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September 26, 2013

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A Class Act

I wasn’t sure what to blog about this week. I wanted to do a sort of strange comparison with college and contemporary literary theory, I wanted to talk about archival research and this nifty bible that I looked at, I wanted to talk about my school observations, and I wanted to talk about playwriting.

So I  decided that the best solution to my misderection is something of an academic smorgasbord, through which you can understand a little bit of just what it is that I do all day. So, let’s get crackin!

Intro to Archival Research

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This is probably the strangest class I’ve ever taken. It’s basically Arts and Crafts for English Majors. Essentially, a lot of the time, research into literature from Ye Olden Times requires using books that were printed at the time. This presents all sorts of problems in tracking down, using, and contextualizing said books. This class is sort of a crash course in this kind of research, and we talk about everything from watermarks to book binding to folding paper. There’s a two-hour lab each week (I know, a lab in an English class), in which we do stuff with old books. So far, the coolest part of this class has been a first edition, second issue King James Bible.

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I know. Awesome.

Complexities of Urban Schooling

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This is my first education class, so I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. We’re examining urban schooling (duh) and all of the  intense nuances that come into play when teaching low-income groups, or students that are ethnic minorities, or in schools where gangs and drugs are prevalent. It’s not only difficult and hairy on an exclusively theoretical level, because I spend two hours a week (at the happy hour of 7:57 a.m.) observing middle school classes in Worcester. I’m also in a five-person Praxis Team, the purpose of which is to develop a final project and implement it in a Worcester school. We’re planning on developing a college preparation program, so that students (especially those whose parents have not been to college) can navigate the often daunting college process.

Playwriting

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I really like creative writing, and I’m trying to take a class in it every semester while I’m at Clark. Gotta keep those juices flowing. So far, all of these classes I’ve taken have been in short stories and novels, not anything dramatized. I’ve always been peripherally involved in theatre (I starred as the First Immigration Officer in an eleventh-grade production of Arthur Miller’s A View From The Bridge–I had 14 lines), but I’ve always thought plays were really interesting. So, this class seemed like a good way to get involved in the stage. I’ve realized, though, that while my writing background is somewhat helpful, it’s really hard to write a play when you’re only peripherally involved in theatre, because there’s lots of little things that you just don’t understand or think about. I’m getting there, though! Right now, I’m just thinking about how fun it is to see people read my plays out loud, as we do that every class.

Contemporary Literary Theory

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9 a.m., Wednesday morning. 24 students cram into Lier II, a “classroom” in the English House. Dr. Jay Elliott, Chair of the English Department, coffee mug in hand, talks about books for three hours and we ask questions. This might sound like what English majors do every day, but this class is unlike any I’ve ever taken at Clark. We’re only reading one story, Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw (I wouldn’t strictly speaking recommend it), and we spend our classes talking about intense and thick theoretical readings by people who think that the following is a comprehensible sentence: “As distinct from difference, differance thus points out the irreducibility of temporarilizing (which is also temporalization–in transcendental language which is no longer adequate here, this would be called the constitution of primordial temporality). Right, so this one’s really tricky. I have a presentation on Wednesday. Let’s see how that goes.

So I’m pretty sure that you can tell from here that these classes are nothing like the ones you take in high school (unless you go to a really cool high school). Sure, when you come to Clark, you’ll take a lot of intro classes and there won’t be a marked difference in the structure of your classes from the ones you took in high school, but then you’ll get stuff like this, where you’re not always talking about stuff that other people are doing, but you’ll actually just be doing stuff, like writing plays or observing schools or taking care of really old bibles.

Since the real world is all about doing stuff, why not start now?

 

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