MA: First week

Well, okay, it's only Tuesday, but since most of my classes are on a Monday, except for a fortnightly Tuesday seminar which doesn't kick off until the week after next, then teaching-wise, the first week is firmly under my (straining) belt.

The first seminar for our Forms of Fiction course was on Monday morning; there was about fifteen people in the group, maybe half from the CW and half from other courses in the English and American Studies Department. The class is designed to look at the construction of fiction; the techniques and decisions made by the authors, and the effects these have on the text, the reader, and so on. It's lit-crit, basically, but with slightly more of a craft focus than I got on my BA (back in the mists of time, when we went to class barefoot and wrote with twigs dipped in mud). The main issues that we'll be exploring are point of view, time, the reliability (or otherwise) of the narrator, and showing/telling. So this week we mainly examined Madame Bovary as an example of differing sorts of points of view. We used Gerard Genette's notions of focalisation to study Flaubert's characterisation and themes, and we talked about when, and why, he switches between Emma's, Charles', and an omniscient (or external) point of view. It was a good class; not too taxing, not too far removed from anything I'd done in the past, but a solid way to ease back in to the academic way of thinking.

Then, after lunch, we had out first fiction workshop. The two students who volunteered deserved a round of applause; I kept my hands firmly jammed down under my ass when they were looking for guinea-pigs for Week One. We had two hours to discuss their work; I think we were also supposed to talk a little about Hemingway and also do a writing exercise, but this didn't happen, so I guess the tutor gave us a little wiggle-room to get used to workshopping, and he'll tighten up the structure of the class next time. We've got two tutors for this course, so we'll have the other one next week. I think the timetable pans out so that I'll get a workshopping session with each of them over the semester, but these things always seem to change as the term goes on, or people fall ill, so we'll see. The discussion today was lively; very constructive, plenty of differing opinions, small but solid input from the tutor. Considering many of the students hadn't critted or workshopped before, it went really well, with maximum participation and no rows; plus the authors took it all on the chin, made notes, clarified when asked, and didn't get defensive or arsey. So, good stuff. I'd never done real-life crits before, just online versions, so I was a little hesitant to speak up at first as I've been told repeatedly (since childhood, I reckon) to shut up, back down, and let other people talk; I did say my bit (can't silence me, you bastards) but I tried to be all nice-like and diplomatic and so on, and I think I have them fooled.



Crispin Best said...

reminds me of 'in my day'
comforting to read this


when you are top of the class, please feel free to steer some CW humans for every year's way
i would feel happy


Valerie O'Riordan said...

Steering Action Plan One is in Beta Phase. Status: In Progress.

kim mcgowan said...

Only just seen this. Gosh, sound much livelier than my fist session. I think we were all busy sizing up the opposition; or maybe that was just me...

Valerie O'Riordan said...

I reckon there was still plenty of sizing going on! The tutor was very good at steering and prodding the discussions so we didn't all just sit there gawking at one another, which I think might have been the default reaction. :-)