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ERIC Number: EJ896585
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Sep
Pages: 19
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 42
ISSN: ISSN-0010-0994
Serpents in the Garden: English Professors in Contemporary Film and Television
Carens, Timothy L.
College English, v73 n1 p9-27 Sep 2010
In an article on "Smart People" (2008), a film in which Dennis Quaid plays an English professor who becomes romantically involved with a former student, Jeffery J. Williams notes that a "common complaint among academics is that films don't depict them correctly, and in some ways Quaid was accoutered by central casting, beginning the movie in a beard and corduroy jacket." Conventional details such as the corduroy jacket are, of course, distortions of a varied and complex reality, but are nonetheless worth analyzing. In this essay, the author aims to pursue the significance of a stereotype that overlaps with but also radically opposes the corduroy jacket. Recent movies and television shows frequently depict the English professor as a dangerously seductive figure associated with sexual transgression and other illicit temptations. This trend has been forming since at least the late 1970s, with the release of "Looking for Mr. Goodbar" (1977) and "Animal House" (1978), and includes multiple examples in the ensuing decades. Sexual contact between English professors and their students plays a central or peripheral role in the films "A Change of Seasons" (1980), "Terms of Endearment" (1983), "D.O.A." (1988), "Mr. Wonderful" (1993), "One True Thing" (1998), "Loser" (2000), "Miss Congeniality" (2000), "Wonder Boys" (2000), "The Rules of Attraction" (2002), "The Squid and the Whale" (2005), and "Elegy" (2008), as well as in the television series "Dawson's Creek" (2002). This stereotype deserves an extended analysis that it has not yet received because it reveals a widespread ambivalence, a fascination intermingled with distrust, generated specifically by figures who preside over the study of literature in the academy. (Contains 15 notes.)
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A