Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ice Breaker Assignment

Which courses have you taken in any discipline that might give you a useful background for this course? Please describe these briefly because I don't know what course numbers stand for in other disciplines.

It's not an option above, but I've already graduated Queen's.

I majored in Classical Studies and took classes in Greek and Roman Epic and Greek and Roman Drama.

Are you an artist, writer, performer? How would you describe your creative energies?

I'm a teacher, which is a performer of sorts. I also blog about my travelling experiences, though that writing isn't frequent.

Have you read any of the texts on the syllabus before? Are you familiar with any of the authors on this syllabus? Where/in what context did you encounter them?

I've read Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie , Louise Erdrich's Love Medicine, a few of Margaret Atwood, Toni Morrison and Jeannette Winterson's novels for fun, and taught a few of Zora Neale Hurston's short stories.

Which male modern and contemporary writers are you familiar with? Please note that I mean canonical authors.

I've recently been working my way through the Yale Open University course on the American novel since 1945, so I've read Richard Wright, Jack Kerouac, Thomas Pynchon, John Barth, Vladimir Nabokov, and J. D. Salinger recently. I've taught an 11th grade literature class covering Orwell's 1984, Salinger's Catcher in the Rye, Huxley's Lord of the Flies, Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby and Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the NIghttime. For pleasure, relatively recently, I've read some Hemingway, Joseph Conrad, Milan Kundera, Kazuo Ishiguro and David Foster Wallace (though sadly I still haven't found time for Infinite Jest.)

Why did the course description intrigue you? What are your expectations for this course? What do you want to be sure you learn from it?

In my last answer, you might have noticed that the eleventh grade literature course I taught didn't cover any female authors - though I didn't chose the syllabus myself, I did have some input into how it might be changed in the future. I'd like to have more familiarity with the female canon so that I can cover it when I teach.

Why should we become familiar with an exclusively female literary tradition? Why can't women writers just join the crowd?

I think the historic differences in women's access to education and intellectual pursuits makes the female literary tradition quite different from the male canon.

How comfortable are you with literary terminology? Name the glossary of literary terms you are most familiar with. Is your tendency to read for theme and plot and then tack on the necessary terms or do you read in and through the lens of literary terms? In other words, have these terms become the "baggage" you bring to reading? Can you identify critical methods? Do you know which features make an interpretation "feminist" or "new historicist" or "deconstructive" or "queer" or "structuralist" or "New Critical?"

I haven't taken an English course since high school, and I graduated in 1997. I read a great deal for pleasure and have gotten into the habit of reading for theme and plot first. Though I have a basic knowledge of literary terms, I am less familiar with movements within female literature.

Mention some of your favourite books/authors, films, TV shows, music, whatever. What kind of culture vulture are you?

I read a lot of literary fiction - though in the last year or so, I've been attempting to switch the focus more to the classics. I like trying to keep up with Canadian literature by reading award winners or the Canada Reads books. I recently have also been reading a lot of African and Asian writers, inspired by my travels on those continents. Because I've lived overseas, I'm not overly familiar with films or up to date on movies and music. I only recently watched The West Wing and have just started The Wire.

What would make you stand out in a crowd?

Being an expat, often my height! I place more emphasis on travel than most people I know. And I'm a runner - enough of one that I run even while on vacation.

Have you travelled much? Where? How do you think travel changes your sensibility, your sense of your place in the world? Or tell me why you like or dislike travelling.

I did an university exchange to Scotland in my third year at Queen's which infected me with the travel bug. I moved back to Edinburgh upon graduation and while in Europe did the classic backpacking around the big cities for a summer, spent three weeks in Italy, and just before I left, three months around Ireland and Scotland. I also excavated in Greece for a summer as a student. After a year back in Canada in Vancouver, I returned to the expat life, this time moving to teach English in South Korea. That was seven long years ago. I've been to twelve Asian countries so far and I like to try and visit less touristy places like North Korea, Brunei, or East Timor. More recently I spent some time visiting a friend in the Peace Corps and was able to visit both Togo and Ghana. I think that travel absolutely changes who you are, opening your eyes to things both similar and different that you never even thought to consider. It also affirms your faith in the basic goodness and friendliness of strangers and teaches you just how widespread English is as a language. I have my share of travel disaster stories, certainly, but I can't imagine a life without regularly seeing new places and meeting new people.

How many languages do you speak, write, understand? What was it like to learn a language other than your own? Are you conscious of your monolingualism / bilingualism / multilingualism? In what way?

I have a smattering of languages outside of English. Certainly, my Korean has become very functional, though I'd be hard pressed to have an interesting conversation. I've taken classes in Italian in advance of a trip there and I studied French, Latin and Ancient Greek. In my travels I've picked up a lot of very basic 10-30 word vocabularies in the languages of the countries I've been in. I'm not very good at learning languages at all, which I suspect is very good for my students for whom i'ts a second language. Korean is incredibly difficult, certainly, and I have a lot of respect for my students' ability to switch so effortlessly between two such different systems.

Where do you get your news of the world from? Be more specific than "the internet." Do you keep abreast of current events rarely, occasionally, regularly? Why do current events bore or interest you?

In Korea, I didn't have a TV. For some reason, I've never really gotten into reading the news on the internet. English language newspapers in Korea are either poor in quality or extremely expensive, so I've gotten out of the habit of staying particularly informed in an up-to-date manner, though I will occasionally spend the rather ridiculous amount of money that The Economist costs overseas. It's gone so far that I've had frantic emails and phone calls about the situation with North Korea from Canadians before finding out what was happening in my own backyard. I do read a fair amount of non-fiction about world events, so I'm not entirely ignorant, just really far behind. The big exception is American elections. So far it is my experience that every country is fascinated by an American election, so I've always ended up well versed in politics every four years.

Which historical event might be said to be your first memory of something that was not personal but nevertheless shaped who you are? Is there a historical or political or cultural memory that is crucial to your parents or grandparents and that they strive to keep alive in the family? Why do you think they want to do so? You may also connect this event or memory to your sex/gender/transgender, sexuality, racialization, differently-abled status. Please note I am deliberately not asking for personal/private information.

I recall well both the fall of the Berlin Wall and Tiananmen Square and I suspect those incidents and my interest in them may have been my first serious understanding of the diversity of the world beyond Canada's borders - and how much I wanted to go out and experience it. My family is of the Bristish stock long in Canada variety and it was interesting upon moving to the UK to see that some of the odd family traditions that we thought of as being British were no longer at all familiar to the British - one small example would be coddled eggs. The only person I met in the UK who'd even heard of using a coddler to make what is essentially just a soft-boiled egg with extra dishes to wash was my then boyfriend's grandmother, who had served as a maid in a "big house". My step-grandfather spoke often of the places he travelled to during the war and was always my biggest supporter in terms of choosing an expat lifestyle or travelling solo in countries that others considered too dangerous for a woman. He thought it was fantastic that I was off backpacking around Cambodia or through Sumatra on my own. I always very much sensed that he wished his opportunities for adventure hadn't been tied to warfare and then curtailed by the family's financial circumstances.

Which adjective/epithet describes you best (pick more than one if you like): passionate, skeptical, militant, belong to the school of "none of the above," curious, cosmopolitan, empathetic, contradictory, ambivalent, conscience-stricken, detached observer, guilt is my default mode, liberal, radical, conservative, subversive, hate labels, prefer mosaics to melting pots, cynical, indifferent, sentimental, "don't fuck me up with peace and love." Please note I have left out "ironic!" Or sum yourself up in your own words.

I suppose adventurous describes me best - there is nothing I like better than a new place, a new food, a new experience. I have a fair amount of determination - my main goal for 2013 is to finally run my first marathon after a year of idleness brought on by injury. It's not the idea of crossing the finish line, though, that is the goal. In fact, completing my first half marathon was a fairly anti-climatic experience. It wasn't the race day I was proud of, so much as the training I'd stuck to in order to get there. Liberal, I suspect most would tag me as. South Korea has an interesting mix of expats: in the English speaking community we're either teachers or American military personnel. As a runner, I spend a lot of time with military members, both officers and enlisted. Most of them would consider me a flaming liberal, though I think in fact that my experiences hanging out with a largely conservative crowd have broadened my opinions. I'm not sure I'd say I'm that much less liberal than in my university days, but I have certainly come to appreciate hanging out in the grey area in the middle on a regular basis.

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