The Literary Salon

A free salon wherein patrons and passers-by may view or contribute ideas on literary and generally intellectual matters. The blog will strive to maintain its commitment to wit, humour and perspicuous analysis.

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Location: Toronto, now Ottawa, Ont, Canada

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Applications and 18th century

I'm busy as a beaver preparing my PhD applications, a task I would not wish on my enemy. Thankfully it is not as bad this year, perhaps because I have become familiar with the process by this point (and my references are coming through, which is good). I'm in the process of editing a paper I wrote on Jane Austen's Emma for my writing sample; not sure if it's my best, but it's definitely original and of some interest.
I've also been doing some homework on potential supervisors. By far, the school that gets my mojo going is the University of Virginia, namely one J. Paul Hunter, whose recent piece in Cambridge Companion to Eighteenth Century Poetry, "Couplets and Conversation" I am currently reading (see the picture). Eighteenth century professors, especially those who are working in areas that actually interest me (sorry, no sexual/gender stuff) are as rare as unicorns. Perhaps this is a good thing as I am only applying to a total of no more than seven schools, but more likely six (4 in the U.S. and two or three here in Canada).

Literary Trivia: As I recall, my Gre subject test in English went well, and although I'm big on rhetoric, etc, I was stumped by one question. It quoted the first two lines from the second "paragraph" or Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey: "These beauteous forms/Through a long absence, have not been to me/As is a landscape to a blind man's eye." What stumped me is the question: "which rhetorical device does Wordsworth use?", and the choices were (a)hyperbole, (b)litotes, (c)chiasmus, (d)catachresis, and one I cannot remember. I'm usually very good at this, but none of the choices made sense to me (it's definitely not the first two, but the closest, if I had to choose one, would be chiasmus). Any thoughts?

Friday, November 18, 2005

Official GRE

My Official Score Report for the General GRE test came today, and the good news is I didn't hallucinate the day I wrote it (I had strep throat and couldn't cancel). I did better than expected on the Verbal section, 720, which is 98th percentile (finally a good standardized test score). I totally bombed the math section with a 440 (I'd rather not say what percentile that is). Let's see if this helps my applications at home or in the States. I won't find out how I did on the subject test until probably Christmas, so stay tuned all three of you :)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

It's finally come...

Well, November 12 finally came: I wrote the GRE subject test (Literature in English). Phew! Thankfully I was actually (somewhat) healthy this time, unlike the General GRE test I wrote about two weeks ago.

All in all I think I did very well. Despite what reports and websites may tell you, there was not a preponderance of contemporary/20th century literature. Actually, there was surprisingly little of that and a surprising amount of canonical stuff (Pope, Swift, and lots of Chaucer!), which is good for me. I left very few answers blank and made educated guesses on about a dozen questions. As long as I wasn't careless with the Scantron sheet (I hate those things!), I think the result should be quite good (I loathe standardised tests).

I won't find out for another month at least how I do, but I will post as soon as I find out (Graduate academia is so stupid: I must apply to U.S. schools without even knowing how I did on the test. Go figure. I guess Dr. J needs no reminding).

If anyone out there actually reads this and is interesting in finding out more about the subject test, or if someone needs advice on the test, please let me know here or at piouslabours [at] yahoo dot ca.

No more exams, but now I gotta worry about PhD applications. That means transcripts, references, statements. Arrrrgh! Excuse me while I barf.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Update: A real grab-bag

Sorry for the lack of posting: I've been really busy lately and besides I've been absolutely bed-ridden for the past eight days with Lord knows what. At first I thought it avian flu or something, but after six days, I finally went to a walk-in clinic and was told I had strep-throat. I'm on the mend now, but boy I haven't felt this bad in a long time.

I finally wrote the General GRE Test on November 1.
Yep, I was sick when I wrote it, and not surprisingly my math score wasn't great (a 480 or so), but my Verbal score, which is really all that counts for graduate English departments, showed a *** (I don't want to jinx it). Assuming I wasn't delirious, the score is approximately 95th percentile or higher. I hate to brag, but that's pretty good, and I'm usually no good at standardized tests. I'll let y'all know when I receive the official results. I still have a feeling I was seeing things, but maybe I actually did well.

Now I must write the subject test (English literature) on November 12. At this rate of recovery I should be ok to write it. Thankfully, unlike most English undergrads, my base and range in English literature is pretty solid. Starting in about July I started reading up on those poets/authors I have neglected. My weakest area is by far 20th century, especially American, but that's not to say I know nothing about it. I finally got to read some Faulkner; I had the Sound and the Fury waiting on my bookshelf for a couple of years. Whew! Let me tell you: I've read many books (but not as much as this guy) including Ulysses, and this has to be the most difficult read I've ever encountered (besides Finnegans Wake, but that goes without say). Before this I had read a couple of Faulkner's short stories. I always wondered why Fitzgerald and Hemingway were privileged over him.

Oh, another American "classic" I read was Toni Morrison's Beloved. I read bits of it in first year, but I actually sat down and read the whole thing this time. My opinion based strictly on aesthetic merits? It was one of the most painfully slow reads of my life! I'm pretty sure I finished War and Peace faster. It's too bad, because the set-up of the story is really interesting, but Morrison manages to do nothing with it. All I seem to remember are swollen nipples...If you want to read a slave narrative, read Equiano's Interesting Narrative, the first if I'm not mistaken (Equiano was a slave who made it to England in the late 18th century, at which time if a slave arrived on British soil, he was free).

Finally, I watched Back to the Future yesterday on Tv. That has to be one of my favourite movies ever. I don't know what it is, but the idea behind the first one was brilliant, and there's also that 1980s optimism that I'm barely old enough to remember and miss. We really do live in a cynical age now (sometime after 1995 it optimism wasn't cool anymore).

Oh yes, it has now been about 6 weeks that I have quit smoking. For all you smokers out there, let me tell you, having a smoke once in a while is great, but it really is a stupid and expensive habit. I'm glad I quit. If I go to a bar or something, I'll buy a pack and split it among friends, so that I don't end up having more than 4 or 5 a night. Jeremy this means you! :) If you're not gonna do if for the health benefits, do it to save money at least. In 6 weeks alone I have saved something in the area of at least 140$ CDN. For a guy who doesn't make money that's a lot of money. In one year I'll save over 1200$. Again, for a guy who makes money here and there, that's a lot of money.