Monday, November 25, 2002

My ridiculously alliterative thesis statement for my 18th Century essay:
In “[A] Satyr On Reason and Mankind,” the Earl of Rochester persuasively argues that mankind is not so very different from the animals we disdain. His description of ‘right reason’ makes an excellent backdrop for Jonathan Swift’s portrayal of the Houyhnhns in the fourth book of Gulliver’s Travels. In bestowing horses with a finer sense of reason (certainly one Rochester might approve of), Swift exacts a wicked satire on his fellow humans. In Book IV of Gulliver’s Travels, the actions of Lemuel Gulliver’s crew embody the behaviours that amaze and shock Swift’s ultra-rational Houyhnhns. Remarkably, Swift’s equitable equines do stay true to Rochester’s concept of right reason, just as the humans Gulliver has left behind exemplify the characteristics Rochester so rightly ridicules.

Any comments or feedback? Have I lost it?

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

I read Djuna Barnes' Nightwood this weekend and did not think that I had enjoyed it all that much. AFter writing a brief quiz on it today, we had a pretty good discussion about some of the more problematic aspects of the book, and I realized that I'd actually thought a lot more about the book than I'd realized, and that I'd formed some pretty legimitate opinions about the book. It reminded me a lot of David Lynch's Mulholland Drive, I think. As a result, I am going to attempt to cobble together some sort of essay for 20th Century about the correlation between the two. Certainly there are a lot of similarities, but it reamins to be seen whether or not I can make a case for intertext between the two.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

Ah. I love the smell of academia in the morning. Except for the morning part. It's been a long time coming, but I've finally hit my crunch time. Starting next Monday, I have a presentation, essay, midterm or exam every other day until December 7th. Yuck. It's going to be harsh: Brebeuf presentation on Monday, 18th Century essay on Wednesday, Soc midterm on Friday, 18th century and Canadian lit midterms on Monday, 20th century essay on Wednesday, and Canadian history exam on Saturday. So this will essentially make or break me for this academic year. (Not quite, but certainly close enough). I am not nearly stressed out enough as of yet, although I'm sure that is coming.

The Canadian history essay was finally finished and handed in this morning, much to my relief, and I found some really cool quotes to preface it with:
Canada will be a strong country when Canadians of all provinces feel at home in all parts of the country, and when they feel that all Canada belongs to them.
-Pierre Elliott Trudeau

We have achieved the most amazing things, a few million people opening up half a continent. But we have not yet found a Canadian soul except in time of war.
-Lester B. Pearson

What is being said here? Too often, everything and nothing.
-Bryan Palmer

Friday, November 15, 2002

Yesterday, while perusing the selection of vintage books at the local Value Village (a second hand shop), I came across something truly wonderful: a copy of the Ontario Reader (fourth reader) from the "year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred eighty-five". The Ontario Reader was in many ways an all-purpose document; it would be shared between many readers over many years. It pretty much covers the spectrum of British writers, with the odd addition, here and there, of Americans like Longfellow and Canadians like D'Arcy McGee (one of the fathers of Confederation). It also includes a section on Expression, or How to Read Properly Out Loud. It's really neat.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

I've been re-reading some of my first year history essays in hopes of finding areas of actual improvement. I found a great sentence in one of them:
"Likewise, Troeltsch is saddled with a predilection to unnecessary wordiness, unfortunately obscuring his potentially valuable observations."

A predilection to unnecessary wordiness? I'm sorry, what was that? I couldn't hear you over the sounds of the pot screaming, "Black! Black!" at the kettle.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

Time for another school-related rant: I am doing my BA(H) in English Studies, but I am also in a program called OTT (Orientation to Teaching). OTT is unique to my university; in essence, if I take three specific courses and maintain a 70% average on my undergraduate degree, I am guaranteed to be accepted into the Faculty of Education at Nipissing for the year following my graduation. I've taken two of the three courses already (the non credit practicum course and Developmental Psychology for Educators) and am currently enrolled in Sociology of Education.


More than I've ever hated anything before. More than I hated the grade eleven co-op class I took when I was in grade thirteen. More than I hated Psych last year, and it was at 8:30 a.m. twice a week, so I had a pretty healthy amount of hate for it. Sociology makes me want to poke out my eyeballs. Not because it makes me suicidal, or depressed, but because poking out my eyeballs would be something different, a change of pace, something to prove that I am still, in fact, alive. I don't think that it is even sociology in general that I hate, but sociology of Education in specific: the class often seems to be little more than a forum for my professor to spew anti-government rhetoric aimed at ensuring that the next generation of educators has the proper amount of disrespect for the provincial government that structures education. More than that, much of this is very specifically targeted towards Mike Harris' Conservative government, which has been in power in Ontario since 1995.* Now, I am not a fan of the Tories persay--my mom's a nurse, and they butchered health care; I'm also a product of the education system, which has certainly felt the pinch of the "Common Sense Revolution"--but I'm smart enough to know that a university class is not the place to air one's views about the current political system. The class is called Sociology of Education, not Problems I Have With the Tories and How They've FUBARed Education In Ontario. In essence, I've paid $800+ to be bombarded by anti-Tory, pro-union rhetoric for a year.

Friday, November 08, 2002

But it doesn't end there. It's also an extremely pro-feminist class, with occasional Marxist leanings. So much of what we discuss is so completely irrelevant to what it's actually like to teach in a classroom. At least in Psych there was a feeling of actually getting somewhere, of learning things that would be someday be useful. I have nothing like that in this class. Here's a sample from one of our lectures:

Critical Theory and Critical Pedogogy:

Uses a dialectical approach and attempts to bridge the gap between theory and educational practice.

The perspective allows us to see both the domination and liberation aspects of school so that teachers can recognize that students are at a disadvantage in the classroom because their values and beliefs are not congruent with the schools.
Because there's absolutely no chance that students might go to a school where their values and beliefs are accepted and taught? But wait, there's more:

Feminists drawing on Postmodern Theory call into question the privileged position of male theorists who are predominantly male, to examine how their assumptions and thoughts affect their writing practices.
Quotes taken from The Sociology of Education homepage

Granted, I may be somewhat unsympathetic because my prof has no concept of things like spelling, grammar or apostraphization, and likes to print overheads in size 24 font that make me feel stupid when I read them because the text is so freaking BIG, but I guarantee that there will be at least one day this year that I am going to walk out of the class midlecture. Grr!

In slightly less sardonic, slightly more optimistic news, I'm getting lots done on my Canadian History paper. I must admit to being slightly surprised to discover that historians are such snide people. I thought that was reserved for humanities students.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Modernist Limerick #1

Modern literature is simply the best
it puts our minds to the test
Pound the Wilde Stein, Re-Joyce in Eliot
I have measured out my life with coffeespoons
gas gas quick boys
I'm Jack in the country and
Earnest in town
...oh Algy

Ah, the joys of 18th century literature.

I continue to be at a loss for modern cultural texts influenced by Eliot and the Wasteland. I asked my prof today if she could think of any, and she also came up blank, which was frustrating, because she developed the topics...Anyhow, some/any help would be appreciated, if anyone out there has ideas...please and thank you.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

I am exhausted by school. I am exhausted by the prospect of being in school for the next year and a half, bare minimum, to finish my BA. I am exhausted by the concept of grd school and by the concept of teachers' college and its neverending stream of group work. I am exhausted by essays. I am exhausted by lectures. I am exhausted by group work, which has no place in a university class when it's used every single day. I am exhausted by seminars. I am exhausted by overheads. I am exhausted by student government. I am exhuasted by my own inability to take proper notes. I am exhausted by Granatstein's theories of political history. I am exhausted by Mikhail Bakhtin. I am exhausted by Atwood, by Leacock, by Moodie. I am exhausted by Pepys, by Swift, by Wilmot. I hate school right now and want nothing more than to run away to Denial, Mexico to live out the rest of my days in the sun reading nothing more intellectual than Archie comic books.

Of course, I will not do this. I will Soldier On; it's what people in my family do. I will finish my undergrad out with an average slightly above 80%, and maybe win another award. I will then teach high school to students and inspire them to the heights of apathy I have reached.

I know there is a light at the end of this tunnel; it's just a matter of finding it. Apathy fades quickly, and hopefully soon I'll be back on the road to being intrigued by Learning, Ideas and Knowledge. I hope. I'm in trouble if things don't start to change...