The relationship between professors and students can indeed be intensely intimate, as our culture nervously suspects, but its intimacy, when it occurs, is an intimacy of the mind. I would even go so far as to say that in many cases it is an intimacy of the soul. And so the professor-student relationship, at its best, raises two problems for the American imagination: it begins in the intellect, that suspect faculty, and it involves a form of love that is neither erotic [i.e., sexual] nor familial, the only two forms our culture understands. Eros in the true sense is at the heart of the pedagogical relationship…
Love is a flame, and the good teacher raises in students a burning desire for his or her approval and attention, his or her voice and presence, that is erotic in its urgency and intensity.
In “Love on Campus,” William Deresiewicz argues that our society lacks a conception for the intimacy of souls that exists between teacher and student, or, really, any relationship of mutual learning and discovery.
Love of the mind, intimacy of the soul, eros of souls, eroticism of the mind, “brain sex”… I know that it has motivated some of my best discussions, accomplishments, and creativity. Have you experienced it? How would you describe it?
P.S.: And to underline Deresiewicz’s point about the impotent humanities professor and the sexualization of the student-teacher relationship….as I am writing this, my sister is watching a show called Pretty Little Liars in which a teacher has just kissed a high-school student. Nice coincidence.
P.P.S. Although I think that the Symposium is hands down the best exploration of this love of the mind thing I am referring to, I would not say that endorse the rather simplistic Platonic thesis that love of minds is better than love of bodies. They are both different, necessary, and appropriate in their own contexts.