I’ve spent an unusually large amount of time talking with friends about the perfect mate lately. One guy said that he wants a girl whose eyes suit her face, while the closest physical attribute I confessed to is a love of glasses.  Let’s face it: spring is in the air, and talk of love abounds.

So what DO I want in a mate? All those usual characteristics: smart, sense of humor, supportive, comforting and caring, trustworthy, understanding, loving. But that’s what everyone wants, right? What do I want?

I think “types” are really silly. The guys with whom I’ve been serious haven’t been attractive in the physical sense to most people, I don’t think. They’ve attracted me with their shyness and intellect. Or, at least, at first that’s what did it. College ex #1 became overwhelmed with being erudite and “facetious,” which college ex #2 became overwhelmed in the workforce and we lost our common ground. I suppose that means two things: I need someone whose interests overlap enough with mine that we can communicate about a variety of things without needing to prove superiority. Also, I need someone who is as passionate about books and films as I am. They are my soul food, and if I can’t have a conversation about the Oscars or the latest Big Thing in literature (or the old Great Thing, like Shakespeare or Beowulf–at least on a basic level) I’d feel lost.

Works Cited: http://www.lpsb.org

I’ve come to the conclusion that while I have major qualities besides just common interests I’d like to mix and match in order to create the perfect guy, I can’t say for sure what he’s going to look like, what vocation he’ll follow, or what nationality/race he’ll be.  If I could think of a perfect guy, I suppose he would be an academic (or at least academically-inclined), Christian (I do want a church wedding, after all), and reasonably neat in appearance and living.  However, whichever guy I end up with, he’ll be perfect because of other things besides these.  Didn’t Keira Knightly say that her favorite onscreen kiss was neither with Johnny Depp nor Orlando Bloom, but with the less famous James McAvoy?  It all boils down to chemistry.  My other serious relationships fell into my lap, so to speak, and if I have faith, hopefully the one will do the same.  I can’t contemplate the perfect guy or think of qualities I’d like with which to build him simply because I can’t.  I can’t be a Dr. Frankenstein and assemble various attributes.  For now, faith and my love of my work must see me through.

And think not you can
Direct the course of love,
For love,
If it finds you worthy,
Directs your course.

-Khalil Gibran

But, really…  Glasses are a plus.

It’s a bit late to come out with my resolutions for the new year, but I’ve found that being back in Durham has encouraged me to make some.  I feel most myself when I’m with peers, and I’ve been able to see myself clearly in the past week or so.

Without further ado, here are my resolutions for 2011.  Some are silly, some are serious, and some are things I need to put into writing to cement them in my life.

  • More color!  Whether it’s nail polish, lipstick, or a bit of teal eyeliner, I want to incorporate more color into my daily life.  No fuss, but more fun.  Like Chanel Mademoiselle lipstick.  I had been coveting it for months before finally purchasing it in Dallas right before I came back to the UK.  You may recognize it from the amazing adverts with Vanessa Paradis.  It’s a gorgeous pinky beige, and it’s definitely an improvement over my usual lip balm.  Nail polish is another type of color I would like to use more.  I recently got Nails Inc. polish in Denim as a gift, and so I will use it along with my typical and sporadic use of Chanel Particuliere, a perfect taupey grey.  (Yes, I know.  I seem to have a Chanel fetish going by this post, but these two cosmetics I languished over for months before budgeting and purchasing.  I’m a sucker for a really good quality neautralish and everyday wearable product!)
  • Get out of the house at least five times per week to study somewhere else.  I get way too distracted in my room, and so studying in the library or at a friend’s house is much better for me and for my work.  There is also usually the added perk of being near a printer, which is super handy for getting articles which otherwise may float to the back of my mind and never surface in my research again.
  • Get enough sleep every night.  I have the talent?  Ability?  Work ethic?  Misfortune? of getting into “the zone” when I’m working on an assignment and not noticing the time.  One evening I worked steadily after dinner (about 7:00ish) until 3:30 AM.  AM!!!  I didn’t stop to look at the clock, and completely lost track of the time.  I am hoping the resolve to work out of my room will lead to more productivity during the day, and therefore, less pressure at night.
  • Finish my essays on time without stress AND with enough time to revise with a peer or, if possible, a professor.  Unfortunately, I only have a handful of essays, and some of them are the one shot I have at my grade.  It’s added pressure I think the MA programs in the States usually avoids because of the longer duration of program and greater variety of classes for one’s degree.  The one year time crunch means I need to be vigilant.
  • Be more easygoing about going out.  I’m in England, for gosh sakes!  I should enjoy what the country and the city have to offer.  Pubs, conferences, nightclubs…  I need to take advantage of it all.  Even though I am not looking forward to going to Klute next week, which has been dubbed “the worst nightclub in Europe” and is known for “quaddy-voddies” (quadruple vodka shots, which, from what I hear, is as bad as it sounds), I should go.  When else will I get the opportunity?
  • Be more stringent with my gym schedule, and on days when I can’t fit anything else in, do yoga in my room.  At least a sun salutation.  The college food is heavy on all the things I dislike: potatoes, carrots, gravy, red meat, salt.  Therefore, I have to take care of my diet as best I can outside college dining and in my activity.  (Though my legs are getting super toned due to the freaking hills around town!  After being back in Durham for a week, my butt feels it!)
  • Correspond more.  Skype, letters, emails, Facebook.  I need to do more of it all.  AIM, I think, tends to take up too much time, so I need to relax by writing more thoughtful correspondences to those I truly miss and care about: my friends and pseudo-family in Minnesota and Seattle.
  • And as always, I need to remind myself how grateful I am for my family, friends, education, and life.  I need to learn all I can both in the classroom and from my friends.  I need to stop worrying about time, which goes all too quickly, and carpe diem.

All experiences of life seems to prove that the impediments thrown in the way of the human advancement may for the most part be overcome by steady good conduct, honest zeal, activity, perseverance and above all, by a determined resolution to surmount.  –Samuel Smiles

It’s no secret that I believe in the power of an excellent faculty at a university or college.  At Gustavus, the faculty made the school and community.  I met them in the local co-op, saw them at midnight showings of new movies, and had dinner at their homes.  The faculty were a large part in my life at college and created an encouraging learning environment.  I quickly conquered my fear of calling my superiors by their first names, and appreciated being able to know them on both academic and personal levels.  While I realize St. Peter is much different from, say, Seattle with its small college, small community, and Midwestern mentality, I believe that some of this comfort with faculty can be achieved by hiring good teachers.

Rarely are good teachers closed-off or secluded people.  While at the U of Washington, my best experiences have been with faculty who add personal experiences to lecture (personal travel photos, comments about a new sunburn, new films they’ve seen, etc.) and who are open to emails and office visits from students.  That being said, it seems like half of the professors I’ve loved are actually not technically employed by the school!  My Chaucer professor retired after this past spring term, and they are not adding another tenure track position.  And a permanent position for a medievalist in English or history?  Forget it.

I cannot understand the resistance of schools to hire quality faculty.  They are the life and breath of the institution!  Why would anyone fight adding an excellent and well-liked teacher to their university?  In my recent experience at a large university (and in friends’ experiences in graduate school), some tenured professors are employed because they bring a certain prestige to the institution.  They seem to not care about the quality of their classes or student interest, and in fact, some shirk their duties to their advisees.  Is prestige really worth the unsatisfactory student experience?  These students will become faculty and probable funders of the university.

With my rant over, I’d like to make a general plea to universities everywhere.  Good educators come in every field and are every age.  The end-of-term reviews should indicate to you how amazing or underwhelming professors are, and there is little point in constantly shuffling your faculty members because you have not kept tenured positions.  Please take a hard look at your popular classes and professors and fill those nonexistent and temporary positions with qualified and passionate teachers.  We, the students, appreciate it, as do those who donate.  Please help to nurture your university by giving quality education by qualified and interested professors.

Professors shouldn’t just teach or help students to get needed credits.  They can inspire true passion and interest and be life-changing.

Men exist for the sake of one another. Teach them then or bear with them.  –Marcus Aurelius

The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.  –Aristotle

Good faculty make living much easier and can turn that bitter root much sweeter.

“Doubt thou the stars are fire,
Doubt that the sun doth move,
Doubt truth to be a liar,
But never doubt I love.”

    (from a letter to Ophelia, Hamlet 2.2.116-119)

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date;
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimm’d;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance or nature’s changing course untrimm’d;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander’st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

    (Sonnet 18)

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no!  It is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wandering bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

    (Sonnet 116)

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….

    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