Thursday, April 15, 2010

You Pick Two: My First Quarter at DePaul

My newest haunt

I get two classes this autumn quarter. That's rough. Coming out of my senior year of undergrad where I could take anything I wanted, and last spring's balls-to-the-wall semester of 20 credits (because I felt like it), this feels incredibly limiting! I think it's actually not a problem that I will only be dividing my attention between two course -- it's probably more like an opportunity. I'm sure they set up the graduate program with that in mind. We might have things we want to do on our own at this point. But if they only let us take two classes, why do they have to offer so much good stuff!

This actually isn't as bad as I make it seem. DePaul is on the quarter system, which means I'll get to take another four classes next spring (two in "winter" session, two in "spring" session). So it may be two at a time, but only for 10 weeks.

But as I load up my "course cart" (I'm putting in all my lovies and then comparing them) it's not just a juvenile inability to make decisions that's causing anxiety. It's planning the next two years (maybe a little less) so that I get everything I can out of this MA, a middle step I hadn't planned on taking in the first place.

I have divided my goals into two paths -- literature immersion (I call it that because we never get below the surface in undergraduate survey courses), and what I'll call professionalization.

Literature immersion is possible in so many ways at DePaul -- they offer some tight period and author courses (tight as in short periods within a single genre or author, but probably also "tiiiiight" as in "sick"), and special topics classes, like this quarter's "Angels and Devils in Medieval Literature." This semester there are two exciting ones for me, on 18th Century novels and on Modern American poetry. I need a few well chosen lit courses for the degree, and I need these personally because they're periods I can do things with, and I would really like to read within them more closely. But lo! The schedule presents to me so many non-literature courses I'm fixing to delete everything literature from the "cart"!

Down the professionalization path we find the intense, required literary criticism class that will train us to do our work, the research and bibliography class (that will train us to do their work -- I'm not just being a jerk, it's required first-year for research assistants), and finally we have "Teaching Literature." I'm not sure about the teaching -- I won't use it here, not anytime soon. But that lit crit class! I'm desperate for it, but I'm afraid I've done too much of that lately -- and I'm starting to spout fluff.

I must admit there's a middle path in between (and sometimes winding outside of) these two, and that's the linguistics and style track. I don't wish to be a linguist, but I like the philosophy that comes with it, and I am crazy about talking and writing on style. DePaul must have some resident style crazies, because there are four regular revolving classes in it, with special topics style courses cropping up here and there. On the schedule this semester is "History of English Prose Styles," and I just find that too exciting for English words.

So my personal dilemma for this quarter is to decide whether I'm going to dive into the literature, hover above it, or dissect it. We have to do all of these things, assume all these different roles, at some point. But my first quarter feels like a chance to start myself off on the right path, especially with only a year from fall until I begin filling out applications all over again. Are they going to want me to know how to teach already? Probably not, but what if I have to get a job? Are they going to want me to score higher on that damn literature test this time around? Wouldn't hurt. I would like to be less pragmatic and more open to whatever strikes my fancy about all these things -- but I'm old enough to know a year is a fleeting short time.

I'm sure none of this matters. Anybody got a coin I can flip? I might keep it too.

Here's what's in the little shopping cart, with notes and days so you can see the painful conflicts. I have no idea how seven classes ended up in there. (They say never go shopping hungry. Apparently I'm starving.) All seven courses count toward the degree requirements. Votes and comments appreciated, and then I'll have to leave five of these melting at the register (the teaching class is already looking a little soggy).

  • History of English Prose Style (incl. history of critical approaches to style) - W
  • Modern American Poetry (Frost, Eliot, Pound, Stevens, Williams) - M
  • Teaching Literature (mixes us with high school teachers. uggggh.) - Th
  • 18th Century Novel (Defoe, Richardson, Fielding, Sterne) - M
  • Structure of Modern English (linguistics and stylistics) - Tu
  • Bibliography and Research (useful useful useful) - Tu
  • Studies in Literary Criticism (starting with Aristotle!) - Tu

If all goes well, by next quarter I will be able to choose my own classes without consulting magic 8 balls.
Photo credit: / CC BY-ND 2.0

I'll have to get back there and take some of my own now that the trees are alive again.
It was really cute, as I went through the flickr photos of McGaw Hall there were other anxious new students who labeled it with things like "My soon to be new digs!" I'm not the only English student who gets excited about silly things.


  1. I just realized I should have written this whole thing as a grocery store or food conceit. Well, I still think I could work up a "food pyramid" of English courses of study, for proper English student nourishment.

    What would theory be? The scary eye at the top of the pyramid?

  2. Knowing you and your interests, I'd vote for History of English Prose Style and Studies in Literary Criticism ;)

  3. Just keeping all the votes together -- Emily posted to Facebook and voted for the 18th century novels!


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