Tuesday, August 10, 2010

because I am a follower, deep down

I've been feeling a great loss since May and graduation. Perhaps it is a testament to a person's inability to know truly what they need (or just my inability) rather than what they want--Rolling Stones, natch-- that what I've been waiting for and crazily working after (graduation) leads precisely to a disorder that I am finding difficult to live with. It took a long time for me to get used to being a student, but my overactive (with anxiety) mind was really quite calmed, in the end, by the fact that I had a syllabus and that all I needed to do was written on it. At the end of the day I could fall asleep and feel that I had done what I should, having finished my work for the day. I had a whiteboarded schedule, a planner, and distinct stacks of books that I could pick up, read, and check off. I felt like a good person. Far away from my beginnings as an autodidact, I began to feel the same comfort about attending classes. It was an almost smug sense of purpose.

In an effort to not succumb to the ennui that I've been feeling since graduating-- though because I have always been so scrappy in my academic life I feel now that I've been ejected from college, or something much less positive than graduated-- I've decided to try to keep being a student in a deliberate way. So, I am trying to do this course, "Introduction to Theory of Literature," which is opencourseware from Yale.

I won't pretend that I wasn't very happy to find this course because it is actually exactly what I wanted and is impeccably produced. I have taken and paid for online and distance courses from the University of Minnesota that don't touch the quality of the courses on Yale's Open site. I've taken classes with absolutely horrible lecture video quality, streaming from a horribly slow server, read by a man with an impossible accent. One came with a package of CD lectures that sounded like someone had put a pillow over my speakers (and the UMN merely said that they were taken from old tapes and offered to refund my money). Two others were "taught" by nonexistent professors who were not in touch with the courses they had created and graded accordingly.

So, yes, a person aught to be very happy with the high quality videos, the perfect transcripts, the thorough syllabus and PDFed extra readings that come with the courses on Yale's site. For free.

I did buy the text that is listed on the syllabus for about $65. (I have not gotten a copy of Tony the Tow Truck"-- I am not sure whether it will really be necessary.) If you were taking the course as a passing fad, you might get the main text from the library, but I am hoping that I can use the course's readings to give a new dimension to the writing sample that I am working on should start working on soon for graduate school applications.

I am still haven't put my heart completely into the idea of attending graduate school for English, mostly because I don't have any confidence about being accepted to any programs. But I think that refreshing my knowledge of theory is a step in the right direction and couldn't hurt. I do say "refreshing" but I only took one Critical Theories course in college, and this was a while ago, so that I have a vague idea about the big names and movements in theory, but I would be extremely hard pressed to converse about them. I began the summer trying to check books out of the library to begin learning about points that I wanted to investigate, but it was hard to know where to begin when I couldn't remember what I was supposed to. At any rate, I have become so used to being a student that I felt no satisfaction reading (theory) on my own-- picking up a new book was like moving a rock from one place to another, not knowing where it should go or how many rocks I should move-- so I found this alternative. Maybe this is a coffin nail in my eligibility as an English grad student, but I always felt like an impostor during college, so it feels good to be following a legitimate path. Also, I am unemployed.

Since I will not be doing the papers (here is something I do not entirely miss) I intend to write reflections on each lecture and the lecture's reading, though I won't hold myself to a very high standard. Long or short, it doesn't matter. I know the value of remembering enough to write in digesting material.

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