Maybe I’m Just in a Bad Mood

September 12, 2011 § 10 Comments

Or maybe literary scholars really are a joke.

Sometimes in class I can’t help but think, “Wait, wait, wait. It’s just a book, guys. It’s just one author . . . right?” I’m not an author, but someday I could be–and I’m totally full of BS.

Not to say real authors are full of BS. Not to say stories are BS. Stories and the people who write them have changed me, the world, our way of looking at reality and humanity. But seriously, one time Ernest Hemingway sat in a high school English class and learned all this cool, new stuff about his book. At least that’s what legend tells us.

Is this a bad thing? No. But worth consideration. Or at least a laugh.

Yeah, can we just at least laugh at our research papers? Ha ha ha ha, I just spent 80 hours writing this paper and my conclusion, yet again, is that there is no real conclusion, but here’s my well-developed guess. Ha ha ha ha ha!

Come on, can’t we just acknowledge that this is funny?

I feel like I’ve got all these secrets. Like my sense of humor. I’m scared to keep laughing (I’ve already laughed a few times) because apparently no one else thinks that what they (improper use of the third- person plural) want to spend the rest of their (improper use) life studying is funny.

I do have all these secrets. I don’t know what the H I’m studying. Sure, American Lit. I want to know more about my people. Oh, um, when I say “my people,” I don’t mean I assume ownership over others or view myself and my country as a binary opposite to all others, therefore elevating myself and demeaning others. I mean, I want to study the country I live in. Oh, what time period? How about the 19th century? Wait, what’s the difference between late 19th and middle-late 19th? Oh, I don’t know whether to study African-American lit or Women’s lit or Asian-American lit–how about all-American lit–like all of them? Wait, is that offensive? Oh, by the way, when I say American lit I mean the United States of America…n lit because America refers to North America, South America, and Central America. I wouldn’t want any confusion there. Not that I wouldn’t want to study South or Central American lit–I just have to specialize in something–at least that’s what they tell me, and to be honest, I don’t speak Spanish. I can read Old English, though. Question: Does studying British lit count as studying American lit since most of us came from there? Oh yes, of course, excluding all the Native Americans who were already here and all the other immigrants from all over the world. You know what, don’t worry about it. I’ll just stick with United States of American lit, middle-late 19th century, uh, women’s lit, specifically African-American women’s lit.

Thank goodness for teaching. I believe in what I teach about writing and rhetoric. I love everything I read for class before class. It applies to everything. (Last week we watched the Presidential Debate–it was hilarious and we learned something.) As I was telling some friends, “I wish I learned this stuff twenty years ago, when I was three. It would have helped a lot.”

I believe in my students too, that I can learn from them just as much as they can learn from me. They’re bright, they’re eager, they like to think. Sometimes they make mistakes in their papers (okay, a lot of times). Sometimes they use the wrong term. They’re people, though. I like people.

And that’s the thing with some of these scholars–too much thinking, not enough real people. It’s not bad . . . just. I’m not sure if it’s me.

(Currently trying to figure out what to do about this. Maybe specialize in writing and rhetoric instead? Or just laugh unashamedly?)

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§ 10 Responses to Maybe I’m Just in a Bad Mood

  • This is why I couldn’t be an English Teacher – it’s one thing to write poetry and stories, or to love reading poetry and stories, but I just don’t enjoy deep analysis. I prefer feeling the poem or story, letting the words touch me as a I go along. I also find it funny how deep some people go into a book saying “Now what the other was trying to do in this collection of passages is…” and I think to myself, probably not. Sure, authors think a lot about their books, but they are often the most surprised about what people get out of it, not even realizing half the “techniques” that they did by accident, or because it just sounded right to them. I wouldn’t get my kids excited about analysis, because I’m not. But maybe that’s just me. Now a creative writing teacher? THAT I could handle. THAT I would love to death.

  • e.dm says:

    Change over to the MFA where you get to study writing as art and history and loveliness, and then write your own. And you still get to teach.

    :) i’m serious. talk to steve.

    • tara says:

      i have thought about this, emily. i debated forever about getting my MFA. my reasoning for the MA has been that 1) i want to keep my passion for creative writing alive, and 2) a background in literary (or rhetorical) studies would help me more as a teacher (at least in the traditional English teaching sense).

      i’m still considering getting my MFA later. creative writing classes are so freaking fun. and yes, i’d love to sit with steve in the classroom again.

  • DTB says:

    I think your are going to be a breath of fresh air for the master’s program

  • Lindsey C says:

    I have the same problem in art history. I’m pretty sure at least ONCE in every career, the artist just gets bored and does something dumb, on accident, or just because it’s pretty, but I’m not allowed to say that idea out loud. Nor am I supposed to laugh during our retardedly serious discussions about super boring subjects like Kant. But I do. At least my class is used to it by now. The secret is to get better grades than they do, which helps them forgive your laughter (I fully credit my good grades to the fact that I read my assignments really closely just to find their outrageously out-of-touch suggestions).

    Ex: I spent 4 hours yesterday reading about a Parisian photographer who, according to one art historian, took pictures of bridges in order to “transfer the Parisian anxiety at the loss of object primacy into a stop-time gesture.”

    And I snorted out loud, because what does that even mean? IT’S A BRIDGE! Later this same author started talking about how opium trips parallel the construction of the Louvre. Hey. Lady. YOU’RE on opium!

    • tara says:

      hahahahhahahha ‘WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN????” SO TRUE!! I wish we could study together.

      You’ve inspired me to keep going and keep laughing, Lindsey. THANK YOU! :)

  • Mykle says:

    Math all the way. I can’t handle writing and thinking. I’m too shallow.

  • Sven Wilson says:

    Speaking of Hemmingway, a few months ago I read The Sun Also Rises, mostly while riding the exercise bike in the faculty weight room and feeling, consequently, quite virtuous.

    In case you haven’t read it, here is what it is about: alcohol. Really. There is all this subtle sexual undercurrent that, because of the times, could only be hinted at, and probably some other serious stuff being only hinted at, cause, ya know, if you are really literary, you can only hint at the important stuff, not say it directly, because that is too pedestrian and definitely un-literary. So what we have left is a loving description of each and every drink by each and every character on each and every day on which nothing happens except going to cafes and drinking.

    He definitely had a talent for putting words together. But I just wanted to shout. “Put the drink down! Shut up! And Grow up.”

    But if you are looking for a literary masterpiece on pampered, immature rich people drinking too and expecting the world to pity them, then this book is for you.

    When I was in college, I thought the lost generation were really profound, but now I wish that they had just stayed lost.

    I should do literary criticism for a living.

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