Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ontological Queasiness*

I've just gotten back from my second class of the week (one more tomorrow.) It was Adaptations, the one I was most scared of, since the description pointed toward things I wasn't sure I wanted to do. However, I've never dropped a class and didn't want to start now, so I went anyway. And just as with every othe class that I've initially been really scared of, it proved to be fine... great, in fact!

So far, I really love the class. The teacher is really cool, and not just because she's nice. I am constantly surprised and grateful at the amazing professors I get the opportunity to work with- and I'm not just talking about here, but at my home school, too. They all do such incredible things in addition to their teaching that I basically sit there all class period thinking, "I'd just like to be you, please." So what amazed me so much about this particular professor is that she once sat down with a huge pile of resources and wrote a play. That in itself is enough to get my attention, but then she went on to mention that, oh, she did this work with a few people, including Alan Rickman. And not only did she create this show with these people, but it went on the West End AND Broadway, as well as many places in between.

The class is very small- we only had nine today, but I think there will be twelve if everyone turns up. In this group, I'm one of only three Americans. The rest, save for one German girl, are English, and again I was struck by how similar we are as students (though there are some differences, which I'll touch on later.) All of my classmates are really nice and I'm happy that this is the group of people that I'll be creating a performance piece with.

I was worried that a four hour class would drag, but it didn't at all. We started off with a game and then read through the (again, very long) syllabus. Then we broke for "tea", which basically meant we were given about twenty minutes to go and get something to eat, but the teacher did tell us to "go and have a cup of tea," by way of dismissal. (I did not have some tea, if anyone's wondering, but I did last night, so I'm not a complete failure :p)

(Side note: the couple across the hall from me is arguing- or, as they would say here, "rowing" again. They really like to row. They do it pretty much every day- loudly.)

After tea, we reconvened and split up into groups to discuss adaptations as a whole- which we'd seen, why we liked/didn't like them, what made them worthy/unworthy, and if there's a line that can be crossed. We were told at orientation that the professors here like American students because we talk a lot and therefore contribute to the discussions, and I would say that I did observe that to be true, but I wouldn't say that the English student contributed any less than we did, either.

Something that I should have expected, I guess, but was still surprised at was my classmates' attitudes toward "Americanised" films/TV adaptations. I was in a group with two English classmates, and they kept saying, "No offence," to me as they spoke in disgust of the Americanised versions of different films. The other English classmates, too, wore looks of disgust as they spoke of them. However, something to keep in mind is that most likely, we all signed up for this class because we're adaptation snobs, so it may just be the way my classmates watch films. It didn't detract from the conversations we were able to have. In fact, the girl in my group, Alexandra, said to me, "We're sitting here complaining about America ruining our stories, but are there any American stories that we've made British?" I couldn't think of any off the top of my head, but if any of you know of some, I'm sure that information would be helpful for this class in general. It doesn't matter if the adaptation was good or bad- I'd just like to know!

Oh, also, I was chosen to write the things down as we were discussing them, and one of the things was "color." Without thinking, I wrote it down my usual way, and Alexandra jokingly sad, "What is this? What is this strange word?" For some reason, I was embarassed; it's not like I want to hide the fact that I'm American, but I do want to blend in with my fellow students. I will be watching my public spelling from now on :P

In the end, the class flew by. We had some really great discussions and I'm very excited about it.

Now for you (almost) daily dose of random observations:

Chloe asked a few days ago if people used the word "loo," and at that point, I hadn't heard anyone say it. But today, both my teacher and one of my classmates used it. Additionally, one of the orientation people said "jolly good," completely genuinely, which I didn't think people said anymore, either; I thought it was more of a stereotype at this point. Another one that we do sometimes say in the US: "Get cracking."

A phrase that completely throws me every time: "What program are you on?" To me, this seems like they're asking about medication or a diet or something, but what it really means is "What university are you going to?" or, if you're at your university, "What is your area of study?"

Diary = planner. My teacher today kept saying, "I'll give you the dates to put in your diary."

They LOVE essays. When I would read Harry Potter as I kid, I always noticed how many essays the students have to write, and now I know why; it's at least a huge part of the QMUL system. For the two classes I've had so far, we have to write at least two huge essays (although, to a WriMo, 2500 words is less than a day's writing, so it's not too daunting) and they're what make up most exams. And one of my teacher's tips today about creating our performance piece was, "Think of it as an essay."

My teacher forgot to print out the dates that said essays were due, and her response to this was, "Oh, how am I?" It's hard to explain how this is said, but basically, it's another way of saying, "How could I do that?" Emma Thompson says something similar in the Sense & Sensibility (1994) commentary when discussing her character's costume- she says, "Look at her, what does she look like?", basically just meaning, "Look at that costume." It's very odd, but I like it.

People (mainly younger women/girls) are either immune to the cold or just choosing fashion over comfort (a notion I am not a stranger to), going around in tank tops or dresses/skirts with tights on underneath. Today, it was just slightly warmer and people weren't wearing any coats! I guess you just get used to it.

A big difference I noticed in the students is that they seem quite a bit more cultured than American students. When my class was discussing adaptations, the English students and the teacher continually worked in references to poetry, pieces of art, articles I suppose they've read in other classes... we don't do that back home, really. We only reference what we've worked on in that particular class. Because university students don't do gen. ed.s, only the subject they've come to study, I think they go through each class at the same time, together, so they always know what another person is referencing.

Flatmate Emmie stopped by my room earlier to give me a piece of candy and she told me that they had something called the "Refresher's Fair." Basically, it's like my school's Activities Fair, where all of the clubs gather tables in one place and give people free stuff for signing up for their club. I don't know how to say no, so besides being in the theatre, newspaper, and film club, I also ended up in the art society and the volunteering club. Legally, I'm not allowed to volunteer, as my visa doesn't allow it, but the girl asking literally grabbed my elbow and steered me to the sign up sheet. So I won't be taking part in their activities, but they did giv me lots of candy and a mug :p

^I don't know what any of this is except the Bounty bar- those are delicous, like our candy Mounds. But I think I should try some of this now ;)

(*If you're wondering, this is a phrase I learned today in class, defined as "a cocktail of shame, neurosis, guilt, perversion and pleasure at the heart of theatre.")


Mrs. Flury said...

Alan Rickman? You have a connection with Colonel Brandon?!!!

As to the US-->UK adaptations, I don't imagine another country's take on American lit. would be very popular in the US, do you? Hence, I'm not familiar with any. I wonder if the British have done anything with Twain, Hemingway, or Steinbeck? "To Kill a Mockingbird"? If I were going to copy something current from the media stage, "SNL" would be a good bet. Anything like "SNL" in London?

You sound as if you're feeling better. I agree with your Mom. Your system has had a lot of adjustments lately. Feed it comfort--and lots of water!

Anonymous said...

This class and week sound so exciting and you seemed to have picked great courses! Seem very interesting.
Yes, and I know the writing part for essays really is not going to make you crazy since writing shorter essays is the hardest for you.

It is great to hear that students,globally, are able to chat about things and accept the differences without too much fuss.

copied this entry and sent it to family---encouraging them to check your blog for more exciting news. (fingers crossed)
Love ya.

Rachel said...

Mrs. Flury- I know, how cool is that? And I actually don't know if there is something like SNL here... I'll have to ask around.

Mom- my classes are awesome! It's really nice to chat with my classmates :) And what is this exciting news you're expecting? :p

Anonymous said...

I am encouraging them to read your blogs for YOUR exciting news... heck anything has to be better than the hum drum of some days here.
I know if Papa can figure it out, he will totally enjoy all your postings.

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