I don't know whether it's been a blessing or a curse that we've had a significant amount of contact with undergraduate English major in my English 511 class, the Teaching of Literature. I sit in once a week on an English 380 class, where just starting English majors are. Then in the 511 class we've had an undergraduate panel (where students talked about what it's like/who is an English major/why they are English majors) and we've had undergrads in a couple classes just to attend. I taught one class of 380, too.
Being around the undergrads may be curse or blessing because I am having a true longing for the halcyon days of no worries undergrad life. As I recollect my undergrad experience, I realize that I spent a ton of energy getting to graduate school. Now I'm having the letdown of being here. The other incoming grad students take everything seriously, for the most part. This has been a semester of triage for me, and while busy, I think it's been good. There's essentially no purely qualitative difference between grad classes and undergrad classes. There's more irksome "professionalization" concerns--such a thing would be absurd for an undergrad English class--more pretentiousness, to be sure, and the profs are more willing to spout off and risk noncommunication/not being clear.
And I think it's absurd to really consider myself a "scholar" at this point. The difference now is that I actually think about starting the term paper early. Of course I don't do that. In undergrad it was a given that I'd put it off.
But it's cool to be an English major at the University of Arizona. Totally different from where I was. The English majors, at least some of them, are freaky looking. I guess I also was once, and my proportions have taken to the anomalous even now. But there've been two undergrad English majors with long long hair dyed jet black, and each with skin white as snow, not unlike Meg White of the White Stripes. Now that's just sweet.
I have the pathetic urge to want to hang out with these young people, like a lonely ingratiating professor at a tiny outpost small college (isn't that where I came from?). I want the ability to redefine myself on a moment's notice, to say the unexpected. Now I'm responsible; I've got students. I know that they want Stability.
But those are green first-years. Some of the undergrad English folks no doubt dig the slightly off kilter profs. The question for me: Who was I and what have I become?
I know at the very least that I drank a lot more and didn't feel it afterwards. I made more three pointers than I ever have in midnight basketball. What I thought about Hemingway seemed important, not throwaway, not stupid, not insipid. In a way I was closer to death, hurtling a white Lexus across Iowa plains, instead of this cruising yawl of a Schwinn road bike that I now travel on.
The question really is: Who are my drinking friends? Who will go out with me to the Long-View concert tomorrow night? I put out an e-mail to some folks I know telling them about it. But I don't have any close friends. I should have encouraged my friend Tim to apply to the U of A art department--that dude needs a change. 23-24 years of fricking Iowa will do that to a brother.
That's why I fetishize the undergraduates. If I could be like I was then, with the new additions of a dog and a cat, I would be home free, like an electric Herman Hesse hero mythologized in a Jimi Hendrix song. --ADAM