In 1992, I was in my second year of college and caught between a love of English (Literature), and Marine Biology. Naturally, then, all of my humanities credits were embedded in literature. My college offered a course in British Literature, and I took it. I had had the instructor before (Dr. Linda Leeds) and I would have her again (in a custom course in which I spent it studying the Vita Merlini), and she was most judicious in her judgment.
In my time with her, she remarked that:
- My journalism teacher had succeeded in curing me of writing “cute” but not killing writing for me, and
- That I really should have stuck with English as a major (true, I use it more than Marine Biology to date)
I remember that in our Brit Lit class we thought we were so smart. There were 30-odd of us, and we “convinced” her to let us watch “Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail” as part of coursework.
The joke was, of course, on us. Have you watched the movie? I cannot, to this day, without being able to dissect Every Single Joke into a commentary on English Literature or historical fact. There is a reason there is a killer rabbit. There is a reason there are irritating French soldiers, there is a reason there are wanton harlots and questionable witches and messed up science. There is a reason the guy who is being carried to the “Bring out your dead” collector isn’t really dead, and why Dennis was considered “old” and mistaken for a “woman”. There is a reason the professor appears halfway through, the monster had 3 heads, and Robin has a divergent experience and minstrels. There is a reason a cow is thrown, a rabbit is the “Trojan Horse”, and there are no actual horses. There is a reason for the shrubbery, the Castle Aaaargh, and Wicked Newt. (If you are willing to dive deep and view askew, there is even a reason for the “Swedish”subtitles in the opening credits).
The joke was on us and I cannot speak for the others in my class, as I do not know any of them anymore, but I watch this movie with my son and smirk both in the pure joy of a Monty Python movie and the knowledge that it’s so much more well conceived than anyone thinks. It hasn’t killed the joy of watching for me, and here I am some 23/4 years after the fact fondly remembering an English Teacher.
That is power.
I do not know what has become of Dr. Leeds. She was extremely effective as an instructor and I really do wish I had listened to her more often. I only know that I am not the only one who benefits from her wisdom and generosity.
And I am not the only one who cannot watch this movie without winking at the Black Knight, who always triumphs, regardless of the circumstance.