May 12, 2009


I'm not sure what the tone of this post will be. I'm feeling a bit babbly right now. My spring semester, and first year of grad school, officially ended on Saturday morning at 6:30am when I sent in my final paper. I spent a few days slowly recovering from the shock (well, mostly the lack of sleep) and now I have three weeks of summer until I begin my next class. My mind is literally exploding with the possibilities.

After successfully completing 6 hours last semester, I rather boldly decided to take 9 this spring. There were a few reasons for this. Among them: I had an opportunity to take an independent study in Southern Lit, and I grabbed it, but there were also two other classes offered that I wanted/needed. In order to become a TA, I need 18 hours. Taking 9 this spring plus 3 this summer makes me eligible. Teaching is a much bigger time-drain than being a research assistant, so while this was my opportunity to rack up the necessary hours, it was also probably my last chance to speed up the process this way.

My independent study consisted of me sitting in on a senior-level undergrad course (every MWF at 1:25), and doing some extra writing (about 40 pages worth) and reading (about 4 books worth, on top of the 8 required for the course). We read Poe* (which was an odd beginning, but which came back to "haunt" us with every subsequent text), Charles Chesnutt, Faulkner*, O'Connor*, Welty, Beth Henley, and Ernest J. Gaines. I also read Tennessee Williams. I put an asterisk by everything I'd read before, so there was definitely some good new material there. I particularly enjoyed my first experience with Welty, and I'd put her Losing Battles second on a list of essential southern novels, behind only Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom.

My Tuesday afternoon class was Literary Criticism with Dr. Ferretter, who is a fantastic prof and really knows his stuff. His book, Towards a Christian Literary Theory is near the top of my summer reading list. We dug into the theory, but the course was not as frustrating or incomprehensible as it could have been because class was mostly dedicated to deciphering and responding to the readings. We covered all the major theories, and the first part of class each week following was dedicated to individual student presentations which put the theory into practice, i.e. a structuralist analysis of Star Trek: Next Gen and Battlestar Galactica episodes, or Disney's Mulan and Monty Python and the Holy Grail read via queer theory.

I presented third, so mine was out of the way early (but not too early). I was assigned deconstruction, so I talked about the American arm of the movement and then used an old standby as my illustrative text: "This Be the Verse" by Philip Larkin. The critical aspect worked even better this time, if possible, than it did last time. I had to write three 10-12 page critical essays for the class, as well. I did a structuralist analysis of Flannery O'Connor's short stories, a Freudian reading of Dr. Strangelove (which you may have seen over on Moviegoings), and used postcolonial theory to critique Hollywood's vision of the Civil Rights movement in the South. That last was the paper I referred to at the beginning of this post.

Finally, on Thursdays I had a religion and literature seminar on theodicy, or the problem of evil and suffering. The topic definitely intrigues me, but I took it mainly because the course texts involved novels as well as films, and because the professor is the only member of the department (as far as I know) with an academic interest in film. I really enjoyed the course, as it exposed me to all sorts of things I hadn't encountered before, and because my classmates were all brilliant and we had fantastic discussions every single week.

My favorite novel of the semester, and one of my new favorites of all time, was assigned in this class: Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I highly recommend it to all and sundry, etc. It is definitely a must-read, a beautiful book. My work for this class consisted of two presentations and a 10-12 page paper. I did my theological presentation (which involved someone explaining a text that only they had read to the rest of the class each week) on N.T. Wright's Evil and the Justice of God, and for my teaching presentation I led the class discussion on Chinatown, which was a blast. Finally, for my paper, I explored the various manifestations of evil in seven examples of film noir, including Chinatown. I expect to have that backposted to Moviegoings in a few days.

Anyway, all that to say . . . it was a fun semester, and also a successful one (as I can say with full confidence now that grades are in). I had a great deal more to say about my specific plans for the summer, including the unfortunate saga of my summer class enrollment and the rather happier story of my fall schedule, but I'll save that for now and put this up. The overwhelming number of possibilities that suddenly open up when one basically goes from 0 to 100% free time (particularly for only a few weeks) have temporarily shortened my attention span, and I'm off to work on something else.

Posted by Jared at May 12, 2009 05:05 PM | TrackBack