Reflecting on the first week of class

Published August 28, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

This is going to be a heavy semester, despite that it’s only two classes.

The course on the fall of the Roman Republic only has one paper, but the reading list is pretty intense, especially the first book–which we have until the end of September to read–which is so densely and name-droppingly written that we pretty much have to read a second book along with it to interpret it.  (Unless we already know every single name and event involved.  So…actually, after I get a little further in, I can probably drop the second book.  Once we get past Caesar’s assassination, I know the events well enough.  I think.  I hope.)  Hopefully, I’ll be writing the paper on Virgil’s propagandistic adaptation of the Trojan War myth, thus tying into my eventual thesis, and perhaps with some interesting side notes on the different ways that his contemporaries like Ovid treated the same material.  (Which, obviously, may have partially stemmed from political reasons, given Virgil’s place on the Augustan payroll, and Ovid’s eventual exile.  Or it may have just been personality differences, for all I know.  I doubt they were very similar people, from what I’ve read of their works.  Don’t actually know much about them as individuals.)

I’m not sure what the course itself is going to be like yet.  It’s a mixed session class–mostly undergrads in their senior year, with some graduate students like myself–but to a certain extent the professor has so far been treating it like an entry level course.  (To the extent that on Thursday he took us to the library to make sure we knew where all the different types of books we’d need were.  I think we all knew that already, at this stage of the game, y’know?)  I think he’s one of those old school professors who goes off on a lot of unrelated tangents in his lectures–he’s told us a lot already about being in Germany shortly after WWII, and studying in England under one of the Monuments Men (which is, I have to admit, totally awesome)–so it should be very interesting, but also perhaps a little bit less than focused, which can be frustrating at times.

Anyway, I have a feeling the reading is going to re-acquaint me with Latin almost as much as taking a course in it would (neither of these first two books is translating its quotes, and I’m just stupid enough to keep trying to read the quotes anyway, despite being twenty years out of practice) so that will at least be something, right?  And it should be very interesting, if also somewhat frustrating, because the Romans are kind of…um…annoying.  (Admittedly, the ancient Greeks could be just as annoying, but in very different ways.)

Moving on to the other course, which I thought was just about political revolutions in the Spanish colonies in the Americas, it turns out it’s about the revolutions in all the American colonies, both Spanish and English, though with emphasis on the Spanish colonies, because that’s the professor’s primary background.  (Which is why I assumed it was just on the Spanish colonies, ’cause I’ve had this professor before.)  This course is purely at the graduate level, no undergrads, and because I’m taking it for 5 credit hours instead of only 3, I have seven papers to write, instead of only six.  The seventh will be a research paper, and I have to have the topic approved by the middle of September, but I have a good idea already:  it has to be based largely on primary sources, so I want to look at how the revolutions impacted the non-combatants at the time.  There are definitely journals and letters published aplenty (well, maybe not aplenty, but enough) for women during the American Revolution, but I’m not sure how much I’ll be able to find, in English, for the revolutions in the Spanish colonies.  But he said I can focus on the American colonies, and maybe only address the Spanish ones in secondary sources–and the paper’s only like 5,000 words, so it’s not like it’s massive–so I think I’ll probably be okay.  But this may mean that towards the end of the semester there will be some “off topic” posts about Abigail Adams…

One last comment before I sign off to get back to my reading.

Because I keep forgetting to bring a CD in the car (I so have to remember that on Tuesday!) I had the horrifying experience that yesterday morning every time I turned on the radio on the drive to campus, it was in commercials.  Now, I am not one of those people who sits there and listens to commercials.  When a commercial comes on, I turn off.  (I know, that’s not what you’re supposed to do, but…that’s what I do.)  So most of the drive was in silence.  I have a half hour commute to school, because I don’t like highway driving.  For twenty-five minutes, I would turn on the radio, find it was in commercials, and turn it off again.  Twenty-five minutes of commercials!  Seriously!  I was wondering if one of their DJs had fallen ill or something.

Naturally, about one minute before I entered the parking garage, that’s when they not only resumed playing songs, but started playing one of my favorite Bon Jovi songs.  So I ended up sitting in my car in the garage, waiting for “Shot Through the Heart” to finish playing before I could go in to class.

This is why I should have brought CDs with me.   (I could have brought that CD in fact….it’s around here somewhere…)


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