2014, Archives, September 2014, The MFA Years


So this is how I’m going about my posts. I figure that this year, I’ll be a student in three classes per semester. So I’ll do a post each month focused on my experience in a different class, and then in the final month of each semester I’ll do a wrap-up post.

I’ll be honest that I was intimidated at the thought of taking a lit class. I once took one of these random quizzes on Facebook that measured your reading speed. Most of my friends read at the speed of a freshman or sophomore in college. I read at the pace of an eighth-grader. I didn’t see how on earth grad school was going to happen. But I knew I wanted this degree, so somehow I was going to suck it up and deal with it.

And when I saw there was a lit class in American Realism and Modernism, with the topic of the role of money in literature, I knew I couldn’t turn it down. Modernism is my favorite era and has had some influence on my writing. I write about social class a lot. Selecting this course was a no-brainer.

The course is taught by Eric Heyne, the most senior faculty member in the UAF English department. He’s a fantastic instructor, brilliant, affable, engaging. And he’s put together quite an enjoyable reading list: The Rise of Silas Lapham, McTeague, and The House of Mirth, amongst others.

A lit class, at least the way he does it, is actually an enjoyable way to spend my Wednesday afternoons. There isn’t much lecture. We mostly just get into a deep, involved discussion about the text of the day. There are five of us in the class, three MFA’s and two MA’s. We get along really well, and I appreciate hearing their diverse views on our readings.

I think the most surprising thing about my class is discovering how I read. I use a feminist filter quite a bit, and I tend not to read works in a particularly straightforward manner, figuring how novels are functioning as parables or arguments. When I get to class, it’s fascinating to find out how other people read differently. I’d only had one lit class in undergrad, so all of this is a revelation to me.

If you end up here, I highly recommend this course, though it will likely be taught with a different focus next time.

And those grave fears about my keeping up with reading? Nothing will teach you how to speed-read like being a graduate student. Somehow, I’m mostly keeping up.

In case you’re wondering, today was the first day we got any real snow, though it’s melting when it hits the ground. Ordinarily, the snow would have hit about a week ago, but it’s warmer than average right now.

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