With the first meeting of my UNC course on Marx only thirteen days away, I can tell that the new semester is upon us because last night I had, yet again, a version of the nightmare that has troubled my sleep many times as semesters begin. The details vary but the theme is always the same: It is two weeks into a new semester, I have been meeting my two courses regularly, and suddenly I realize I am supposed to be teaching a third course as well that I have completely forgotten about. Guilt stricken, I rush to the room, where [this is the part that shows it is a dream] the students have been waiting patiently for two weeks for me to show up.
Last night, since I intend sometime in February to begin a series of recorded lectures on David Hume in addition to the Marx course, the dream was that it was 9:15 a.m., my forgotten Hume lectures were scheduled to start at 9:30, and I was in the basement of a campus building trying to find the staircase out. I had also, it seems, forgotten where I had parked my car [another recurring nightmare – this dream seems to have been a twofer.]
Oddly enough, something akin to this actually happened to me the first year I started teaching. It was the Fall of 1955 and I was a twenty-one year old Harvard Teaching Fellow, just back from my European wanderjahr. [A Teaching Fellow is Harvard’s notion of a TA. Harvard also graded students A, B, C, D, and E. It was not until I left Harvard and went to teach at Chicago that I discovered the rest of the world considered F the failing grade.]
I was assigned three discussions sections of Raphael Demos’ famous Philosophy 1 intro course. One week that semester [not the first, thank God] I simply forgot to meet one of the sections! I slunk around Harvard Square for a week, convinced the students were outraged. In fact, of course, they probably waited three minutes past the mandatory seven and then split, delighted the section had been cancelled. As I recall, the next week, nobody asked where I had been.