Sunday, June 15, 2008


Well, for those of you who have been following this (short-lived) blog - you have noticed that I have not posted in a while. Truthfully, that has been intentional.

After my first day of classes (I have two classes on Mondays and Wednesdays: Chaucer's Canterbury Tales is from 9:00 - 11:45 and Victorian Literature is from 2:00 - 4:45) I felt totally overwhelmed and truly not certain if I could do this. I was also wise enough to realize that I had not had much sleep in the past 48 hours, so I decided to go to bed early and see if things wouldn't look a little brighter the next morning.

Well, the Santa Fe sky was bright - but my outlook was pretty bleak. I spent most of the day Thursday trying to analyze the syllabi and to break it down into more manageable pieces. The Chaucer course will either be fairly manageable OR.....I will fall flat on my face. Here is a quick breakdown of what I will have to accomplish over the 6 week period: memorize the first 18 lines in Middle English by June 25 (although the instructor insists that all students will pass this no matter how long it takes); write a 2 page "close reading" of one tale (due July 4); write a 5 page "brief research paper" on a separate tale (due July 18); and teach one class on a very close reading of one tale (should be at least 10 minutes in length --- date to be announced). I spent most of my "Chaucer" time this weekend reading the cliffnotes version of the tales so that I would be able to take an educated guess as to which tales I would like to read and research closely. I have the first 4 lines (more or less) memorized --- and I have read the reading for tomorrow's class (the prologue in Middle English - although I did use a modern day translation to help me). I hope this will be satisfactory - I suppose I will find out tomorrow.

My second class was a bit more intimidating. There are only 7 students in the class (vs 14 students in Chaucer) - so there is no hiding from the instructor. Also, the instructor is VERY interested in class discussions - and she expects lots of interaction between the 7 of us (for those of you who know me --- that is NOT my favorite class environment to learn. I much prefer to take copious notes while the expert enlightens my mind). We will have two papers in that class as well - the first one will be due on June 30. That will be a compare and contrast paper for the novels Villette (540 pages) and Bleak House (975 pages). We will need to pick one reading from each book (about a page in length) and compare and contrast in terms of writing style, theme/topic development, etc. So far no page length has been announced. The 2nd paper will be due on July 16 and as of now it is a very open ended research paper on any of the themes/topics discussed in class. Again, no page length has been indicated. For tomorrow, we had to read Villette and bring to class 3 prepared questions that will elicit class discussion. That does not sound difficult -- unless you are like me and wonder how involved/in-depth these questions need to be. Consequently - I spent the rest of my weekend re-reading the novel and taking detailed notes - trying to track the themes/motifs of about 25 different topics. I have managed to come up with 5 questions that I think might be open-ended enough to elicit some conversation. Again, I guess I will find out tomorrow.

So, there you have it. LOTS of reading; 4 papers; some "teaching" or leading of class discussions; and lots of nerves to go with it. I am hoping that tomorrow I will have a better idea of class expectations on a day-to-day basis. I will still continue to sweat out the expectations of the writing assignments.

Lest I leave you with a negative impression of this experience - let me say that I absolutely LOVE the classes (so far), the people, and the learning experience. If I didn't have to depend on a B- grade --- I would have no anxiety whatsoever. This is exactly the caliber of learning that I expected from Bread Loaf, and anything less would have been a disappointment. I only hope that my brain has the capacity to keep up.

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