Wednesday, April 30, 2008

write like a college freshman majoring in English literature day

Well, if I were Scott Eric Kaufman, I would actually do that and produce something hilarious. But I am not he. One can only dream, and I dream about playing with puppies.

But if I did, I would probably choose some theme that is relatively obvious and yet ambitious (like the "concept of time") and choose some incredibly difficult and abstruse author (like T.S. Eliot) and state some sort of sophomoric argument, such as this:

The concept of time is central to Eliot's poetry, suffusing its structure and operating as one of its principal themes. Like time in real life (it hurts me to write that), the concept of time shifts in Eliot's work. In Eliot's earlier poetry, time is elastic, future-oriented and forgiving, as it comes from a perspective of youth that indulges in blithe wastefulness. In Eliot's later poetry, time is regarded more nostalgically, as from the point of view of a life wasted: time is everywhere, and the most important time is the present. This dichotomy is most salient in the comparison of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" and "Burnt Norton."

See, the awesome badness of the above is that it ignores how Prufrock comes to regret his waffly indecisiveness and dilly-dallying; and by focusing on Burnt Norton, the essay would miss a bunch of complexity of the other parts of the Four Quartets that might contradict this poorly articulated thesis. It is a pretty ambitious endeavor to tackle two big poems from a difficult author in a 10-12 page paper.

And that is what I did for four years in college. I kind of miss those days. I got the best grades in college focusing on just a few lines from one work, not gigantic tracts from multiple works. Focused analysis! It's something I'm finding now: focus is good, taking on an entire literature is dumb. Which is why I have decided to focus on culture in my agency vs. culture vs. structure dilemma. Still, oh to be 19 and writing bad papers. I miss those days, and hanging out in cafes and watching people play ultimate frisbee on the grassy knolls. I miss this particularly as I am holed up in my apartment, writing a damned long article on organizational culture and family-friendly policies.

In any case, for your pleasure as deadlines approach, two passages on time:

Prufrock:

And indeed there will be time
For the yellow smoke that slides along the street,
Rubbing its back upon the window-panes;
There will be time, there will be time
To prepare a face to meet the faces that you meet;
There will be time to murder and create,
And time for all the works and days of hands
That lift and drop a question on your plate;
Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

In the room the women come and go
Talking of Michelangelo.

And indeed there will be time
To wonder, "Do I dare?" and, "Do I dare?"
Time to turn back and descend the stair,
With a bald spot in the middle of my hair--
[They will say: "How his hair is growing thin!"]
My morning coat, my collar mounting firmly to the chin,
My necktie rich and modest, but asserted by a simple pin--
[They will say: "But how his arms and legs are thin!"]
Do I dare
Disturb the universe?
In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.


Burnt Norton:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.

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