"Is Tolstoy a man or a woman?" My English prof asked!


"Is Leo Tolstoy a man or a woman?" my English prof had asked this question...as he genuinely never knew!

I was sitting in the first row of students and I couldn't hide my anger towards such an ignorant fellow. Honestly, I was hurt. I mean, Leo Tolstoy is someone who everyone knows (at least those who are into English) as he is generally regarded as the greatest novelist.

And here I am being taught by someone who doesn't know Tolstoy's gender! Had he been a chemistry prof or zoology one, I could have overlooked but English is his profession and he asked such a thing!

I don't like to consider myself someone who holds more knowledge than the English prof, but it is his ignorance and non-curiosity towards his own field of profession is something that infuriates me.

The other day, he was lecturing on  W.H. Auden's "The Unknown Citizen" and trust me I could not understand a thing. He merely translated the poem into Telugu (my mother tongue and is used extensively in college when English fails to reach the common students)  stripping  the poem's beauty and meaning.

It is almost shameful to share such a thing, because back in Muscat, I was taught by an old man (pbuh) who is highly conversant in language and literature and spoke so elegantly....

Of course, I did talk over the issue to my Dad (an English prof too), who asked me keep quiet on the issue and leave it to him until he realizes it all by himself
(and let me suffer till then)


Amber said...

I'm sorry, but aren't you paying for this class? Then you have a right to be upset about the service...in this case an English professor who hasn't a clue about Tolstoy or anything else probably. Yes, students have a place (I used to teach University) but teachers are being paid because YOU are in their class. Of course, I don't know how things work where you live...but where I'm from, I would totally file a formal complaint with the department head. As long as people keep quiet, this teacher will never change...he has no motivation for change - he gets paid, why bother learning about what you are teaching? He needs to NOT get paid.

Bobby said...

Exactly, that's what I wanted to do...if it was not my dad who stopped me midway.
He said that it would create a mess in the college and ultimately spoil my English prof career (I don't see he has one though!)
For the time being, I am quiet, but if he repeats such stupid ignorance, I will have to complain...
And yes, I pay the college dearly...and he gets paid more dearly for what he fu*ks around!

scarlet pimpernel said...


They used to have a feedback session back in my college and it sure reached the department head.Dont even think about approaching the hod urself it is india...approach the management as a group.
I couldnt fininsh war and peace could you ?

Bobby said...

But the college is a new one, they aren't yet that organised for all those, but I will try and enquire.

And of War and Peace: I tried it back in 2007, I could not stick to it...I am thinking of starting again...but it is such a big book!!1
I read Tolstoy's short-stories and they were awesome, the one I liked was named "What men live by?"

Anonymous said...

Perhaps he said that as Tolstoy wrote in Russian – its his various translators who are the English authors

Bobby said...

@ ynotoman:
Oh...how much I wish it was so!
But somehow, he had no clue what he was teaching, or else he would have read in the text book...which clearly referred of Tolstoy in "About the Author" section...but it seemed he never read it!!!

Raphael said...


oh my!

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