Monday, February 8, 2010

Mon premier jour comme normalienne!

Okay, so I'm not a normalienne (an ENS student) - not really. I'm just taking one course there, but it was still exciting! This is the most ambitious course I've ever seen. From now until the middle of May, for two hours a week, we're going to talk about EVERYTHING! And I'm not even kidding - here's a really basic overview: we're talking about the history of literature, but since there are a million different histories, we're going to talk about all of them, including but not limited to the history of the novel, prose, poetry, theater, lives of authors, specific periods, etc. But that's not all. We're also going to talk about how your education (specifically high school education) affects the way you read literature, and we're also going to talk about the distance between the reader and the book and experiences that change the way you read (for example, you read the letters of Mme de Sévigné nowadays, but think of Proust, even though he came afterwards, just because he made a lot of comments about them in In Search of Lost Time). But...that's still not it! We're going to talk about labeling literary periods and how that's a limiting factor, and also about translation of foreign books and how that affects the literary history of a country. I think I'll stop there since no one will think this is interesting. Anyway, it's going to be a great course - a little scary, but great nonetheless. The harder the course, the more you learn, so I'm glad I'll learn a lot!

After the course was over, I walked outside into La Cour aux Ernests and started looking for Justine, but she saw me first. I'd say it was kind of awkward at first, but since the word "awkward" doesn't exist in French, situations here obviously can't be awkward. At first, she said (translation, of course): "This is weird" and then she kissed me on both cheeks, to which I responded: "No, that was weird." But, she said that in France you have to do that. My card for the regular student restaurants apparently doesn't work at l'ENS, which was a little annoying because I wanted to try the food there. I wonder if CUPA is going to get me an ENS student card, because that would be neat! So, instead of eating at l'ENS, we walked to a Lebanese place where we had interesting sandwiches and mint tea. I really like mint tea - we had it on the Monde Arabe visit with Michel too! Basically, she asked me a lot about the other Hopkins kids who I haven't seen since she last saw them. Then, I told her about my orientation courses and how interesting I thought French methodology was, especially the dissertation, and she called it "la torture française." Obviously, she's tired of doing nothing but dissertations for seven hours a day. Still, I bet she's really good at them by now! It was fun to see her again, considering I haven't in the past nine months or so. Lucky for me, I'll probably get to see her every Monday after my ENS course! So, even though the professors don't have office hours, at least Justine does!

I was told to explain the pictures - this is Justine. She was my French TA last year and is a philosophy student at l'ENS, in case that wasn't obvious. 

I had a guided tour of the Pantheon after that and got to hear a lot about its history, but I won't bore you with that, since I've already bored you with the ENS class. Plus, it's almost 1:00 in the morning and I have to wake up at 6:00 tomorrow to spend the entire day at school (9 to 9, lucky me!). After that, I taught Jerome some English. Did you know that English makes no sense? Why do you get into a car, but on a train? I couldn't explain why - I just told him that that's the way it is. It's so interesting to speak with someone who really loves the United States, but doesn't live there. He has English books that translate sentences into French that are used at La Sorbonne, and a notebook filled with problems. It's really funny - that's what I did to learn French! He said I speak really well, by the way. It's good to know that everyone has to go through exactly the same process to learn another language no matter which one's your first.

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