I am done with my essays and FREE AS A BIRD!
(For a few weeks, anyway…)
Get ready, I’m about to unleash a whole lot of nerdy on y’all.
I know, I said “y’all”. Yikes.
Anyway, I have friends and family asking me what I’m doing over here in the UK, what I’m learning, what my life as a grad student is like. So, I’ve decided to write a post and tell you about my seminars, my weekly schedule, and fun things I’m doing within my department.
First of all, I only have three classes a week, for a total of six hours with an actual professor and other students. Two of these classes are related to my MA program. The other class is a French language class, just to keep up with what I’ve learned and improve my writing skills. (Trust me, I’m really rusty with writing. It’s pretty bad.) Of my two MA seminars each week, one is a “core” course. It is convened by the head of my department, which I think is wonderful. It’s a thorough introduction to the department and a helpful way to transition into postgraduate writing/academic rhetoric. The other MA seminar is an optional module. I’ve chosen a class on Romanticism and Sentimentalism because I like the time period and it gives a nice overview of the period. All of my classes require a fair amount of reading and my two MA courses are each assessed by an essay (20+ pages) at the end of the term. Even though I’m not “in class” for very long, I make up for it in the library!
While I enjoy my seminars, it’s all of the postgraduate research forum and research seminar events that I have really started to appreciate. Each Tuesday, Ph.D. students (and some MA’s) from York and other universities come and present their research and papers. It’s completely student run and it’s a great time to learn from each other, make friends, and ask questions. I love hearing what other people are interested in researching and it’s helped me to get ideas for my own studies. Later on in the evening, CECS (Centre for Eighteenth Century Studies) hosts a research seminar, where academics (from York and beyond) come and share their research/books/papers/etc. I’ve heard a few thought-provoking talks and it’s another important time to learn from the people around me. I love the fact that I’m able to have regular access to people within my department and from other universities. It makes me feel like I’m part of a “family”, even though I arrived only a month ago.
At the moment, I’m working on formulating my essay topics for the end of term, as well as thinking about my MA dissertation. Additionally I’m in the beginning stages of writing a research proposal for the Ph.D. program at York. If possible, I’d really like to stay and continue my education with CECS. It’s an extremely liberating feeling to be able to do the research that you really want to do. It’s such a privilege to study here and to learn from them. I couldn’t have picked a better program. And everything I’ve said is not all hyperbole, it really is that good.
So, that’s how I’ve been spending the last month of my life in the UK! Now you have a better idea of what I’m doing and how I’m spending my time. If you have any more specific questions, please feel free to drop me some questions in the comments!
Family and friends, I’m officially off to England! Today marks the start of my graduate studies and (hopefully) the beginnings of an academic career. I am so excited to kick off the next chapter of my life, for as long as it may last.
For some reason, this move feels way more “permanent” than France for various reasons. If I end up staying in the UK for my Ph.D, I’ll be spending up to five years. Now, I’m just trusting in God for his provision every day, no matter what that looks like.
For those of you who don’t know where I’ll be living, (not London, as a good majority my American friends/family seem to think) It’s a city called York, about 2.5 hours north of London via train. It’s gorgeous and it has my dream graduate program. I’m excited to call it home for as long as the Lord lets me.
And with that, I’m off! Please keep me in your prayers. Wifi is going to be a bit spotty for the first week until I get tapped into the campus’ internet so there’s going to be some radio silence for a few days. But as soon as I’m able to get back to blogging, I will!
Since I am a grad student in 18th century British Literature and I have my Bachelor’s Degree in English, I thought I’d take this opportunity to educate my readers on what I do… more or less. You might have guessed it, but reading is over half of my job. Day in and day out, I always have a book in hand or in front of my nose.
And I read it all: novels, scholarly articles, literary criticism, short stories, poems, etc. I can recall during my undergrad at UCLA reading up to 13 books within a ten week span! Phew! (You get really good at moving through text quickly) Over the years, us English nerds have certain ways at looking at different genres of literature. We use specific “tools” to interpret and get the most out of our studies.
But for today, I’m going to focus on reading poetry well and gleaning something meaningful from (sometimes)a jumble of words. We all know that poetry comes in a wide variety. It can be a sonnet, free-verse, rhymed, unrhymed. A great bard, like Shakespeare, could have written it. An angsty teen could have scribbled a verse or two in the back of his math notebook. But no matter what form it takes, I’m about to divulge some tried and true techniques that I’ve used to make some sense out of poetry.
Tip 1: Read the poem completely before trying to pick it apart
This is kind of a biggie, folks. I never analyze a poem before I’ve read it through all the way. This simple technique gives you an important thing: context. Context is like a frame, it helps you make sense of where the poem is within a particular place in the world, moment in time, or emotion. Sometimes, a poem might start off a certain way and twist around at the very end, leaving the reader a little confused. Knowing the context of the poem helps alleviate the confusion, setting you up for full comprehension and maximum literary enjoyment.
Tip 2: Know your author
Well, I don’t mean personally. But unless the poet is “anonymous”, do a little digging into their biography. Finding out about the author can give you some clues into the period in history and social/political climate when the piece was written. For example, John Donne and Maya Angelou come from very different moments in history and write about their world from unique points of view. And obviously, their poetry reflects their world and life experiences. Knowing something about the author orients the reader towards a crucial thing: clarity.
And if you don’t know the author, no sweat! Figure out roughly when and where the poem was written. Often, just knowing the historical moment the piece comes from opens up a lot of doors and helps me understand!
Tip 3: Identify rhyme scheme and punctuation
This is where things get a little bit technical. Look at the poem. Does it rhyme? What kinds of punctuation does it employ? Do you notice a succession of words that begin with the same letter (alliteration)? Often, this type of thing sets the tone. And remember, a poem doesn’t have to rhyme or use perfect punctuation in order to be considered “good”. Often times, those things are used artistically to convey mood or emotion.
Tip 4: Look for words with meaning
Yeah, this is fairly obvious. When I read poetry I look for words about emotions, body parts, colors, locations, animals, and nature. Often, these sorts of things in poetry have a double meaning. A great example that we use in our everyday language is the word “blue”. It can literally describe the color or an emotional state. The same sentiment goes into poetry, obviously on a more complicated scale. When you come across a word that you think could have significance, think of different associations that the word may have!
Tip 5: Read it out loud
I always read poetry out loud! Not only is it entertaining for your likeminded nerdy friends, it helps you to get a sense of the rhythm of the poem. This is what I call “cadence”. Let’s face it. Words on a page and words that are spoken take on very different forms. Giving life to words on a page isn’t only a great tool in comprehension, it’s a powerful way to make the piece come alive!
So now, try out your new poetry skills with this e.e. cummings poem! I’ve included some facts about him here, to give you some biographical info!
somewhere i have never traveled,gladly beyond
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond any experience,your eyes have their silence: in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me, or which i cannot touch because they are too near your slightest look easily will unclose me though i have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens (touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose or if your wish be to close me, i and my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly, as when the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending; nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals the power of your intense fragility:whose texture compels me with the color of its countries, rendering death and forever with each breathing (i do not know what it is about you that closes and opens;only something in me understands the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses) nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands
Have any other tips about reading poetry? What catches your eye when coming across this literary form? Leave me some comments!
Here I am, contemplating my return to school. Or erm, the beginnings of graduate school. And I know that my future will hold writing. Tons and tons of writing. And to be honest, it’s a little bit daunting. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve written plenty of papers during my undergrad years, but the idea of presenting papers at conferences and starting master’s thesis work still gets me a little nervous. So at times like these, I like to turn to some famous writers for a little inspiration. Consider it a “pep talk” from some of the coolest authors and literary thinkers of the 20th century, okay?
Have any other quotes to share? Drop it in the comments!