Tuesday, September 14, 2004

O hallowed halls and vine-draped walls

I've now been to three of my five classes this term. Thoughts on each: ENG 2110, Children's Literature. I took this to continue my acquisition of offbeat English credits; I don't much care for Canlit, Elizabethan poetry, or the like, but I find genre classes fascinating. (Previously taken: Fantasy, Myth and Language and Early Celtic Lit.) The only problem is that the prof has assigned nine books plus another handful of online sources, for the fairy tale portion of the course. I don't mind the volume, which isn't that much anyway, considering the length of each work - but the books are still about $12-15 apiece, which I resent. Luckily, I already have a couple of the works, and all the classics are available as etexts anyway. ENG 2140, Literature and Film. Ottawa doesn't offer many courses of this type, which is why an introduction to film theory is pigeonholed into the English department. Though I hadn't noticed any notes to the effect in any course calendar or the online course registration system, it's not just a survey course - it's entirely and magnificently dedicated to the interrelationship between Film Noir and detective novels of the 1940s and 50s. The first class was mostly set aside for watching Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt, interspersed with commentary. I'd never seen this particular part of his oeuvre, and it was mildly disconcerting (though, at the same time, somewhat thrilling) to see Joseph Cotten playing a genuine villain, in the form of the charmingly murderous Uncle Charlie. The class seems promising, and fun, but the recommended textbooks come to $130 - and one of them is only used for about forty pages total, in several short essays. I can't abide paying $80 for that. I've put a copy on hold at the library; when it comes in, I'll photocopy what I need, which shouldn't cost more than $10 or so. HIS 3330, Nazi Germany. I wasn't even aware of this class until last-minute schedule shuffling; the course code is one set aside for various "Special Topics," from year to year, and I hadn't thought to check the content. Regardless, I'm glad I found it. I firmly believe the current growth of violent anti-Semitism throughout Europe and the Middle East is a mirror image of everything that's come before. Islamofascists are Hitler's ideological heirs in all but name. The term paper for this class is a free choice, and I'm very much considering heading that direction in my argument. As the cliche goes, those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, and I think it's a good sign that a 3000-level course (usually smaller, discussion-group size) filled an entire medium lecture hall. However, that in initial discussion of the topic, one student seemed to be treading towards the moral equivalence of "The Holocaust wasn't that important, compared to genocide in Rwanda," and another all but implied Nazis are unfairly demonized because of Those Whiny Jews - well, I think others may be approaching the subject matter from entirely different angles than myself. Best of all, however, these three classes have take-home exams. Even if the last two don't, that's still helpful; I appreciate not having to memorize and regurgitate an entire textbook and lecture notes for a traditional exam. It's not necessarily indicative of understanding to be able to do that. I test well either way, which is most of what saved my mark in New France, last year, after handing in a final mark-sinking term paper that argued precisely against the prof's pet theories of a free, just and happy French Colonial society. (To be fair, it wasn't fantastic in the first place, but that's neither here nor there.) As long as my other two classes don't have inordinately heavy workloads, this term should be reasonably panic-free.

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