Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Livin' the Life -- Renaissance Nerd-Style

I tried on ASU -- and it fits me like a frickin' glove.

Hot, hot heat aside (we're currently looking forward to temps around 100 during the day and lows in the mid- to high- 70s at night), this school agrees with me. Tempe agrees with me. Who could ask for anything more?

My program is tailor-made for an ambitious Renaissance student ready to professionalize and get out of school already. (Shocked, aren't you?) PhD students, while set up with high expectations, are given lots of breathing room and leeway to meet those expectations. My coursework will be done in two years, not three, due to some, er..., creative categorization suggested and encouraged by my current adviser, Dr. Ayanna Thompson. "How will you do this, Devori?" you ask. "Easy," I reply. My Shakespearean Fetishes class (which is proving challenging...in a good way...and very interesting) will count not only as a literature pre-1660 requirement, but also a genre studies (Shakespeare wrote plays -- duh), and fills in as a critical theory requirement (Freud, Derrida, and Marx -- oh, my!) Dr. Thompson has teased me with with the potential sighting of Harry Lennix -- a favorite actor of mine, and a frequent visitor to the ASU campus who wants to someday *gasp* study Renaissance literature at ASU. Renaissance nerds will know him as Aaron in Julie Taymor's brilliant adaptation of Titus Andronicus, other nerds will know him as Captain Lock (Morpheus' romantic rival) in the last two Matrix films. (The mind boggles with the possibility of sweaty-handed meetings and photo ops.)

I'm making friends, slowly but surely. Not surprising to those who knew me back in Idaho. When confronted with change, I tend to become a homebody. I realized that my situation was rapidly becoming terminal when I became genuinely excited to find an episode of Maury on one afternoon. An intervention was required. Luckily, my first meeting with many of my new colleagues was congenial and booze-laden. We made jokes about the emblems of George Wither and Stephen Greenblatt (insert tweedy, pretentious chuckle here), and discussed in depth just which books of The Fairie Queen we were going to be reading this semester. (No one could remember which book number corresponded with which characters -- it was intense.) I share an office, not to mention a significant course load, with many of the other Renaissance scholars, and they are making sure that I am indoctrinated (no pun intended) the right way.

Teaching at 7:30 AM is a chore -- not only for me, but for the students. For approximately 95% of my students, my class was their first college experience. (It is voraciously encouraged that students take comp. in their first semester here.) They're used to being talked at from high school, and this factor, combined with the course's early time, make for a quiet, quiet room some days. My class is capped at twenty (ISU comp. teachers will weep at this number, imagining the possibilities), and I consistently have 16-19 students show up each day. They're just so damn quiet! I was overjoyed today to hear them laugh at a Rifftrax short I brought in, "Building Better Paragraphs." Perhaps I should enlist Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett, and Kevin Murphy to teach the class every few weeks. I broke the "teaching wall" as it were today, and encouraged them to speak. After all, students who converse freely during class discussion don't have to write for the entirety of the hour so that Ms. Mean Teacher can make sure everyone participates, right? The ensuing discussion of Kathy Maio's evisceration of depictions of females in Disney was much more lively. Whew.

Even though my class occasionally feigns muteness, I was extremely impressed with the first drafts of their first papers, with which I spent several hours this weekend. My students were asked to write about a pop culture text that they feel connected to, and describe either how they feel the text informs their identity, or how they feel that they are reflected in that particular pop culture text. In brainstorming ways to approach this assignment, we've read wonderful articles from, honestly, the finest composition reader/rhetoric I've used so far. We discussed how the character of Cameron adds unexpected, but very real drama to Ferris Bueller's Day Off. We talked about how programs like The Jersey Shore, The Hills, and Laguna Beach offer views of young people that we know are wildly exaggerated, but we want to watch them anyway. The drafts I saw were surprisingly sophisticated and well-phrased, but each had the student's unique spin. Having left a culturally stifled area for one as culturally diverse as Phoenix/Tempe, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that my students connected with texts like Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona, the work of Sufjan Stevens, and novels like The Road. (You can imagine my joy when not a one of them said that they related with Twilight's Bella -- and this was even before I made my disdain evident!) I can't wait to watch them all develop as writers in the coming weeks.

Now -- to the dishes! (Anything to keep from having to read more Freud right now. Yeesh.)

1 comment:

  1. What? You didn't want a paper about how some girl relates to choosing between bestiality or necrophilia? I don't understand, it is like the bestest books ever! ;) I'm so glad everything working well for you.