-on. He gets a B+ for that.

Would a female professor grade Obama’s efforts any differently? We polled his colleague Sarah Cole, who just finished teaching a course on The Waste Land.

In these brief musings, President Obama shows himself to be a sensitive reader of Eliot’s great poem The Waste Land.

It is a poem of local brilliance and intensities, to which Obama responds with appropriate personal intensity.

I would praise it for its insights and sensitivity, would encourage the president to develop his ideas…

There you have it. Obama might not have done groundbreaking literary analysis, but his undergraduate prose managed to convince at least a couple of discerning women of his “insight and sensitivity”.

via NY Mag

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