Thursday, September 23, 2010

The only big news I have is that I have finally started watching, and consequently gotten addicted to, Dr. Who. I'm not sure what it says about me when my three favorite TV shows are all of the sci-fi genre. I never thought of myself as a sci-fi person. And this is especially relevant because I put my name on a list to take a course in sci-fi next fall (and, bonus, to take a seminar in Victorian women writers!). In London Alex and I famously had a debate on whether or not sci-fi counted as legitimate literature, with Vonnegut being the obvious line-straddler. I don't know. But I guess, someday in my free time, I might think about this and revise my position, perhaps? (And: is film different?)

This weekend I am going apple-picking with a group of English folks, as well as consignment-shopping. Fall is about to hit--like tonight. I'm serious; the past week has had temperatures in the 80s, but after tonight the next 10 days (according to will have high temperatures in the low to mid 60s. Hello, autumn. Fall is my favorite season, and I think I will love it even more here... though it is the introduction to the feared inevitable winter. I am going to order a winter coat this weekend/next week. Oh my.

So far I have deduced that I am not a Marxist or a Structuralist. There is a running joke amongst us that I have a very strong aversion to post-colonialism--which is fair, to a point. I just hate the way that it takes over discussions and that once people bring it up, it is as if the only aspect of a novel or an article that is worth talking about is the lack of mentions of India or Africa. I have a long rant about this (and it gets increasingly more intellectual, I assure you), but that will be for another time. Right now I have a phone date and stuffed poblano peppers to attend to.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

One of the larger aspects of student life at the University of Iowa is, predictably, football. Now, I grew up in Austin, Texas, the daughter of a man whose license plate for-real-actually reads "U-TEX-1," so obviously football culture was not going to be a huge shock for me. However, attending a tiny liberal arts school devoid of any football team did ensure that I never really had any experience tailgating.

Apparently you don't need a truck with a tailgate in order to tailgate.

Around 1pm I met a handful of my first-year PhD comrades outside the library, all of us dressed in yellow and black (both Hawkeye AND Hufflepuff colors, as I did not fail to inform them). We marched onward to the neighborhood bordering the football stadium, and met a sea of black and yellow. There were large tents of people selling things like gyros and "big ass turkey legs" and other meaty essentials--and of course, just about every single person had a beer in hand. We wandered into a neighborhood alley where several smaller trailers were set up, many with long beer pong tables posted beside them. Everyone, in case I have not reiterated this enough, was wearing yellow and black.

After finding a cozy spot on some grass in the shade, we sat, drank PBR, and people-watched. The crowd began to thin out as it neared gametime, but every now and then a person would walk by and yell "go Hawks!" at us, to which we replied with fist-pumps or "go Hawks!" of our own.

It was very surreal.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

I'm still busy. I guess that won't ever cease to be the case... for the next six years. But it still takes some getting used to, as the busyness does not come completely from schoolwork these days, but more adult-types-of-things. For instance, I got paid on September 1st and had to pay my rent, my cable bill, and my utility bill. I had to return a pair of TOMS in the mail. I had to go to the bank to change my PIN number and access a statement of the balance in my checking account. I try to go the gym every other day. On top of all of this, there is the schoolwork and the smaller things like remembering to take out the trash on Tuesday nights and cleaning the bathtub.

Please don't mistake this post as a complaint, either. I'm happy to be busy, delighted with having to schedule free time for myself. It is certainly more pleasant than the lonely, empty weeks I was spending in my living room before classes started.

Today Jess, Annmarie and I went to The Haunted Bookshop to make use of their large table in the philosophy section to do our homework at.

However, three English graduate students should have known better. Jess and I each bought at least four totally unnecessary books. (For my own part, I bought a literary biography of Virginia Woolf told through the lens of London, an interview with Simone de Beauvoir in 1984, a collection of letters from Zora Neale Hurston, a Kierkegaard volume, and three Nabokov books so that I might try to follow DS's seminar in my spare time. But hey, it all cost less than $30!)But there was something to be said for the bookstore's atmosphere for studying. The smell of old books permeated the air, and the only sounds were of book-lovers' feet on the creaking wooden floor. Not to mention, we also made friends with the cat.

He seemed about as skeptical of my assigned reading on "New-Formalism" as I was.

I want to keep going back there to study... but I can't afford to spend $20+ on books twice a week or whatnot.

In any case, Things I Love About Iowa City: independent bookshops.

Monday, September 06, 2010

I had a surreal experience today as I was walking home from a park in northern Iowa City where the Associate of Graduate Students in English (AGSE) were having a Labor Day BBQ. My friend Jess (grew up in Austin before moving to New York; attended Grinnell for undergrad; post-colonialist with an interest in Virginia Woolf;) and I heard cheering and clapping as we walked down College St. and, 'lo and behold: a sorority!

Ive seen the houses, and it's not as if I don't realize that they are there. In the evenings you can usually spot over-dressed girls in too-high heels meandering in large groups from one mansion to another. But this sorority encompassed everything I have ever suspected a sorority to be. Thin blonde girls en masse, grouped thickly in tides of short-shorts and tight pink t-shirts, jumping up and down and cheering... leaning out the window over the door and yelling... throwing water balloons and squealing...

We laughed and continued to walk.

Then we spotted ANOTHER sorority, further down College St. These girls, similarly thin and blonde, were chanting. Here we parted ways and I continued down Lucas. However, I had not made it down the entire block before I was halted by a true spectacle.

It was another sorority. A giant cardboard strawberry was perched beside the human-sized Greek letters in the front yard, behind which was a gigantic inflatable... thing?

It appeared to be the type of obstacle course that you see late at night on television, often with Asian people trying to go through.

I called Jess on my cell phone and she joined me in watching the events in the yard unfold. All of the girls were wearing blank tank tops with strawberries painted on the back, and a girl who must have been in charge told them over a megaphone that it was "time for the group picture." I was disappointed not to see the giant inflatable obstacle course in action.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

For tomorrow's Ethics of Close-Reading class, we each have to write a "lexia" of our own from a passage of a text. This means that I have had to imitate Roland Barthes's S/Z style in close-reading a passage from... well, I chose Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Garrett told us to "have fun" with the assignment, which he devised on the spot during class on Tuesday, and not to be "afraid of parodying Barthes." So I thought, why not take something utterly unacademic and attempt to make it into something incredibly academic?

Lupin was lowering his wand, gazing fixedly at Black. The professor walked to Black’s side, seized his hand, pulled him to his feet so that Crookshanks fell to the floor, and embraced Black like a brother. * Remus’ actions are all presented as very deliberate and decisive. The use of “was lowering” rather than merely “lowered” suggests that the act is done slowly, taking up more time. Such concentrated thought is characteristic of Remus Lupin in general (SEM. R.J. Lupin). ** “Gazing” not only cements the idea of how much time is passing, but also lends an air of admiration to the type of look Remus bestows upon Sirius. (HER. – What is the relationship between Remus and Sirius?) *** That Remus walks to Sirius’ “side,” rather than to the space directly in front of him, indicates both to poor, confused Harry and the reader that he is, both figuratively and literally, siding with him. Crookshanks falls to the floor as Remus succeeds him as Sirius’ closest ally (SYM. Loyalty). **** From “like a brother” we deduce that of course Sirius is not Remus’ actual brother. Though we receive a hint at the depth of the intimacy between the two with “like”, we still do not know the nature of it. In fact, the simile points us more directly towards the question of what type of relationship they had by specifying in a roundabout way what it was not (HER.- What is the relationship between Remus and Sirius?)

It's not very polished. I'm not sure you can have two of the same HER in one passage. Or that Loyalty is part of the Symbolic over the Semic. But this is what I've been doing for the past hour.