My only real class on Monday/Wednesday/Friday is Intro to Women’s Studies at 11am. The first class made me fear for my sanity. Transparencies of images, mostly from The New York Times front page. Read them for gender. If the entire semester was gonna be like that i knew i would have to shoot myself. (I am only taking this class, remember, because it’s a prereq for other stuff i actually wanna take.) One of the images was from House and Home or something, and had a couple posed in this refinished room, the man standing and the woman sitting. Someone pointed out, duh, the man symbolically towering over her yadda yadda yadda. Someone from the other side of the room whom i unfortunately couldn’t see pointed out, bless her, that if it were reversed, we would say the woman appeared to be nurturing him, sometimes doesn’t it just mean that the man is standing and the woman is sitting. Rawk. And one of the professors, Martha i think, encouraged us to think about why the pictures we were seeing were chosen to represent these stories. I’m big on media literacy and such, so i thought that was an interesting thing to keep in mind while consuming media. The syllabus reassured me that the rest of the semester will not in fact make me want to die. Lisa said they purposely picked readings that didn’t all agree with each other, so i’m a big fan of that. I am in Wendy Kolmar’s section, which is fine by me. I think i would have most liked to be in Martha Ackelsberg’s section because she seemed really into pushing us beyond just the automatic Smith gender responses, complicating things. And we all know i adore making things complicated, “problematic.” The major article we read this week was about sexism in education (the other was an Adrienne Rich commencement speech) and most people just shared their experiences of sexism in school and how reading the article made them reevaluate their experiences and see sexism they hadn’t thought about before and so on. Oh, personal sharing. Particularly since last year’s all-college open forum i have never wanted to see you in a public context. I understood why Wendy did that to start off, though, and after class i talked to her and she assured me that for most of the semester we will be analyzing the text and that she’s actually not big on personal sharing as classroom contribution, unless you can make it relate.
Monday night i attempted to find Ainsworth 309 for Self-Defense class. None of the rooms in that building are numbered, so i just went up the stairs until i got to the top. Before i asked the teacher if i was in the right gym/class, i saw my friend Ariana and we got to talking (Incidentally, anyone have any ideas for Love Your Body Week?) and then class started and lo it was kickboxing. Never again. The updated schedule says that Kickboxing indeed is in Ainsworth 309, and Self-Defense is in Scott Dance, so perhaps i can find that. Yes, i will be good and haul myself down to the gym complex again this coming Monday night. Yea verily.
Most of my classes are Tuesday/Thursday. The waitlist for Liz Carr’s Women Mystics Theology of Love class seems nearly as big as the registered roster (class is capped at 20), but she’s still letting me audit the class. I sat next to masscooper on Thursday. One of these days i’m gonna have to introduce myself to her since Layna and Britta mention her a lot. And browsing her LJ she mentions getting the Season 3 Buffy DVDs. I swear, every tenth person on this campus watches that show.
Language Acquisition looks like it’ll be okay. That’s really all i have to say about that class.
Last semester my favorite classes were Tuesday/Thursday Michael Thurston 1-2:20 and Kim Lyons 3-4:20/4:50. I think this semester is going to be the same.
In the first class., Michael talked for a while about the sort of mythical version of the history of American Literature. When he mentioned Naturalism (Crane, London, etc.) he said, haven’t we all been thinking, given the persistent cold weather, “If only I had a sled dog... which I could slit open to warm my hands... warm dog blood....” Later, talking about fantasizing about escaping from debt (which actually had a point, led into talking about nonliteral representations of problems, i.e. literature) he said “If only I had met an escaped convict as a child...” I laughed because i knew exactly what he was referring to -- his favorite literary character (and his favorite book, too). I think my favorite was when he said something about “syllabuses” and then after a pause, deliberately and almost acquiescingly, looking at me, “syllabi” -- last semester he said something about “syllabuses” and i corrected him and he was like “um, yeah, whatever.” This time it made me think of the last new Buffy (“Potential”) -- “I’ve got my chrysalises... chrysali? I’ve got my butterfly transformer pods.”
On Thursday the first work we talked about was an Emily Dickinson poem.
There’s a certain Slant of light,He asked what the poem was about. Silence. I offered, “It’s about light....” “Good! What kind of light?” Me again: “Um, this weird kind of winter light.” “Yes! The words can be a great clue.” I ended up talking a lot over the course of the discussion on that poem, though i made up for it by not saying much of anything on the next two works.
That oppresses, like the Heft
Of Cathedral Tunes---
Heavenly Hurt, it gives is---
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meaninges, are---
None may teach it—Any---
‘Tis the Seal Despair---
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air---
When it comes, the Landscape listens---
Shadows—hold their breath---
When it goes, ‘tis like the Distance
On the look of Death---
Next we did Walt Whitman’s “The Wound-Dresser.” Michael pointed out that hospitals then were not like what we think of when we think “hospital.” Instead of clean, antiseptic, shots, etc., he said, think: “big tent... whiskey... hacksaw.” My first thought was totally the SEARCH trip project on colonial era/battlefield medicine/surgery. And yeah, only my parents know what i’m talking about, but that’s okay.
I am now convinced that Joss Whedon read Ambrose Bierce.
In “Chickamauga” the little boy is afraid of bunnies!
He imagines himself as this all-conquering warrior, and then
Advancing from the bank of the creek he suddenly found himself confronted with a new and more formidable enemy: in the path that he was following, sat, bolt upright, with ears erect and paws suspended before it, a rabbit. With a startled cry the child turned and fled, he knew not in what direction, calling with inarticulate cries for his mother, weeping, stumbling, his tender skin cruelly torn by brambles, his little heart beating with terror—breathless, blind with tears—lost in the forest!And “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” as Michael summarized it in about 30 seconds is so totally this week’s Angel (“Awakening”) episode.
But back to “Chickamauga.” Michael said it’s something of a a twisted coming-of-age story. Because the progression of the protagonist looks like this:
child - man - beast
ignorance - knowledge - inarticulation
I feel like there’s a total Buffy analogy in there, i just can’t quite articulate it. Somehow something we were discussing was well illustrated by the Simpsons dueling glove episode, which as he talked i realized i’d seen parts of, and then that segued into the Tamaco episode, which i knew i’d seen parts of more than once. My brother watches it so much that i think i’ve managed to see at least part of every episode which has rerun in the past few years. I think one of these days i’m gonna have to fight Michael about cultural references (i.e. Simpsons/South Park vs. Whedonverse) again.
Obviously this course starts with the end of the Civil War, and Michael said that post-Civil War, many people were saying that if peace were the highest value, courage would have been avoided, but the evils it ended would not have been ended. “This is what people back then were saying -- i’m not quoting any politicians today.” “Not verbatim,” i muttered. But honestly, people talk about the necessity of an “imminent threat” to justify going to war, and while i’d be willing to grant a necessity of “imminent threat” to someone to justify war, i don’t think it’s valid to say that there has to be an imminent threat to us to justify it. Otherwise how does one justify our involvement in, say, the Holocaust (which most would argue we should have gotten involved in earlier)? (Someone, i can’t remember who, pointed out that it’s the flip side of American arrogance, the “if it doesn’t concern us it’s not important for us to get involved.”) I understand that it’s very problematic, though, because how much does America, as The Superpower, have the right/responsibility to interfere in everyone else’s business, and when it does, if it doesn’t stick around to help rebuild it’s unclear as to whether the situation is really any better. But i was gonna save politics for a separate entry.
In Soc class we were talking about functionalism and constructionism and so on and Kim had all these drugs and was asking whether they were good or bad. The last one she had was mace, which you can buy at Stop & Shop and comes from the nutmeg plant. She said if you dilute 2 tablespoons of it in water and boil it, just standing over it and breathing in the steam gives you the high of 2 joints. And if you drink it, you hallucinate, followed by 2 days of diarrhea and nausea. So Joan and i thought we should buy some and try it this weekend. Just inhaling it; i’m so not all about 2 days of diarrhea and nausea, and really not all about hallucinations either actually. But now i think not so much.
“I will argue everything you say, even if I agree, because that’s my job.” Oh i had forgotten how much i adore Kim Lyons. Problematizing everything. As Lauren Berlant would say, “Planet!” [She likes this imagery of being a monster, as in someone who doesn’t fit in -- Shane recommended her this essay, incidentally -- and living on your own planet, but you slowly colonize your planet as you find people who think like you do.]
I am already so tired of hearing about how the patriarchy runs everything, but i am all about the idea that everything is a social construct. Well okay, perhaps not everything. I lean towards essentialism when it comes to sexuality, for example (my own at least).
At one point, 4 people in a row who spoke were from my Intro Soc class last semester. I’d say in total we did a third of the talking. Given that Kim had 3 Intro classes last semester, one could extrapolate and guess that pretty much the only people who talked, but i have no idea if that’s true or not.
Kim asked, if we were running for mayor, what we would do to “solve the crime problem.” The first girl she called on said she would make more after school programs to keep kids off the streets and some other stuff i didn’t quite hear and something about improving appearances, at which Kim said, “You would actually say all this if you were running?” and we laughed. “That’s such a Smithie response,” i said softly, but i sit front and center so Kim heard me and asked me why i said that. I said that when i thought about an answer to her question i didn’t actually think about what i would do, but just started rattling off what everyone says -- “stricter sentencing, tough on crime, stuff like that.” And i came up with something about how it was more typical of Smith than of the outside world to look for more than the typical solutions, look at root causes and stuff. Kim said she thought what the girl said was particularly interesting because she saw crime as a symptom of a problem. Then she said something about the Broken Windows theory and i said “Yeah yeah!” and Kim looked really taken aback. “Sorry, it’s just that i was thinking of that when she was talking about appearances, and i was gonna say that, but i said ‘That’s such a Smithie response’ first.” So Kim had me explain what the Broken Windows theory. Basically it’s that if you quickly fix small crime, like broken windows and graffiti and such, then it keeps the bigger crime down, because it looks like people care and stuff. Kim said she was surprised i knew about it. I remember my dad telling me about it years ago, so for the umpteenth time, yay for my daddy. (And apparently it’s also in The Tipping Point, which we both read sometime while i was in high school.)
Wednesday night i told Layna, “I read Huck Finn a thousand yesterdays ago.” I have decided i realy like that phrase -- “a thousand yesterdays.”
I‘m beginning to theorize that Layna attracts academically insane people -- me, Lisa, Britta... anyone else?
Also, i seem to have precipitated a clot of people auditing classes.
Okay, that’s more than anyone really wanted to know about my first academic week of the semester.