First workshop of the spring semester. It’s funny, it’s called spring, but there’ll be far more months in winter.
Perhaps I’ll update more often this go ‘round. But I wouldn’t hold your breath. I mean, you may do since you’ll pass out long before you die or anything too unpleasant. But why go to the bother?
(image taken from thisisinspiring)
Haven’t updated in a while, isn’t that a shame
Semester one of my program has come and gone. It didn’t even stay for breakfast. I’ve either done extremely well or extremely poorly, it’s hard to tell. At the very least I’ll be able to take the lessons learned and apply them to next semester. Actually, at the very least I’ll have done so horribly that the Princess Royal herself will throw me out of the country.
But I imagine the likelihood of that is quite low.
I decided not to apply for the PhD this year. I want some time off and I’m not certain enough that I even want a doctorate to commit to another three years right now. The way I see it is that there is no time limit, I’m a young man and unless this Eurozone crisis gets much worse the program isn’t going anywhere.
Things that I learned about myself this semester:
I cannot really stand literature study for anything other than personal enlightenment.
I’m even better at dialogue than I thought I was, but I really need to work on emotional connection through narrative
Irn Bru and steak pies are amazing and I’m not sure how I’ve lived for twenty two years without them.
I mean, sure it’s now Thursday, but it’s still Wednesday in Florida so that counts. Right? Damn right it does.
So while I was formulating ideas for my essay (which I really should get working on, it’s due in a month), I realized it’s a much bigger project than 4,000 words. So I’m sticking that idea on the back of my memory card and working off one of the prepared questions instead. I think it’ll end up being a similar paper anyway, but still.
The point is that I know what I want to do for my PhD now. That might be putting the cart before the horse but still.
I feel like this most of the time these days. People want to go to bars. People want to listen to new, popular music. People want to protest the government and be all kinds of studenty. Most of the time, though, I just feel like this:
A short one this week, maybe I’ll do more over the weekend.
I’d say don’t hold your breath, but it’s impossible for you to actually hurt yourself that way so go nuts.
and address one wall of text with another.
So I had Tragedy and Modernity, which all three followers may remember is my favorite class, today. We discussed Eugene O’Neill’s Long Days Journey Into Night, if you haven’t read/seen it, I recommend it.
This play was incredibly personal for O’Neill, so much so that he banned its performance during his lifetime. It’s based on his own family and boy does it show. The biggest indicator to how much of himself O’Neill put into the play is the stage directions; they are massive. Some run for almost a full page and they go far beyond the standard “Character does A at B with C” and would be more at place in a narrative rather than dramatic text.
The discussion in class inevitably wandered into this territory. The lecturer posed the question: what is an actor or a director to do with these long blocks of text? From an actor/writer’s perspective: you boil it down to necessary action and throw out the rest. Were I staging this play as director I would read it (several times) and keep a full text version of the script for myself but I would give the actor’s scripts with a lot of [REDACTED] text. Actors cannot be restricted by the writer. That might sound a bit weird, but you must remember when dealing with theatre, that the actor, director, and tech input must be just as—if not more—important than the writer.
The theatre is alive and ever changing. No two productions of the same play should ever be the same. Having a writer spell out not only action, but motivation and voice inflection, is mortally limiting. It will kill a play. This is also how a show like Fool for Love can have such a short page length but a long running time. It’s also how two casts in the same company can run coexisting productions that don’t address the same issues.
Back to the class, my fellow modern tragedians from the lit study arm of the department kept going back to the craftsmanship of the stage directions and how informing they are for characterization. I would agree, they are quite well written and they build the characters up for the reader. But an actor can never rely on another person’s interpretation of their character. That will breed hammy, unwatchable performances. It’s also why I think that an actor should never ask the director “what’s my motivation”: it isn’t the director’s job to tell you your motivation.
On the bus ride back to my flat I kept going over the class, something was bothering me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The little niggle kept picking at the back of my brain as I walked to Sainsbury’s and in the middle of a crosswalk it hit me.
Why do we have an industry of criticism occupied by people who don’t create?
My answer was, we shouldn’t.
Art isn’t objective, it’s subjective and if you’re doing it right it will touch different parts of different people in different ages. Critics attempt to take art and stuff it in little boxes for easy categorization. I feel that this is a bad thing and has a negative impact on writing in all forms.
This isn’t to say that literary criticism is without merit, on the contrary it’s important to know what you’re saying about literature (just like you must know what you’re saying about anything). But the only person you should be trying to understand a work for is yourself. Art is like religion, the more people you have to filter it through the more diluted and useless it becomes. Art and religion both must be dealt with through the primary sources (and secondary sources brought in for your own edification if you feel such a need).
An actor or a writer would immediately look at Long Day’s Journey into Night and understand that while beautifully written are very superfluous from a performance perspective. The dialogue gives you just as much characterization (and opportunity to develop your own ideas on it). In fact, I would say it does it much better.
But I’m sure you stopped read somewhere around “so I had Tragedy and Modernity today…” so I’ll close up now. I’ve got a three page stage direction I’m writing and hoping to finish up in a few paragraphs.
Seminar continues to feel like a time suck. We sit about and debate basic concepts of writing and we don’t really gain anything from it. I mean, maybe some people do but I don’t. And this is my blog, so…
I wish that we would have to bring in writing to talk about instead of just reading excerpts the instructor brings in. Today’s topic was speech. The first great debate was over the use of dialect. My opinion was that it is possible to use aspects of character, general reader knowledge, rhythm, and meter to establish how a person talks. I feel like it’s cheating to use a droppin’ of consanints and added vowlls to give a way of talkin’. I also think dialect is only useful to alienate the reader and purposefully breed confusion. Otherwise you should be able to use how a person constructs sentences and the words they use.
A person from the south is going to be smoother with their words. They’re going to be short, succinct sentences. Not a lot of bluster and maybe with just a sprinkling of colorful metaphor. Whereas someone from up north my be a little more verbose but also perhaps a little clipped. These are generalizations, mind you.
I also think that the seminar is a little too big. Our workshop classes are small, about six or seven people per section. Our seminars are about twice that. Personally, I’d rather have workshop twice a week with the seminar subjects covered in workshop.
I think maybe the cause of this dissatisfaction is the fact that I’ve spent the last three and a half years in writing classes. Hopefully when we get through this basic stuff and into meatier topics I’ll be more interested, but for now I’ll enjoy the great view of Arthur’s Seat and Fife from the classroom window.
continues to be awesome. Now to track down five people and get them to sign my election application. Time for some student government
Seeing TV ads that have been localized for Great Britain.
Seeing things be cheaper here than back home (even with VAT and the exchange rate taken into account).
Watching an election from outside the US.
So I’ve now officially met with each of my classes and had my first one on one with my tutor. I really like everything so far. The work isn’t hard yet, but it is already rewarding. I keep getting story ideas (not really specific to here, but still) for a lot of stuff.
I think my Tragedy and Modernity instructor may let me write a creative piece for our final essay. Could be a good excuse to finally work on When the Walls Fell (or as I’ve tentatively re-titled it, Upper Crust) as I’m trying to follow Arthur Miller’s guidelines for a modern hero. I stopped working on it after my dad died for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who reads it. But life goes on.
I really don’t want to go to this Iain Banks thing tonight, but I also do. I’m just exhausted from lack of sleep. My summertime insomnia because jet lag and now has digivolved into “Well you don’t get to sleep anymore because Fuck You, that’s why.”
And I dropped my toothbrush behind my bookshelf…
In other news, I have a problem with Scotland: I’m too tall for everything. I thought it would be my generous waist that would cause me the most issues on this trip but apparently 5’10” (6’ on a windy day) is too tall in the UK. I can’t ride the bus, use ATMs, look in a mirror, or go through some doors without turning into some kind of splayed Olympian.
You live, you learn I guess. Unless you get hit by a bus because you looked the wrong way at a crosswalk.
Found out that I did indeed get the option courses I picked out. Tragedy and Modernity and Shakespeare Adapted. Now my theatre degree won’t be useless after all! Right?
I don’t particularly like flash fiction. It has it’s uses, I guess. It can help break writer’s block. I suppose it lets writers experiment without committing to a longer work. Sometimes I just don’t want to deal with it though. My undergrad program was all about flash fiction. In Writing the Short Story our work wasn’t supposed to go beyond 500 words and I think that, in the end, this can hurt students.
But we did flash fiction in my workshop class today. I might post what I wrote later. A couple of them are going to be expanded, that’s for sure. And at least one of them is stuck in flash fiction zone.