December 31st, 2007

me frosting

fudge notes, email thoughts

I have just made perhaps the most delicious fudge I have ever made in my life. Collapse )

I checked my school email for the first time in a few weeks the other day, and there were two emails that made me think a bit.

One of them was an email from the budget director at UMass Amherst to all students. It had a link to the page that contains spreadsheets that show UMass's budget. Collapse )

The other email I recieved was from one of my history professors, actually one at nearby Mount Holyoke. It read "I hope you realize that the final paper had a list of requirements that were clearly stated on the assignment and is expected to be one essay. I'd recommend that you take until Saturday morning to construct a full essay as expected." This was dated Thursday, Dec. 20th, shortly after I emailed in a three-page paper. It was supposed to be 20 pages in all; we were supposed to incorporate and expand upon what we'd written in the ten-page draft earlier, not simply footnote it. And it had been due on Wednesday, Dec. 19th.

Honestly, though, I'd been over-ambitious and not entirely honest with myself when I signed up for that course in the first place. Even before I went to Japan, I'd thought about doing a massive project on the Victorians, with a history professor and an English professor. I had several reasons. First, although I was not yet reading novels in Japanese, I knew I would be for sure by the time I got back from Japan, and I wanted to know how an English professor chews up a novel. But how can you analyze a novel without knowing a whole lot about the period and the culture that produced the novel? So I'd want to take an English course and a history course that studies the same period. I'd be interested in seeing the various ways in seeing the ways that the novel does and does not reflect the reality of the time period-- I'd expect that you'd see reflections of the period even in fantasies and stories not set in the present, like the echoes of Roe v. Wade in Katherine Patterson's historical fictions that involve searching for an absent parent. Finally, as a reader, I'd be interested in tools I can use to understand books from very different times and places; the world has produced a lot more literature than what's been written on this side of the pond in the last thirty or forty years. And I don't see how I could do that without careful study of a single time and place and the literature that was written then and there.

Collapse )

Collapse ) When he asked me, "Are you good with computers?"
I said, "Well, I know basic HTML..." and didn't mention that it's been years since I've known anything more than italics and bold, and normally I'm happy just to be able to turn my computer on.

It turned out that I was not at all prepared for that course in almost any way. Collapse )

In order to write the final paper for the course, we were supposed to Collapse )

But as is, I only had enough information to turn that into a three or four-page paper at best, not 20. It was exactly the right size for a five-minute presentation. If I'd discussed the population trends for all of England as well as Cumberland as a whole, I'd have ten pages that would be mostly conjecture.

So, the day of my last finals, the day that the paper was due, I balked. I stared at the screen for hours at end. I messaged mousapelli, saying, "I have a 20 page paper due today and I don't know where to begin!" She replied, "I know how it is; I don't want to write this Latin test either!" "Well, we'll both take a big nap on Friday, right?" I said, and felt better for about fifteen minutes. Collapse )

So I'm not surprised that I got a reply like I did; I was expecting something much scarier. As is, I didn't even read that email until well after that Saturday. But given how sloppy and unfocused and unprepared I was in general during that course, I wouldn't be able to give a good effort on that paper no matter how much time you gave me.

Looking back, I think I should have just been more honest with the professor from the very beginning. I should have emphasized that although I'm most interested in Victorian culture, I'd never taken a course on the Victorians and didn't know the first thing about them. And that I can barely use Word. If I'd done that, he would have probably put me in the 200-level version of the course. It doesn't presuppose so much knowledge of the period to begin with, its computer exersizes are easier, and its focus is much broader. It's the course where he shows slides of paintings and discusses Frankenstein.

As is, I might just fail that course. But that would be an honest assessment. And even if I fail the course, taking it was really interesting. I never thought I would make population density maps of England, and I'd never even heard of the Parliamentary Papers. I learned a lot of things in that class. But I honestly was not prepared for it, and I was never prepared to write that 20-page paper. Trying to would be dishonest to myself.

And I can take the consequences of being honest to myself.

And the questions I had about how to read a novel are, stop me if I'm wrong, questions that any English major thinks about. That English professor was right: I don't want to take an independant study, I want to take a normal English course. All of the Victorianists who weren't available last semester will be available in the spring. But it may be that I really want just a perfectly ordinary English 200. I'll figure that out during add/drop.