Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rudolf Arnheim Remembers His School Days

Gestalt psychologist and art theorist Rudolf Arnheim, author of Art and Visual Perception (and numerous other books), recalling his days as a student in Berlin, in a letter to the author of this blog on December 7, 1997—

It must be quite an experience to meet again with one's old teachers. My own are stored in my memory, where they stay unresponsive to what I do today, but sharply remembered. With the college teacher in literature I had a covenant: you let me read under the table on my lap whatever I want, and I will leave you without my barbs. I got through college mostly through the generosity of my teachers. I had never attended gymnastics, for example, but when we had a graduation party with the teachers, the gym teacher remained after the others had gone, had some more to drink and accompanied himself on the guitar, singing some off-color songs. Then sitting on the couch with a few of us in an by then advanced stage of drink, he looked at me in sudden recognition, put his arm around my shoulder and said, "Arnheim, you black pig [Arnheim, du schwarzes Schwein], you never came to class, but you are a good boy anyway!" I got through the final year's exam mostly because I had directed and played the main part in two performances at the school auditorium, Aristophanes's The Frogs where I played, if I remember correctly, Socrates, and a German comedy by Grabbe, where I played the devil.