14 May 2010

Brunch At The End, No Furlough For Now

There's no furlough...at least for now.   A judge issued a restraining order against it, and there will be a hearing on the 26th.

So it was business as usual at the college. Some classes met for the last time yesterday; others will meet for the last time on Monday or Tuesday.  Then the final exams begin.  This is the time of year when students you haven't seen in weeks come out of the woodwork and the stories  grow longer by the second.  Maybe it seems that way because I got so little sleep last night.

Yesterday there was a brunch for the English majors and minors who are graduating.  In a way, it was bittersweet:  I'm happy for them because they're graduating, but I'm also a bit sad the see them go.  One young woman, who was presenting the research she did as her honors project, was a student of mine during her--and my--first semester at the college.  Another student, in talking about the work she did, said that all she would miss about the college are the department and her professors.

Then there was Joan, a Haitian woman who did some fine research on the poetry of Leopold Senghor.  She took the hip-hop course I taught last year.  Last semester, I saw her in the hallway one afternoon, looking exasperated.  "You look upset," I said.

"That man is driving me crazy!"

"Typical guy.  What's his problem?"

"I can't figure him out."

"Well, you know, guys are simple." (Who would know better, right?)  

"Not him"

"Oh, dear."

"So tell me about him."

The man to whom she was referring was William Butler Yeats.  At the end of our conversation, she exclaimed, "I've got to have a talk with that man."

She's been accepted into a master's-Ph.D. program.  I have mixed feelings about that.  She may well have a successful career as an academic.  She has the commitment to scholarship and the intelligence she'll need.  I just hope the experience doesn't destroy her love of literature, as it does to so many other graduate students.   That's one of the things that made the course I took last year such a dreadful experience:  None of those students seemed to have any love of literature.  Most of the young professors I've seen don't have it, either.  In fact, I daresay that some of them, and my fellow students in that class, hate it.

I really wouldn't want to see Joan lose her passion for poetry and other kinds of expressive language.  I also wouldn't want her to become the petty, vindictive kind of person too many academicians are.  You could see some of those kinds of people on display at the brunch.  Predictably, they are parts of cliques, and will remain in them as long as those little, watered-down fraternities and sororities suit their purposes.  

And, I am reluctant to encourage any student, no matter how intelligent or talented, to pursue graduate studies in literature because the job market is so dismal.  Even during the so-called "good times," there have been hundreds or even thousands of applicants for every new position in any English or literature department.  I said as much to Jonathan, who's a bit socially awkward but who is, at least, achieving what he is on his intelligence and talent rather than on subterfuge.  He is quickly becoming one of the exceptions.

Another example of the petty politics that runs the department and college was evident at the beginning of the brunch.  At the department meeting the other day, a new chair was voted in.  She defeated the incumbent chair, who was supposed to host the brunch.  She had a "commitment" develop at the last minute, so the deputy chair stepped in.  

It was a good time and place to be a student.  I hung out with them after the presentations and speeches.  They, and the food--fried chicken and corn on the cob, along with some sides that I skipped--were the best reasons to be at that brunch.

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