I signed up for a creative writing course for the upcoming summer session, which starts on May 15th, just four days after my last final for this spring semester. I don’t know why I’m doing this to myself – haven’t I written enough papers already?
I guess the answer is that I really want to write something that matters. I’m kinda sick of writing about stuff that has little relevance to my life – hedgerows, daffodils, courtship dramas in the English countryside – can’t we move on to like 20th century modernist literature already? Then I realized that I’m taking this Intro to Brit Lit Part II class to fulfill my pre-1900 requirement for my English major. I have no choice. I got rid of my pre-1700 requirement last semester by taking Part I of this class, but I remember enjoying the medieval period material far more than I enjoy all this 18-19th century stuff. Perhaps it was because that the pre-1700 materials were just as alien and strange to my fellow native-speaker classmates as they were to me. Perhaps deep inside I’m a medievalist (I love reading medieval Chinese sources!). And for these reasons I found it easier to navigate that class.
But now, in the age of Alexander Pope and Jane Austen, Wordsworth and Lord Tennyson, I find myself a complete outsider. Like, I know what they are roughly about – I can write a paragraph for you on the historical and literary valency of these writers – but I can’t feel a deep emotional connection with their texts. I can’t really enjoy reading these authors. But why should I? I don’t share their British heritage. I’m not part of it. Not really. Although I study British history and culture as millions of English learners are required to do, I’m not obliged to identify with their sentiments and desires. Many of them are, to put it bluntly, sexist and racist, too. Not to mention some of them’s exceptional obsession with class and hierarchy.
The theme of my academic career this year is compromise. Now that I’ve read these people whom I’m supposed to read, I can finally permit myself to move on.