Sunday, August 29, 2010

Oh my. I have been quite busy. You know how the first week of the semester in undergrad is usually pretty slow and you have a lot of time to ease into your workload and your new surroundings? NOT SO in graduate school. I found myself scrambling to do readings while still cooking for myself, maintaining a clean and organized apartment, and managing my burgeoning social life. I only managed to go to the gym twice before the weekend! (And for those of you who don't know, the gym is somewhat of a priority for me because I'm trying to fit firmly into my size 8 pants by the time it gets chilly here).

The good news is that I am still glad to be here. The most intimidating class that I have is easily The Ethics of Close-Reading. Garrett, the professor, says all of these amazing and excitingly brilliant things during class... but I don't always immediately grasp their meaning. It is sometimes akin to how, when you know a foreign language but do not have much real-life experience with it, you listen to someone in France speaking French but you have to think about the words they are saying and so don't grasp their meaning until after a minute or two has passed. For example, we were discussing "Ode to a Grecian Urn" by Keats and "Seven Types of Ambiguity" by Empson, and Garrett said something, just in passing, about "adverbial modifiers." Well I understand that an adverbial modifier is the word that modifies the adverb, it took me a few seconds to translate it thus, and a minute to spot the instance of one in the poem. The one hour and fifteen minutes of this class is FULL of experiences like this, and I think it comes down to the fact that I never had technical grammar or literary terms (i.e. terms like "chiasmus" or "enjambment") drilled into me. Of course, close-reading can be an incredibly technical process, so I am a little worried that I won't be able to perform up to par. I need to find some website that has worksheets for high school English teachers to teach their students grammar.

In my Intro to Contemporary Theory course, we had a great discussion about Kant on Thursday. Thank God. It boosted my spirits tremendously to participate intelligently in a discussion after the Ethics class. I'm still afraid that I am not the kind of student who completely articulates my thoughts to myself before sharing them with the class, which inevitably makes me come off as less intelligent than everyone else. But luckily Jess, who is in that class with me, was apparently telling Justin, another first year (he's married and has a daughter and another baby on the way! and he is only 24!) that during our discussion I called Kant a snob (which I did and which he is!) and what was nice/refreshing/cool was that I clearly knew what I was talking about. So... hopefully I don't come off as an idiot. I am the youngest person in the program, it looks like; the other first-year who just recently graduated is actually a year older than me.

We haven't had a true discussion yet in my Modernist Arts in Britain class yet, but I think that the perspectives of the students in that class are so varied that the discussions will be rich. A couple of us are self-proclaimed Woolfians, but it sounds as though the majority of the class actually wants to work in areas outside of Modernism. Annemarie, for example, who is a year older than me and in all of my classes, wants to work with Victorian women authors and narrative theory.

This week has been full of little "meeting people" functions and so I feel like I have been asked about "what I want to specialize in" about a million times. In the email sent around to the department by the Director of Graduate Studies in English, my interests were ever-so-suavely listed as "Transatlantic modernisms and relations among language, affect and truth." My God that sounds sophisticated. I felt very legit after reading that. I've been telling people in my classes and at the social gatherings that I am also potentially interested in doing something with cultural studies and Jane Austen--what makes her so popular now, for instance. It's fun to come up with these ideas... but when in the world am I supposed to have time to actually pursue them?

Throughout the week I have somewhat inadvertantly been seeing who I am likely to be spending a good chunk of my time with. Because Annemarie and I have all of our classes together, we've been seeing a lot of each other and taken pains to spend time between classes working on our homework together in the library. Jess lives just up the street from me, a 5-10 minute walk, and so we have been walking to gatherings together. The three of us went to see Scott Pilgrim on Friday, and to a picnic with some other first year students at a nearby lake on Saturday morning together in my car. I have also seen a lot of John, the other first year who graduated this year. He lives about two minutes from me, so it's been easy to fall into chatting at each others' houses. We went to the gym together this week and talked at the pool before going back to my place and talking for two hours until midnight. Yesterday Jess and I walked to to party for first years together, but because I wanted to leave early and get some reading done, I rode back to Lucas St. with John--and we fell into conversation first at my place and then carried it over to his, where we went from reading to talking and back to reading for a couple of hours before his roommate Carmen (in the Writer's Workshop, I think) announced that she was making fuzzy navels, and we spent the rest of the evening (until 1:30 in the morning) exchanging stories, watching music videos, and laughing.

So I suppose I can say that I am settling in. The real trial is going to be managing my time properly so that I am not stressed out just trying to fit schoolwork and working out and cooking into my schedule comfortably. I also have a Graduate Student Senate meeting on some Monday evenings, and in September I have yoga on Wednesday evenings. I can do it! (I hope).