How to Get a Double-A in HUM 110

Back at Olde Reed, the story goes, professors would occasionally hand down a letter grade known as the Double A. The AA was only awarded to the true scholar, to that one heroic student in a generation whose insight truly stunned the faculty. My friends in the Registrar’s Office claim the AA no longer exists — but can a legend ever really die? I think the Class of 2018 is ready to rise to the challenge. If you’re prepared to find out for yourself whether the prized grade persists to this day, here are my suggestions for a truly transcendent Hum 110 experience.


Immortality may not be achievable, but there’s still an entire year’s worth of masochism awaiting you as you begin your own quest for the undying AA. You will learn from many sages, although their names will be easier to pronounce and they won’t give you flowers.

The Egyptians

Because you’re in pursuit of the impossible, I suppose you could just listen to the Bangles or talk to your own soul. Yet even more absurd than thinking the Egyptians walked as their one-dimensional pictograms depict them as doing is the story of Horus and Seth and they pondered being and death enough for you to not do that on your own.


As Reedies, you’re already honorable; so, a note on translation: For those of you who have made it this far on your quest for the great and honorable AA, the elegant and stately Lattimore translation will serve you well. For those of you who have long ago abandoned the quest and are in Hum for the enduring battle at the conference table, the epicness of Fagles will force you to fight against your know-it-all Lattimore-ites. And for those who have spent their first month huddled in your nÓg common room playing Sega, there’s an audio- book edition of the Odyssey bellowed forth by Gandalf that will provide you with a fool’s hope as you smoke the halfling’s leaf.


He didn’t know what it was to have immortality snatched away by a serpent. He didn’t know what it was to cross into the realm of death. He didn’t know what it was to impregnated by lettuce. He didn’t know what it was to have conversation with his own soul. He didn’t know what it was to love. He didn’t know what he was doing in Hum 110 at Reed College as he picked up the book of Genesis but thought suddenly “this is good.” And it was good.

The Book of Job

Maybe it was good because he didn’t know it was good? Know that you are suffering for the unachievable AA.


Everything might seem like Cha- os, but the world will attain superficial order for a while. You’ll return to the void second semester.

Works and Days

As Reed students, you will come to learn the meaning of these two words well, but Hesiod is here to help you not be a useless man as you continue to study well into the night on your quest for something that no longer exists.

Greek Lyric Poets

“I think I’m beginning to look down on all poets except Sappho” —Franny and Zooey. You’ll have to remember all the rest though...if you want a AA.


The rains have arrived. Be sure to ride your dolphin to class and prepare to be swept away by the sands of time as eminent 20th century bards ask you a very important question. Having not read the Odyssey you won’t know the answer.


The world is water. The world is air. The world came from some primordial substance. The Greeks thought of some weird stuff before Socrates realized we don’t know anything, have fun remembering all of it for the final. Socrates, knowing nothing, would not have gotten a AA.


Nobody said getting a AA was easy, and now you have to make sense of the entire Persian Empire in 50 minutes. The clock is ticking.

The Oresteia

You know you are on your way to achieving the great and honorable AA. Too bad nobody believes you. Still you shouldn’t view yourself as being confined to the fate of your current reality, unless you end the curse of the House of Atreus you will be greeted with no mercy.


It is not right to mourn the death of the AA as a Reed tradition, for it can live on inside you. The divine law of Olde Reed is surely more important than that defined by our current realm.


You are not acting out of self-interest in your quest for the AA, but for Olde Reed, in which your true self should be contained.

The Bacchae

The AApolonian path will be divert- ed by Dionysian interludes. This is as it should be. Embrace madness—it is an undeniable part of the world which we inhabit — yet ensure this revelry doesn’t tear you limb from limb.


Emerging from your winter slumber, you find yourself to have grown quite barbaric. It’s okay, this play took last place too and it’s part of your renewed quest for the AA.

The Clouds

Now well established at a great and noble Thinkery, the type of place the vaunted Wikipedia calls “a school for wastrels and bums that no self-respecting, athletic young man dares be associated with,” you can understand what a comedy of ideas your quest for a AA is.

The Trial and Death of Socrates

The unexamined life is not worth living, but is the AA examinable? You understand youthful corruption, but must know nothing if you wish to drink the hemlock and live on forever as the honorary recipient of the AA.

The Republic

The quest for the AA is not just, nor does it appear so. However, being the Platonic Form of all grades, matters of reality and appearance should not concern you, for you must know wisdom, honor, and desire to choose to be he who earns the AA in the afterlife.

Nicomachean Ethics

Your quest may seem insensible now, but virtue of action is an extreme of goodness from which you will gain complete happiness. Virtue may indeed be an absence, but you still have to attend class in order to know what that means.


The AA is not democratic, for that would make it a constituent of the fourth best structure of government, but monarchical. It is right and just and you must follow its commands in order to call yourself the king of Olde Reed.


The cultural domain of the AA is the mighty empire of Olde Reed, but you must embody the belated character of that magical past and not stray too far into frolicking on the front lawn just yet.


If you are a conqueror of the un- conquerable you must drive your pila into the heart of Olde Reed, to become the highest-ranking Reedite, then give it a loving funeral that it must be publicly awarded before you can earn the spectacular.


Perhaps we are all atoms and void and our souls will return to nothingness when we die. The AA, however, transcends a mere physicalist conception of the universe and it is up to you to make that a reality.


The highest and most honorable duty is to Olde Reed. You must cast off all other obligations, desires, and concerns for health in order to achieve the AA.

You have been provided a great exempla from the past, the emblem of ultimate achievement in the mighty realm of Olde Reed. Do you have the courage to face great love and strife in order to achieve it?


Build upon the Olde order to create a new one, avoiding all titles pertaining to the present, and you will be- come Princeps: he who holds the AA.


It is a truly pious man who has made it this far in pursuit of the impossible, but you didn’t know what the gates of hell were about. Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. (Yes, this is from Dante’s Inferno, but one on a quest for a AA knows their translator.)


The quest for the AA is quite similar to turning what is believed to be a beautiful piece of stone into a living, breath- ing embodiment of the Doyle Owl. Can you achieve Metamorphosis?


The writing from the realm of Olde Reed clearly states that the Form of Good is AA. You cannot think yourself to be this if you wish to earn it, but will be cast down into the realm of Nu Reed where you might be doomed to receive an A.

New Testament

Gentiles, you must bow down before the AA, for it is giving you a chance at immortality. It is a teacher, miracle worker and the object of the greatest miracle and could make you the heir of the covenant.


Your soul has suffered greatly on your spiritually absurd journey. If you have proven yourself worthy, you are now ready to receive the intense revelation of the AA, full of mastery and wonder.