I am coping with the current deluge of politics by teaching the most political of literary movements: Romanticism. I am in the thick of it, I cannot contain myself. I show pictures by Delacroix (yes, I would really like Liberty to lead the people). I go to Jones Hall in Houston and hear Berlioz’s fantastic Symphonie Fantastique, replete with trips to the scaffold and dreams of witches. These all, of course, were imaginatively inspired by some Irish actress. I force my students to claim they love Keats as much as I do. I promote Byronism. And why not? We have card carrying Democrats and Republicans all around us…why not find common ground in our mutual angst? Why not put our brooding toward some entertaining affectation? Why not ask, from time to time, whenever we feel like it: What would Byron do?
For one thing, you could act like Hamlet, using witty repartee to make everyone around you feel sort of stupid, and then reject women repeatedly because apparently girls love that. Also, refuse to make any major decisions so that you are thought of as thoughtful. Boss girls around and make them cry. Get Kenneth Branaugh to play you in a movie. Use phrases like in my “mind’s eye” so that everyone knows that although indecisive, you are highly imaginative.
Study Byron intensely. Agree with Isak Dinesen that “the best thing about Byron was Byron.” Have eyebrow raising relations with a sibling, and then leave the country and write a long sad poem about being socially ostracized. This will help make you famous. Make sure you are born a Lord, so that when you participate in revolutions, it is uber cool. Have a club foot and swim anyway.
Act like a snob and a jerk at dances and teas like Mr. Darcy, and then after that, reveal yourself to be incredibly and unjustly misunderstood.
Shine a mirror on the flaws of all women you meet, and torment them until they say “I am Heathcliff!!” Get Sir Laurence Olivier to play you in a movie. More than one. Be moody, cynical and defiant. No. Matter. What.
Be young, pine after engaged women, wear velvet jackets in the country, talk about your emotions all the time, and kill yourself for no good reason–start a cult of Wertherites. Really–do not do this, I am being ironic. I am just trying to get you to read Goethe.
Meet an Irish actress, a la Hector Berlioz, and tragically marry her. But, get some fantastic music out of the bargain.
Imitate Keats and anger PETA members by hating birds who make your pain even more insufferable. Write poems about beautiful women who, shockingly enough, have no mercy.
Fall upon the thorns of life and bleed. Then get a band aid and finish your poem about regeneration.
Pretend that you can change the past. Of course you can.