Redeemer had a sort of a welcoming party for the RUF students today–various Redeemer families brought sandwiches and sides and gave lunch to all the students. I stayed for free lunch (hey, you don’t get that all the time!) and got to meet a lot more people, both Redeemer families and several students. Including one English student getting ready to graduate with his PhD who I hadn’t met on-campus yet, so that was nice. The first few weeks I slipped in and out without meeting too many people (they don’t have a Paul Jaeggi!), but it was really great to be able to sit and eat and chat with people for longer. I’m just not good at conversation where I don’t have anything to do with my hands, or can’t listen in to other conversations as the other people at the table talk.
Now I’m getting ready to head out to a picnic for the English Graduate Students to get to know some of them better. Today is also the first football game of the year, but I didn’t go to it. All the freshmen were really excited about it, though. And when I get back, more reading! Whee. As far as schoolwork goes, I’m fluctuating day by day on whether I can do it all, whether I can do it well, whether I should even be doing this…I still feel uncertain and unprepared compared with all the other graduate students, so I’m just trying to take it one day at a time and do my best on the current task. I can’t think beyond that right now, and the coming weeks, which are going to be more and more filled with ongoing papers and research? Really can’t think about them at all.
Okay, Altick and Fenstermaker have redeemed themselves somewhat in the last couple of chapters of The Art of Literary Research, so I must back down a bit from my negative reaction to the book. All the things I said still hold true for the passages I quoted there, but check this out:
[speaking of the sense that what literary scholars do is largely unappreciated by the world at alarge] Yet if we are unappreciated and undervalued, the fault is partly ours. We gladly learn, but outside the classroom many of us are curiously uninterested in teaching. Many modern critics and scholars have developed the habit of talking only to each other, neglecting the broader audience of educated people…It is our responsibility to seize every opportunity to communicate with the lay audience, as in book reviews or in articles and essays in the popular press on history, biography, and culture (and to make such opportunities where they do not exist). [Altick & Fenstermaker, p254]
Now, that I can get behind. Is there a way I can do only that and not have to do the specialized journals and conferences and stuff?
A little more on how I’m not a good academic.
I just finished reading a chapter in the same book on libraries (they’re getting into the nitty gritty of where to locate the best bibliographies and which research libraries have the best collections of specific authors and eras), and they’re going on and on about the libraries that have huge collections of first editions, among other things. And you can tell that they’re expecting scholars to just start drooling over these first editions, and I know a lot of my classmates are fans of rare and old books. I’m just…not. To me, as long as the words are the same, a $1.97 paperback you bought used from the corner bookshop is worth just as much as a first edition that sells for thousands of dollars. I do go on about loving the feel of a book in my hands, or liking one edition over another, but it has nothing to do with age or market value–it has to do with weight, and proportionality, and smoothness, and pretty pictures on the cover.
Of course, I acknowledge the value of manuscripts, especially if the author marked them up a bunch or something, but I still don’t really care to get down and dirty with them myself. As of this moment, I’d be just as comfortable working with fascimiles if I needed to consult the original manuscript. I do love libraries, but I’m honestly not that much of a fan of the old books in libraries. I’d much rather hunker down with a new, pristine copy than one that’s three hundred years old, even if I can acknowledge that it is amazing it’s still around.
It just seems like it’s so much more important what it says than what its physical properties are. I’m not sure what that means, other than I’m clearly not cut out to be the same type of scholar that Altick and Fenstermaker are.
The RUF here is pretty active! I had seen some chalkings on the ground (this is apparently the equivalent of a student activies bulletin board) about it and was planning to check it out, but one of the girls in my class who also goes to Redeemer invited me and made sure I knew where it was and when and everything, which was really nice because I would’ve procrastinated finding out the details and missed it. Anyway, she said that they usually had around 80 students or so, but there had to have been at least 120 people in the room last night. It was also 120 degrees, because the air conditioner was out, but everybody stuck it out and it was quite good. There’s something bonding about spending an hour next to someone in a room that’s boiling hot.
I guess 120 isn’t really that large a percentage of a school the size of Baylor, but everybody I met was very friendly and welcoming, and they had a bunch of other events throughout the week planned in addition to the weekly Wednesday night meeting…I was glad to find them. Told you my strategy of “let social situations come to me” works! Oh, the RUF minister is the guy who preached at Redeemer the first day I went. I’ve now also heard the senior pastor preach twice, and he’s very good as well.