Thursday, April 8, 2010

My Philosophy Exposé

Today was the busiest day I've had in a long time. Obviously, since I haven't gotten around to writing about it until now (it's currently past 12:30). But, it's okay, because my philosophy CM tomorrow isn't until 9:00, which is still early, considering it's a whole 40 minutes away by métro, but just seems so reasonable after the last two weeks when it started at 8:00 in the morning.

Anyway, this morning I was pretty anxious about my exposé. I was talking to the old people in the class (there are 3 of them - really nice, but what are they doing there??) about it before class started. They thought I was really brave taking a philosophy class in a foreign language. Now, the foreign language thing doesn't really bother me anymore. The more I hear French every day here, the less foreign it seems. In fact, now it's pretty natural to hear everyone speaking French and to respond in French when someone asks me a question. Today at CUPA, for example, I had a very fast, fluid conversation with Chantal. The thing that worries me about the philosophy course is my lack of preparation for a philosophy course, not only in the French style, but in general. I'm not a philosophy major in the United States, I've barely taken any philosophy classes, and everyone in this class is a philosophy major and has a serious background in it already despite the fact that it's just an L1 course. French students have to study philosophy in high school. If they taught philosophy in the US the way they do in France, I would highly recommend that for our high schools too. The course, even though what we're discussing is probably even more useless than both of my majors, teaches you how to think logically and that's never a bad idea for high schools students. Anyway, back to the class. I was talking to the old people and saying how I was a little nervous about the exposé. I was only supposed to be doing the synthèse, though. But, the kid who was supposed to be doing the exposé wasn't there, so not only was I the only person talking, but my three pages maximum turned into the entire speech about "Is man, by nature, capable of living in society?"

I started off a little shaky and she asked me to speak slower and louder (everyone says that to me when I'm talking in any language, though...), but I had made sure to organize everything I said in the proper French philosophy methodology as well as referencing Descartes, Aristotle, Rousseau, and Hobbes. By the end, everyone was so surprised that they clapped! They haven't clapped for any of the other exposés! And the professor said: "Wow" and couldn't understand why I seemed so timid at first when I had such good ideas. She said I did a really good job and then went on to discuss a lot of what I had said. She still hasn't given us back our assignments yet, though, and I wonder when she'll give me the grade for this. And, by the way, apparently, in addition to the final assignment "sur table" I also need to give an oral presentation in front of a group of professors. They just told us today. Alix said we'd pretty much get a topic and 20 minutes to prepare something to say, but she said they're always really nice, especially if you're foreign. Still, CUPA said I only need 3 grades and I already have 2 and have another one coming, so I might try to get out of doing this.

After that course, I stopped by CUPA to get the finished copy of the newspaper I made. Then, I had my flute lesson. He let me out late, so I got to my writing workshop a little late (Alésia is really far away from Saint-Denis), but luckily, nothing ever starts on time at Paris 8. Today, we did another non-oulipien exercise. We each picked an object and wrote an essay about the life of that object. I chose a pen, and wrote a slightly metafictive narrative from the pen's point of view about that pen in the hand of an author. It ended with the pen running out of ink and being thrown away, but I was poetic about it. If I remember correctly, I wrote something about how it fell gently into the garbage like a leaf from a tree in autumn covered with the white snow of the remains of its work. And that it was an empty shell in a cemetery of lost dreams. She thought it was very symbolic and interesting and said she's never going to be able to look at a pen the same way again.

Then was the OuLiPo meeting. Today's theme was: "Assez de paroles, des actes !" (Enough words, acts!) and they each read newly written/published excerpts that had a constraint based on that sentence. My favorite was Michèle Audin's essay about the life of a mathematician. It was written entirely in one word sentences, and each one was just an infinitive. It was incredible! So funny, and so accurate. I suppose she would know about the life of a mathematician, being an algebraic topologist and everything. I had to leave the OuLiPo meeting early, though (just a little - I only missed the announcements at the end), because I had to get to La Comédie Française to see Musset's Fantasio. It was great - adorable, funny, the acting was superb, the writing was, obviously, perfection, and it was incredible to see this company perform exactly the same way they have been for the last 400 years or so. It just blows my mind - they came into existence before the United States was even a country. 

There's a picture of the building where the play was - incredible!

After all was said and done, I came home and finally ate something (artichokes! Yum!) and ranted about the writing seminars department and how they should let people know when they decide to change course times so that they two courses they registered you for are now at the same time, then claim it's all your fault because you're studying abroad and communication's harder when you're out of the country. But I'm done venting about that - it's 1:20 and I should go to bed so I can wake up at 7:30 tomorrow for my course.

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