Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Let's talk about something else for awhile.  Please.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I'll update you on school.  I have three classes this semester (as usual-- that's a full load for this program).  One of them-- History and Structure of the English Language-- is a Linguistics class.  I adore this class because there are no papers.  We have 3 tests (the first of which is next week), and homework assignments, and that's it.  No papers.  Did I say that already?

The only problem with it is that it involves memorizing things, and my memory is shot.  Peri-menopause will do that to you.  It actually scares me sometimes how bad my memory has become.  I've always been spacey, but this is absurd.  I made flashcards with the phoneme descriptions on them so I could study for the test.  Did you know that the long "ee" sound in "bead" is a "high front long unrounded" phoneme?  or that the "sh" sound in "shin" is an "unvoiced alveo-palatal fricative"?  that's OK, because I don't either.  but I have to know it by next Tuesday.

 Then there's Modernist Poetry.  We started this semester with Leaves of Grass (Walt Whitman).  When I read Whitman as an undergrad lo these many years ago, I did not appreciate "Song of Myself" (the main poem in Leaves of Grace) at all.  It seemed self-aggrandizing and bombastic:
I celebrate myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you....
But 30 years later, it's so exuberant that I find it hard to resist.  After all, he acknowledges his own bombast:
I know perfectly well my own egotism,
and know my omnivorous words, and cannot say any less,
And would fetch you whoever you are flush with myself.
Here is part of his encouragement to the reader:
Long have you timidly waded, holding a plank by the shore,
Now I will you to be a bold swimmer,
To jump off in the midst of the sea, and rise again and nod to me
and shout, and laughingly dash with your hair...
and a few more good lines:
I hear and behold God in every object, yet I understand God not in the least,
Nor do I understand who there can be more wonderful than myself.

Why should I wish to see God better than this day?
I see something of God in each hour of the twenty-four, and each moment then,
In the faces of men and women I see God, and in my own face in the glass;
I find letters from God dropped in the street, and every one is signed by God's name,
And I leave them where they are, for I know that others will punctually come forever and ever.
And of course his most famous lines:
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then....I contradict myself;
I am large....I contain multitudes.

Now we are doing Eliot, but I'll wait till we're done to pass on the good lines.

OK.  Poetry moment for the day is over. Unless you have some favorites you want to share in the comments.

The third class is a continuation of the independent study I did last Spring on Ulysses.  We're creating an online version of the text, which eventually will be annotated with explanatory notes, pictures, music clips, etc.  It's very cool.  But right now we're reading through the text.  For me it's the second time, but the other three students in the class have never read it before.  Fortunately, the second time through it is an entirely different experience (you may remember that last spring I wasn't all that excited about it).  I'm enjoying it much more this time, although I still regularly get lost.

And that's about it for now. 

1 comment:

  1. just for the record, that should be Leaves of GRASS, not Leaves of Grace, but I'm leaving it there because it is not a big enough error to make it worth popping this back up to the top of everybody's RSS feed.