Sunday, March 14, 2010

seven hundred billion stairs

The first two weeks of term are always draining and raining. I spent the first week in a daze with "buy notebooks" on my hand, trying to remember the names of people I'm sure I've met. There are lots of orange tanned people. None of my lecturers can work the projection system. There's standing in the massive line at the bookstore to spend over $200 on textbooks, then another hour in the second hand bookstore to spend far too much on Shakespeare and books that I don't need for school, but want to read anyway. The stairs still steal my breath. The bus line gets longer every year, and they still haven't realised that they need more than one bus at midday.

It's good to be back.

Although I feel a little out of place, like someone is going to tap me on the shoulder and ask me where my mummy is. Like I've been let into second year by mistake, and the computers haven't noticed yet.

The subjects I'm taking are mostly history based, so as I've been doing the readings, I've managed to forget that there's this thing called the Internet. Really. When reading about trade routes or city walls in 15th Century Europe, or sex hierarchies in Ancient Greece, I'm sort of amused and awed by the way people found something to do with their lives other than post comments on Facebook. Which is what every student with a laptop is doing during lectures.

While I'm still managing to make an idiot of myself in tutorials, my lectures are interesting (so far) - my Modern Europe; Renaissance to Revolutions lecturer managed to make city walls almost as interesting as the awful things people used to do to one another (reigniting my interest in Heloise & Abelard). My History of Sexuality class isn't so much about sex, as it is about what people think of sex, identity and the relation between the two. And the two subjects link quite nicely with one another, as does my third class (yes, I'm being lazy and doing 3 classes. I couldn't find a fourth one I liked)

I did run away from Creative Writing, but it was more of a considered retreat. I found myself sitting in the first lecture being ridiculously worried by the number of people wearing berets. I myself own two berets, but had forgotten to wear one that day. I then realised that I would spend the entire semester in a ridiculous state of self derision and judgment, which would result in much unneeded angst and bad writing. So I enrolled in Shakespeare & Renaissance Drama, and couldn't be happier. The lecturer is brilliant, and the fact that we get to study other playwrights from Shakespeare's era is awesome, because the sex-violence-nexus focus of the time is fascinatingly dangerous, scintillating and so very clever.

I don't think I really wanted to be a writer anyway - a creative writer at least. I don't like the word "creative" as it simultaneously says "what we do is better than academic writing" and "this isn't real work". The idea of there being a correct way to write is also unnerving. But what terrified me most was having to share my work every week. I don't like having to explain my choices to people, and will often attempt to blind you with library science and intertextuality if you ask me to justify myself. "If Marcel Proust did it, so can I!". Why I'm trying to justify my choice to drop Creative Writing is beyond me. I'm happier writing papers with an academic edge, working on developing my own voice in essays. Is that nerdy? I don't really care.

Back to Shakespeare. We're currently studying Romeo & Juliet. I once saw a production of R&J done by girls from my school and boys from the local private. The concept somehow involved Bruce Springsteen songs as musical interludes performed by ex-students. The masquerade scene had Lady Capulet dressed as a naughty Red Riding Hood. Having never read the play until now, I was quietly pleased that it's much much funnier and bawdier than any school production is ever allowed to be.

And while the stories Shakespeare told are old hat to us, I think it's important to remember that at the time, this was new - it was fresh. The tale of Romeo and Juliet went against all social conventions, and today still forces a judgment of the characters. Richard the 3rd (one of my dear favourite plays) is amazing political propaganda for the Tudor family, as is Henry VIII. The plays also saw the invention of phrases that are still in use "beast with two backs" and "forgone conclusion" being but two. My highschool English teacher, when asked why we had to study Hamlet, placed her hands to her expansive bosom and sighed. "Because, my darlings, are we not all, in some way, Hamlet?" What she lacked in clarity, she made up in gravitas.

I suppose I could have just said "I took Shakespeare because it fit in my timetable" instead of waxing lyrical, but waxing lyrical about things is what I'm best at, and what this blog is all about.

1 comment:

Chris Stokes said...

I was trying to think the other day of how much Shakespeare I can quote. The answer is, shamefully, not much. Although I think I decided my favourite is;

"You blocks, you stones,
You worse than senseless things."