Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Day 156
31 January 2006

Had to turn in my first translation today, of a classical Greek poem. I really struggled with it, because the actual Greek words just didn't say anything to me, so translating it was more like someone giving me a topic, a few details, and telling me to write a poem. I am a person who just should not write poetry under any circumstances, as you will have realized if you read my haiku in an earlier post. The tone of the Greek poem was very much elegiac, so I finally decided to write mine in Anglo-Saxon long-line alliterative form. The Anglo-Saxons were big into elegies, so it seemed like an appropriate choice, besides which the big caesura in the middle of the line adds a visual and aural suggestion of absence. The result was not great, but it could have been a lot worse. And it was not the worst poem that was turned in, IMO. One of other students turned one in that I thought was a little careless – it was like he hadn't really put a lot of thought into his imagery. He used lines like “AK-47's don't cry,” which seemed a bit facile to me. OK, so mine wasn't that much better. Here's a fairly literal translation, not done by me, of the original Greek, followed by my effort:

Callimachus: Epigram on Heracleitus
Heracleitus, someone mentioned your death, and
brought me to tears; I remembered how often both of us
made the sun set by our talking. But you,
Halicarnasean friend, though you long, long ago became ashes,
yet your nightingales live on, upon which
Hades, plunderer of all things, shall never lay hands.

He feels so stupid, having said your name.
A grave error, indeed, but I had not forgotten.
Trying to atone, he stumbles on.
"At least we have her letters! Death can't lay a hand on those!"
I could kill some time re-reading them, I suppose,
But I can't converse with them. Their terse cantos have
Nothing new to say.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

alter ego

Day 146
21 January 2006

One of the assignments for my Romanticism class is to pick either a work or an author that we are studying this semester and do a survey of recent criticism on that topic. We had to email Dr. Blackwood (the professor; not his real name) yesterday afternoon and let him know which topic we wanted to work on. Then while I was talking to Sara this afternoon, we discovered that we had both requested the same topic (Maria Edgeworth). So I emailed Blackwood again and asked him if we could work together on it. I am beginning to think that Sara and I are actually the same person ... or perhaps I am her evil twin.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

first response

Day 142
17 January 2006

We're required to write a response to three of the plays we read in Drama over the course of the semester. We get to choose which ones we want to respond to, but I haven't even heard of most of the stuff we're reading. I signed up for one by Tom Stoppard, whom I've at least heard of and know I like, and two others completely at random. I'm also a big fan of getting stuff out of the way early in the semester, before bigger assignments start coming due, so I chose to write a response to the very first play we're reading, Arcadia. I enjoyed it quite a bit, but really struggled to write two whole pages (single-spaced!) of analysis. Also, it wasn't until I looked at the syllabus that I realized I was going to have to read my analysis aloud to the class, as a basis for that day's discussion. Yikes. And of course I put it off until the absolute last minute, and then stayed up until 5 a.m. writing the response, which was incredibly stupid, because after about 2 a.m. my brain is no longer capable of producing good writing. Fortunately I don't have class until 1:35 on Tuesdays, so I had time to finish up my response this morning. My new resolution: never to stay up past 2:00 a.m., even if it means not getting my homework done.

It turns out that having a geek husband can sometimes be an advantage, even in an English graduate program. Arcadia had a lot of math in it – not numbers or equations, necessarily, but math concepts and math jokes, some of which I only understood because of conversations I've had with Glen. Stoppard started the play with a joke about Fermat's theorem, which I understood (the joke, not the theorem, obviously), and was inordinately pleased with myself for understanding. Fractals showed up a lot in the play as well, both implicitly and explicitly, and I was also pleased with myself for noticing that. My classmates declared themselves impressed by my mathematical knowledge, and I was terribly flattered.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

more back to school

Day 135
10 January 2006

Honors 303: Translation
Yes, it’s an undergrad class. No, I’m not getting graduate credit for it. I don’t care. As previously mentioned, I enjoy grappling with problems of translation, and I love Old English, which is the language I’ll be translating for my class project.

Before going to this class, I was thinking about dropping it. It kind of comes down to a question of pragmatism versus ... well, hedonism might be a little strong, but I’m really only taking it for fun. Anyway, having been to the class once, I am determined to keep it on my schedule. The professor’s enthusiasm is infectious, and I’m very excited about the prospect of reading Anglo-Saxon poetry again. There are about a dozen students in the class, and at least ten different languages intended for translation, including the usual (French, Spanish, German, Latin) and a few that are more exotic (Old Spanish, Korean, Arabic, Latvian, Chinese).

English 641: Drama
I’ve been looking forward to this class at least as much as the others I’ve signed up for, but when I saw the syllabus I almost gave up and left. I am expected to write and produce/direct an original 5-10 minute theater piece for the class, dealing with some aspect of “ritual.” I’m terrified by this. There’s a reason I’m not in the creative writing emphasis, and that reason is that I’m not a good creative writer. Non-fiction I can do. Analytical work I can do. Translation I can do. And I love acting. But creative writing? No can do. I suppose many children read books that really inspire them, and then want to write stories of their own; I know I did. And I have a fairly vivid imagination. But somewhere along the line, I realized that a vivid imagination does not necessarily translate to good creative writing. (Fortunately, I realized that before I started showing my work to other people, thereby avoiding a great deal of unpleasantness.) I am seriously thinking about dropping this class.

I had an interesting conversation with Brook just after class let out. She is going to Africa this summer, and talks about how she wants to travel the world doing humanitarian work (admirable) even after she gets married and has children. She’s currently investing in real estate in order to finance this proposed career; she feels that really, everyone could do this kind of thing if they wanted to, but people just don’t make it a priority. Spending the rest of her life in suburbia, she says, would drive her to suicide. She drifts into another conversation, and I am left to ponder my lack of both hip-ness and ambition. I can’t afford to travel the world; I can’t afford to invest in real estate; I can’t even afford to buy a house like the extremely suburban model I currently rent. My husband works a 9-to-5 in order to finance my expensive tastes (like education), and his employer declines to pay people who don’t show up for work, regardless of what other admirable or noble activities they may be performing in the interim. I freely admit that I am not nearly as cool as Brook - she’s a modernist, after all, and I’m a Romanticist - but I’ve never felt that bad about enjoying my quiet suburban life. Am I too boring/selfish to make humanitarian work a “priority”? Apparently so.

Monday, January 09, 2006

back to school

Day 134
9 January 2006

English 674: Romanticism
Nice that this is my first class of the semester - my first “real” class in grad school, in fact. I feel comfortable here, socially and academically. I know most of the people in the class. This is the time period I want to study. Sara is here, which means I have at least one actual friend in the class. We’ll be focusing on the Regency (1811-1820) and reading several works from that time, which is good, because in all honesty I have to admit that I’m a bit behind in that regard. I’ve read some history of the period, and a moderate amount of criticism, but if I’m going to write about novels of the Romantic era, I think it might be best to read some of them first.