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I'm Gonna Make It After All!

2004-09-02 - 9:53 a.m.

My computer still isn't fixed, so I'm shamelessly usurping one of the computers in the English Grad Lab that works in its own FUBAR sort of way. I wasn't going to, but only one other person (the wonderful Origynelle Gangstre, whom I hadn't run into since coming here and whom I am extremely happy to see) is in here at the moment, so I'm taking advantage.

I wanted to report that my antijinx worked! Classes have suddenly fallen into place, in a manner so unlikely that I can only point to a collusion between the twin bitch goddesses of luck and irony to explain them.

Let me tell you, I was getting scared. No, seriously, scared. On Monday, I had to come to grips with the daunting reality that I wasn't really back in school: I was in the training portion of my profession. Profession! Career! This is what I'm going to do with my life, and it has its own set of rules and its own language, and I'm going to have to learn all of them, particularly if I want to break the rules and invent new words. You know how computer geeks (god bless 'em, most of my friends are computer geeks and so are most of my crushes) can toss around acronyms like they're blackjack dealers who know the game is rigged? Well, soon I will not only be able to use words like poststructuralism and new historicism and heuristic paradigm shifting, I will be required to use them. And those are just the words I can pull out of my ass before 9am! It really hit home when my professor said that there was a difference between the study of literature and simply liking to read. I understood that I would not simply read books and teach them; I would somehow be responsible for them. A professor with enough clout can reach their hand into the myriad versions of Shakespeare, draw out a specific folio, and declare it The Official Version. To some people, that might seem to be an example of having slightly less power than a gerbil, but to me it's like holding the collected brain mass of the planet and, ever so slightly, twisting it.

With the gravity of my situation already weighing me down, I started looking at classes. That first class, where I got the science laid down on me (in this case, the science was actually the humanities), was required; there was no getting out of it. The good news was that I had enjoyed that first session. I could see myself being properly stimulated and even entertained as I slogged through New Criticism and Deconstructionism and all the other schools of thought that to me resemble high school cliques in their arbitrary divisions and inability to reconcile (I plead ignorance on that count). I still had two more classes to choose, however, and I was ready to look at courses that offered some authors I'd never heard of and others I'd hoped to never have to read again.

Now, seeing as some of my fellow grad students read this, I don't want to name names or give to many details. I'll just say this: the first two classes I looked at were kinda disappointing. I think my expectations were too high. I was expecting that my mind would be lit on fire by the supernova of intellect surging out of the mind of every professor. Truth is, some professors are laid back. Some get nervous. Some are so fascinated by their subject that they can't imagine anyone not seeing the astounding wealth of imagination that's apparent to them in every line of the text. And I can't work with those kinds of professors.

Okay, sorry, not true at all. Of course I can work with those kinds of professors, and I could see myself becoming invested in all the classes I took. The problem was that I knew I would have try, and I'm not that good at forcing myself to care about something that hasn't already captured my attention. So while I could see myself studying a favorite author like Rushdie or Forster or Morrison with a professor who prefers to let the vapors of literary exploration coalesce as they may, I'm not going to be any good with someone who does that for an author I hate, like Dickens or Hemingway (it should be noted that those to authors were on neither of the reading lists that I had received, just in case people are trying to guess). If I'm going to read Dickens, I need someone who is going to be so enthused about David Copperfield (although, for the life of me, I can't imagine who would be enthused about David Copperfield) that they can't wait to tell me how cool it is, and who will slap me around until I start noticing how cool Dickens can be, or at the very least am forced to formulate cohesive, incisive arguments about why Dickens sucks balls (in other words, an argument other than, "The fact that Dickens should have been shot before he put pen to paper is self-evident. By the end of the first chapter of Great Expectations I was ready to pull out my own intestines and hang myself with them. Also, it was made into a movie with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow, so you know it's gonna suck. I feel that it would be worth sacrificing the Tori song that came out of that movie to send our governor back in time to kill Dickens's mother. The End."). So I don't want to impugn my profs, I just want to say that they aren't my style.

At the time, of course, I didn't know this. At the the time I thought that I was dead in the water. I thought that I had chosen wrong, that the one thing that everyone and my mother knew I'd be great at was something that I wasn't going to enjoy. What then? Work as a waiter while trying to write and direct? Take another office job? All of these were starting to seem like viable options.. My only comfort was the thought of a course on Bollywood and a cool creative writing class being offered next semester.

Then came my performance studies class yesterday. It's a class on performing patriotism, which is possibly very different from being patriotic, or possibly the exact same thing, or possibly a tautology, and just so you know I got one step closer to my PhD by using the word "tautology" in a sentence. The class is full of interesting people from multiple departments. The books are fascinating, including a book about how there are versions of the Declaration of Independence that include notes in the margin on how it was to be read aloud to the masses of illiterate colonists who wanted to know why, exactly, the British were coming. For the first time, I felt that most delicious of hungers, the hunger of the brain ready for new information, new modes of thinking, new perspectives on the world, the hunger of a mind on fire. I was more excited than I'd been since I'd arrived, but I was still scared. Sure, I may indeed be cut out for academia, but had I just signed up for the wrong field of study? I was technically in the English department: would I lose funding if I decided to make the official switch.

To make matters worse, I might have had to give up the class. See, because of the schedule of that class, I was unable to sign up for a class with The Medieval Maven, another one of the very cool professors here whom I met in March. I wasn't sweating that, since it was a course on more obscure medieval poems and I figured she'd be offering her famous Chaucer course again. Then I heard an awful rumor: Medieval Maven might be retiring! This class might be my last chance to hang with the professor. So now I had to choose between a class I was already loving and another I might never have a chance to take again.

Fortunately for me, the Goddesses of Luck and Irony were in their own computer lab at the center of the cosmos, and, being huge fans of my blog, they said to one another, "Oh, so he thinks classes are gonna suck, does he? Well, we'll show him!"

After I came back from the break midway during the performance studies course, the professor had an announcement: a beautiful, wonderful member of the class had requested that the class be rescheduled for 12pm-3pm. At first I was concerned; I already had a class from 10am-12pm. Would I have time to grab lunch? Then I remembered that the medieval class started at 3pm, and heard myself exclaim, "That would ROCK!" By the end of the class, it seemed relatively secure that the class time would indeed be changed (I'm hoping that the Goddesses will be suspended from the computer lab for a while for jamming the printer before they read this).

So as soon as class was over, I skedaddled over to the English building and sat in on the tail end of the medieval course. Now, I have never had any desire to read Middle English. I'm well aware of the rockin' quality of The Canterbury Tales, but at the same time, I like to at least be able to recognize most of the words I'm reading, although I do love pronouncing "knight" as "ke-nikt." The Medieval Maven, though, was already going at 100mph, and I had no problem jumping on her train of thought from a running start. She was always ready to tell us, in her warm and bombastic way, about how cool these poems were, and I was so thrilled that to have such a passionate instructor that I was ready to believe anything.

So now my problems have changed. I still have two more classes to check out, and if those two are awesome as these were, then I'm going to be faced with some tough choices, particularly since I just bought the books to the two I looked at yesterday. As problems go, though, I like this one much better. I might just make it in this profession after all.

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previous - next

The End - 2005-02-11
Let's Go on With the Show - 2005-01-30
The Curse, and This Bee's a Keeper - 2005-02-01
Sisters Lolita and Matronic Explain It All for You - 2005-01-31
Cowboys and Medievalists - 2005-01-30

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