Saturday, April 29, 2006

You totally want me to be your professor, don't you? Rowr.

I just finished writing my course description for the class that I'll be teaching next year, one of the university's required classes for non-English majors. It's basically an introduction to literature; the equivalent of Huma 101 if you went to Rice and need a reference point. I thought I would share it so you can be jealous of my students and how awesome this class is going to be.

Interpretation of Literature (section 24)
Instructor: Dr. N.N. Mind

Novelist Sinclair Lewis once said of authors, “We have the power to bore people long after we are dead,” a point that’s been well-taken by students in literature courses the world over. In this course we will break down “literature” into its constitutent parts, whatever we might determine those parts to be, taking on the question of “good” versus “interesting” and hopefully finding the convergence point between the two. Can we possibly read a “classic” without feeling the need for a nap after every chapter? We will attempt to develop the critical and analytical skills that make that more likely while looking at two novels, two plays, and a selection of poetry, short fiction, and essays. Along the way, we will consider how we are influenced as readers and how we, in turn, influence what we read, as well as taking on the question of what makes something “literature” and whether it matters. The goal will be to build critical reading and writing skills that can be applied both to future literary encounters and to encounters with the scholarly and professional world at large. Course requirements include two critical essays, a variety of informal writings, and a final exam, as well as, of course, active engagement and participation.

Required texts:

Shakespeare, Titus Andronicus (Signet Classics)
Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest (Avon)
Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (Penguin)
Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale (Doubleday)
Literature: A Portable Anthology, eds. Janet Garner, Berverly Lawn, Jack Ridl, and Peter Schakel (Bedford Books of St. Martin’s Press)

Friday, April 14, 2006

Unfortunately, a house did not fall on that irritating kid in my calligraphy class

So yes, for those of you who don't watch/read the news, a tornado did hit Iowa City last night, taking out a Dairy Queen, a Happy Joe's Pizza, and the roofs of several buildings including St. Patrick's Catholic Church.

I, fortunately, was in Coralville at the time, watching Big Trouble in Little China with friends and completely ignoring the situation. We heard the hail and the tornado sirens, but as we were in a basement apartment, we just turned up the volume and figured we'd hear the freight-train sound of the tornado if it got close. It didn't, fortunately. Instead it hit downtown Iowa City, knocking out power to a good chunk of the area and providing an occasion for drunken undergraduates to wander around and get in the way of emergency workers and National Guard personnel working to contain a gas leak downtown.

My apartment survived unscathed; fortunately I had gone home before going out to close the windows. The shed behind the building is listing pretty severely to the right, and down the hill you can see people working to close the giant hole in the Menards roof. Right now the biggest problems, though, seem to be that people are rubbernecking like idiots, making traffic kind of a pain. I'm solving that by hiding out in the library, and once I'm done here I'll take the roundabout way home.

So that's the story of the tornado. Unlike many of my friends, I did not see any funnel clouds, hear a noise like a train, or feel my ears pop from pressure. But my house and myself survived without damage, and so I think I'll just be grateful and go do some homework.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Think of the noodles!

So I was hosting a prospective graduate student earlier this week, which basically entailed spending $100 of the department's money on dinner and making sure she got all her questions about grad life answered, more or less.

We went to my favorite Thai restaurant for dinner, along with a few of my colleagues/cohort/friends (we wear many hats) from the department. Discussion was going along pretty swimmingly; we had heard about the propective's boyfriend, about her apartment hunt, and answered some questions about workload and so on. Very normal.

I had turned aside to talk to Mrs. K. about...I don't even remember, probably an assignment for class or our one classmate who keeps getting arrested. Something. And then I heard, "Yeah, if they do it wrong, you can totally lose all sensation."

I thought this was rather a weird sentence to hear from a prospective out of the blue—were we talking about some sort of surgery, a bizarre homeopathic remedy, or, most likely, some sort of medieval torture procedure that she had been reading about?

No. We were talking about clitoral piercing. To be specific, her clitoral piercing.

I will allow the women to pause for a full-body shudder right

Now, why would you get a clitoral piercing, honestly? Is the risk really worth the reward? I think it's pretty clear the answer is "hell, no." More important, though, is this question: if you had such a piercing, why in the name of all that's holy would you talk about it to people you've just met? People with whom you're going to be working in a (semi-)professional capacity for the next six years? It's beyond the pale, really. Although it was enjoyable to watch the dinner table's only male try to repress his repulsion.

I think this falls in sort of the same category as the phenomenon whereby strangers feel free to talk to me at all times for reasons I don't understand. Do I emit some sort of pheremone that says "tell me anything; I've got time for your crazy"? If so, I need to find that switch and flip it to "off."

Clitoral piercing. For the love of little green apples. I may never eat pud thai again.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Also, men who don't own a fairly sizeable drill. Freudian of me, I know.

So this is sexist and sort of irritating of me, but it's also true, and so I will tell you.

I can't really respect men who can't drive stick shift.

(That is not a euphemism, by the way.)

I mean, you know, not really. Like I don't correlate it with cheating on your taxes or being stupid. I just find it weird, like if someone told you they didn't know how to count to ten in another language. Isn't that something you're supposed to learn at some point?

Not to mention the fact that I am widely acknowledged to be a...questionable driver, and even I can drive a stick without stalling out. I can even start from a stop on a hill. I'm not saying I learned this effortlessly—oh, there were tears, my friend, tears and screaming—but I did learn it at 16, the age where no one can be taught anything.

And I'm not sure why I don't hold other women to this standard, although the more that I think about it, it's probably because I assume other women have the same being-taught-to-drive experience I did: namely, my brother was taught nearly from birth by my father, and I didn't learn until I was 15, from my mother. This is the sexist system that was used in my household, and which my sisters and I still vaguely chafe at whenever it's mentioned, although it really makes no difference at this point. Although, my younger sisters haven't been fully taught how to drive stick yet, for which my brother occasionally mocks them. However, please note which child gets the most speeding tickets: it's not a daughter.

So anyway. I'm not sure what the point of this is, except that when a guy mentions he can't drive stick, I have a little moment of superiority, and when a girl mentions that she can, I automatically (ha!) think she's cooler.

I realize this is a weak post, so let me just add: stop playing your guitar at MIDNIGHT, downstairs neighbor! And also, BASEBALL!