Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Old School Oxford?

Before I start this rant, do realize that I am enjoying my program and am glad I am doing it. With that disclaimer, it is so very very different than Scripps, and I am only now beginning to realize the ways in which this is true...

While at Scripps, I thought of it as your basically liberal private college. Perhaps a little more than the average, especially when it came to gender, but not remarkably so. And when I thought of it as liberal, I thought mostly of its everyday politics, not so much of its teaching and curriculum (although perhaps in the Politics Department it was unavoidable).

But coming here, I have realized that as a student at Scripps I was exposed to many more ideas and areas of critical theory than the majority of the students here. Let me rephrase; different ideas. Most of the English students from Britain spent their three undergraduate year studying THE BRITISH CANON and all that entails. For some, that meant the accompanying theory and interdisciplinary subjects. For many, not. And my course is remarkably entrenched in the canon. This is not a bad thing in itself. Although at times I feel that I struggle because as an American I missed out on more Modernism while taking the second half of America Lit (DIE!), it's certainly an area in which I can afford to work a little harder.

But the problem with this focus on THE CANON (I do feel that it needs to be spelled and said in capitals) is that, at least here, it often resists any sort of modern (read: any theory after new historicism) or interdisciplinary approach. I was "warned" after bringing up Marxist literary criticism, and especially warned against using Said for a paper (I have my doubts and will use him anyhow; I am quite capable of being critical of him...). When bringing up French feminists and the ecriture feminine in class yesterday, I am fairly sure that I was one of three people, one of whom was the professor, who knew what I meant. And our 20th Century course seems to trail off, with a few exceptions, around 1950 (i.e. the beginning of the end for Modernism, a favorite focus). My Bibliography instructor, vocally anti-New-Historicist, is having us read Derrida. I'm not actually sure if anyone had before. Sigh. I suppose that's a stretch and underestimates both the students and their programs. But it is the feeling I get...and it frustrates me to no end. Scrippsies, you have it good.

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