Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Well, my classes started this week, and things are okay so far.

I'm taking four classes.

1. English 2700: Diversity in American Literature
2. English 5920: Intellectual Movements
3. English 3703: Intro to Lit History 3 (which is the modernism part)
4. English 5880: Children's Lit

I feel like I'm taking the same class four times. And when I talk about my classes, I want to say "in my English class", but then I realize that all of my classes are English classes.

Yesterday I was hating my life, wondering why I'm majoring in English, but today I feel really optimistic about this semester. Here's why: I have excellent professors this semester.

Here are the interesting things about each of the classes, so far:

1. Diversity in American Literature. I'm taking this one because it satisfies the university's diversity requirement AND part of my English major requirement. It's a lower level English class, though. So it feels like high school English. Where the professor defines words like "simile" instead of just words like "post-structuralism".

I'm not wild about the professor for this class (yet, anyway), but everything seems pretty simple, so I think that as long as I do the reading it should be a breeze. And the reading seems pretty simple, too. The professor for this class dresses really artsy. The first day she came in wearing a bright purple coat, a lime green sweater top, a goldenrod scarf, black pants, and red boots. And a beret.

2. Intellectual movements. This is a very-upper-division class, and the idea behind it is that the professor picks something that like, changed literary history and we study it intensely. And to celebrate the 150th anniversary of On The Origin of Species, we're studying Darwin and evolution! Greaaaat. I'm very secure in my religious beliefs, and I don't mind discussing evolution, but I wasn't too thrilled about a whole semester of it. EXCEPT! So far it's my favorite class! The professor is hilarious. She's really sarcastic.

We were talking about evolution (of course), and Lamarck, and how species all just want to progress. She told us that he was all into inheritance of acquired characteristics. Like, the giraffe reached a little bit to get higher leaves, and the next generation, and the next generation, and gradually the neck got longer and longer. She said, "as anyone who has had a nose job and then looked at their children knows, this does not work." She also told us about a guy, August Wiseman? who "hacked off the tails of about 2000 mice and did not produce any tailless mice."

And then later, "The giraffe wants a longer neck, the African people want to become British. There's no question about it. It's obvious." (Like from the perspective of the British, back when people were first starting to talk about evolution.)

Or another time we were talking about the problems with the new idea of evolution, and one problem is that if you're not in the upper class, you may wonder why not, wonder why your ancestors didn't do whatever they were supposed to to evolve. And the prof whined like a kid who wanted candy and her mom wouldn't buy it, "Moooooooom, why aren't you letting me eevvooooolve?"

Or, we were going over the syllabus, and we're reading Heart of Darkness (which we're also reading in one of my other classes), and then we're reading Tarzan of the Apes, "which is Heart of Darkness, but happy!"

The people in the class seem good, too. Before the class started, one of the guys was talking to the girl behind me. "Break seemed really short, didn't it?" he asked her, and they talked a bit about it. And he explained, "You see, I don't count the days that were snowing as part of my break. So break was like three days. Weekends don't count towards break either." And I could not agree with that more. And later she was talking talking more about Tarzan, and she said "There are like a million of them! Tarzan Goes to Mars, Tarzan Meets the President, and by the end of the series Tarzan is like a Jack Bauer. We're just going to read the first one, from 1914."

So. That class is really entertaining.

[Also, when I first started this blog post, I went downstairs in the library to clock out, and I ran into this Prof! I said hello, and we talked about the big Darwin displays that they put up in the library yesterday (which I had told her about). She had found one and was going to go check out (ha!) the other one. And as we quit chatting, she said "Emily, right?" Yes!]

3. Intro to Lit History 3. I think I will hate the content of this class the most. Because the prof already said we're doing poetry this week, and the rest of the readings sound gross too. BUT, he has personality, and the structure of the class is: we come in and chat about what we read. Which I can handle.

It was funny, when he first started class he said, "I'm not going to ask you why you're here. My first class here, there were 60 people! Modernism was my first class and I said the University of Utah is the Best Place Ever! All these people are interested in modernism! That's great! So I had them each write a little paragraph about why you're here. All of the answers were 'It's at 10 o'clock. It's required. I made a huge mistake, if I only would have studied math instead, I would have been alright." So he understood that we didn't really care about modernism.

And then he had us go around the class and name our favorite and least favorite works from the 20th century. And people all had favorites like Ulysses. Gross.

Oh, one funny thing that he talked about was using the dictionary.

"Look up words that you don't know, and that you do know." He talked about people using words wrong, and he said that words are our tools. "If you go into a chemistry lab, you don't just pour stuff out of bottles, and say 'I don't know what that was.'"

4. Children's Lit. Um, this is going to be okay. I somehow got the one Children's Lit teacher that thinks kids read adult books and adults read kid books, so we shouldn't limit our study to books for children. Too bad! She is also very interested in the Holocaust. And group projects. (I hate group projects. Because they usually just mean Emily projects. And I want to do my own work, not work for 5 people, thanks.)

Also, I'm a little afraid of this professor, because in her syllabus she tells us that we should use professional language when we e-mail her. She specifically says not to address her with "Hey". And that is definitely something I would do, because I wouldn't write, "Dear Professor," or "Hello Professor". (My coworker said I can just start it with "Professor," and that will work. If I remember!)

But in the end, she said she hates grades. So she wants to give us all good grades, and she will, but we have to give the class our very best. We need to attend classes, do a great job on our presentations, and a great job on our papers, and then we'll be fine. And if we don't then she'll adjust things...but she doesn't want to have to do that. No tests. No midterm. No final. And that's a pretty sweet grading policy.

So things should be okay. I have a few other things to write about, but I'll save them for later.


New Yorker said...

These sound like some interesting classes, Emily! Hopefully it's like this the whole semester.


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