Examining students for orals can be a challenging task, especially if you have to do it from 9 to 6. But the day can have its moments. One of my students working on Lars Von Trier's genius in his sublime masterpiece The Antichrist walked into the examination room today armed with the Bible. “Can I quote from the Bible?” she asked. “The Bible is always a good starting point,” I said, and then she went: “It is written on the ten commandments: 'You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.'” I tried not to blink, and was waiting for the point. “Yes, the points is,” she said, “that this is when it goes wrong for women. They are treated as men's property. They are equal not to the man himself but to what else he owns, a house, a mule, and even his children. And that is a problem.” “Yes,” I said, “that is a goddamn problem. And what are we doing about it, to restore the balance?” I then continued, hinting at what von Trier is suggesting we should all do. The student hesitated, and hesitation for me in such crucial moments may have fatal consequences, for I engaged in a merciless tirade. “Are you in love?” I asked her, and I could tell that not only did she not see that one coming but that she was also on the verge of retorting, 'how dare you ask me about my personal life.' She didn't though, and offered an honest answer in return. “I'm in love,” she admitted, and I went: “And? What's next?” “Well,” she hesitated again, “I don't know.” “Are you sure that you don't know, are you sure that you're not waiting for your man to pop the question, take you to the altar and graciously let you know in front of witnesses that now he will do you the favor of loving you forever and ever by TAKING YOU as HIS? You'll thus consecrate the fucking ritual of 'I take thee' and hence perpetuate the idiotic idea, now as old as a few millennia, that's it's all right with you to be officially 'taken.' Most men never think of women as being independent creatures but rather as being either 'free' or 'taken' objects, which is something that I myself find utterly disgusting.” I know that I shouldn't have said 'fuck' in an exam situation, but when you're provoked, you're provoked, and I take that sort of provocation very seriously. “Sure,” I continued, “the woman also says, “I take thee,” but somehow, and unfortunately for our lot, while the man always ends up owning the woman more than she ever does him, she is just lucky to have been 'found'.” “I will never get married,” the student said. “Are you sure about that?” I said, and she went, “yes, I won't.” I wanted to say, and perhaps I did say it actually: “hey, don't pledge anything to me here, and especially not something that you won't be able to commit yourself to. We live after all in a society of compromises.” But then something beautiful happened. She changed her tone and her body language, as if hit by an epiphany. Perhaps she understood something about the implication of serious speech acts. We looked at each other, she nodded, and I gave her the top grade.
(NOTE: the student graciously allowed me to 'report' on this, but suggested that I emphasized that this was not the only topic we discussed at the exam. Of course not. What I re-construe here got settled in 1 minute and 33 seconds in the classroom just before the half hour examination ended. But in its proper context here, the 'marriage thing' is the most interesting. Thanks)