Thursday, April 28, 2011

Reflections Upon My Last Undergraduate Course

Fifteen minutes ago, Elizabeth Kadetsky said she would let us out of our three hour Wednesday evening course early. Chris cheered because he is turning 21 in a few hours and we laughed and cheered with him. She asked who of us would continue studying writing, taking courses. I was one of the few who did not raise my hand. This evening, I completed my in-class time as an undergraduate student at Penn State. My final English class is over. There may be two essays left to finish by Friday but my time under a professor is over.

I may have started crying.

It is appropriate that my final class should be a creative writing course and taught by Professor Kadetsky. I have the distinction of following her around to three of her courses in the last two years of school-- apparently, this is more than any other student has ever done. I can only hope it wasn't odious. My first course with her was my first higher level creative writing course: English 412, advanced fiction writing. Fall 2009. I met Becca Ebstein and Chris Cascio in that class, two my best beloved readers. We were terrified after Elizabeth gave us a lecture in the first two weeks about the importance of learning to write "literary fiction" and not "genre fiction" (she decided to ban it). While perhaps a bit reductive of a dichotomy, the quality of work instantly shot up. Becca and I, in particular, mark that lecture as an important turning point in our writing. Later classes with Elizabeth included "Why We Write", a course looking at the sub-genre of writing about writing (and our personal, creative motives for writing ourselves!) and this semester with "The History of the Personal Essay" where I met F. Scott Fitzgerald the essayist, Joan Didion, Annie Dillard, and more.

I must note that Professor Kadetsky was one of many professors who taught courses that became very precious to me. I plan on acknowledging the scope of my English experiences in further posts over the next few weeks as graduation (May 14th!) approaches. For now though, I'm just stunned that this semester is coming to a close and that there won't be one to follow. Not like this. I suspect there will be more semesters. New. Different. Experiences that will become dear to me.

For now, I get to miss undergrad before I am even handed my official degree. I get to look at my growth as a writer this year, this semester, at how growing as a writer is bound up (indistinguishable, at times) in growing as a person. This year was the richest writing time I've had at Penn State: essay and poetry courses last fall; essay and my thesis this semester. I've fallen in love with the essay and "essaying"; learned (my lack of) conciseness and control from poetry; vulnerability and slow thought in my thesis. I experienced talking about everything I don't know about an essay by presenting on "Total Eclipse" by Annie Dillard-- it may be one of my semester highlights-- and watching the class figure it out together. I've experienced the joys of writing friendship in swapping genres with Mae, and the long talks at Word Parties with darling word lovers who "geek out" about craft and form and philosophy as much as I do... or more so.

It's been beautiful, even on the nights when I was convinced I could never write another word. I know I will keep writing. I will. But I will miss the classroom, the sharing, the being taught.

I am overwhelmed when I think of not taking any more writing courses. After Elizabeth asked who was going to continue writing courses, Megan Dutill asked why I looked so distressed. I replied, "I'm just intensely nostalgic right now. I think this means grad school."

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