21 January 2009

What Am I Doing In School?

Feeling a little under the weather. Got up late, which meant that I missed a workshop at the college.

Tonight, the course I taught met for the last time. Actually, it's the date of the final exam, which meant that my students were turning in final projects. Well, you know what I'm going to be doing for a while. However, there's not nearly as much to do as there was at the end of the regular semester.

I'm really thinking about not taking that course I'd signed up for. Something in me says to take something "practical." After all, I don't know what the future holds for me in the academic world. And, right now, in spite of the people who've reached out to me, the good students I've had and even my department chair expressing enthusiasm for a course I'm teaching (and I created) this semester--and a collaboration I hope to pull off with a prof in another department--I still feel alienated at the college, and by the whole academic enterprise.

Right now I think that course I'm about to teach is bullshit. It probably is. So is the one I had planned on taking. All of it, really, is made-up: all contemptible, damnable bullshit. At times like this, I wish I had more aptitude for math or one of the other sciences. I mean, if I have to spend a good part of what years I have left in pursuit of another degree, why can't it be in something based on the real world. I think now of Anne, who's studying the stuff that makes up living organisms, including humans. And, at the last meeting for new faculty members, I talked to a geology professor. He's studying what makes up the ground we walk and the seas and skies that surround us. That means he's helping people understand tangible, basic things.

And what do we do in literature classes, particularly the "advanced" ones? We use conjecture and find or fabricate relationships between "texts" (which can mean almost anything) to come up with theories. Theories about literature. Just reading poems and stories and imagining the worlds they present takes me to the limits of my imagination; beyond that, I'm really not of much use. I am not an abstract thinker at all, so I don't know how in the world I'll make it through a class on literary theory. And I picked what is probably the least theoretical course offered in the Graduate Center's English Department, yet I'm having these thoughts.

Plus, I've come to see that with every PhD in English schools like the Grad Center turn out, this country becomes less literate, let alone literary. I think that having "experts" in fields like nineteenth-century novels actually makes other people less likely to read them. For one thing, all those smarty-pants PhDs speak--when they condescend to speak at all--in such dismissive tones that leaves other people feeling put off. I think that's one of the reasons why, in this country, we have many (and proportionally) more people with PhDs than other countries have, and people talk so much about the importance of education, yet we have a virulent kind of anti-intellectualism (and anti-art, -culture and -science attitudes) that other industrialized countries don't seem to have.

Enough of that ranting ramble for now. I could just cancel my registration for the class I would've been taking. But I still wish I weren't teaching that course I designed. For one thing, I'm not ready for it and I find I'd rather do almost anything than prepare for it. Why can't I teach the basic intro to literature class I had been scheduled to teach instead of the silly elective course I'm scheduled to teach?

I really want the next few months to be nice and simple. Why can't I teach only the basic courses I had been teaching before? A lot of people liked that well enough, and I didn't have to pretend that I was trickling new knowledge into minds that were thirsting for the latest literary theories.

Right now I wish I could skip over the coming semester or go someplace where nobody knows me. Then I wouldn't have to take or teach silly courses. I could just work and get myself ready for my surgery. Really, is that too much to ask?

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