Tuesday, July 19, 2016
What we talk about when we talk about grad school - Park III
Part 3 and final installment of what we talk about when we talk about grad school, what I read when I entered SUNY Buffalo in the 1970s as a grad student - and what I read now. My whole reading life, which is to say much of my life, has been devoted to serious literature, and from freshman year in college I was sure I wanted to major in English, go to English grad school, and become an English professor. Although I was an indifferent student for many years in the early grades, I read a lot in h.s., including an ambitious summer reading list in 20th-cent lit via a course one summer, and I'd had a lot of exposure to Shakespeare, thanks to my mom's interest, so felt I had some standing when I entered college - and my earnest wish was to know as much abt lit as my grad-student instructor did by the time I reached his age (Frank Occhiogrosso, shout-out). I pretty much followed thru on all that - entered SUNY Buffalo with clear intention of a dissertation on S., but also knowing I chose that program bcz it was the only one at the time that combined study of lit w/ serious literary writing (I think all Ph.D. English students should try their hand at writing, if only to know how hard it is). My grad-school work was almost entirely about drama and poetry, aside from items that cropped up on my orals list. I think I was a little contemptuous of fiction -- too much about plot and character and not as purely about language, and not as direct an expression of ideas and emotions, too "mediated." I was esp. interested in drama because there was so much the reader (critic) could add, or bring to it: the text was only the half of it. I don't think I read a single work of fiction in any class I enrolled in during grad school. So, yes, I did write the diss on S and did teach English, for 5 years, before abandoning teaching (as it abandoned me) for other pursuits. Only when I became books ed of the Prov Journal did I return seriously (and almost exclusively) to reading fiction, and that as readers of this blog know is what I still do today - in part making up for the missed reading of my youth, in part re-reading great works, in part keeping up w/ contemporary trends and ideas, and finding that there is plenty to write about and grappled w/ in novels and short stories - through I still think that, if I were teaching, I'd go for the purity of poetry and the open form of literary drama.