Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So here's what I'm thinking...

I've been feeling a little self-pressure lately to come up with a capstone project (i.e. the not-quite-a-thesis-but-similar-to-a-thesis required for my program).  I strongly lean towards some kind of YA Lit project, though I get the feeling that YA is not widely respected throughout the department.  I guess you could make the argument that any concentration is subject to disapproval, depending on a certain PhD's preferences.  However, I'm particularly sensitive to the looks I get when I mention YA, and these looks are decidedly different from the looks given to someone who is interested in gender studies of 18th century poetry.  Or whatever.

One thought I've had stems from the issue of the very name of the genre itself: Young Adult Literature.  Is there any other genre that is so defined by its audience?  All other genres are descriptions of a book's content: Fiction, NonFiction, Fantasy, Satire, Tragedy, etc.  When picking up a novel based on those genre descriptions, you have certain expectations, certain tropes particular to that genre you expect to see.  Young Adult Literature, however, is defined by its intended audience; within the "young adult" section, you might find any genre of fiction, from paranormal romance to crime dramas.  I find that fascinating and wonder if YAL is more shaped by its audience than other genres, and if so what does that mean for this particular niche of literature?

I also wonder about this idea of YAL as being a "gateway" for young people to other "classic" literature.  Honestly, that idea rather bugs me because the statement indicates that YAL doesn't have much substance to it on its own, it is merely a signifier pointing to something else, something "greater" beyond it.  I want to know what are the merits of this genre on its own, and what is its place in our idea of literature if that is so.

And then my final thought goes back to this issue of audience in YAL.  A connection to this might be a discussion on serialized novels: since serial novels enabled the audience to read and respond to the work in medias res, to what extent were they shaping the novel's progression, and can we see similar patterns in YAL, which, although not serialized, is a genre defined by its audience.

Some of these questions may not have any answers or they may even be too big of an issue to try and tackle in a 25-35 paper.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Starting a new semester

After all that indecision about which class to take, I ended up in a totally new class altogether.  Go figure, eh?  I got to see the syllabus for the History of the Book class and talk to someone else in it, and I started to think...this might not be such a good idea.  I had thought it would be a little less reading since it's not a literature class, but a recent grad of my program confessed that it was actually one of the more labor-intensive classes she took.  Enjoyable, but a lot of work (or at least more so than other grad classes).  When I learned that The Powers That Be added an extra shift to the buses, so the buses now run late enough for me to take just about any class I'd like.  I started putting my feelers out for alternative classes.

A friend started talking up Modern African Lit - the professor is very enthusiastic, the readings will mostly focus on 6 novels all semester, and the first reading was already quite enjoyable.  It's not a class I would have normally picked, but my fellow classmates swayed me.  I sat in on the class this afternoon; I am still a little anxious because it is completely out of my comfort zone.  Not only is it modern African lit, but it will be all female authors with a focus on gender/feminist issues, scholarly lenses which I'm not terribly comfortable with.  Right now my concern is getting the novel read by Wednesday, but I'm determined.  I might be pulling a late night on Wednesday.

Though the professor was hesitant to add me in, she did do it.  Now I have to make sure she doesn't regret the decision!

Sidenote: there used to be a National Writing Project institute held on my campus, but last January they weren't able to raise enough money, so they had to let it go.  Bummer.  Anyone else out there done the NWP and want to tell me what I'm missing?