School

Exhibit 1.6.10

New Morning

 

I just so happened to get contributor’s copies of two beautiful new journals on the same day and took some pictures in the morning sunlight as I read them and drank coffee. I can honestly say these are among the best designed journals out there–may in fact be the best designed journals out there–but it’s all the awesome stuff inside that should make you order them.

 

Paper Darts

 

 

So much incredible art and writing in this thing already. Plus, every page looks like that. A bit, from Brandi Wells’s “Letters Between Tortoise and Hare”:

Dear Hare,

We can go away together. Just the two of us. To the beach, to the ocean. I will teach you how to swim. I want to draw you into a place of familiarity, map the familiar on your body so that your body becomes a body more like my own…

 

 

The Normal School

 

 

This issue, a promised “Film and Music Spectacular,” seems to be chocked full of smart essays that I’m only beginning to read through but Elena Passarello’s “Communication Breakdown” has already stood out:

Let us not forget, too, that the most celebrated rock screams came from bodies that belong to the same subgeneration as our recent front-runners (and their most moneyed supporters). Sammy Hagar was born the same year as Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton. Rick Perry is seven months older than Tom Petty…

 

Grateful to the editors for including my things which, I can only hope, aren’t uglying it all up.

Comment / Posted in Fiction, Journals, School

Exhibit 27.21

Lessons

If you witnessed my student conferences, you would hear me say the following things approximately exactly 52 times:

1. The papers will be graded by Friday.

2. Remember when we talked about triangles?

3. Z.Z. Packer’s essay was not the one about shooting an elephant.

4. This might be Mr. Ruder’s office, at least if he’s that guy who eats soup here all the time. Does he sometimes smell like soup?

5. [incomprehensibly hand gestures meant to demonstrate structure]

6. Literacy narratives can totally be about middle school basketball.

7. O, this is her office, too. Don’t worry, she’s not silently judging you.

8. I don’t know, what do you think teaching assistant means?

9. The papers will be graded by Friday. Um, no, not this Friday.

10. Interesting, interesting, I like this idea, no, not that, stop talking, go back to what you said before, not that far back, look, just make something up.

Comment / Posted in Conferences, School, Teaching

Exhibit 24.17

Reading List Review

Writers on Literature
Sarah Shun-lien Bynum – Ms. Hempel Chronicles
Jean Thompson – Who Do You Love
Edward Jones – Lost in the City
Christopher McIlroy – All My Relations
Elizabeth Strout – Olive Kitteridge
Alice Munro – Selected Stories

In case it’s not clear, this is a class on American short fiction. Well, there’s Munro, but I think American means North American. Or maybe it doesn’t and Canada can deal with it. I don’t care as long as I can link to my favorite Wikipedia entry for something that isn’t a real thing.

I have to admit, I’m a bit torn. On the one hand, these are all great books written by obviously talented writers. Our instructor’s genuine affection and belief in these books makes them impossible to ignore. On the other, they’re books I’d likely never read on my own (and nothing about reading them changed my mind). That situation is, I suppose, the great thing about taking such a class, but it’s also left me feeling confused about American short fiction and what it should do. Despite all the talent on display here, there’s little that grabs me about these texts, at least as books (all had at least one story I could stick up for more strongly).

Take Olive Kitteridge, likely the best of the books (aside from Munro) and more than deserving of its Pulitzer. It’s really quite phenomenal from story to story and is possibly the first “novel in stories” I’ve read that wears that label as more than marketing. It’s the ideal book for a graduate school fiction class, rich in description and character, full of the supposedly genuine. It’s also mostly uninspiring, at least to this writer. Each story seems to me a perfect example of what one is told to write in graduate school, the sort of stories I ignorantly associate with Iowa or whatever else I want to insult at the moment. It’s heartfelt and reflective and graceful and boring. It’s exactly the book I’m going to give my grandmother for Christmas (which is a compliment).

None of this is to say I didn’t enjoy it or learn from it–or any of the work here–just that I don’t feel it’s a conversation I’m presently capable of adding to. I can’t out character Thompson, or out setting Jones, etc. Each of these books does the things we are told are important and they do those things remarkably well. Those just aren’t the things that brought me to fiction. Though now that I think of it, I doubt very much it was short fiction that brought me to fiction either.

And so it’s good to read this stuff rather than only chasing the new. Munro is obviously a different case. I hadn’t read much of her that wasn’t in recent magazines. Certainly not my writing hero, I wouldn’t argue with anyone who claimed her as such. “Our Chekov” as the blurb says sounds about right. I’m just more of a Dostoyevsky guy.

Overall verdict: Eyes Opened/Shut

1 Comment / Posted in Books, Fiction, School

Exhibit 24.1

Reading List Review

Shakespeare’s Histories and Comedies
The Tempest (Oxford)
Measure for Measure (Bedford)
Merchant of Venice (Cambridge’s Shakespeare in Production)
The Taming of the Shrew (Norton)
Richard II (Cambridge)
1 Henry IV (Arden)

Nearly perfect though I could do without Shrew and maybe even Measure given the fact that we are only doing six plays. One more history wouldn’t kill us though I guess my choice, Henry V, would make the entire thing a little too Bolingbroke heavy. In any case, I think it’s a nice list given the course’s emphasis on critical editions of the plays which, although it might sound shallow, has been great. The comedies especially take advantage of this as, with the possible exception of Shrew, they don’t neatly fit with the conventions of the genre.

Overall verdict: excited.
Comment / Posted in Reviews, School, Wills

Exhibit 23.23

Plays

Yesterday I watched a great talk about Camus and Derrida (Grad School!) but I was so worried about having joined the department’s basketball team (Grad School!) that I kept seeing everything as basketball plays.

The Algerian Conundrum

It’s More Bent Than You Realize

The Power of His Silence

Defending de Man

Attacking the Anti-Dreyfusards

Comment / Posted in Basketball, Play, School

Exhibit 23.2

Things That Let Me Know This Is a Seminar Paper

1. A Colon in the Title
Seminar Papers: Things That Let Me Know This Is One

2. Unnecessary Parenthesis in the Title
Seminar Papers: Things That Let Me K(no)w This is (On)e

3. Ironic Quotation Marks in the Title
“Seminar” Papers: Things That Let Me K(no)w This Is (On)e

4. Vaguely Feminist Misspellings in the Title
“SeMENar” Papers: Things That Let Me K(no)w This Is (On)e

5. Unnecessary Word Inversion in the Title
Let (On)e K(no)w This: “SeMENar” Things That Papers Me

Now I just need to hit print and turn it in.

Comment / Posted in Papers, Parenthesis, School

Exhibit 22.18

Words I Have Used in This Seminar Paper I Either Don’t Know or Don’t Want to Know the Meaning Of

Hegemony
Enlightenment
Atemporality
Dialectical
Love
Pastiche
Pectoral
Nouveau roman
Cannon
Canon
Interiority
Surfiction
Quasi-allegorical
Antecedents

I’m just kidding. I know the meaning of love:

Comment / Posted in Definitions, Love, School

Exhibit 21.9

A Place Like This

I’ve been at this university for two weeks now, and while that probably doesn’t qualify me to make the broad critique I’m going to make, I feel comfortable in my assessment anyway. Colleges are funny like that. Or maybe I’m just pompous like that. Either way.

But I want to acknowledge that I know nothing about this city. Okay, so I know Lyle Lovett is the greatest person to come from here. That’s about it and that’s about enough.

And so it was probably spending time with an architect–happy birthday, Marti–or visiting Rice’s beautiful campus, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the physical makeup of the university. Not the administration or degrees or students but the actual buildings and landscape and how they’re situated in the city. It’s something that’s been bothering me since the first time I visited the campus, and it only has become more clear in my time here because of this typical conversation (this one in particular I had with the guy opening my checking account):

Guy: What brought you here?
Me: School at UH.
Guy: Ha, how do you like the neighborhood there?
Me: Can I get any Ninja Turtle on my debit card or just Raphael?

UH knows the neighborhood around UH is bad. I know they know this because they talk about it as constantly as everyone else does. They tell us not to walk to our cars alone at night. They send us campus alerts when the Burger King across the street gets robbed. They have video cameras and emergency phones and anything else they can do to reinforce the idea that A) the neighborhood outside the campus is scary and B) aside from the occassional intrusion of this scary element, the campus itself is a protected space.

Obviously the university’s first priority is the physical safety of their students and they should do everything possible to protect them/us. Unfortunately, they seem to have bought into this narrative that the campus can and should exist in isolation from the community around it. One gets the sense that everyone–except for, you know, the people living in the Third Ward–would be happy if around the hallowed borders of the school there was white space until Montrose and its American Apparel definition of urban.

It’s such a pointless and anti-educational way of thinking about the space of the university that I hope I’m misreading the situation. I don’t think I am. There really doesn’t seem to be any engagement or even desire for engagement with the rest of the neighborhood, and its a shame to treat the campus as if it’s some kind of colony on Mars where this will happen if you go outside of the compound without a helmet:

As a teacher–and, yes, I now say things like that just like I now have to care what Stanley Fish and Gerald Graff think about whatever–it feels like the physical campus is already setting up for at least a kind of failure. If the university can place itself in a sphere, should we be surprised if students keep their knowledge in one? If the university can’t even confront what’s across the street, what do students do when asked to confront the world? Being a public school, being a largely commuter college, hell, even being in the academic shadow of Rice, just isn’t a good enough excuse to write off participation as part of the academic experience for students and professors.

(other things I do now that I’m in graduate school: ask inane rhetorical questions, wake up 30 minutes later than before, wear an academic gown around the apartment, have an opinion on standardized testing)

The university is–rightly–proud of their students. They makeup (allegedly) the most diverse student body in the country, they work jobs, they are often the first in their family to go to college. Which is why it’s so perplexing that their chosen college seems to be afraid of the world many of them come from. Not only does it waste an opportunity, but it detracts from the education they’re able to provide a truly unique student body. Building a moat around the university does nothing except reinforce the idea that the academic world is something that’s closed to their membership and irrelevant to their lives beyond going through the checklist of their degree in hope of a better vocation.

(addendum to list of other things I do now that I’m in graduate school: use multiple metaphors for same situation often times involving either space or knights or both)

None of this is to say I want a campus like the oak-lined East Coast academia of Rice or for UH to use its clout to force gentrify the area, but I would like to see some understanding from the university that their responsibility to their students and their neighborhood goes beyond emailing the police blotter and patrolling the outlying parking lots. When I step into the classroom, it’s the only time my students and I even have the opportunity to live in the same world in a very large, very diverse city. But if we can’t agree where we are, if we’re pretending not to be in a city at all, then we’re nowhere and there are no implications outside of the classroom.

If the university thinks it needs to isolate itself in order to protect itself, the university doesn’t even know what it’s protecting.

Comment / Posted in Houston, School, Turtles

Exhibit 15.3

Merry Christmas

2 Comments / Posted in Christians, Holidays, School

Exhibit 1.22

I found this list on the poet Adam Clay’s blog a year or two ago so I’m not sure if it’s current, but it’s a big help. Normally I’d just link to the post on his blog, but I can’t find it anymore. In any case, if you know any more, please comment:

Creative Writing Ph.D. Programs

Florida State University
Georgia State University
Ohio University
Oklahoma State University
University of Calgary
University of Cincinnati
University of Denver
University of Georgia
University of Hawaii
University of Houston
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Iowa (PhD in English w/ creative dissertation)
University of Louisiana at Lafayette
University of Manchester
University of Missouri
University of Nebraska
University of Nevada (at Las Vegas)
University of Newcastle
University of Southern California
University of Southern Mississippi
University of Tennessee
University of Utah
University of Wales
University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee
Western Michigan University

5 Comments / Posted in School, Wales, Writing