Fairy Funny

July 4, 2010 at 12:39 am (A Midsummer Night's Dream, My College Papers, Shakespeare's Plays) (, , , )

A couple weeks ago, my drive down into the mountains of Virginia got me thinking about college. I went to school a few hours deeper into those beautiful hills, at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Anyway, then I realized I forgot to post about my college papers. Yep, I wrote one on A Midsummer Night’s Dream back in November 1986. Yawn. Why did I keep these papers? Why would I ever want to read them again? It’s a mystery. Anyhow, this one is entitled: “The Fairies’ Contribution to the Humor in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Yawn.

How do professors psyche themselves into reading this stuff over and over, year after year? How? It’s a mystery. Yawn. This paper is bleeding with red ink, but the guy should have been an MD… his handwriting is so bad I can’t make out what most of his notes say. I see “develop” and “expand” in a couple places; not sure what good comments like that do on a paper that would never be further discussed or revised. Anyway.

Actually, I kind of enjoyed reading the paper because it made me think about the difference between what I’m doing with this blog and what I did in school. In school, I’m sure I just did the minimum required. This paper is only 4.5 pages long, which was probably the minimum requirement (I bet there was a required word count and since this was typed on a typewriter… I bet I actually counted the words).

Also, I wonder about the whole concept of undergrad theme papers. Is it a useful way of teaching? Again, because I never went back and revisited the themes/rewrote the paper/had any useful conversation or input about it, I’m not sure what I got out of it. I guess just the exercise of coming up with something to put on paper is useful in itself. I guess.

On the other hand, I’m having a lot of fun with this blog and think I’m learning a lot. I can write about anything I want and not worry that every statement is backed up with “impressive” evidence that will get me a grade. And also, here I find I have more questions than answers. I’m just putting my thoughts out there and not always drawing conclusions. (I’d love to get more comments about my posts… that would be fun!)

Also, I like writing on the blog because it’s my party and I can do what I want. I can say things I’d never put in a school paper. I don’t have to mind my p’s and q’s so much… I can use slang and sentence frags when I feel more conversational and casual — sometimes it’s less cumbersome to get my meaning across without worrying about the presence and placement of all the parts of speech. I can neglect to ital titles, because I feel like it. I can do what I feel like because no one is grading me! This is more fun. I can spend as much time as I feel like on each play… no deadlines! And maybe (especially if you comment!) I get more out of it than I did from my college papers.

Alrighty. Let’s see. Is there anything insightful in this paper? I talk a bit about the popularity of nonhuman beings in folklore. How people enjoy fairy tales about sprites possessing both human foibles and magical powers. And how this combination of traits is especially amusing because it allows for more imaginative stories — not limited to the predictability of the human world.

For all their humanlike feelings, the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream have resources for dealing with them that set them firmly apart from mortals. This endears them further to the audience, because the fairies deal with problems we can relate to, but they deal in ways that humans can only fantasize about. Yet for all their powers, they mess things up pretty well. There’s a lot of humor in that.

I compare and contrast the whimsical magic of the fairyworld to the slapstick shenanigans of the mechanicals. I also contrast the mystical, mischievous fairyworld here to the scary underworld of evil spirits, witches and scary magic in folklore. We have love juice here, not death spells. We have the mischievous, but not malicious, Puck.

I go into some detail about Puck — how this character was well-known to Shakespeare’s audience. Puck was the Elizabethan euphemism for today’s gremlins — the causers of all those little, inexplicable things that occur when no one is looking. Shakespeare recounts Puck’s exploits so that the audience is reminded of who he is. He’s a very funny character to include in the play because of his universality: everyone can relate to him because everyone has had a brush with Puck (I used the word “universalism” here, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t talking about religion!).

I talk a bit about the poetic language of the fairies. How their pretty, ethereal language creates their mystique. And I compare it to the heavy-handedness of the mechanicals’ language. Let’s see, I go into the humor of Oberon’s prank, and the farce of Titania’s doting on Bottom. And then I talk about the humor stemming from dramatic irony… because the audience sees the fairies, but the Athenians don’t. We know all the silliness among the lovers stems from the love juice, but they are unconscious of the cause.

I wind it up by giving the fairies credit for putting things to right, one hilarious step at a time, for leaving everyone feeling like it was all a strange dream, and for making this one of Shakespeare’s most entertaining plays. B+

© All Content, Copyright 2010 by Blog Author, Or What You Will. All Rights Reserved.

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Escaping the Bonds of Erasable Bond

February 18, 2010 at 10:31 pm (My College Papers) (, , , , , , )

Seeing my old papers from my college Shakespeare classes got me thinking about how the process of writing has changed immensely for me over the years.  Here was my process in college (in the mid- to late 1980s): I took notes and wrote drafts longhand. Then I re-wrote a final draft… again in longhand. I then pulled my trusty mechanical typewriter (that I bought for about $10 at a yard sale) out of the closet and I typed out my final version on erasable bond paper. I could not stand typing on any other kind of paper. Expensive, but worth it when I was typing a long paper at 3 or 4 AM, running on coffee fumes and making plenty of typos along the way!

My senior year, I switched to typing out the final version at the computer lab on campus into some kind of early word processing program. I think it was WordStar maybe? I remember having to get the program floppy (actually bendable!) disks from someone at the computer lab and boot them up (is that the term?) on the old computers with the glowing green screens. The software was not on them! I had to do that each time, and then type in my final version and print it on the dot matrix printer.

The technology didn’t change my writing process. I still made notes and wrote drafts longhand and just drove over to the computer lab with my handwritten final draft ready to type up. I could now print out multiple copies instead of going to the library to photocopy a typed version (which I never did anyway). But  honestly, I don’t remember ever taking the floppy disks back to the computer lab to print out multiple copies of my papers… so other than having that unused capability, there really was little difference to me.

Now that I think about it, I wasted time and burned some gas driving over to the computer lab instead of just pulling the old typewriter out of the closet. I must have felt there was some value added to using the computer, but it’s not evident to me as I think about it now. I may have made some last minute edits, but I don’t think that was a big part of my computing back then.

I continued with that (inefficient) process for a year or so into my first job after college. I still wrote everything out longhand. That’s how the thoughts came out of my brain onto paper… via my pen.

 About a year into that job, I finally changed my writing process (I think I got a computer all to myself at my desk, so it was easier to make the switch) and I started writing notes and making drafts and edits directly into the word processing program (we used WordPerfect).

For me, it was a very big change in mental process that I remember being very aware of at the time. I was uneasy with the switch for a while… I felt like I’d lose my train of thought or have difficulty bringing coherence to my drafts if I lost copies of my previous drafts for reference (as they changed instantly on the computer). There was a real feeling of discomfort for me. A Change with a capital C.

Now, of course, I can’t imagine writing anything longhand. I can barely read my own writing and I get writers’ cramp from writing a couple thank you notes! There’s no way I could sit and write and re-write drafts of multi-page papers.

But beyond the mechanics, what interests me is the mental process that is so different for me. I now find writing directly onto a computer a natural and fluid process. I feel like I think more clearly with the words flowing directly brain to fingers. It’s much faster than longhand and I have more of a chance to get my thoughts out as they occur. I think.

That loss of control, the inability to reference drafts that disappear as they are edited… that bothered me for a while, but I hardly think about it anymore. I love writing on a computer and find it so simple to edit and change things around with no fuss. I feel that my writing must be much better than it would be if I were using longhand.

Does anyone know what I’m talking about? I feel like it’s a subtle idea that I may not be describing well, but it’s been an interesting thing to me over the years—this change in the thinking/writing process. I’d love to hear if others have experienced this.

On a happy note… my big box o’ books came today! I will be reading Shakespeare this weekend!

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A Blast from the Past

February 17, 2010 at 10:16 pm (My College Papers) ()

Okay, well I will admit to being a packrat. I found my college papers from Shakespeare courses I took in 1986-87. I even have them stapled to the syllabus for each class. Nutty, huh? I obviously kept these for 23 years because I foresaw the coming of the Internet and knew that I would want to blog about Shakespeare. Umm, yeah.

So, here’s a summary of my course work. Fall 1986 I read Richard III, Richard II, and I Henry IV. I got a B+ on a paper entitled: “The Desire for Family Unity as Exhibited by the Female Characters in Shakespeare’s Richard III, Richard II, and I Henry IV.” Sounds like a snoozer, eh? By the way, I have no memory at all of reading these history plays, so it will be interesting to see if re-reading them (or my paper) jogs any synapses.

Let’s see, then still in Fall 1986, I read The Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Twelfth Night (Or What You Will…. where I get the title for my blog), The Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet. I got another B+ on my paper “The Fairies’ Contribution to the Humor in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” I think my memory is more intact on the comedies.

Winter 1987 I read Hamlet  and Troilus & Cressida. I got an “A+ Brilliant!” on my paper “The ‘True’ Side of Love in Troilus and Cressida.” I don’t remember a darn thing about T&C! Hopefully, I can be brilliant once again!

Still Winter quarter 1987, I read Othello, Measure for Measure, King Lear and Macbeth. My second paper for the class was not so brilliant and apparently not that insightful. I got a B+ on “The Insightful Wit of King Lear’s Fool.”

Spring 1987 was spent on Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Pericles, Cymbeline, Winter’s Tale, and The Tempest. And we re-read Macbeth, Comedy of Errors, Measure for Measure, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I got an A- for “A Comparison of Puck and Ariel” and a B for “Cleopatra and Lady Macbeth.”

Like I said in my About Me… the bard brought down my GPA! But I would have taken more Shakespeare classes if they’d been offered. I remember they were a good challenge for me.

As I read through the plays now, I will take a look at my old papers (especially that “Brilliant!” one) and see what I had to say and report back to you on what a naive idiot (or insightful savant!) I was 23 years ago. Anyhow, maybe it will be fun looking at what I wrote and seeing if I still agree.

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