Thursday, May 02, 2013
Reading Monster Culture in Seventh Grade
I'm not sure how he stumbled across it, but Asa Mittman posted on Facebook a link to "Monster Culture (Seven Theses) by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, Revised for 7th grade by Mrs. Kibbie." Mrs. Kibbie, whoever you are, I want you to know that you are kind of awesome. I wish you had been my seventh grade teacher.* The web is full of versions of the MC:7T essay, mostly reduced into bullets as part of study guides students offer to each other, or available in digested form from term paper mills. But Mrs. Kibbie's version, unlike most of these reductions, simplifies the essay without dumbing it down. She also takes the piece is some good new directions through some connections of her own.
I mentioned in the comments to Jonathan's post that I'm kind of embarrassed to have "Monster Culture" so widely read in composition classes. I composed that teratological manifesto in 1993, making it several years older than its audience. It's juvenilia. I was 28 when I wrote it, and OK, that's middle aged at most points in human history but not in an academic career. At that point in my life I'd finished a mainly philological PhD thesis that felt like lonely work, and was attempting (as I labored in a NTT job) to imagine a field larger than the one I found myself within. Thus my idea for a collection of essays on the topic of monsters throughout All of Human History. Ah, to be 28 again.
The writing style of "Monster Culture" strikes me now as a stilted, overly referential, and too enamored of its own sonorousness. My authorial voice has evolved over the years, and it doesn't sound much like MC:7T. It bothers me a little that the essay would be used in so many writing classes because it isn't the most lucid writing I've done. But, on the positive side, it was an experiment that went right, triggering the conversation for which I'd been yearning. It is also cheering that many students who read the essay contact me via email, FB or Twitter and let me know what projects the piece has spurred. A text wants to be read.
So, thank you Mrs Kibbie, whoever you are, for keeping "Monster Culture" alive. Your act of loving translation has made my day.
*Though I doubt Mrs Kibbie would want me to have been her seventh grade student. I persecuted Ms Dente, who was on a perpetual diet, by repeatedly placing an atomic fireball candy in her morning coffee. I believe this is how a 13 year old expresses a crush.