2017 Update: There are many more weird references to catalog and explain, most of which can be found to some extent at the course website that’s been running since 2016. Rewriting and updating this main site will take some time, considering that I have to, you know, keep teaching through that newer site.
One goal of my teaching is a kind of permissive depth — a way for students to delve more deeply, if they choose, or as their curiosity dictates, without feeling forced. The world is endlessly interesting, and the Internet can be a mechanism for learning about it. There’s also a lot to be said for rendering our inspirations and influences transparent.
Which is one way to introduce a quick explanation of the references on the front page of this site. The most obvious one is to Albert Camus’ essay on Sisyphus, which provides the titular metaphor. Then there are the images:
The Sisyphean High logo comes from two sources. Before going grayscale, I purchased a series of stock images for use on these sites. The two that were originally used had Sisyphus pushing a thought bubble or a light bulb:
From a distance, unfortunately, the thought bubble looks a bit like an ice cream cone. And a light bulb is pretty trite as an educational metaphor. So I looked to another metaphor for depth, internal struggle, and harrowing absurdity: Leliel, an Angel from Neon Genesis Evangelion that invokes the idea of the Dirac sea.
Dürer’s rhinoceros appears in many of the guides and rubrics for grade abatement. It serves as a mascot (one of many, it turns out) for holistic honesty in self-assessment. It’s a reminder to seek the general and obvious truth in profiling, even while appreciating and remarking on the specific details that led to that truth.
This particular version of Dürer’s work is cleaner and clearer than the original, but I can’t find an author of it. Google failed me — by which I mean that I failed Google, all-powerful nexus of information that it is.
The chess board is a slightly modified version of an image in this Empire article, which deconstructs the game of chess played in The Seventh Seal. This is the board before the bishop moves to B3. The movie is wonderful, and there’s something metaphorically important here about staving off death through a game of reason and strategy.
Tardigrades make an appearance in many posts and writings throughout Sisyphean High, too. The idea of surviving environments that would kill other animals helps situate grade abatement in the larger context of public education. This particular image comes from this website, the home of a talented artist. I’d love to know the name, but it’s not on the site itself.
That’s the other nice thing about the ramiform pathways of the Internet: You can find serendipitous brilliance through the oddest searches. Google “tardigrades” and find a blog from 2011. Google “Cthulhu” (as one does) and find something remarkable on DeviantArt.