Now at UNC-WilmingtonNow at UNC-WilmingtonBy Mary Grabar, Posted January 4, 2013: As regular readers may remember, Dissident Prof tracked down the Hamilton College Porno Prof, Alessandro Porco, in a December 10, 2012, dispatch.  That post focused on kink on campus.  She had found out that Porno Prof landed on his feet as "Alex Porco" with a three-year contract at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington, after finishing up a year at Hamilton College. (Her first article was published on August 31, 2011, at Minding the Campus, "The Porno Prof at Hamilton.)

Since Dissident Prof's December 10 dispatch, other sites have reported on Professor Porco. Jay Schalin at the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy published a commentary on Porco titled "The Smutty Professor."  He referred to some of the same sacriligious poetry and commentary by Porco on St. Augustine, as quoted in the site PopMatters.com.

 

 

Dissident Prof agrees that the poetry is intended to mock St. Augustine's Confessions.  As she noted in her article, such mockery as Porco's is now viewed positively by hiring committees because it is seen as being "transgressive."  She heard a lot about being "transgressive" in graduate school, and many of her fellow graduate students, like Porco, engaged in competitions of "transgressivity."  One can see such contests live at Modern Language Association conferences, where trangressive candidates vie for positions in such sub-departments of English, like "Sexuality Studies" and "Gender Studies."

Two days after the "The Smutty Professor" post,The College Fix, edited by National Review's Nathan Harden, reported that the Pope Center offers a "lengthy expose on a new English professor" at UNC-Wilmington "who loves porn and writes poetry about it."  The post has remained in the "Most Read" category since then. 

On December 21, the Daily Caller ran a story with the headline, "UNC-Wilmington hires porn-loving English professor who loves sick poetry," linking the Pope Center as the source of the story.

Mr. Schalin blogged about his original article at SeeThruEd on January 2, 2013.

It certainly is good that this porno prof is being exposed! 

Dissident Prof decided to look at what Professor Porco will be teaching next semester.  He does not advertise pornography, but transgressiveness nonetheless.

In his ENG 375 class, American and British Poetry Since 1945, "Alex" Porco promises:

By semester’s end, students will be familiar with popular figures of the period, including Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Allen Ginsberg, Philip Larkin, Sylvia Plath, Margaret Atwood, Seamus Heaney, and Eavan Boland. However, a major emphasis throughout the semester will be avant-garde poetry that challenges the formal, social, political, and institutional parameters of poetry. Accordingly, students will engage with works by the likes of John Cage, Russell Atkins, Charles Olson, Robert Duncan, Frank O’Hara, Amiri Baraka, Ed Dorn, Hannah Weiner, Maggie O’Sullivan, Aram Saroyan, Clark Coolidge, Christian Bok, and Caroline Bergvall.

Deep questions will be pondered:

We will always be thinking reflexively about the following questions: what constitutes “a poem”? What kinds of materials and language(s) can a poem absorb? How and where are poems produced and consumed? What is the relationship between poetry and music, or poetry and the visual arts? What is the relationship between formal innovation and radical politics?

Gotta get those radical politics in there with the poetics!  (The question "what constitutes 'a poem'?" is sure to take up a lot of the hours that have to be filled in the class--that maybe could have been spent reading actual poems?)

Porco does promise "sustained and rigorous engagement with the work of single poets" (of course), with "texts" including "Ezra Pound, The Pisan Cantos; Ed Dorn, Gunslinger; Leonard Cohen, Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs; Hannah Weiner, Hannah Weiner’s Open House; David Antin, i never knew what time it was; M. NourbeSe Philip, Zong!, as well as selections from the University of Utah’s ECLIPSE digital archive."

Well, he lost Dissident Prof after Ezra Pound, but then again it's been a while since she's taken a graduate seminar.

But to open up the discussion of "what is a poem?" there will be fun stuff to listen to and watch:

Also, throughout the term (when possible), students will engage with poetry recordings, thus developing close listening skills as a complement to close reading skills. Finally, students are expected to attend supplementary film screenings related to the course (e.g., Polis is This: Charles Olson and the Persistance of Place; Ladies and Gentleman… Mr. Leonard Cohen; and the 2010 feature film, Howl, starring James Franco).

Those "listening skills" are essential!  Bet you didn't know you needed a professor to teach you how to listen to your Leonard Cohen albums. 

The problem with Porco, like many, is that he doesn't seem to teach literature, but whatever catches his fancy, like "sounds."  While Porco was at Hamilton he taught a class that focused on sounds.  Students were to bring devices to record sounds in the village of Clinton: random bits of speech, bird song, car wheels, the siren going off at the fire station.  Dissident Prof spent a delightful month in the summer of 2011 doing research on George Schuyler at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Ciivilization in Clinton, but can't imagine assigning such an assignment to college sophomores.  She prefers words.

The sad thing is Porco is not an anomoly. Consider this description for English 290 "Themes in Literature" (taught by another professor) at UNC-Wilmington:

Grab your love beads, peace signs, and 45s! Join this class for a look at three movements that forever changed the social and legal foundation of America.  Through fiction, nonfiction, and music, we will explore the civil rights/black power movement, the counterculture/ antiwar movement, and the second feminist movement.   We will look at works by Gloria Steinem, Martin Luther King,  Richard Brautigan and yes, The Beatles, among others.  Imagine!

Other offerings to lure undergraduates include courses on "The Evolution of the Vampire," and those with themes of "insanity," sustainability, postcolonialism, Indian literature, and women's literature. Poetry itself has been degraded, as we see in the descriptions of Porco's and colleagues' offerings.  That is why scrawlings of sick pornographic fantasies get published as poetry and help academic frauds land jobs while traditional conservatives are frozen out.

Woodstock and English 290Woodstock and English 290So what is nearly as obscene as Porco's "poetry" is the deliberate destruction of poetry and other forms of the written word.

P.S. Thank you to reader Anne White for the contribution to Dissident Prof!

Comments   

 
0 #1 studentofpoetry 2013-03-27 18:04
This is absolutely ludicrous. To think that sounds and learning about sounds aren't important to poetry is beyond me. And then to say that it is ridiculous to ask your students what constitutes a poem. Wow. What the professor does on his own time is his own business. I am sure some of the professors have cheated on their wives, or some of them may get a little too drunk now and then, but does that make them a bad or unfit teacher? No. Absolutely not. This article is preaching that poetry should be taught through example, which it is for the most part, but the best poets break free from their predecessors, and they do this by thinking outside of the norm. That is what Processor Porco is helping his students do when he asks "what constitutes a poem." That is what good teaching is.
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