No Children, Only Tasks: Reflections on Cruel Pedagogies

I had not heard of ProctorU software until October 1, 2020 when I noticed that several folks on Twitter, whom I follow for their thoughts on pedagogy, had retweeted and responded to the same upsetting TikTok video I had come across earlier that same day. The video shows a young woman, crying, explaining that she had just failed an online exam not because she had been unprepared but because her professor’s surveillance software flagged her as “talking” out loud while taking the exam.

A Lobster Is Being Eaten

For Wallace Stevens, the lobster is a symbol of the high life. In Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction Stevens presents its consumption as a luxurious pleasure:

We drank Meursault, ate lobster Bombay with mango
Chutney. Then the Canon Aspirin declaimed
Of his sister [2]

The Canon Aspirin is, as Stevens wrote to Hi Simons, a figure for “[t]he sophisticated man,” “a man with a taste for Meursault, and lobster Bombay,” and his connoisseurship in gustatory matters possesses obvious affinities to the aesthetic satisfactions offered by Stevens’s own lush, Francophonic language.[3] One may or may not accede to Harold Bloom’s proposition that the mango is “visionary food for Stevens, perhaps his equivalent of Coleridge’s ‘honey-dew,’” but the lobster, served up in an Anglo-Indian recipe, accompanied by good French wine, surely signifies a cultivated, if orientalist, taste for recherché pleasures, what we might call the Canon’s culinary capital.[4] Of the lobster we can say what Stevens says of the poem: It Must Give Pleasure.