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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

Hermione Goes Back to School

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

bread and puppet

"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

Hermione Goes Back to School

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Back when Bobby, yuanrang, and I seemed to be together more than we were apart, we all took on Harry Potter names. Well, yuanrang's sort of started it all: In his youth, before he grew his hair long and got rid of his "John Lennon Collection" round specs, he looked just like Harry Potter. I was a natural Hermione: besides being the only woman in our trio, I was geeky and driven and sometimes pedantic and had broken more than one grading curve in my day.

Bobby has since resurrected that old designation since I've gone back to school. Actually, I started it: While talking about the imminent start of my first two classes, I said that I'd have to try really hard not to be annoying in class discussions, always jumping in first and getting argumentative which ... erm, well I have a tendency to do because I enjoy debate so too much. Also, my classes are all online, so discussions are in forum format, which is a lot like fandom discussions, where my passionate views and endless geekery are less likely to be misinterpreted as hostility than in a "classroom" where most of my classmates are relative n00bs to the Internets. When my classes started on Monday, it wasn't four hours before I had completed all of my assignments that I could complete without the textbooks, which hadn't arrived yet. And so Hermione was back in school.

My first two classes are American Fiction and English Literature: Beowulf through the 18th Century. The second one--given my affinity for medieval literature--was the one I was looking forward to the most, but I've enjoyed my readings so far for American Fiction as well. This week's assignments for American Fiction were three short stories: "Rip Van Winkle" by Washington Irving, "The Minister's Black Veil" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, and "The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allen Poe. I have also started (and almost finished ... go figure) The Scarlet Letter, which is our first novel for that class. Other upcoming novels are Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises and Norris's McTeague. I'd read The Scarlet Letter as a high school junior (and I think I was the only kid in the class who liked it), but the other two will be new to me.

I am hoping, though, in this class that we do more reading by authors who aren't dead white guys, with no offense intended to the three we've read so far.

Beowulf to 18th is, by its very nature, a more motley collection of shorter readings. This week's assignment was Beowulf (which I'd read, though a different translation) and "The Wanderer." The list of readings for the upcoming week was so long that I don't remember any of them; in any case, they should all be new, which is good.

Next month, I start my Modern Epic Fantasy course (which I've been calling "the Tolkien class," as much of it focuses on Tolkien's works, of course). The books for that shipped yesterday, which I squeed over immensely. I just reviewed the shipping confirmation, and it seems Beowulf is in there again, as is The Hobbit. I guess one can't have too many Beowulfs. (The Danes would probably agree!)

This is my first time taking courses online. When I graduated from UMBC, online education was just getting underway, and most of the online schools were what Bobby and I used to call "cereal box schools": might as well get your degree out of a cereal box. I can tell that, by reviewing the syllabi for my two classes so far, that the amount of reading indicates that an equivalent cereal-box degree would involve quite a bit of digging and probably some poisonous spiders mixed in with the fluffy marshmallow clovers and rainbows.

Anyway, it's always interesting to see what one's classmates are like. For both classes so far, one of the first assignments was to introduce oneself to the class. The Current University requires a literature course before awarding a Bachelor's degree, and Beowulf to 18th is one of only two courses that satisfy it, so a lot of non-English majors take this course. I found it kind of amusing the number of people who, in their introductions to the professor and the class as a whole, said little more other than, "I hate literature and I didn't want to take this class but I had to and I think it's going to be more difficult than it's worth." I can't help but thinking that 1) that's not the best foot to start off with in a class, especially where one thinks one might struggle (and, therefore, depend on the benevolence of professor and classmates for help) and, 2) most importantly, it's just not a good attitude to have period, to go into an unfamiliar experience with the assumption that, "I'm going to hate this." Hey, there are subjects that I don't particularly care for; I have to take a political science class, for example, to get my second degree at this particular university. Having seen my husband through a political science degree and having, therefore, read/copyedited more papers than I care to count on the American Presidency and Constitutional law and international terrorism, I can say that it's a subject that never particularly interested me much. However, I do hope that when I have to take a course in it for the current program, that I don't go into it so convinced that I will hate it and that it is a waste of my time that any value I might have taken from the course is frittered away by my own dismal attitude.

Wow, I am writing really long sentences. I can only claim the influence of early American authors and their endless sentences ...

Anyway, in true Hermione fashion, I am on the edge of my seat for all of my courses and already trying to work ahead and already trying to read the various works numerous times. It feels really great to be back in school again.

This reminds me: Does anyone have an Hermione icons they don't mind sharing (with full credit, of course) or know where I can find any? I'd like one or several for my school posts, besides that Hermione is my favorite HP character so I should have one or several anyway. 8^)

And, most importantly, I'm shit lately for replying to emails and comments. If anyone wants/needs an immediate reply from me, email is still the best way. I still read my email several times a day, I just don't have time to reply right away, more often than not. My apologies for any unintended rudeness.
  • I have a few (very, very few) icons that can be found here.
  • I'd read The Scarlet Letter as a high school junior (and I think I was the only kid in the class who liked it), but the other two will be new to me.

    Must be a generational thing. Everybody liked it in my high school lit class because it was, well, about sex! Of course, everybody wanted her to tackle the minister, shag him senseless, and put him out of his misery early in the book (but we couldn't raise that in class discussions back in those days).

    Congrats, Hermione. Sounds great to me. In fact, you sound entirely like I would on the subject. (Must be why we get along.)

    Edited at 2008-08-11 01:49 am (UTC)
    • Everybody liked it in my high school lit class because it was, well, about sex!

      LOL. It's funny, we never got to read that one, so I might check that one out.
  • You're making me miss being an English student! ;)

    To offer a different perspective on those negative introductions (hopefully without sounding defensive or argumentative), I actually find it helpful when students express their "I'm probably going to hate this" doubts in their introductions (depending on how they express them, of course). Adopting a positive attitude can be a challenge, so the chance to see that others feel similarly and for teachers to address doubts and possible misunderstandings early on always helps a lot. (Not to mention, it is kind of interesting to look back at what you said at the start of the class and see if you feel the same way by the end of it. ;))

    But yeah, isn't the ability to get a good degree online these days great? :D Best of luck to you!

    Edited at 2008-08-11 02:59 am (UTC)
  • I've got some icons. I'll email them to you :)
  • Which HP character was Bobby? Oliver Wood? ;) One of the Weasley twins?

    I'm so happy that you are enjoying being back at school! :D It makes me a little envious...
  • Yay for going back to school! *Waves little flags"

    Aren't online classes great? I wish I had discovered them earlier. I don't know about you but, while I always enjoyed attending lectures, most of my learning was solo (I guess dropping out of high school has a tendency to turn one into an autodidact).

    I agree with both you and Niki about the "I hate ____" in class introductions. For the most part I'm with you - I find it unacceptable - but I also found it helpful to learn, in my online maths classes, that I was not the only one with math anxiety. Certainly, it doesn't help that you're experiencing it as a passionate English major, while this is just a "requirement" for everyone else. It's hard to relate to people who hate to write! :-P

    But... I think there's a fine line between, "I'm planning on hating every second of this class" and "I am apprehensive but I'm going to try my best." Of course, Internet communications being what they are these days, I suspect most people do ascribe to the first viewpoint, as in: "Im gng 2 h8 dis clss." ;-)
  • Oh, I adore "The Wanderer". I read it aloud to myself from time to time, honestly. :-D

    And I agree with you that an attitude of "I'm going to hate this subject anyway" isn't going to help anyone. I got my best grade in university in a subject I didn't know anything about and wasn't particularly interested in either at the beginning... but while working on my representation in class and the following paper I quickly realized, that hey! it wasn't so dull after all. I guess that in university, where many thing are a "must do" you should be really open towards all kinds of stuff or you're going to spoil yourself all the fun you might probably have.

    P.S.: Don't worry about commenting. After all, there's more to life than LJ! ;)
  • Hmmm I always loved Hemingway! You know, when you said you were going back to school, I actually thought that it wouldn't be online classes at all, but you know classical stuff. But the world is changing fast and it makes it easier on people who want to get extra degrees, but are not able to arrange a babysit for the evening, to actually go back to school.

    No worries about e-mail, if I need you, I know where to find you *hugs*
  • When I start teaching my Medieval history course -whose immediate relevance is not all that clear to my prospective students - I'm quite used to getting "I'm going to hate this and it's a perfect waste of useful time" faces (not on-line courses) but I don't take it too seriously. I think it's up to me to make it relevant and useful and yes, even fun. I sometimes get it (not all the courses are hits) and don't bear grudges (well, sometimes but not too often).
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