Having worked with guest repetiteur Kevin Irving for the past two weeks in preparation for the Butler Ballet’s Midwinter Dance Festival, I wanted to put in a quick plug for I-Dance, the non-profit organization Mr. Irving founded in 2010.
With the intriguing mission of choreographic exchange between the U.S. and countries in Latin America, the organization strives to bring high quality dance teachers and choreographers into contact with some of the poorer or less-exposed regions of Latin America. The mission statement expounds on the need for an international community of dance and the important of broad exposure to global artistic trends.
Even though I-Dance is not affiliated with Butler University, I can’t help but feel a sympathy between the organization and a liberal arts mindset. I know I often wax sentimental (or wane, depending on your perspective) about the liberal arts, but I can’t begin to describe the importance of having a broad worldview, especially as an artist. We cannot make art in a vacuum, and just as all text draws its meaning from other pieces of text, so all art is, even if unwittingly, a reaction to other aspects of life (sorry, I guess I’m waning deconstructionist as well). Like literary scholarship, art functions as part of a wider and longer dialogue. I-Dance, committed to opening that dialogue with places which have been somewhat isolated from the artistic conversation, deserves some sort of liberal arts gold star.
Okay, I’m done mooning over inter- and intra-disciplinary conversation. You can watch this video now.
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?
Ever wanted to know what production week is like for a dance major? The schedule summary continues.
- Arrive at Clowes at 9 am to warm myself up.
- Get an email retroactively saying our spacing rehearsal would not actually be starting until 11 am.
- Read Moby Dick. (At least three people have mentioned this news story to me.)
- Warm up again.
- Space Walpurgisnacht.
- Eat lunch.
- Have ballet class on stage.
- Run a tech rehearsal in costume.
- Go to night class–Literature of the American Renaissance. Realize Moby Dick fits brilliantly with Jacques Derrida’s whole language-has-no-source thing. Sense a paper in the offing.
- Plan out my summer schedule/BSI issues/senior year schedule/life in general.
- Attend dance history.
- Get a zebra hot chocolate from Starbucks and read Emily Dickinson when choreography was unexpectedly canceled.
- Take ballet class with auditioners.
- Something happened next, but I cannot remember what it was. Did I do homework? I feel like I hung out with a friend instead.
- Warm up at 6:30 pm.
- Performance at 8 pm!! So much fun! My one correction? “Smile more,” Ms. Wingert told me. “Enjoy yourself.” That was easy enough to fix: I felt like I had been grinning like a fool, so I was trying to tone it down. Not so! I love Balanchine.
Tagged: Balanchine, ballet, Clowes, dance major, English, lit theory, Midwinter, Moby Dick, performance, schedule, Walpurgisnacht
Quite a while back, at the beginning of fall semester, I met with my Irish Lit professor to discuss topics for the long paper I was going to write. I initially suggested a comparison of Dylan Thomas’ Portrait of the Artist as a Young Dog and James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Both works are written in English by authors who have strong ties to particular nations that have their own languages: Thomas is Welsh and Joyce is Irish.
Here are the two texts I want to compare. Both narrators also write in English, since the works are semi-autobiographical. I want to examine the presentation of the Welsh and Irish languages in the two works and connect this presentation to the authors’ English-language writing. I hope to argue that Thomas and Joyce continue to participate in the Celtic literary heritage–especially as modern bards–though they write in English.
The class for which I first proposed this project was Contemporary Irish Literature, but I really am interested in Ireland’s neighbor across the Irish Sea–Wales. I’ve been learning Welsh on my own since I was a senior in high school. Dw i ddim yn gallu saraid Cymraeg, ond dw i’n mynd trio wneud e!
My professor liked my idea, but neither Young Dog nor Young Man was on the reading list for the class. She suggested that I apply to Butler Summer Institute. I then wrote my long essay on the subjectivity of national identity and the conflicting sources of such that lead to nationalist-inspired violence in Brian Friel’s play Translations. Now it’s February, and I’m ready to turn in my proposal for the Young Dog/Young Man project.
Butler Summer Institute is a nine-week session during the summer that allows students to pursue independent research projects with a faculty mentor. I think two-thirds of the projects are from the sciences–something about the way the program is funded–but scholars from all disciplines are welcome. This type of project is extremely attractive for several reasons:
- I can research whatever truly interests me without worrying about fitting it into a class syllabus. Comparative literary studies!! WALES!! WELSH!!
- I can work closely with my Irish Lit professor. She’s the perfect mentor for a project like this: Her specialties include transnational literature and multilingual texts, postcolonial studies, and comparative literature.
- I’ll produce a longer writing sample–something I’ll need should I apply to graduate school after what I hope is a career in a dance company.
- On that note, I’ll practice writing a literary analysis longer than twenty-four pages.
- I get to do the comparative literature thing.
- I can surrender to my total love of all things Welsh. During the research for the partial bibliography I’m including in my application, I kept getting distracted: I just had to read part of “The Social Identity of Welsh Learners,” even though it will not be included in my final project. Oooo, the other one I had tremendous difficulty putting down was “Near-Sameness in Early Insular Metrics: Oral Ancestry and Aesthetic Potential.” This article WILL figure into my final project. So excited. (Early Insular Metrics = early poetry of the Insular Celtic languages, which include Welsh and Irish Gaelic).
- I’ll receive free housing for the duration of the session, plus a stipend. This will definitely help defray the cost of summer school–and the cost of not being able to hold a job during the summer.
I’m nervous about this mainly because I do not know whether my application will be rejected because I have to take a course during the last three weeks of the BSI session if I am to get my secondary English major. Well, we shall see. Keep your fingers crossed for me.
To continue the theme from my tales of Fall Breaks past, I shall outline Fall Break: Junior Year Edition.
I think I’ve mentioned my Irish Lit class. Here is the full situation in bullet-pointed, semi-logical, stream-of-consciousness style:
- Senior English Lit majors at Butler must present a senior essay.
- I am currently registered as having a secondary major in English literature.
- I will almost certainly complete an English minor.
Following so far? Good.
- I signed up for EN 493-51, Contemporary Irish Literature,
- Which turned out to be a Senior Seminar,
- Which is not to say there are only senior English majors (we have a healthy sprinkling of graduate students, senior education majors with a concentration in English, and junior English majors),
- But which includes a long research essay that is mandatory for the senior English majors, since they need that long paper to graduate.
Still following? Okay, deep breath… in we plunge:
- Those who aren’t senior English majors (i.e. the vast majority of the class) have the option not to write the long paper.
- We can turn in two shorter essays, each about ten pages, instead.
- The first essay is due when the long paper’s annotated bibliography and abstract are due.
- (Which is this coming Monday).
- The second essay is due when the long paper is due.
- This means that one cannot decide at the last minute to write two shorter essays.
- Past this Monday, we are Committed. Capitalization is fully intentional.
Thus we have the situation. What do I decide to do? Write the long paper. Why?
- If I do miraculously finish the requirements for the English major, I will need that paper.
- I am extremely verbose. Length is not so much an issue for me.
- It might actually be more difficult to develop and research two separate ideas. (Except that happened unintentionally, but this is a different story.)
- It would be good practice.
- I want to see if I can do it.Does this line of reasoning make sense? I guess we will find out come Monday. I am staying on campus this Fall Break to research and start to write this behemoth of a project. Reader-theory, here I come! I’m currently reading this. Next to the dictionary my high school English department gave me.
My Irish Lit professor was kind enough to lend this to me.
I have so much to do. So instead of doing it, I shall proceed to complain about it. Even though I secretly love it all. (And I’d better, since I’m paying for it.)
But seriously, yo. It’s Fall Break. What have I read in the past three days?
- Jonathan Culler, On Deconstruction, preface, introduction, and section 1, omitting only pages 43-64. Next to a dictionary.
- Ronald Gene Roland, Divided Ireland: Bifocal Vision in Modern Irish Drama, preface, and chapter six prelude “The Beginning of the End of Gaelic Language and Culture” and the article “Friel’s Translations: the Ritual of Naming.”
- Josephine Lee, “Linguistic Imperialism, the Early Abbey Theatre, and the Translations of Brian Friel” in Imperialism and Theatre (antho. ed. J. Ellen Gainor)
- Melissa Sihra and Paul Murphy, “The Dreaming Body,” intro in The Dreaming Body: Contemporary Irish Theatre (anth. ed. Sihra and Murphy)
- also from that anthology, Eamonn Jordan, “Urban Drama: Will Any Myth Do?”
- also from that anthology, Paul Murphy, “Brian Friel’s Wonderful Tennessee, or What was Lost in Translations“
- Intro, chapter I “Theories of Reading: An End to Interpretation?” and chapter II “Response, Intention, and Motives for Interpretation” in Stories of Reading: Subjectivity and Literary Understanding by Michael Steig
Still with me? And because I had to have some down time, I read,
- John Green’s An Abundance of Katherines
Well, that was boring. My reasons for (inflicting) typing my book list for you:
- It makes me feel accomplished.
- I wanted to brag about said accomplishments.
- I need an annotated bibliography, so that was the first step of me getting some of the text out of my notebook and into my MacBook.
- If you ever want to write a paper about Brian Friel’s 1980 play Translations, about the subjectivity of text and/or standards of nationalism, or about Irish theater, I’ve just given you a nice little list of sources.
- SO OVERWHELMED, CAN THINK OF AUGHT ELSE… gurgle
But it’s all okay. I have my power song to keep me going.
The power of K'naan, that is...
Hmmm. Perhaps another list (you can’t escape!) is in order… a studying/pape-writing/watery-lentil-soup-making/being-on-Fall-Break playlist?