How to Write an Incredibly Important 25 Page Term Paper

About Criminality and Sexuality in Charles Dickens’ Works:

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(It looks like this. Check back after Friday at 4pm when this is due for more tales of how I learned to live in the library and had to carry around two bags because I had so many books.)

Part II:

It was hard. It was so so so hard. I’ve never written anything that length before, so I guess it was a good exercise considering I’ll be writing thesis next semester. Though we wrote and passed in ten pages of the paper in October, I had to scrap all of them because my argument and ideas changed. I’m glad, though…I am happier to have been stressed writing a paper that I feel really good, confident about versus one that was thrown together and easy. I spent nearly all my time in the library over the past week– even came back early from Thanksgiving break to work on it. But I feel incredibly accomplished, and a lot less stressed out. This coming week is the LAST WEEK OF CLASSES of the fall semester! I still have two final papers and a final exam, but I feel like the happiness finishing my term paper is going to propel me straight towards the end. And now I’m an expert on sexuality and criminality in Victorian England, and Dickens’ fond feelings for reforming prostitutes!

Being a Student at the Sorbonne

It sounds very impressive, doesn’t it? I feel like there’s only one University that people from the US know in France, and it’s the Sorbonne. So, as I’ve discovered since arriving in Paris (over 6 weeks ago!) that while being a student here is a very impressive and difficult undertaking, the entire French university system, from admission to class structure to expectations, is completely different. And it’s not a bad different, of course, it’s just a huge adjustment for me that gets slightly easier each class that I attend.

The facts: I’m taking two courses through my program, and two courses through the Sorbonne. My classes at Sweet Briar have been going strong since my first week, however, the Sorbonne semester just began on the 14th. I will be honest here and admit freely that the evening before my first class I was consumed by fear and dread. All that I’d heard to expect was leaving me shaking in my boots, and not just┬áproverbially. What I’d heard consisted of horror stories of professors who speak quickly, don’t care about students, don’t give syllabuses, expect the world, and students who only show up to get the notes to take the final. So, I sit here now a survivor of two weeks of these classes, and some of these rumors can now be dispelled. Some of them. The fact is, french courses are divided into two parts– a cours magistral, which is the giant lecture (both of mine have 500 plus students in them) that meets about 2 hours per week, and a travaux diriges, which I was led to believe was a smaller discussion section in which you actually interact with your professor and fellow students for around 3 hours a week. TDs do not quite reach that lovely Bates classroom intimacy that I’ve grown accustomed to– on the contrary ,though they are usually supposed to have no more than 30 students in each, one of mine has 73 students. Not a lot of discussion possible there.

The two courses I’m taking are Litterature Comparee: Hotes et parasites and Methodologie de Litterature, so pretty standard fare for an English major. My TD professor for comparative lit is really great– he’s lively and young and friendly, and is easy to understand. The lecture, or CM portion, though, unfortunately is not so easy. The professor was absent the first week of classes (this apparently is not a rarity in France) so I’ve only had her for two lectures so far, but her frame of reference is way out of my reach and my ability to understand her quick lecturing style is not super high. But what can you do? My methodology class is almost the opposite: the CM is a little easier to understand, a little less impossible to decipher the information being given. However, my TD is miserable. Brace yourselves, I’m going to complain right now. I’m fully aware that I am currently young, living in Paris, and without many cares in the world, but I’m just going to say this anyways. My professor is scary. And has incredibly high expectations. And our class meets between 5-8 pm. It’s just impossible for me to leave NOT feeling totally drained. But that’s my only issue, and it mostly stems from the giant hassle that is scheduling all your classes here.

In my comparative lit class, the reading list is kind of wonderful in a I-am-pretty-familiar-with-all-of-these way. The Odyssey, Tartuffe, a Hoffman story and Toni Morrison’s Beloved are the works that I will be comparing this seemster in class. My methodology course is a little more French-centric, about which I’m happy– what better place to be exposed to French lit than Paris? We’re reading Stendahl’s Le Rouge et le Noir and Diderot’s La Religieuse.

This may surprise you, but writing this blog has gotten me a little freaked out over going into the next week of classes and has prompted me to get down to business with all the reading I have to do. Hopefully this glimpse into the academics of a Parisian study abroad student made sense and painted a proper picture of the world in which I currently reside.

Firsts Week of Classes, check!

The first (official) weekend of the semester… and it feels just like home already. I’m already freaking out about getting to all of my meetings, rehearsals, and classes as well as doing all the reading and homework I’ve been assigned.

My schedule this semester is really convenient. I don’t have any morning classes, which really gives me a chance to take advantage of the earlier hours that some students spend still sleeping. Wednesday was my first installment of what I’m sure I’ll be considering a pre-1800 english massacre. I have two classes, Shakespeare and English Literary Renaissance, in a row. In the same classroom. If I don’t die, I think some other possible consequences could be: I start speaking entirely in iambic pentameter, utilize a lot of ‘thee’s and ‘thy’s and ‘thou’s, become welded with my desk, or decide to open a Shakespearean acting company. Not to say I’m not excited– as an English major, it is just these types of classes that really rouse my mind and get me thinking. My professors are passionate, intelligent, and very aware of the material, so I guess, truthfully, I’m just looking forward to the literary double feature.

That night, I had an officers meeting for the Outing Club. We all were really psyched to be planning a full fall calender of BOC events, including the bi-annual Clam Bake and the advance outing to our lean-to.

Next up, Thursday: Human Reproduction. The final requirement! This will be the last science class I ever take, and I’m going to be honest and say I’m pretty interested in the syllabus of the anthro/bio class. It was super hard to get into, a fight until the finish, but it looks like an great science class with relevant information for real life. Also, the professor is a new mother so she will definitely have a unique take on the information.

My hardest class, or at least the one that has me shaking in my boots, my class on Ulysses, is held Tuesdays, so I have yet to attend the seminar. The professor sent us an email though, which was so artfully written that I almost didn’t notice the 200 pages of reading we were assigned… awesome!

But I’m really pleased to be in the middle of the rush of school again. I can’t wait to be set in a routine where I get all of my things in order.

By the way, the leaves are already turning! The most beautiful time in Maine is here!

Language Arts Live Reading

On March 4, I had the pleasure of attending a wonderful prose reading of James Hannaham’s novel “God Says No” in another installment of the Language Arts Live series. I found Hannaham incredibly entertaining and engaging. Although this was my first prose reading, I could certainly imagine why they would prove difficult. The length of novels obviously restricts a reading, and then there’s choosing which part you want to read– what part you really like, what part you think doesn’t require too much background info, what part exemplifies the novel to you… Anyways, I was fully enthralled the entire time, and I can’t wait until I find the time to read the whole book.

Hannaham, who teaches creative writing at Pratt, has had many stories and pieces of criticism published in all sorts of impressive journals and collections. He was incredibly funny and very personable, and he read for about a half hour, then moved to questions.

I was sitting there truly enjoying myself; I didn’t have any particular questions but I wish people just kept coming up with more– I wanted to hear him answering them forever! His answers were so great, a perfect mixture of wit, real advice, and honest remarks. He loves to create, loves to get inside of his characters’ heads. I found his most helpful piece of advice to be that writers need to be okay with cutting down their writing. He explained how proud he felt when he finally learned to get rid of tangents in his work, and see how much better it could become.

He also talked about how he used to separate all writers into two categories: those who helped, and those who hurt. With an unknowing laugh, an audience member asked him to explain this statement. To him, literature seemed to either distract him or influence him in a totally positive way.

In any case, the reading was a great Thursday night activity. Hannaham was the first of three prose readings in the Language Arts Live series, and I’m looking forward to the other two. The series is being co-curated by one of my current professors, Eden Osucha. She made it an assignment to attend at least one of the three– but I’m certainly planning to go to all of them!