July 2010


For the most part, I think I’m a rational individual.  However, that doesn’t stop me from believing in luck.  I have several things I believe are lucky, like my Lord of the Rings One Ring bracelet and my green fleece blanket.  I continue to wear my bracelet each exam day since I got it my freshman year of college.  I’ve done well on exams for the most part, and a little bit of me does attribute it to that bracelet.  My fleece blanket has been with me since freshman year, too.  I needed a blanket, and Target happened to have a lime green fleece that fit the bill.  It wasn’t a purchase because of love, but rather because of necessity.  However, that blanket has been with me the entire way, and that cheap, pilled thing somehow has helped me through everything over the past 5 1/2 years.  It’s been my nap blanket and movie blanket, and it’s the current favorite napping spot for my cat, Sammy.

I know luck isn’t supposed to exist because everything is a product of coincidence and God’s grace (and I’m apparently channeling John Wycliffe’s theory of dominion with that sentence…  Random history note).  However, these things have been there throughout college, and they signify the person I’ve become and the memories I’ve collected.  Summer, outdoor movies, and the joy of friends and being done with classes are all equated with these two items.

It’s been a good run, and somehow these two things help me to remember the good stuff and to follow this path that will allow me to do what I love.  My blanket is, in every aspect, warm and fuzzy.

Maybe you’ve seen Shakespeare in the news recently, with the whole “refudiate” situation and Sarah Palin.  While I did hear about that, the most important reference to Shakespeare is my new class on post-1603 Shakespeare.  I’m terrifically excited, and am in love with my new Bevington collected works.  It’s huge, and takes up 75% of my messenger bag, but it’s beautiful.

We’re reading Othello (and seeing an outside performance August 1), Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear.  The professor’s area of interest is in gender and sexuality studies, and so the overarching theme will be *drumroll* gender roles and sexuality!  I find that extremely interesting, as I take every opportunity to explore women’s roles in antiquity and the Middle Ages and am a proud feminist myself thanks to Gustavus.  (No, I wasn’t indoctrinated, or anything, but I experienced how my female friends and classmates view the world as professionals, independent people, gay, straight, bisexual, Christian, atheist, etc.  Plus, the red “This is what a Gustavus feminist looks like” didn’t hurt either…  I still have fond memories of a male poli sci professor speaking to the senior class wearing one of these under his robes and flashing it like Clark Kent becoming Superman.)

Anyway, it will be a nice change from SQB and an uninformed, interruptive instructor.

I’ve begun to read the first play for Monday, Othello.  It’s so beautiful, and the marriage between Othello and Desdemona begins better than any marriage I’ve read about recently (The Miller’s Tale, The Franklin’s Tale, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Lanval, etc.).  Those marriages begin either with the man in total domination over the woman, the woman in complete control over the man, or a marriage of “equals” to the depressed extreme as in the marriage between Averagus and Dorigen.  Othello and Desdemona love each other in the Christian way and in Venus’ way.  It’s true love mixed with passion.  Of course, Iago comes to stir those flames of passion, creating doubt and destruction by the end, but the beginning is good, right?  The issues of the Moor’s bestial qualities corrupting the pure, white, Venetian virtue of Desdemona is interesting.  (“Even now, now, very now, an old black ram / Is topping your white ewe.”  Othello, 1. 1)  Disturbing, but interesting.  Language is carefully used to convey meaning, and I think my maturity since last reading any Shakespeare, my viewing of several plays last summer, and the Bevington’s notes all make me very aware of language.

Chasseriau's Othello and Desdemona in Venice, 1850

And that brings me to a nice stopping point before I go on another lecture about the importance of the text and construction of language…  To sum up, the text is important.  The author uses it carefully as a whole work and in pieces, ultimately creating a text larger than the sum of its parts.  You should appreciate the text.  Please?

Wherein I spake of most disastrous chances,
Of moving accidents by flood and field,
Of hair-breadth ‘scapes i’ the imminent deadly breach,
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery, of my redemption thence
And portance in my travels’ history.

But words are words; I never yet did hear
That the bruised heart was pierced through the ear.
Othello, 1. 3 (both)

I understand a fury in your words,
But not the words.
Othello, 4. 2

Movie note: The Kenneth Bragnagh Othello is breathtaking, with Laurence Fishburne as Othello and Bragnagh as Iago.  Stage Beauty with Billy Crudup and Clair Danes focuses on the staging of Othello just as women were being allowed on the stage.  For a true and good version of Othello, pick of Bragnagh.  For a commentary on the gender roles of Renaissance England and the evolution of staging, Stage Beauty is entertaining.

So, continuing a train of thought from my last post: Stupid Question Boy.

I talked with him earlier this week when I got out of my first class early and could pounce on him before class.  I wanted to be private about it, and not draw attention to him or the fact that I was calling him out.  After tedious tangents and interruptions all term, I felt it was time to ask for a bit of peace and quiet for the last week or so.  Hopefully, everything’s going to work out.  He seemed amenable to my feelings, though a bit, erm, muddled in his understanding of how courtesy towards one’s peers and a lecture class work.  He said, “I don’t want to be the moron in the back of the class that never talks” (I’ll leave you to figure out what was racing through my mind when he said that).  In addition to that, some other gems from the past weeks of class:

Prof: “What do you want me to call you?”  SQB: “I go by ‘Chris’ and put ‘Christopher’ on my papers.”  Prof: “But what do you want me to call you?”  SQB: “‘Jesus!'”

After a much rambling about nothing in particular during discussion of Dante.  Prof: “Did you read The Inferno?!”

With a date, including B.C. and c., on the board.  SQB: “So, what is that?  Like, I know B.C., but what’s the ‘c.’?  And why are they going backwards?”  All of us in the front row: “It’s ‘circa!'”  SQB: “But why is it backwards?”  Prof: “It’s B.C., so the dates go from bigger to smaller…”

Yes, this is the kind of stuff I deal with in history class on a daily basis.  Some people don’t understand B.C., I know, but for a person who constantly interrupts to talk about how often he’s read Aristotle, (you know, a guy from the B.C. era?) it’s a bit much.  Interrupting in class, not just of me but of other students and especially the professor, is one of my pet peeves.

I just wish I could also tell my instructor from my lit class that interrupting others is rude, too.  Before I’ve made my point, she’ll interrupt to “correct” and not even listen to what I’m saying.  She’s also insisted something rooted in the text is wrong.  In The Miller’s Tale, the carpenter, John, insists that the Flood is “Nowel’s Flood.”  I pointed this out, saying that it goes towards his characterization as a foolish man.  She hadn’t picked up on this before and said something along the lines of “well, here’s an instance of different manuscripts saying different things.”  Another former classmate in my Chaucer class backed me up, but she never admitted to being wrong.  The instructor never said anything like, “Oh, I never noticed that” or “Oh, I understand what you’re saying.”  She also spelled “Absolon” (which is the way I’ve seen it written in every text) as “Absolom” the entire period and encouraged us to say “Asparagus” instead of the proper “Averagus.”  GAH!

It reminds me of what I will make a point of never doing as a professor or teacher or lecturer in the future.

I wrote a letter writing manifesto earlier, and all this class insanity brings me to…

My Future Teaching Manifesto:

  • I will instruct my students to raise their hands before speaking to avoid interruption during the class.
  • I will acknowledge and look into anyone’s observation(s) and feeling(s) about a text.
  • I will refer to the text as my main source and defer to that at all times.
  • I will spell things correctly.
  • I will be a champion for peer editing and multiple drafts.
  • I will make outlines before lecture/class with important dates, characters, etc. so I don’t misinform students.
  • I will be as accessible via office hours and e-mail as possible.
  • I will get exams and essays back as quickly as possible, within a week.
  • I will evaluate students on an individual basis instead of on work in a group.
  • I will not tolerate texting or use of a mobile phone.
  • I will get to know students on a first name basis, and try to understand them as individuals.
  • I will encourage actively using the text and finding textual evidence to support any conclusions in papers and in class.

    I think this all comes from the respect I have for a text as a text and for those who analyze and know what they’re doing.  Literature is so amazing, and to hear it not appreciated, its characters debased, and things I’ve learned from professors who have been in the field longer than I’ve been alive burns me to the very core.

    I hope that ends the ranting I’ve been doing primarily in my head for the past 24 hours because of the evaluation of the group website for Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, for which I apparently used too many sources and went too in depth in my textual analysis for the poetics section.  I will endeavor to make the things that irk me here into better conduct later, and to fine tune how I think a class should be: no interruptions and yet conducive to learning and rooted in the text.

    This coming week is the end of A term, and then I go into a guided reading for medieval England and a class on Shakespeare after 1603.  The time to move back to Oklahoma is rapidly drawing closer, as is my deadline to get my butt to the UK.  I’ll keep you posted on how A term ends, how B term begins, and what camera I end up choosing (more on that later).

    For now, I will *facepalm* in the privacy of my own apartment and wait out the rest of term.  I think all will turn out well, and after next Wednesday, I won’t have to deal with either SQB or this lit instructor again.  I will think happy thoughts and be in a better, more amicable mood!

    Ohmmmm….

    So, I’m yet again beating you over the head with my love of books, but I had to share this great site.

    Fabulous Covers

    I’ve had my love of books reenergized over the weekend, as I’m working on a lit group project about Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  I’m getting to talk about ring composition, alliteration, and the creation of the manuscript.  Woo-hoo!  I really am not a fan of group projects, but I’m kinda helming this one, as I have the most experience and have an Arthurian legend library here at the apartment.  However, all that really means is that I can focus on what I want and can really go in depth about the poetry and the themes.  This is the last full week of A term, and I’m planning on meeting with my team early tomorrow morning and to talk to an irritating classmate in history.  I’ve had three weeks of stupid questions (yes, I’ve discovered that there are stupid questions) and interruptions.  Even the professor is having a hard time taking this guy as a serious student.  He asked some question about The Inferno, and she replied with “Did you read The Inferno?!”

    I’ll let you know how the week goes, and if I can end the history class without slapping Stupid Question Boy.

    As I’ve lamented before, computers, e-mails, text messages, etc. have taken away not only traditional grammar and spelling rules, but also personality and care.  While I am still trying to write at least one letter a week by hand, I know that this won’t always be possible with the high price of stamps and the long time it takes to actually sit down, write a letter, and either go slowly to not make mistakes or carry a jumbo-sized Write Out bottle for frequent touchups.  Pilot, the pen company, has a solution to this:

    Pilot Handwriting Online

    I may try this.  Tomorrow.  It’s almost 2:00 am here, and I’m still up after getting 5 1/2 hours of sleep last night due to the crummy heatwave in the Seattle area.  Even if our livelihoods rely on the internet and on technology, let’s not completely lose our contact with others.

    I love clouds.  If you’ve seen my Facebook albums, on particularly pretty days, I love taking pictures of the sky.  Since school is rather crazy now with two 4.5 week classes getting ready for midterms, I’m posting some pictures of clouds both from online sources and from my own collection.

    Gustavus Graduation 2008

    Durham Cathedral Summer 2009

    Low-anchored cloud,
    Newfoundland air,
    Fountain-head and source of rivers,
    Dew-cloth, dream-drapery,
    And napkin spread by fays;
    Drifting meadow of the air,
    Where bloom the daisied banks and violets,
    And in whose fenny labyrinth
    The bittern booms and heron wades;
    Spirit of lakes and seas and rivers,
    Bear only perfumes and the scent
    Of healing herbs to just men’s fields!

    – Henry David Thoreau