Thinking about becoming an English major at Butler? You’ll need a senior essay to graduate, whether you are a English Literature, English Creative Writing, or even an English-concentration education major.
What is the senior essay? It’s a long paper on a topic of your choice. These are usually written in a 400-level seminar class and honed in the “Senior Essay” class, which will soon be known by the much cooler name of “Advanced Academic Writing.” I will take this course, along with a class taught by the head of the department and her colleague on Midrash. I am so excited for the Midrash class, and I’m sure I’ll plague you with details once that gets underway.
Back to the Senior Essay. Having taken quite a few upper-level English courses by this late stage in my college game, I had a variety of papers to chose to polish into senior essay readiness.
I went with BSI. Since I put so much effort into the project this summer, I’d like to finish it. Novel idea, huh? Wales and Ireland, I shall presently make my great return!
I am writing from under a veritable mountain of homework (unlike Steph, who actually climbed a mountain!). Reasons for mountain formation:
1. The Nutcracker: Our last show was this past Sunday, and we took lots of senior pictures, and I did not get as emotional as I thought I would, but I cried after our modern final today because the modern teacher is going on sabbatical. I feel good about the performances I gave — I’m never quite satisfied, since there always seem to be areas to improve — but the faculty had some good things to say. I felt calmer and more in control on stage this run than ever before… and I had a lot of fun as well. But I’m horribly behind on homework now.
2. Finals week: I’m also under a mountain of work because academic finals are next week. I have two English classes and two dance academics… I’m most concerned about the big English paper I have due this coming Monday, where I’ll be talking about Edenic metaphors in Frank Norris’ The Pit. Key phrase: “I’ll be.” As in, “I have not yet.” As in, my paper is thus far just a bullet-pointed version of my project proposal.
One of my doodles from freshman year... It still speaks to me.
Dance finals are this week, too, and I’ve finished half of my pointe final and my modern final. We did contemporary pas and classical partnering before The Nutcracker, so I just have one more pointe class and my ballet technique final to go! More about dance finals later, I suppose.
Friday morning, it is, and about a week and a half of classes gone past. Last post, I gave you the news from the dance department — now we shall examine the world of my English literature classes.
- I’m only taking two English classes this semester, one of which meets only once a week, so this list might not be too long.
- Shakespeare — EN 363 — meets three days a week. My one complaint? The textbook is HUGE. I’m a dancer/English major. I’m not used to lugging around the real textbooks like the science majors. Even my physics textbook was not this large, and I did not have to bring it every day.
- We are doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the Shakespeare class. I can still quote large tracts of this play, thanks to a brief but obsessive period in high school. I have seen or danced in three different productions of the ballet, as well as trying to choreograph my own version with my friend in middle school. (Laughable — we spent four hours in my basement and produced two minutes of movement.) I have the suspicion that the class will become much more difficult when we switch to plays not so familiar.
- The other class is Financial Fictions in the Gilded Age. We read books about financiers in the post-Civil War period. I’m intrigued because the last American literature class I took from the professor turned out to be great fun. We usually get to read some shoddily written books from circa 1850.
- I’m also doing an independent study on British stream-of-consciousness novels. (Sorry, Dr. Garver. I’m working on my paper as soon as I finish this blog post, I promise!) I’m trying to claim that, while being the underdog in a colonizer/colonized relationship stinks no matter how you parse it, being recognized as such by the colonizer grants the colonized some measure of power. I use the examples of East African colonies (recognized as colonies by the British Empire) and Wales (not recognized as acting the part of the colonized and denied a voice granted to East African subjects).
And that’s the news from the English department, one week into the semester. Shakespeare is about to get harder, Financial Fictions is going to get funnier, and my independent study paper will be written. Let’s work on this paper.
- The “so hard to say goodbye” in “She Will Be Loved” by Maroon 5 can use a I V IV V I chord progression.
- Fish tacos in Chicago make an excellent snack.
- Welsh eisteddfodau: Grown men dress in bardic robes for the ceremony which declares the winner of the traditional-form, Welsh-language poetry competition. There is a sword involved, and the whole crowd shouts “Peace!” in Welsh.
- Pianos are expensive.
- BSI projects can be wicked cool:
- Both Howards End and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog are more entertaining than A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.
- If you leave your bike overnight at the IMA, the snack fairy leaves you a fruit bar.
- Don’t use the recipe on the side of the cornmeal container to make cornbread, because it doesn’t taste very good. On the other hand, add a bit of coco powder to pancake batter, then some bananas to make chocolate banana pancakes. Heavenly.
- Guerilla knitting happens.
I saw this tree when I visited Downer's Grove during my epic trip to Chicago.
- English publications generally don’t like papers over twenty-five pages.
- Some species of sour cherries are self-compatible.
- The GRE is a) necessary for grad school; b) expensive; c) changing and half price if taken this August or September; or d) all of the above.
- Biking up hills is much easier when one’s bike is not stuck on the lowest gear.
- Jude the Obscure is the most depressing book in the English language, and, as Jasper Fforde recommends, one should read it backwards if there is to be any chance of a happy ending.
- G-protein receptors. They exist. You have them almost everywhere in your body.
- ISIS stands for “Image subtraction, image subtraction.”
- Straws aren’t so bad after all.
- Euchre isn’t so complicated after all.
- Don’t put potato peels down the kitchen garbage disposal. You’ll only clog the sink and render the dishwasher unusable for almost a week.
Participating in BSI, I am for the first time surrounded by a concentrated group of students on track to do graduate school. Lately the pet topic has been the GRE, or Graduate Record Exam, a test of which I was only vaguely aware a few weeks ago.
It’s odd, since I want to dance after I graduate from college. If I go back to graduate school — which I would love to do, to study English literature — it will be who know how many years in the future. Maybe dancing won’t work out. (It must, it must!) Maybe I won’t want to go back to the academic world after having left it for five years? ten? twenty? Maybe I will be too poor to afford the schooling, or I will have a family or otherwise not want to move. I just don’t know.
I thought moving to college as a first-year student was a big deal. Turns out, the real world outside the classroom is much more uncertain. I’m going to take the new GRE. I’ll try to muddle through the terrifying GRE English Subject test in April. I’ll audition my behind off and hope to get into a company. And I’ll just exhale and let life take me on a ride.
Did I mention, my family is at the beach right now? I'm wishing myself back to this pool, currently located in Florida. (Well, always located in Florida -- currently and in the past.) Summer....
In the end, that’s all one can do, really. I’ll try my best and see what happens. And perhaps review my early British authors, since I think that’s my weakest point. (Except for poetry.) After BSI, I’ve totally got postcolonial Anglo-Celtic authors covered. And American literature from 1850-1855 should be good as well. I never realized just how vast the “canon” (can we even use that term anymore without a skeptical smile?) of English literature is.
Anyone want to hire a shorter female ballerina?
The second weekend of BSI passed me by rather quickly. After my surprisingly negative reaction to the First Friday trip, the Keep Indianapolis Beautiful project was wonderful. A group of the BSI students along with the woman who is in charge of the program, plus another professor, worked with KIB on a community garden south of Indianapolis.
The KIB logo--click through for website
One group went to build a shade shelter. I’m still not entirely clear as to what that is, but I know it involved plywood and concrete, which is fairly intense. I stayed at the first site, with the vegetable garden. We weeded, cut and transported sod (and got very dirty in the process), and built a path (with step-stones and mulch) from a flowers/sitting-bench spot to the vegetable garden.
By the end, we were so grimy from the dirt blowing off the sod we ran into the sprinkler to clean off. Then we ate at a Jewish deli. Then it was home for a shower. I call that morning a success.
Later that night I had a potluck dinner with my roommate and another good friend, and we watched Sex and the City. I had never seen it before. It’s silly, but oh the clothes theclothestheclothes! Dinner was delicious–my friend found the best rosemary crackers. With soy cheese? I ate so many.
Sunday, I biked to church, saw my boyfriend who just arrived for summer classes, went to a ballet rehearsal, and had some truly excellent pizza. Monday it was back to BSI, and I finished skimming/reading Declan Kiberd’s Irish Classics. This is a massive book. I celebrated (preemptively) with ice cream, which was obtained by biking to the Safeway via the canal path.
I have decided I like Butler in the summer.
I cannot form nice sentences any longer. For at least another two weeks. It’s all lazy mornings with my pet bunnies and sunshine.
And I have exhausted my English-language skills. They will need these two weeks to recover, I fear. Yup. So.
I produced twenty-one new pages of writing in the last three days at Butler. Altogether, my three final papers clocked in at exactly thirty-three pages.
Eight pages of dance history. Nine for a paper on Nathaniel Hawthorne and his deviant characters and Hepzibah’s shop and the railroad á la Christopher Castiglia and Leo Marx. Sixteen on Emily Dickinson. I say she not only deserves the attention of the postmodern scholarship community, but she also possesses herself a postmodern understanding of language.
If you examine her ideas of death and Heaven and knowledge, you find that her binary oppositions are wonky. Death is connected to absolutes and divinity and comfort. Hmmm.
I wrote a paper over spring break on Emily Dickinson, after reading a hundred and fourteen of Emily Dickinson’s poems. For my final, I researched the current discourse surrounding Dickinson from a postmodernist viewpoint and revised my paper to place it into conversation with the scholarly community.
And that’s what a dance/English major writes at the end of junior semester.
The usual crush of final papers is, well, crushing me. I am happy to report, however, the completion and subsequent printing of one of the three papers still between me and summer vacation. Take that, Nathaniel Hawthorne/Christopher Castiglia/Leo Marx! Yeah, you don’t scare me.
(Summer! Two weeks of freedom! Then nine weeks of research! Then three weeks of an independent study! Then… oh wait, then the fall semester starts.)
I still have to finish my dance history paper on contemporary choreographer Maguy Marin. I finally asked my follow dancers about viewing the works of Marin. The guy down the hall owns Cendrillon. Whomp.
And I have to revise my paper on Emily Dickinson I turned in for my EN 185 class over spring break. Instead of writing another paper, the department head is letting me go to secondary sources to position my argument on Dickinson’s postmodern understanding of language within current discourse. I found the perfect book: Jed Deppman’s Trying to Think with Emily Dickinson. Now I just have to do a semester’s worth of work to revise, since this revision is replacing my second paper.
Ho-hum. It’s back to work after a fried rice break.
Do you ever get stuck in a scholarly rut? Perhaps “rut” is not the best word. Maybe “track” or “idea” is better. Ever since I finished my long paper on national identity in Brian Friel’s play Translations, I have viewed all my classroom texts through a quasi-deconstructionist lens.
As far as producing interesting readings goes, this has proven quite fruitful. I’ve taken Wordsworth to task for finding authenticity in common language, seen Meville’s ocean as a space of textual ambiguity, and found Emily Dickinson to exhibit postmodern tendencies. Can you tell I’ve just come from a meeting with a professor about a paper?
Intense gaze. You know this guy's serious.
I’m happy to splash around in the postmodern waters for a bit, but I don’t think I want to stay forever. Judging from past experiences, I know some other concept will catch my interest. It happened with mythology, pseudo-astrophysics, real physics physics, the Welsh language, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the Rose Adagio, creative writing, knitting… All past obsessions of mine. All still hold a special place in my heart.
However, this whole text-is-dependent-on-the-reader and words-change-significance-with-every-meaning so-many-hyphens phase represents the first conceptual idea I apply to such a wide range of classes, be it an English class or a dance history class, choreography or technique.
Do you ever feel like you really take an intellectual idea to heart for an extended time? Do you ever feel like you might be growing steadily more obnoxious every day?
Also, has anyone read any criticisms that place Emily Dickinson as a postmodern poet?
How do these other majors do it? With assessment week, I’ve been catching up on all my homework. Typing and typing. Reading until my brains ooze out my ears. I guess I’m not used to this sort of mental concentration without the mitigating athleticism of several dance classes.
As it is, tea and chocolate are getting me through.
Tea and chocolate on my purple computer, on Moby Dick
I’ve written/am in the process of writing (mostly the later) dance history papers (2), English papers (2), short discussion questions (1), and various other pieces of text (2.5). I did not realize my InterLibrary Loan book was due on the last day of February. (Well, I didn’t realize that was the last day of February either.) I had to return that, too.
Returning books to the library a few weeks ago. In the freezing cold.
I even cooked fish with bok choy, vacuumed my room, cleaned my apartment (including wiping a mysterious black substance off all four of our burners), and did my laundry. Whew!