Friday, April 22, 2005

Academic shuffle

With only three weeks of the semester to go, I'm starting to feel a little sad in spite of myself. The thought of going back was like an anvil weighing on my mind all break long. I was especially dreading writing my essay for European Cinema. Even I'm amazed at how close the deadline I pushed it, then when I started writing some sort of magic happened and it turned out amazing, if I do say so myself, which I just did. How am I going to remain convinced of my academic ineptitude when I keep writing essays I'm proud of? This has never happened to me before.

I feel competent and insightful in my classes. IS THIS THE TWILIGHT ZONE?

I haven't decided yet if the film classes are just better here or if the difference is all in my mind since I turned everything else in my life upside down. I'm pleased, but also annoyed that it took me this long to be able to do this stuff. I'm meant to graduate this year, for god's sake, and I've never enjoyed a film class until now. This doesn't bode well for the Cinema Studies program at UW. Or am I only productive overseas?

Of course, as conducive as my classes have been this semester, the University of Aberdeen's true nature still manages to show itself. My Film & Literature professor threw a bitch-fit when I told him I wrote about one film instead of two, but in the word count he assigned there was no way to cover that kind of material with any sort of depth or profundity. It was hard enough to pare down what I had to say about one film, let alone bring up a whole other one. And they have this big warning on the list of prompts that says, "DON'T FORGET: A GOOD ESSAY ADDRESSES ALL ASPECTS OF THE QUESTION." Oh, make up your damn mind!

Something similar happened on another assignment I did for European Cinema. They called it an "exercise," not an essay, and we were meant to analyze a three-minute clip from Metropolis. Well, it being an "exercise," not an essay, I didn't write it in a formal essay structure. As in, no introduction or conclusion, just straight up analysis. Even that was a chore to fit into under 1,500 words. But I got massively graded down for not writing in a formal essay structure, and when this was brought up in class the professor was like, "Mmhmm, yes, we should have called it an essay, not an exercise. We can see how you might have misunderstood. WE'LL HAVE TO REMEMBER THAT FOR NEXT SEMESTER." (She didn't shout it like that, I just put it in capitals because it makes me feel like shouting.)

I hate the way they're so anal about word counts here. It's counter-productive to put such an arbitrary limit on someone's work when you have no idea what they have to say or how they're going to say it. And kicking me out of Film & Lit the way they did, the whole fiasco with my Celtic Civilizations class back in November... It all ties into this obsession with rules and procedure and formalities, a very stereotypically British thing which obviously isn't always true but I'm starting to see how it's more true here than at UW. But I suppose I can't speak for anywhere but these two universities, so maybe I'm just getting a skewed version of things.

Still, I'm happy because I know the work I've done is solid and I deserved better than it got. My Film & Lit professor wrote on my final essay, "This is a very enjoyable, well-constructed, insightful essay. Had it answered any one of the questions I set, it would have merited a first. [That means an 18, 19, or 20.] However, since you decided to write your own question, I have to give you a lower mark. Consider yourself lucky I didn't fail you." Eh, I can live with that.


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