07 October 2009

Getting Schooled: The First Few Weeks

It hadn't occurred to me until the other day, when my mom asked me how school was going, that we've barely posted anything about our studies on the blog. I'm not sure why--maybe we just got into the habit in our last job of keeping our professional and personal lives mostly separate (the old blog was a personal space), or maybe we've just been so caught up in the first few weeks of the term that we've been too burned out to write about it. Probably a little bit of both.

Anyway, I'm here to remedy that.

First, grad students in general frequently complain about either a) how hard you have to work in graduate school, or b) how hard it is to work hard when you don't have people telling you what to do all the time. I think spending the last two years as a full-time teacher has helped. 50+ hours per week was pretty much the minimum last year, and Nana and I were tasked with structuring the academic years of 40+ students. Compared to that, taking responsibility for one student doesn't seem like such a big deal.

That said, we have been working pretty hard. For example: two weeks ago, as part of my program's standard research methods course, I was given about 72-hours to complete a "bibliographical assignment" that included a complete prospectus, syllabus, and annotated bibliography for an imaginary seminar entitled "The Scottish Fiction Market: 1800-1900." Such assignments are generally designed as crash courses in research. They take a sink-or-swim approach--there's no way to complete them in the time given without making yourself very, very familiar with the local libraries, the relevant search engines, etc. It also forces you into efficient reading, which is good, since I have a tendency to read . . . very . . . slowly. . .

Since then, I've roughly split time between preparing for classes and beginning background reading for possible essay topics. I'm in two courses: "Cultures of the Book," my core course, which covers a wide range of book history topics from ancient times right through to the present; and "The Literature Industry," which focuses on the production and consumption of books in the 19th century.

For "Cultures," I'm tentatively planning to write on some aspect of how readers get the most out of limited reading time (for example, how readers in the 18th & 19th centuries used reviews as substitutes for books). For "Industry," I'm thinking of writing on Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of Charlotte Brontë.

Beyond that, I don't quite know what more to say, though I'm certainly open to suggestions. If you've got any burning questions, either about the stuff I'm studying, or about what studying in Scotland is like, ask! and ye shall receive a rambling blog post in reply (which may or may not contain a satisfactory answer).

No comments:

Post a Comment