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.