Thursday, February 25, 2010

Une traduction lipogrammatique

Today was a long day, starting with my 9:30 TD of philosophy at La Sorbonne - Clignancourt (which means I need to wake up at 8 to get there on time) and ending with Alexandra, some of her new British friends, and me going to see a movie at Bastille. As I'm writing this now, the last metros are about to leave. Obviously, it's late. I have a lot to say, but I'll try to type quickly.

This morning in philosophy, we talked about man according to Aristotle some more. Selon lui, man is a political animal. He also thinks that not everyone is equal and that certain people are meant to rule in the political part of life. For him, life is divided into three levels: the family, the village, and the city. The city is where the politics happen, because the first two levels just don't suffice. In each level, certain individuals are naturally superior. For example, Aristotle believes that slaves are inferior and a natural outcome of society (in Athens, where he was, slaves would have been prisoners from other cities). To him, slaves should stay in their places because that is the only way they can understand their true meaning. I think Aristotle should have tried being a slave for a little bit so he could have seen how it was before proclaiming that slavery was natural. Basically, his proof that all of these thoughts were correct was that man had language - and could talk (I want to clarify - language isn't the same as voice. You knew that? Okay, well, we had to clarify it this morning). Because of this, Aristotle was sure that man was a political animal. And, you may ask: what about men who choose to live away from society? Well, they aren't really men according to Aristotle. To me, Aristotle seems like he just denies every valid argument against his ideas purely on the basis that he thinks he's right. Maybe the next guy we read will be more logical.

After class, I had to give the professor my "fiche pedagogique" which is a sheet of paper where she's supposed to write down what my graded assignments will be for CUPA to know. I think CUPA only makes us do this so that we can have in writing what we're going to be graded on, because apparently French professors aren't known for being straightforward about what their students will have to do. This professor really is straightforward, though. I'm not exactly sure if she's a professor at all. She's really young and wears jeans to class. But besides that, she's incredibly knowledgeable. I'm very impressed every time she opens her mouth. She speaks really quickly too. There's another American in the class (I guess she's from a different program) and she basically didn't take one note. She looked like she had no clue what was going on. I, on the other hand, took six pages of notes, and I'm sure I didn't write down everything. But back to the professor, she was so nice when I gave her the form. She gave me her email address and told me that if I ever don't understand anything, I should just email her, but that I hadn't looked lost at all, so she figured I had understood the class. At CUPA, they had told us that the professors were very impersonal and never really talked to their students or did stuff like that.

Then, this afternoon, I had my second writing workshop. Today - I mean yesterday - we did lipogrammatic translations, which means we took something that another author had written and we rewrote it, replacing every word that had a certain vowel in it with other words that didn't have that vowel, all without changing the original meaning. We started with "Un chat mange un ananas" (a cat eats a pineapple). Eventually, we came up with "Un felin devore un fruit des tropiques." (Sorry I'm being lazy and not using accents - it's 1:11 in the morning. By the way, that means "A feline eats a tropical fruit") So, if you notice, the lipogrammatic translation has no A's. Yes, I think it's cool. We did our own lipogrammatic translations with an incredibly long first sentence of a book (obviously, the author wanted to be like Proust, but forgot that Proust's first sentence was only eight words long). I chose to remove the letter O. Then, we had to write a fake introduction proclaiming why we chose to remove the letter we chose. I wrote about how the three stories needed to be connected like a circle. The professor liked it! I think, in this class more than any of the others, the professor is very impressed that I would be willing to try this when French isn't my first language. She was also very impressed last time when I knew so much about l'OuLiPo.

Then, I ate dinner (salmon and rice - yum!) and went to the movie with Alexandra and her new British friends. Did you know British people kiss each other on both cheeks too? It's still a little uncomfortable, but I always go for the correct cheek first now. After buying the tickets, we went to the bar next door for happy hour. I got vin chaud (hot wine) and I have to say, it's better than cold wine. Now, is it good? Well, I'd prefer a coke. And coke is cheaper. Then, after drinks, we went back to the movie theater to stand outside in line before they opened the doors. I don't know why they do it this way. I guess the lobby isn't big enough to hold all the people who are going to see that movie? Anyway, we saw the movie, it was predictable - like a combination of a Twilight Zone episode and the exact opposite of Catch-22. But, it was fun to watch. Then, I came home.

Oh, I forgot to mention that I'm going to have very few classes next week. My Paris 8 literature class is cancelled, my l'OuLiPo class is cancelled, and apparently La Sorbonne thinks next week is a holiday. So, I suppose I'll have an easy week. Maybe I'll catch up on my sleep. I've decided that it's not the speaking French all day that's tiring - it's the fact that I'm not getting enough sleep.

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