Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Idle observations of mid-semester

-- Doing a class read-through of the Pardoner's Tale is not as much fun as the Nun's Priest's Tale, as it has Death instead of chickens. (But skipping the NPT did allow me to shave a day off the syllabus, so that's something.)

-- People who don't do organization and planning very well (such as me) probably shouldn't try to have field trips in their classes.

-- In particular, they shouldn't have field trips in their classes four days before SAA papers are due, and then commit to traveling two hours to the state capital for a fancy awards-banquet thingy the next day after the field trip. AARGHH. (It is, for the record, not me who is getting the award.)

-- Why are this year's SAA seminar topics always perfect for last year's paper, anyway?

-- I was going to try and see if I could go a whole three weeks without getting Thai takeaway, but it is SO not happening. (What did I ever do before the Thai restaurant came to Deep South Town? I can't remember.)

-- The new Norton Anthologies came yesterday. I got the package versions with the three smaller paperback volumes banded together, and the new covers are extremely pretty. There is something very nice about getting free books in the mail, even if one remains deeply skeptical about whether the world actually needs a new edition of the Norton Anthology

-- As You Like It this week. It is about right, I think, for the season when red buds are starting to come out on the trees, and the first blossoms are showing on the Bradford pear outside my office window.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

From the Porpentine Archives: In Which My 20-Year-Old Self is Anxious About Grad School

We're doing job and grad school applications in Advanced Comp, so I was just having a look through my applying-to-grad-school notebook from college and trying to get back into the headspace of someone struggling to write a statement of purpose. Well, apparently my approach to writing such a statement was to get drunk a lot and ramble at great length about my personal life in a little black notebook, which probably isn't a tip that I'm going to pass along to my class. But I came across the following List Of Anxieties, which I thought was amusing.

Questions so stupid that I don't dare ask my professors

1) How do you pronounce "prolegomena"? What's the difference between one and an introduction?

2) How important are clothes, styling gel, etc. for females in the academic world? Is it just me, or do a lot of young female profs dress to intimidate? (I could never, ever, in a million years look so polished; it's not my style. Will this matter?)

3) Do admissions committees really expect applicants to have developed specific research interests? How is this possible when you usually spend a couple of years figuring out what you want to study and a third getting your bearings? If you can't tell them specifics and you don't want to lie, what else can you say in a personal statement? (So far, we've established that they don't want to hear about your love of [field of study], your unrelated extracurricular activities, or your personal life unless you've overcome major hardships, which I haven't.)

4) Will there be a lot of boring, snotty people whose idea of good conversation is making everyone else (ok, specifically, me) feel like an idiot? What about uptight individuals who discuss Anselm's Proslogion at breakfast and still worry that they're not good enough to pass all their classes?

5) Is the [Beloved Alma Mater] English department a) really, really easy; b) out of touch and 30 years behind the times; and / or c) so stunningly good I'll be spoiled for anything else? At different times I have suspected all of the above.

6) Must applications be typed? Who the hell has a typewriter nowadays?

7) If they want to interview me, do I have to say yes? What would be the best excuse?

(In case anybody's wondering, the correct answers are: 1) Hell if I know; 2) They probably do matter, but you'll get by without them; 3) No, they don't, and in a couple of months you will get a summer tutoring job that will enable you to write a kick-ass personal statement, so don't worry about that. Oh, and you don't actually want to be a medievalist, so any research interests you make up now will be moot; 4) No, there will be really cool people who give good parties, and you will like them a lot; 5) None of the above; 6) No, your mother has given you a complex about your handwriting. Filling them in by hand will be fine; 7) YES, for God's sake, YES.)