Friday, January 17, 2014

Off Hiatus

The only thing more boring that my daily routine might very well be my exam period and school break. The normal schedule includes such exciting elements as going to class, doing my homework, eating, sleeping, and joining in the odd activity outside my hermitage of an apartment. I often go to bed by 10:30. Clearly I live an interesting life.

Exam period looked much the same, except everything except eating and sleeping was replaced with research and writing, and more research and more writing. And break? Just eating and sleeping, more or less. I hope your holiday period looked much the same. Rest is such an important part of our rhythm - the prescription (common to many religions) of a holy day to spend not doing normal things is really a wonderful invention.

As of the first week of January I'm back in classes, and my days are taking on the patterns of grad school again. One difference: I adopted a dog! Her name is Peaches, and she's a nine-year-old terrier mix. Her ears stand up and she's endlessly curious about everything. My mom calls her Nosy Rosy. Somewhere in her previous life she learned to stand on her hind legs for long periods of time, the better to peer over barriers or look to see if I'm on the bed, one presumes. She's curled up next to me as a write, snoring a little bit. I'm grateful to have her around - she gets me out of the apartment and reminds me to maintain a normal meal schedule, for her sake if not for my own. I've really missed having a fuzzy companion the past five years. All colleges should allow fuzzy pets, not just fish. It's very difficult to snuggle with a fish. (They usually die if you attempt it).

My department's requirements for graduation include proving competence in a second language, even if that language has little to do with your area of research or interest. In my case, I go the boring route of 17th-19th-century Britain, where English serves me pretty well. I still need to have a second language, in my case for the purposes of expanding my worldview and looking outside the Anglo-American box. This is a good thing, if ending up somewhat frightening. My graduate-level German class is a steep learning curve, but the 400-level undergrad courses wouldn't fit with my schedule. Our first class was cancelled due to the polar vortex (!!) that swept through a vast portion of the States a couple weeks ago, but last week's discussion of citizenship and national identity in pre-EU Germany and Europe really stretched my ability to participate in a conversation. About the time that I would figure out the gist of the current conversation and formulate a vaguely related comment, the class would have already moved far beyond that point. The professor assures us that our first reading was the hardest one, and this week's reading seems to confirm that point. Rede des toten Kolumbus am Tag des J├╝ngsten Gerichts (The speech of the deceased Columbus on doomsday) is not an easy read, to be sure, but I can follow the narrative, such as there is. The novel might be called experimental for its lack of a clear storyline and time jumps. It might also just be called confusing. And as is typical of German art of a certain generation, it is highly political.

Thankfully the class, while interested in German as a language and German scholarship and writing, is a bit more flexible. Our discussions flipped between German and English, as do our readings. Other than the occasional inability to think of a certain word in whatever language we're currently using, this seems a good way to go. My colleagues back in Germany would be horrified at our use of a non-monolingual language classroom.My students would likely cheer.

This particular class requires that we cultivate an online presence as people and scholars, though I confess mixing the two leaves me feeling a little nervous. I've been assured that personal blogs are acceptable for this kind of presence-creation; I may be spending a bit more time on theory, philosophy, and reflection this semester instead of just stories about wiggly elementary schoolchildren on a field trip. Do bear with me. I'll try to be entertaining.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks, Jesse, for sharing these thoughts with us. I'm glad that you've joined us in GRM 820--despite the added complication of working through the German language. I very much like how you use your blog as a self-reflective outlet for moving forward.

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  2. Why did your name appear as Jesse? It should be Jessica. Hmm, sorry for this typo.

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