Letter to my Contemporary Literary Theory 829 class

One of the most difficult classes I am taking is this post-graduate course. Seeing as how I am just catching up on prerequisites, it was stupid to do a course such this at the same time. I guess I should have sought an adviser (or someone there in the Department should have suggested such) instead of allowing to jump into the deep end. As it is, I have been told that the one professor who did “advise” me on how to put together my schedule, didn’t do a good job, as besides taking 100- and 800-level courses in the same semester (i.e. stupid) I have overloaded myself time-wise. However, with more than half the semester over with, I think I’ll be able to hand in there without totally collapsing.

I decided to share a letter I wrote to this 800-level class. (All students must write two “letters” during the course of the semester. It can be to “anyone”… an author we are studying, a character in a book, a classmate, etc.) Here is what I wrote.

16.11.2013, Letter No. 1. Linda Yechiel

Dear Me!

A letter. A public letter. I need to write a letter. A “class” letter. Today, in this 6th week of Literary Theory, I need to follow all the letters so far presented by my amazingly able and clever classmates and come up with something, too, that is insightful, relevant, food for thought.

Dear me! The paper (well, the screen), looms before me—blank and intimidating. What shall I write? Meaningful? What singular thing can I say that is appropriate? “Comparable to a blog” our professor has written. Well, I am familiar with writing a blog. I have three (actually four) blogs out there in cyberspace. Blogging isn’t a problem—when the muse calls: A thought comes to mind, I turn on the computer and spill it. Only problem is that at this particular moment, not a thought comes to mind.

17.11.    Still nothing. So, I shall let my thoughts run out of my fingertips to fill up the page. Let’s see… something relevant about this course, this program: What and how? What will this course mean to me? What will it do for me? How will it change me? How will it make me better in my profession? In my world? In my life?

An MA—that is why I enrolled. The be-all and end-all was that I wanted a piece of paper to hang on the wall, two letters to tack on after my name (and the topic interested me). But while that was the motivation to start down this amazingly overwhelming road (too many course, they say!), it is suddenly not the point anymore. All of a sudden I am immersed in texts and ideas that are new and wonderful.

Greek poetry? Who would have thought? American Drama? I hated reading Miller and Williams so many years ago in high school. Now they are fascinating. And amazingly, I find connections between all the courses: The feminist play in US drama (37-409) follows the discourse of “feminism” that I am learning about in Contemporary Theory (37-829). Reading a word in The Odyssey (37-191), I remember (and remind) that I (we) must keep in mind that every word is the interpretation of the translator (37-726).  I mean, look at my salutation: “Dear Me.” How would you translate that into Hebrew? Oy va voi? L’atzmi hayikarah? Gotcha!

So many words and concepts to learn, and know, and understand: structuralism, deconstruction. rhetoric, signifiers, signified and a Signifyin’ Monkey (now that was fun to listen to!)—the discourse of a culture breaking free from colonialism. Ethos, logos, pathos. Pathetic! Yet exhilarating.

And confusing! Statistics anyone? In the past five weeks, I have read (to the tune of “On the First Day of Christmas”)… 8 US plays, 7 Sherlock stories, 5 “first chapters” (of various books in Hebrew), 3 Greek epic poems (partial), ,  and at least 40 articles or chapters on some theory (of literature of translation)*. Is it any wonder I can’t remember if it was Cassandra or Blanche or Elsie who loses her mind. Or was she murdered? Dear me!

There are certain moments when I feel it is all coming together. There are huge and amazing concepts that are out there that are gelling in my mind, great works I have missed (who would have thought that The Odyssey would have been so enthralling and beautiful?) that I am becoming familiar with. Hey, I am even beginning to appreciate The Sherlock Holmes stories (I didn’t really take to them many years ago). Yes, there are moments now when that the be-all and end-all of my time here isn’t, anymore, that piece of paper  but the knowledge and understanding that I will obtain in its pursuit.

* 3 – Iliad, Odyssey, Agamemnon    /    8 – Hairy Ape, Iceman Cometh, Long day’s, Trifles, Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar, All My Sons, The Price

14 – Luna, Landers (on Translation) +  9 articles on translation, 3 “first chapters”

7  – sherlock holmes stories    / 21 – Klages 6 articles, Hodgson 8, Rhetoric 4, others 3 = 21 articles

The professor wrote this to me in a private email:

Hi Linda.. This is just to you.. Great letter!! You’re an excellent writer.

Now I understand why sometimes you get so tired in class. But glad it’s coming together and you find your mind expanding and being stimulated. I know you’re  not happy about missing the classes for the Hanukkah break, but after reading your letter, I think you need a vacation for a while!!!


So that was nice. Well, here I am, 3 am, and just decided to add this in before I head to bed, having just finished up two assignments for tomorrow.



2 Responses to “Letter to my Contemporary Literary Theory 829 class”

  1. 4 AM and all’s well | Yips&Howls's Blog Says:

    […] to bed, like a (semi-)normal person would, I started writing  up some invoices, wrote an entry for my other blog, played 2 games of spider (only two!), caught up on Facebook (check this […]

  2. Words-2nd letter to my class | English With Linda Says:

    […] Letter to my Contemporary Literary Theory 829 class […]

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