Season of Learning

The second week of classes ended today, and in a shocking twist of events, I’m learning a lot.  Ultimately this looks like it’s going to be a front-loaded semester for me: both my internship and my thesis have a lot more things that need to be done before November than after.  Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing depends on if I make it to November!

I think the biggest thing I’ve learned from graduate school is how to channel what is holding my interest into what I am working on.  As an example, I read a lot, and I’m currently interning for two publications that focus on Texas/Southwest literature.  So, if I focus my reading list toward those topics, I have a good chance of using some of my pleasure reading to develop a publishable essay or book review.  It might seem obvious, but for me at least, it’s sometimes very difficult to remember that my work and fun are NOT completely separate.  Similar examples:  My wife loves “Family Feud.”  I grew up watching the show with Richard Dawson and Ray Combs hosting, and it’s very interesting to see the almost-20-years-later version with Steve Harvey hosting in comparison.  Now, I’m taking a class about Cultural Rhetoric, and it would be very easy to imagine an essay that uses my knowledge from having watched the show extensively to build a comparison of the racial/sexual interactions on the show with Harvey as compared to the show with previous hosts.  I did similar things with my love for the movie The Big Chill and the Bob Dylan album Blood on the Tracks last year, in the form of gender/feminist critiques of those works.  All three of the aforementioned topics will work as proposals for the Southwestern Popular Culture Association conference, which it just so happens a deadline is approaching for!  Additionally, I just received the good news that I’ll be presenting at the Rhetoric Society of America’s 2014 conference.  My paper title is “A Supposedly Rhetorical Thing: David Foster Wallace, Burke’s Identification, and Television.”  The first iteration of the paper was born out of thinking a lot about DFW while taking my first semester of Rhetoric classes.

Another one I’m still working on tying in is my work/interest on genealogy.  There’s material for discussing why genealogy has experienced a resurgence in the digital world, and discussing how the same technology that is putting distance between us and our contemporaries via social networks is bringing us closer to our ancestors, but I haven’t wrapped my head around a solid topic yet.  Soon!  Potential title: “Disconnect, Reconnect: Digital Distance and the Reigniting of Genealogy.”

Other things I’ve learned or have had reinforced for me recently:

Trying to sort through submissions to a publication is almost as depressing as submitting to them.  You know some good stuff is going to get cut, and some good stuff is not going to get the attention it deserves, but that’s just the nature of the beast.

Professors have wildly, shockingly different opinions on what the writing center’s role is / should be.  Given that I’m going into my 4th academic year of working with writing centers, this should not be a surprise, but after meeting with a number of professors last week my mouth was hanging open a little.

Finding sources that have to do with methodology is hard.  I have had no problems finding a wealth of sources about narratology, narrative inquiry, personal narrative, or whatever you want to call it.  I’ve found articles about its role in the classroom, in research, in scholarship.  However, finding articles that will help me decide and justify my research route for my thesis has been a challenge.  Recommendations on tackling this would be welcome!

Outside content for today:  A discussion about the Spanish Civil War, primarily by people from Spain.   I recently read George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia and realized just how little I knew about this war, and how distorted the summaries of it in American history books were.  I was curious to know how contemporary Spain treated the war, and thanks to Reddit/the internet, I was able to ask and get an accurate answer.  I kind of sat in awe after reading all the responses, because it’s crazy to think how impossible finding this information out would’ve been twenty years ago.  What would I have done, write letters to random people in Spain?

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