25 June 2009

An interesting insight from a professor.

I turned in my fourth and final paper today for my core humanities/anthropology/history class this morning. I also turned in an extra-credit piece that is to my writing what the clear-plastic box is to Penn and Teller's magic show---the reveal that blows the doors off the audience's expectations of other practitioners of the craft. Because the class today was little more than "turn in the paper and let's wrap this production", I got a chance afterward to chat with the professor about my Tex Avery-like views on academia, including me flat-out saying "That second paper that you enjoyed was a direct result of me realizing that if I played the subject straight it would be too obvious that I hadn't a clue what I was talking about." The paper in question was about Greek tragedy and I cribbed as much from tvtropes.org as I could decently get away with (and in the process probably became the first student of history to use it as a cite in a serious academic paper). Boiling the title character from Euripides' Alcestis down to her essentially being a MacGuffin was, in the professor's view, incredibly original, which is why I scored an A for my efforts.

What the professor said to me as a final thought was tremendously telling and is the single most educational thing I've learned thus far in my new college endeavor: "Not to disparage anyone else in the class, but on a lot of the papers I thought, 'I've read this paper a thousand times before'. With your papers I sat up and thought, 'I'm going to see my class materials in a whole new original way.' Thank you for that."

About a month ago someone on an Internet forum said to me, "You're either the most clever ironist I've ever seen or you're just an asshole, and you're clever enough that I'll never divine it from your writing." Said I: "Half my writing is played straight. Half my writing is me playing with the subject. I leave it to the reader's own prejudices to decide which is which."

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