MA Week Two

Okay, another miniature week down.  Although this is a full-time course, the way the contact hours are all shoved into the first half of the week makes it feel a little like I'm getting away with something here - sitting about at home on a Wednesday eating toast when somewhere there's a classroom with an empty chair and a pissed-off lecturer crossing my name off a list.  Ah, paranoia.

Anyway, today, in the morning, we discussed a couple of Chekhov stories, The Bishop and The Lady With A Lap Dog (full texts available if you click, for anyone who's got so little else to do that they want to investigate further).  We examined them in relation to Chekov's use of time - acceleration or deceleration of time, the use of memory as a mode of flashback or way of expressing a theme, the ordering of events within a narrative, etc - and also examined when he 'tells' us something, or summarises action, and when he 'shows' us events, or describing the scene.  It was an interesting class, though none of it was especially revelatory - the show/tell distinction is one I've looked at before, a familar mantra in writing circles, and one I'm already pretty alert to in my own writing (I hope).  The time stuff I'd covered to some extent back as an undergraduate, looking at Woolf in particular, but the Chekhov stories were good examples of the phenomena under discussion, so it was a worthwhile couple of hours.  It's interesting, though, that in these first two weeks of analysing other writers' crafts, we've been looking exclusively at translated texts - the variety in sentence structure and choice of words was immense today, between the four or five different editions we had between us.  Next week's Henry James, though, so we'll all be on the level.  I'm glad I got this one out of the way a few weeks ago, because I'm back working in Birmingham most of this week and I think I'd have strugggled to get it finished in time.

The workshop in the afternoon was taken by a different tutor than last week; they're alternating sessions.  It was fascinating to see how the workshop played out according to the teaching style of each individual.  Last week, the tutor was vey quiet, nudging the discussion in certain directions but staying out of it for the most part, while this week's tutor was much more participatory and talkative.  Plus, this week we also briefly checked out an interview with Hemingway and discussed his style, and then had a writing exercise to complete during the class - we had to write a short scene, a couple of paragraphs, mimicking the setting and style of 'A Clean Well-Lighted Place', using three characters and no adverbs or adjectives.  I'm not a huge fan of writing on the spot or with other people in the room at all (god forbid somebody sees what I'm doing), but it was an interesting mini-challenge.

So next week we've got tickets to see Martin Amis talk to Will Self about sex and literature (saucy) on Monday evening, and in Tuesday I've got my first seminar with Mr Amis - it's on Don DeLillo's White Noise, which I love, and I'm rereading it at the moment.  I've got a whole week to think of something intelligent or witty to say.  Suggestions welcome below!


Susan said...

Hi Valerie,
I had a look at your reading list. I'm going to have a look for some of the books you've recommended and give them a go. I've enjoyed reading your site because I was thinking about doing the MA, possibly next year. Hope it goes well for you. Sue

Valerie O'Riordan said...

Hi Sue,

I'm really glad you like the blog! I hoped that people considering doing an MA might happen upon it - it's so hard to get an idea of what a course actually entails before you arrive there on day one. I'll be updating as much as I can over the year. Good luck if you do apply - and good luck with your writing, either way.


kim mcgowan said...

Tickets to see Martin Amis talk to Will Self about sex and literature! Oh, Valerie. Then a seminar... I could die of envy. You'll be like friends.

It's really interesting to read about how it's going.