Wednesday, October 2, 2013

some real talk

HAPPY OCTOBER! And happy first day of some classes for me, yesterday.

A good portion of all the small talk I had with people yesterday revolved around the fact that we cannot believe it is already October...and the fact that we can't believe how late the University starts its Fall Term. Like most schools, my undergrad institution was on the semester system, so by this time we were already planning for mid-terms and getting excited for fall break. NOT SO ANYMORE. The University is on a quarter system, so we began this academic year on October 1st and we go until June 27th. Which is all something very new for me, but something two of my good friends experienced at their undergrad college - so at least I had heard of the quarter system before I arrived.

Now that the term is up and kicking, we also received our first paper back. Now let me say a few things about the difference between undergraduate vs. graduate papers. The obvious one is that you are expected to have a much more mature writing style and a more concrete grasp on what is it you want to argue. That is all well and good - but here's the curve ball. My theory course requires us to write four papers a term, and these papers must be in the style of analytic exposition.

[cue horror music]

An analytic exposition is a paper where you do not get to argue anything, you don't get to set up your own critiques, and you certainly don't get to engage really in any way with the text. All you get to do is pick apart the original argument, figure out what the grounds are for their argument, how the grounds support the argument, examine how the argument pertains to the rest of the work, and then determine the stakes of the argument. To put it plainly, you are explaining how someone else's argument is functioning BUT you can't make any value judgements on it yourself. Needless to say this is not the kind of paper I am used to writing and so when we handed it in, I was quite worked up over it. I was SURE I was going to get a D or lower because I have no past experience with this type of writing and I felt like I was floundering.

Definitely had a moment of impostor syndrome where I thought that they'll find me out and kick me out of the program because I clearly don't belong here!! This paper must have revealed all!!

But surprisingly that's not what happened. Turns out I got one of the highest grades and even though I definitely need to keep my preceptor's comments in mind for my next paper (on Hegel, no less - someone just kill me right now), I had made a limping move in the right direction. By no means am I saying that I understand how to write these types of papers, but I am kind of maybe getting the hang of it. Another thing that helped me muscle my way through that first attempt was that I can see how the analytic exposition forces us to look closely at and to allow ourselves to momentarily immerse ourselves in an argument in order to see its benefits as well as the flaws. These exercises will help me reflect on my own arguments and will, hopefully, let me see the holes in my thinking before someone else does!

Our next paper is due next week and, as I woefully mentioned earlier, it is on Hegel. Whom no one understands. Least of all myself, with my limited philosophy background. But I'm going to try my darndest anyway!

And finally, apropos of nothing: my new shoes came in the mail yesterday and I AM IN LOVE.

I have an interview today so these shoes arrived at the perfect time! And now that these babies are here, I am definitely being more aware of spending and budgeting - let's hope the job works out!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

a few snapshots

A blog that only offers readers a block of text is no fun at all, am I right? So to balance out my very word-heavy posts, have a few bits and pieces of what my new home looks like!

Lovely original artwork by my good friend Jackie over at mutton thumper!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

japan: all in the family

I was flipping through the channels a few days ago and happened upon a show called Who Do You Think You Are (which never fails to remind me of this song). The show chronicles celebrities' searches for their family histories and some find really interesting documents from over a century ago, if their family line extends back for ten or more generations. I joked with my mom that if I was on the show my investigations would end at my grandfather, since my family is Japanese and my grandfather was the first of us to come to the United States; he only came over for work and moved back before I was born, so even that line of inquiry would have made for a very short episode. That quip led to a lengthy conversation about my family history that fleshed out a story already knew a bit about.

As I became more interested in pursuing a graduate degree and more specifically, a degree in English Literature, my grandfather told me that I was following in the footsteps of my grandmother's family. It turns out that my great-grandfather (whose name, quite pleasingly is 八鳥 which literally translates as '8 Birds'), was a professor of English Literature. He taught at a prestigious university and published a few works that are unfortunately very hard to come by, especially being overseas. One year when I was visiting my family back in Nagoya, my grandfather gave me a few of my great-grandfather's worn books that were marked up with his own notes written in the margins and all over the page. It was an incredible feeling to know that my family has a history of scholarship that aligns with what deeply fascinates me some ninety years later.

I plan on uncovering more information about my great-grandfather since he died in 1952 before my mother was born, so even she doesn't know much about him. The time period in which he lived, taught, and loved literature is an inconceivably complex time for Japan as a country and I can't help but wonder how he was treated at the height of WWII, since he spent his life studying the language of "the enemy".

There are many questions I still have but it is wonderful knowing that the love of literature has long been ingrained in my family - hopefully I can do their memories justice in my own work!

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