Monday, 6 July 2015

English 348 Awkward Books 2015

So this year I've gone back to university to continue with my BA in English Literature.
I decided to do a paper called Awkward Books. It's a 300 level English paper taught through Victoria University in Wellington. You may remember way back at the start of this blog when I wrote about doing Pacific Literature at VUW, and that study has continued to this day.

Awkward Books is an awkward paper, it's challenging. It has expanded my world views and made me think outside the box.
In the first lecture we were shown a powerpoint slide that stated: 

"Fair Warning:

This course contains material of graphic, explicit and often disturbing nature.
It will not be possible to complete this course without reading the set novels and therefore encountering potentially offensive material. 

If you are concerned about your ability to engage with the set texts, please consider withdrawing from the course.
The Student Counselling Service is available..." (1. refer end of post.).

The course texts are as follows:
The Outsider - Albert Camus.
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov.
American Psycho - Brett Easton Ellis (this is R18 in New Zealand).
Disgrace - J.M Coetzee.
Diary of a Teenage Girl - Phoebe Gloeckner.
and
We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver.

The books have all been restricted, (like Ellis' book is still R18 rated in NZ) and others were banned and later been allowed to be released with new editions due to changes in the texts.
The NZ Censorshop Office is the main people in charge of deciding if a text needs to be banned outright, or simply restricted to certain age groups. (They also do film classification with the various ratings, from G (general) to R rated to restricted to viewers that age and above.)

I've really enjoyed this paper.

The assignments weren't too bad either:
3 reading reports of 600 words - on various texts as we went through.
2 long essays of 2,000 words.

I felt anxious on the first two as I'd been off from study for 2 years** having a break and it was hard to get back into everything. I worried I was doing the citations wrong and would be accused of plagiarism... Needless worry really!

The first half of the paper is quite philosophically based, which I found challenging as I've never done philosophy before.
 The reading was also hard to keep on top of. They are not kidding when they say it is 14+ hours of reading each week!  I was just doing this paper, no other classes being taken and I wasn't working. So workload wise this was perfect for me. . .  If only it meant Dan didn't complain about my lack of money though! (BOO).

Strangely before I even knew I'd been accepted to do the paper, I had gotten the text of The Outsider out from the public library and read it for fun. It made the class a lot easier having read some beforehand.  It took a long time to get the texts from another student, which annoyed me, but I realise that our lives are all busy and things happen. I have to learn to be more patient.

Psycho is the only text that has triggered me so far, it's just so graphic. I haven't enjoyed reading it at all.
Studying Lolita annoyed me because I felt sorry for Humbert Humbert - even though I knew he was doing things that were wrong, and immoral - I felt empathy for him. It sounds stupid - I know paedophilia is wrong, yet here I am accepting it within the text. It's an ethical and moral dilemma I've been fighting in my head for a while (ever since I watched the movie a few years ago!).


NB:
1. Blackboard.
Retrieved 03/04/2015.
All copyrights to VUW English Department and in particular James Meffan
(professor of ENGL348).

**Voluntarily left for 18 months or so, for health reasons related to my anxiety diagnosis.