Monday, November 22, 2010

The Thinking Time

by Julia Buckley
It's that time of year. Yes, when the world falls in love, but also when I am grading research papers. This is a solemn and noble duty, and, as Inspector Clouseau once said, "A part of life's rich pageant." :)

Based on what I've read so far, I can assure anyone reading this that young people can still think like scholars and write intelligently--that wasn't exclusive to our generation, although I have chatted with some adults who believe it was.

I say, if an eighteen-year-old can push away the cell phone and the text messaging, the computer, the television, and sit down to write a paper which assures me that Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov and Camus' Meursault share an existential isolation, and can proceed with a lucid argument supported by examples, then the world of scholarship is in good shape.

So I am grateful for my scholars, even if I am not grateful for the pile of papers that seems never to grow smaller. Maybe I am the one in existential isolation . . .

Do you remember the papers you wrote as a student? Those first forays into scholarship that made you realize you could think about really deep things? One of my favorites, which I wrote as a senior in high school, compared Thomas Hardy's Eustacia Vye (from RETURN OF THE NATIVE) with Gustave Flaubert's Emma Bovary (From MADAME BOVARY). It was all my own (although my mother helped me type it on our manual typewriter), and I was proud of my scholarship, for which I had to visit the college library. I also got an A+.

What sort of papers did you write? Which were your favorites? Did you save them? Share your tales of early scholarship!


Sandra Parshall said...

I remember a paper I wrote about daily life in Elizabethan England (fleas were mentioned). That was the beginning of my fascination with European history.

Julia Buckley said...

Funny! :)

But how great that some of your interests inspired by scholarship became life-long interests.

Sandra Parshall said...

School isn't entirely useless. :-)

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

I remember one paper in high school, for history, not English, comparing the Borgias to the Medici. Maybe my interest in the murderous Borgias was a precursor of my mystery writing career. I saved all my papers for decades, but somewhere along the way I got talked into letting them go. As you can probably tell, I'm still not sure it was the right decision.

Julia Buckley said...

I still have mine, Liz. I guess we like to cling to even our earliest scholarship.