School, Southern Lit, and Rhetoric

My dad is convinced that since I apparently have so much time to write posts about Firefox extensions and puzzle games, school must not be taxing me too much. And he’s right, just now. There’s a fair chance that will change, but by and large, this looks to be one of the less time-consuming semesters I’ve had.

I’m taking two classes, plus continuing as a Research Assistant for the same professor I worked for last spring (still working on the same research project involving multimodal composition–last semester we gathered data, this one we’re number-crunching). We’re through the first two of eight or nine novels in Contemporary Southern Literature, a course for which I feel woefully unprepared. I’m not that interested in Southern Lit (I signed up for the Contemporary American class before the topic was announced, hoping it would be something postmodern), and I’d only heard of two of the authors before the class. But I’m looking at it as a chance to be introduced to authors that I otherwise wouldn’t know about or read.

So far we’ve read two Eudora Welty novels (Losing Battles and The Optimist’s Daughter), and the biggest challenge for me is figuring out how to relate to the characters. Losing Battles is set during a ginormous family reunion in Mississippi, and is either a nostalgic look at a fading way of agrarian community life or a mocking look at a family who refuses to keep up with the times. I don’t have a frame of reference for that type of family, mostly wanted them all to shut up and go away, and identified immediately with the one outsider to the family, the one who wanted to take her husband (who’s in the family) and move somewhere else. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy the book; I did, but I didn’t know how to react to it or what to say about it. It’s really weird when my mom is from the South, my dad grew up on a farm, and I can’t understand a book about a Southern farm family nearly as well as I can any book about British socialites. Some of it may simply be that I subconsciously don’t want to understand rural stories because I want to be a city girl, but I know how prejudiced that is, and I don’t want to be like that.

The Optimist’s Daughter is still set in Mississippi, but with a much smaller cast and more identifiable characters and situations (for me, at least), so I enjoyed it a lot more, even though it’s a much more serious book. I’m expecting to have this identification problem throughout the semester, but hopefully it’ll get easier with each example of a Southern novel. The best part is there’s only one long paper at the end, and a shorter response paper in the middle, which responds to a piece of criticism the professor assigns. And dude, I love responding to what other critics say, especially when they’re WRONG (and the one we had for today was SO WRONG), so it shouldn’t be difficult. Of course, it will help my participation grade if I could, you know, think of something to say about some of these novels instead of just sitting there absorbing everything.

The other class is Rhetoric and Composition, which I thought would be about writing but is really about teaching. Which is fine; I’m not currently planning to teach at a university level, but you never know, and a lot of the theory and stuff behind it will be applicable if I teach at a high school level, or even homeschooling my own kids. You know, when I get some of those. ‘Cause, yeah. I decided last year some time that I’m definitely trying the homeschooling thing. Anyway, RhetComp is going to be sort of interesting assessment-wise, because there’s no paper (yay!), but the professor is expecting us to come up with our own assignments, sort of–he’s got a list of several things we could do, and we can pick and choose what we want to do and how much we want to do of each thing. At the end of the semester, we have to be able to show what all we’ve done to make our case for our grade. I’ve never had a class that operated like that. I need to go talk with him this week about what I’m going to do to earn the grade. I’m guessing “read stuff and sit and listen in class” isn’t going to be enough.

Besides that, I’m spending time getting to know some of the new students (great crop of newbies this year; I pretty much like all of them that I’ve met), working on the website for our student association, and continuing to watch too many movies. Multiple times. Like now, I’m watching Celine and Julie Go Boating for the third time this week, because it’s really surreal and I’ve got most of the plot points, but other ones keep passing me by. Probably because I keep writing blog posts and things while watching it. The print also sucks, but the company who owns the rights hasn’t released it on DVD yet. Grr Aaargh. So, that’s what’s going on my real life, which I realize I’ve been posting about a lot less than I used to; the reasons for that range from the fact that my life’s pretty boring right now to the fact that I’m starting to get a little bit more traffic on the media posts from search engines and stuff, which means I’m not as excited about talking about personal stuff as I used to be.