November 13, 2009

Adventures at Uni Chapter 1 - a preamble


I am in my second semester - English and American Studies. Why this major? Well, several reasons, actually. I am currently living in a German-speaking country. Therefore, aside from movies and tv shows, my exposure to the language (my language) is limited. I decided that studying literature would be a good idea. Broaden my perspectives and underline my pre-existing condition of a passion for books, historical and contemporary. There you go. (A seminal side-effect I am expecting is improvement and inspiration for my own attempt at writing. )

The lectures are in English, kind of makes sense, no? And the accompanying tutorials allow for discussion groups, and well, are just awesome.

Since I didn't quite finish school, I had to take some equivalency tests (5 in total). Thats still work in progress. I did the easy ones first: Introduction to English Literature, English, and History. The two outstanding exams are in German (ugh) and entail Linguistics&German literature (10 books to read...mission accomplished) and Essay (I have to write an 800 word essay in German. Tried it once, and failed. I thought I did a fairly decent job. Even though I am bilingual, grammar and my punctuation in German is not perfect. Besides, they are so damn picky)

While I am studying for the remaining two tests, the system here allows me to participate and take exams toward my BA. Which is great. Obviously, I much prefer all things English.

So, this semester I have seven lectures plus the seven accompanying tutorials. Tutorials are not obligatory nevertheless makes sense to attend as the groups are much smaller and you get a chance to discuss to a much greater degree the subject matter the professor goes through in the lectures. Obviously, often 400+ attending these lectures don't allow for a whole lot of interaction.

Right - so, this semester I am taking the following lectures:

Survey of Literature I
: 16th-17th century British Literature, with the main focus on the Elizabethan age. Required reading: Richard III, Midsummer Nights Dream, Marlowe's Dr. Faustus, and Ben Jonson's Volpone.

Survey of Literature II
: 18th - 20th Century British and American Literature. Currently, we are at the End of the 18th century (Augustan Period going into the Romantic period. Again, this is based on British literature history. In France and Germany, the literal epochs deviate slightly from Britain.
Required reading: Gulliver's Travels, Book IV (the most controversial of his books) And I found out yesterday, he thought up the word Yahoo, describing horrible human creatures with a penchant for being nasty and mean. Yet to read it, but am looking forward to it. Charles Dickens' Hard Times, James Joyce "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man", Rosencrantz&Guildenstein are Dead and Jeanette Winterson's "Oranges are Not the Only Fruit".

Survey of Literature III: US and American literature early 17th- late 19th century. I ended up taking this by mistake really. Thinking I was in the room for cultural&regional studies, I soon realized that wasn't the case. Only one book to read - the Scarlet Letter and a lot of the material being covered is about the founding fathers, Puritan Times, lead up to the Revolution, the Civil war induced me to stick with this course as well. Since I do remember stuff from school (yeah, its a long time ago) and I find a repeat performance of such a critical part of American history and influences American Culture is crucial, I stuck with it and am glad. With emphasis more on the history than the literature, re-visiting The Scarlet Letter functions as a can opener for the brain. Hawthorne has a very pure style and when I manage to block out Demi Moore's face, I am really enjoying the read. Hester Prynne was a badass. Arthur Dimmesdale a total wimp.

Intro to Cultural and Regional Studies: the lecture is defined as follows: "it remains difficult to pin down the boundaries of cultural studies as a coherent, unified, academic discipline with clear-cut substantive topics, concepts and methods that differentiate it from other disciplines. The body of cultural studies is generated by thinkers who regard the production of therorectical knowledge as a political practice. Here, knowledge is never neutral or objective but a matter of positionality, that is, of the place from which one speaks, to whom, and for what purposes."

Its fascinating. And will be doing my BA thesis on this branch, as opposed to the literature branch. At least thats why I am tending toward right now.

Cultural and Regional Studies II: Making Movies Mean (as in understanding not as in nasty) Fun frothy lecture. The professor is excellent and its a cake walk, since I have all the backround knowledge (worked in the film business for 18 years) Even so, still enough insight to be had in analyzing movies. And re-visiting some classics that most of the students haven't heard of. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Jezebel, Blonde Venus, The Searchers, going back to the earliest days of the brothers Lumiere.

Study of Language I: required course and I so wish I could skip this one. Phonetics. Dull and useless. I have no idea what this is supposed to be good for. I honestly don't.

History of English: don't let the "history" fool you. Its boring as hell. Fricatives, sister languages, origin of the English language. The professor is funny though. That helps.


So, that's my schedule. And I am loving it. Allowing me to pursue this is a government grant and additional income from tutoring lessons I give and proceeds from my yet unfinished book. Thats my financial plan.

The great thing is, I can dress down (have I ever dressed up?) I can look like a bum and blend in perfectly. Not insinuating that students look like bums. How about scruffy....jeans, t-shirts and a warm jacket for cold, a h&m jacket when its less cold. My few remaining designer bags from Gucci, Chloe, Dries Van Noten and Prada are stuck in the closet. I can wear unmatched socks and have ratty tatty converse and all is cool. Come to think of it, just like the creatives at the agency. Awesome!

I have met some very nice people there. Eva, I couldn't have done the test without you.

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