Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Undergraduate Diaries II: List-o-mania

So it turns out the applying-to-grad-school journal I quoted from in my last post has a whole section that consists entirely of lists. Some of them are more or less sensible and practical: addresses and phone numbers of grad programs, U.S. News rankings, professors I might be able to ask for letters of rec. And then some of them are completely daft. To wit:

Questions I'd Like To Know The Answers To, Someday

1) Why is hunting badger a deed of darkness?

2) Why does any attempt to discuss any version of the Philomela story end with the whole class rolling on the floor in unbridled hilarity?

3) Why are there so many dead birds in medieval & Renaissance lit?

4) When & how does a sorceress become a witch? How does this relate to historical developments, or does it?

5) So what is it about the cloth-making trade that makes women so uppity?

6) Where do werewolves come from?

7) Was the siege of Troy the ur-war, so to speak? Do writers generally treat this story in terms of military conditions in their own society? (Rhetorical question ... I think.)

8) Bill tells us that the Capulets and Montagues were alike in dignity, not in social class per se. My feeling (based on my own knowledge of how people talk and whose parties are more fun to crash) is that the M's are old money and the C's are the bourgeois upstarts (Lady C. is very anxious to forget this.) Is there any way to prove this w/ textual evidence?

9) Is Hamlet really just the collective subconscious of Denmark? (Funny how everybody who tries to kill him ends up destroying themselves...)

And then there is a page of alternative career plans, which are, alas, not very practical at all. I reproduce them as a public service for anyone wondering how to ride out the recession.

Fun Things To Do With an Advanced Degree in English (BESIDES being a professor!)

1) Teach high school.

2) Own a secondhand bookstore with a labyrinth of little rooms and several armchairs full of cats. (And a friendly room for kids.)

3) Run a creative writing camp (the diametrical opposite of
[my summer employer from hell] -- no pressure, no computers, lots of shady trees to write under.)

4) Teach junior high.

5) Write perverse fairy tales.

6) Labor on behalf of starving artists, especially Shakespeare companies.

7) Run a cool coffeehouse with plenty of books and armchairs in small rooms.

8) Run a Shakespeare camp.

9) Be a plumber who discusses English lit while fixing drains.

10) Teach (what the heck) elementary school.

11) Write poetry that is not pretentious enough to publish.

12) Teach ESL.

13) Write book reviews.

14) Find creative ways to give poetry back to the masses.

N.B. With the possible exception of #9, none of these seems exactly like a lucrative career choice. Ah well.

And then there is a page of cynical, but probably accurate, advice for dealing with professors. I'm fairly sure that I figured out most of these the hard way.

Rules for Students

1) Don't ever forget how powerless you truly are. If you may speak freely to a professor, it's by his will, not your own. Know when to bite your tongue, when to nod & smile.

2) On the other hand, you have an advantage because you know your prof far better than he will ever know you. Also, you're trained to listen and he's trained to talk. Keep your ears open & learn to judge character!

3) Rapport is a gift from heaven. Don't question it, analyze it, or push it too far. Do enjoy it.

4) Expect to do all the listening & almost all the remembering.

5) Gossip only with fellow students.

6) If your prof is in the habit of bad-mouthing her colleagues, do not trust her.

7) Demand no favors.

8) An acid tongue is OK, but don't forget to smile!

9) Be honest -- but know when to keep silent.

10) Remember they're human (as if I could ever forget).

11) Even if your prof is a priest or a deacon, don't ask him to deliver your wedding sermon. You will get a bad sermon.


Fie upon this quiet life! said...

You sound like you were a very mature and insightful undergrad. I really like the idea that the Montagues were old money and the Capulets were new money. That's a great idea. Did you ever find anything in the text to support it? (I'm being lazy, or I'd reread R&J myself...) Even if you didn't, it would be a really great way to portray the two families on stage!! Awesome! Of all the ideas I've ever heard about this play, this is the first one that surprised me. You win a prize -- my undying admiration. :)

Susan said...

How many of your questions have you answered?
As for career paths, plumbing is probably lucrative, but does take a bit of training. And it's hard work.

And for historical accuracy, I think the familiar is "Will", not "Bill" :)

Fretful Porpentine said...

Fie -- I don't know about "mature" and "insightful" -- I'm exercising editor's privilege here and not quoting from the many, many entries involving alcohol-fueled stupidity, nor from the utter disaster that was my first serious relationship :)

And no, I don't think I ever did find anything in the text to support it, alas.

Susan -- I'm not sure I've answered any of them! The trouble with grad school, as I later discovered, is that it tends to leave you with more questions and not so much with answers...

hck said...

"The trouble with grad school, as I later discovered, is that it tends to leave you with more questions and not so much with answers... "

IMO: that's the purpose of any post-secondary education (not just of grad schools) and the better institutions of secondary education.

Answers become meaningless far faster than questions. Answers are useful to robots, questions are useful to humans.

And sorceresses become witches in the moment you decide to (try to) prosecute them.

Ink said...

Nice! And I still think owning a bookstore (with a coffeeshop) is a viable future project. Especially find myself musing about that when tall stacks of papers are waiting to be graded...

Erasmus said...

The Rules for Students reads like a modern version of the epitome of a Renaissance courtly manual, or advice to a son letter. And so accurate!