Not so long ago I read a piece by a sexologist of some stamp, a daughter of the sexual revolution, who'd just traveled around the U.S. lecturing undergraduates, and was plainly put out at how uninterested the younger generation appeared to be in sex. At the end of her lectures she'd open the floor to questions, and hear things like “Are there any health reasons why you can't just be celibate all your life? Do people actually have to have sex?”
From what I hear, teaching literature must be like that. It can't be easy for any person to face inexplicable group indifference to whatever he or she is most passionate about. Samuel R. Delany's early critical writing, in such periodicals as “Foundation,” has the brilliant confidence of a man addressing fandom -- a readership whose enthusiasm can be taken for granted. But in Delany's collection About Writing, one encounters many notes of weary truculence, the consequence of decades of his having to explain the basics professionally to an audience who sullenly question why they should have to know anything in the first place. The best solution, probably, is to reintroduce corporal punishment.
A story – when Harvard considered hiring Vladimir Nabokov to teach literature, Roman Jakobson, then a professor of linguistics there, is supposed to have asked whether the university was also prepared to hire an elephant to teach zoology.