Tuesday, January 10, 2012

we, with our labeled lives, like literature?

this has the potential to get really weird really fast.

it also has a lot of ideas that i have in my head that are interconnected, but possibly only interconnected in my head.

please, bear with me while i jumble all of this together in a mad rush.

so yesterday was the first day of the semester, and my classes are looking something like this.

modern american literature. (thank goodness modern means after 1945.)
educational pyschology. (to understand students?)
reading, writing, and research. (that's exactly what it sounds like. reading. writing. and research.)
poetry workshop. (haven't been there yet. that's on thursday.)

so i'm going to start off by saying that ed psych is going to be interesting. at a school as small as mine, if you're in the education department, you all know each other. so my class is basically "alma's class of 2014 future teachers in the same room twice a week."

halfway through class i realized that room was my philosophy classroom from last semester. i just didn't recognize it because i hardly went to that class, and when i did, i sat in the very front and wrote down every funny thing dr. stratton said, including, "i think that granny smith apples are just about the most orgasmic things on the planet. have any of you ever had an orgasm? you don't have to raise your hands, just think about it and smile."

so american lit was the first class that i went to. i have it with dr. vivian, that fabulous creative writing professor that i've blogged about before. he opened the class with the same interesting poem, and once again, told us that we had to recite a poem in front of the class.

i am not allowed to use the same poem. i was highly distraught because i don't think another poem can fit into my life so neatly.

from there, he talked about all eleven text books (i currently have five of them) and how we were going to start reading "grasses of a thousand colors" by wallace shawn. now, don't tell me that you don't know who wallace shawn is.

he's the guy in the princess bride who yells INCONCEIVABLE! he's also the voice of rex in toy story.

if you still don't know who wallace shawn is, i am incredibly sorry that have you not seen either of those two movies.

so today, this play, "grasses of a thousand colors", comes in the mail, and i pick it up all happy because i have to have fifty pages read by wednesday, and whattyaknow, it's tuesday. so i start reading this play.

it's this guy. and he's standing on stage in his pajamas and he's just talking to his audience about whatever. i'm thinking that he's a very interesting person with some interesting insights. for instance, he talks about the audience as becoming a box of chocolates. i thought that was very strange and slightly illuminating.

and then suddenly he's a sex addict and there's five whole pages where he's talking about his relationship with his penis and he's having sex with a cat, and apparently, cat sex is so awesome that he orgasmed so much that he blacked out.


so moving onto reading, writing, and research and forgetting that i ever typed any of that.

so dr. aspinall is one of my favorite professors even though i've never had him. i'm going to have the pleasure of traveling to europe with him when i'm twenty-one. he's well-loved throughout the campus. he's a shakespeare nut. he wears pink pants. it was my first class with him, and when jacob (the boyfriend not the best friend) and i walked into his class, we didn't know what to expect.

this class is going to take a lot out of me. i'm going to be writing concise, argumentative, and grammatically perfect one page papers twice a week. i'm going to be reading lots of strange (but not as strange as american lit) books. there will be much writing. there will be much reading. there will be much researching.

so on thursday he's going to give us the guidelines for our independent study project. we get to choose a book or a selection of poems to write a ten page paper on. we have nearly the entire semester to get this done.

my instant thought was lolita. i wrote a bombdiggity paper on lolita last winter semester about how quilty was a figment of humbert's imagination, a strange imaginary piece of himself that he created to be real so he could deal with the fact that he was a monster. by god, i loved that paper, and i loved writing it. and i love lolita.

but dr. aspinall encouraged us to branch out and do something that maybe we haven't done before. i'm still toying with the idea of going very in depth with the quilty not being real idea, so we'll see how that goes.

i've made a list of books i might be interested in doing. the third book on that list is "grasses of a thousand colors." pretty sure if i do that play, i'm going to vomit. everywhere.

before the class ended, our first one page assignment was to write about what makes an english major excel. everybody in that class is an english major or minor. what do we need to have to excel at english?

i sat with my shoes off, rocking my chair back and forth, while everybody was spouting articulate stuff like, "we must think critically, which means seeing literature this way." "we must have a nice canon!" (no. not like, boom canon. canon like, look at all these fancy classics i have on my shelf and that i've read.) "we must be original!" "we should have our own thoughts, be open to the thoughts of others, but not recklessly abandon our thoughts for the thoughts of others."

this went on for literally half an hour before i raised my hand and said, "i think we should like english."

it got really quiet when i said that.

i applaud every single one of my classmates for the nice and true articulate things that they said we needed to be good english students. but hello.

we gotta like literature.

what is the point of being an english major if you hate reading books? if you don't like to write? if you don't enjoy diving into a book and taking out its messy innards and writing complicated papers with eight million cited sources from scholars in obscure books? sure, we can think critically and be original and have great ideas and articulate well, but we have to actually like doing it.

i just wrote my one page paper about what makes us excellent english majors, and it was about how we, with our lives labeled as "english majors", must enjoy our subject, and once we have achieved love, we can find our own excellence. i know how pretentious that sounds. but as an english major in three english classes with three different professors to impress with three different styles of writing, i think i can be pretentious.

i highly doubt i'm going to do this big sha-bang paper on a sex addict who screws with cats. i'm probably going to do it on a french professor who's in love with his twelve year old step daughter and living in his own fantasy.

that doesn't sound much better, does it?

welcome to college. welcome to english.

welcome to life.

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