Who can write 20 pages of academic prose in one day when she really sets her mind on it? That would be me. That moment when procrastination turns into focused concentration? Good moment. Although it apparently hit too early this time, because I had two hours to spare. ;)
So that’s my last assignment ever for my last class ever. Of this Master’s degree. I have very little faith in my ability to stay away from school for ever. But for now. Yay.
The paper was on Godard, and I’ll probably post it on The Frame once I get it back and, you know, have confirmation that it didn’t totally suck. I feel good about it, which is usually a bad sign, so we’ll see.
Wow, you know what this means? I can read ANYTHING I WANT before going to bed now. I haven’t done that since…well, Christmas, but even then I was trying to read ahead for classes. So, then, since 2006. Really. I’m not sure I remember how to make reading decisions on my own. I’m a little overwhelmed by the possibilities.
I know I’ve been lax on the old blog lately. I claim a combination of schoolwork, socializing, nearing-graduation stress, returning television shows, and generally not much interesting going on. Oh, and also the part where I’ve gotten in Twitter a lot more and am post one-off thoughts there instead of collecting them together into a blog-sized post. That gets most everything I want to say out of my system so it doesn’t end up here, which can be good or bad, I guess, depending on how you look at it. The socializing has been largely responsible for my not being around and live-blogging American Idol. Various people have wondered what’s going on with me, though, so here’s a bulleted update.
- American Idol – I’ve been ragging on Carly a lot, but honestly, I was pretty shocked when she went home instead of Jason. I’ve also supported Jason mostly throughout the show, but that was a trainwreck of a performance on his part, and I think he’s pretty well proven that, much to my disappointment, he’s a one-trick pony. So America got that one way wrong. For me, though, David Cook has it locked. Which means he’ll probably get voted off next. Just my luck.
- School – In case you didn’t catch the edit to my post about the oral exam, I did pass it. Which is a major yay. Actually, it was sort of enjoyable – a conversation about books and film with really smart people. :) Except one professor kept asking me about Faulkner even though I admitted to never reading any Faulkner. Guess I know what’s next on my reading list! And a friend and I gave a joint presentation in Literary Criticism yesterday which went surprisingly well. And now I just have two seminar papers left, and I’m fairly comfortable with them, so stress-level has fallen exponentially in the last two days.
- Post-Grad Plans – My current plans are to take a couple of weeks after graduation, maybe spend a week here hanging out with friends minus finals week stress and a week at home, then move to Los Angeles. I’m looking for jobs at USC or UCLA (not teaching; administrative), or pretty much anywhere out there that will pay me to do something I can do. ;) I mostly just want to live in a big city for a while, at least, and LA won out over New York due to climate.
- Television – Most of the TV shows are back from the writer’s strike now, which caught me by surprise, a bit – I had gotten used to my DVR NOT filling up every week. ;) The fact that I found the writer’s strike a bit of a relief probably means I’m following too many shows, but I can’t figure out which ones to give up. And the down side is that I ended up picking up a bunch of Bravo reality shows during the strike, and now I don’t want to give those up either. Good thing most of them are short. Anyway, the big television news around here is that Battlestar Galactica is back! After marathoning S3 on DVD, my friends and I jumped straight into the fourth and final season, and it is frakking amazing. If you’re not watching this show, get the DVDs and start. Don’t start in the middle.
- Gaming – GTA IV came out last night at midnight, and I went and got it. At midnight. Only time I’ve ever done that for a game, though I’ve been to midnight movie premieres. One. Harry Potter. Anyway. I wasn’t able to stay awake for more than a couple of hours gaming once I got home (I’m getting old, what can I say?), but it’s pretty sweet. Graphics are beautiful, Liberty City is HUGE. I was afraid that it’d seem small after the three-city-plus-desert of San Andreas, but no. It’s ginormous, and with so much stuff going on that I’ve repromised myself never, ever to drive in New York City (on which Liberty City is based). It’s craziness. I also used Amazon.com gift certificates to upgrade to Gold on Xbox Live, so I’m set for multiplayer, once I can tear myself away from the single-player campaign.
- Socializing – It’s starting to hit me that I’m leaving here in like a month, and though I feel confident in the strength of the friendships I’ve made over the past two years (and the power of Facebook) that I’ll keep in contact with most of my friends, I have been trying to spend as much time as possible with them all before I leave. And I’m at that place where I’m glad to be almost done with school, and I’m very glad to be leaving Waco, but I’m not at all glad about leaving all the people here. I know everyone goes through that every time we change life situations, but that doesn’t make it any easier.
So that’s pretty much my life right now.
Update: I passed!
I have my oral examination tomorrow, which decides whether or not I, you know, graduate. It’s really hard to study two and a half years of coursework, especially those parts you didn’t really care for and weren’t planning to need to know again. *fingers crossed* the old memory holds up. My mind is a bit more at ease after the chair of my committee (who’s also teaching my Victorian Lit class) talked to me briefly tonight about how he plans to conduct the exam – mostly a guided conversation, sounds like.
However, he also said “I don’t really know how someone would fail an exam like this.” I never know how to take it when people say that. I know it’s meant to be encouraging, but think of what a catastrophe it would be if I DID fail after he said that? The pressure!
I kid, mostly. I’m really not that concerned about it, but it is sort of important, and it is oral (and I tend to get tonguetied), and I’m not too sure what all they’re going to ask. So anyway, if you could have me in your thoughts tomorrow, I’d be appreciative.
We read Roland Barthes for our Critical Theory class this week. And I have learned stuff. For instance, from this quote from Image-Music-Text:
Narrative thus appears as a succession of tightly interlocking mediate and immediate elements; dystaxia determines a ‘horizontal’ reading, while integration superimposes a ‘vertical’ reading: there is a sort of structural ‘limping’, an incessant play of potentials whose varying falls give the narrative its dynamism or energy: each unit is perceived at once in its surfacing and in its depth and it is thus that the narrative ‘works’; through the concourse of these two movements the structure ramifies, proliferates, uncovers itself – and recovers itself, pulls itself together: the new never fails in its regularity.
What have I learned, you ask? That apparently I can use as many semicolons and colons within a single sentence as I darn well please! Plus a dash, thank you very much. Now every time professors ask me to rephrase rather than use dashes or semicolons, I’m going to point to this passage and say “Barthes did it.” Note for any fiction writers out there, you can use Jane Eyre to pull the same trick; I swear, she’s got some sentences that go on for a whole page – separated only by semicolons and dashes. Or Vanity Fair, which has the most prodigious dash use I’ve seen in my life, and believe me, I love me some dashes.
So in my last semester of my M.A. in English lit, I decided to take critical theory. You know, after I’ve already written all but like one or two of the critical papers I’ll have to write. But hey. Actually, I’ve never taken critical theory, or literary criticism, or any of those types of things–I’ve done some reading in it on my own, so I’m vaguely familiar with most of the big names and critical approaches, but nothing formal or consistent. After the first class today, I think I’m really going to enjoy it. The discussion we had (the first half of which tried to answer the question “What is literature” and the second half started looking at Russian Formalism) was stimulating, and I actually said stuff! No, seriously, this is huge for me. I think I made it through last semester without talking in class at all. Not quite true, but close.
On the downside, there are three 12-15 page papers and a presentation. Three! Plus a presentation which is supposed to imitate presenting at a conference, which is basically another 10-page paper. No long paper, though, unless we want to combine the second and third papers into one 25-pager. Which I’m unlikely to do, because much longer than 18 pages makes me crazy. On the upside, the professor is perfectly happy for me to do them on critical theory in film if I want instead of literature! Which is so totally awesome, because for whatever reason, most theoretical approaches make perfect sense to me when applied to film, but I can’t follow them as well in literature. So I already end up explaining literary theory to myself in terms of film theory. So that’s exciting.
The professor, by the way, is totally brilliant. You know when you just hear someone talk for like five minutes, and it’s not like what they’re saying is hard to understand or anything, but you can just tell they’re totally brilliant? It’s like that. And he’s British, which makes him seem even more brilliant (studied at Oxford and St. Andrews, even). He was really good at making us do the discussing, and disagreeing with us to make us clarify what we were saying, and yet never seem to disagree with us in a way that made us want to stop talking or feel like we had to agree with him. Socratic, I guess it was, but less…probing.
I was definitely right about this semester being more challenging than last semester. Critical theory isn’t easy reading, throw in essentially two more papers than I’m now used to in a class, not to mention the gazillions of pages I’ll be reading for Victorian Novel (that class isn’t until Thursday) and whatever papers we’ll have there, and not to mention trying to take my oral exam in March…busier I will be. I’m sort of glad the writer’s strike has ended most of my TV shows, because I wouldn’t have time to watch them anyway, and that would make me sad.
So I just checked out the reading list for my Victorian Novel class in the Spring. The list of books follows, along with the page number count for each one (taken from the Modern Library paperbacks, accounting for the notes and commentary, so the number given is the text itself only):
Jane Eyre – 682 pages
Bleak House – 861 pages
Mill on the Floss – 656 pages
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – 453 pages
Portrait of a Lady – 450 pages (guesstimated)
Vanity Fair – 810 (guesstimated)
Dracula – 366
Picture of Dorian Gray – 200 (guesstimated)
For a total of ….. 4,478 pages.
Wow. I knew Victorian novelists were long-winded coming in, but I think the professor picked the longest work from every single author! Okay, I know that’s not really true. Mill on the Floss is shorter than Middlemarch, and Bleak House, though REALLY LONG, is, I think, shorter than Pickwick Papers. Don’t know about the others. Why Bleak House, I wonder? Because he assumes we’ll already have read Great Expectations and David Copperfield? (I haven’t, because I hate me some Dickens.) At least I’ve already read three of them, though I could use a refresher. Taking contemporary lit classes has spoiled me; 20th century writers don’t usually write so much, like, maxing at 400 pages or so.
So far the other class I’m in (Literary Theory) only has one book listed, but I somehow doubt it’ll stay that way. Or else he’s got a heap bunch of articles we’ll need to read. Even so, I think the list above and the amount of mental effort I’ll need to put into the theory class (I’ve never had theory before at any level) will guarantee that the semester I’m about to finish will remain the easiest of my graduate career. Especially once you add in oral exam prep…
Two things I’m really grateful for at the moment.
1 – That I chose to do my short paper/panel assignment on Ellen Douglas’ Can’t Quit You Baby, because of all the books we’ve read so far in Southern Lit, it’s my favorite. Each one we read I like better than the previous one, which either means that I like the newest books the best (which is not usually true), that I’m very fickle (which is true), or that I’m getting better acclimated to the class and materials each week (which is probably true to some extent). Anyway, Can’t Quit You Baby has an awesome intrusive narratorial voice which makes me happy. I hope I can work it into my paper somehow. Or maybe write my long paper on this novel, too, and incorporate it (I haven’t even thought about the long paper yet).
2 – That I had the Harlem Renaissance class last semester, because the article we have to read and respond to in the paper/panel discussion is about the relationship between the white employer and the black employee who are the main characters in the book, and whether Douglas is co-opting African-American culture in the form of the black woman order to “save” the white woman from her detached and superficial life. That idea came up a lot in the Harlem Renaissance class, especially relating to music and the ways that white music producers took over jazz and blues and smoothed them out to sell them to white audiences (often with white performers). I haven’t finished reading the article yet, but I already feel like I have a grounding in the point of view the author is coming from, which is encouraging.
I don’t know what I’m going to write yet, or what tack I want to take in the short paper, but at least I won’t be completely lost, like I would’ve been if I’d had to write about some of the earlier books.
I’m also grateful for having acquired the other two Rilo Kiley albums I was missing (three if you include their first self-produced EP), but I think I’ve already done a fine job convincing everyone that I’m obsessed with Rilo Kiley at the moment. I wonder if that will happen every time I got to a concert, or if as I get more used to going to concerts the desire to listen to the band 24/7 for the next several days will go away. Meanwhile, I did find out that Inara George, the singer in The Bird and the Bee, also has a solo album called Rise Up (actually recorded before the band was formed), and based on the 30-second previews at the Amazon.com store, it’s just as good as The Bird and the Bee’s stuff. I wish there were a wishlist for the Amazon.com MP3 store. This is a problem with iTunes as well…I mean, just because the music is digital and I could have it right now doesn’t mean I have the money right now, and I might like to have a list of MP3s to remember to buy in the future when I have money. Just a thought.
EDIT: Third thing I’m thankful for in relation to the paper–there’s a whole Ingmar Bergman connection I think I can make, which will be AWESOME, because nobody else will do that for sure. The main character actually goes to see Persona at one point, there are some similarities between the Persona characters and the Can’t Quit You Baby characters, and none of the critics so far have even mentioned it or tried to examine what a Bergman-Douglas connection might mean! Plus I may even be able to bring in the Spiritual trilogy and its spider-god. It would help if I knew what the spider-god meant, but maybe I can read up on Bergman some, too, which would be good for me anyway.
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.