Title

'Fine and Dangerous': Teaching Merton

Department

English

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

3-2009

Abstract

In the summer of 2008, while teaching a course on the literature and films associated with the Vietnam War, I tried to give my students a sense of the context of 1968, the year in which the Tet Offensive dramatically altered the American public’s perception of that tragic conflict. I told my students that 1968 was arguably one of the most tumultuous years in American history. My students agreed with me, and nodded solemnly as I recited the events associated with that pivotal year. They all knew, of course, about the shocking assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy. They knew about the riots at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. They knew about the Beatles’ trip to India, and other events associated with the popular culture and music of the era. A few even knew about the student uprisings in Paris. Then, almost as an afterthought, I said, “Oh, and Thomas Merton died accidentally following a talk at a conference in Bangkok, Thailand.” In this class of thirty bright, curious, young American college students, not one knew about Thomas Merton. In fact, no one had even heard of him.

Journal

CrossCurrents

Journal ISSN

1939-3881

Volume

59

Issue

1

First Page

69

Last Page

87

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

10.1111/j.1939-3881.2009.00048.x