Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The day I learned that my literature professor went to l'ENS

This morning, I started freaking out because I thought my seven page paper about my bridge was due next week. It's okay, though - it's really due the week after. Plus, this assignment is very strange. He basically wants me to go sit on the bridge and take notes and give him seven pages of journal-like entries of what happens on this bridge with a reflection on memory tagged on at the end. I don't know what to make of this class. The on-site visits are really interesting, as well as the question of memory and the effect of literature on memory (and possibly vice-versa), but overall, this class isn't organized and doesn't really seem to have a point. Anyway, back to my day. So, I hurried and ran to the Pont Neuf (okay, so I took the metro) and took a bunch of notes. I also wrote a full page (1.5 spaced like they tell us to here) about the bridge before I left. I think I'll end up turning that page into my reflection on memory, but I still don't know how to treat this project.

Anyway, it was time to go to class, so I was waiting for the 13 at Clemenceau where I bumped into Naina, who was also going to be late. Well, we discussed how disappointed we are with French schools, how we hate Paris 8, and how Sorbonne is a disappointment. Naina is really upset that she didn't know about ENS. Basically, we're kind of mad at CUPA - it's their responsibility to tell us what academics are like here before we jump in and choose classes, but in my case at least, they steered me wrong! It's because of them that I'm taking three classes at Paris 8 and I'm lucky to be taking the philosophy at Sorbonne - it took a lot of convincing to get into that instead of just taking philo at Saint-Denis. How hard would it have been for CUPA to tell us: "ENS is the best school in continental Europe. Try to find classes there - it's the most comparable to your American universities except, of course, that it's a graduate school so it's difficult. And Paris 8 is no better than a community college, despite the quality of the professors. The students are a whinny bunch, mostly immigrants, and the classes are far from intellectually stimulating. The rest of the universities aren't much better." How hard would it have been for CUPA to tell us that? I decided that the best experience we could have had would have been to take the classes preparatoires - that's basically the most analogous to our universities in the US. It's how they separate the really really good students who will eventually go to ENS or another Grande Ecole from the ones who just aren't as good. It seems harsh, but c'est la vie. I'm not sure it's possible for foreign students to enroll in those classes, though.

We get to class and we're discussing memory in a very vague way. Then, the professor mentioned something about when he was at Normale Sup'. It's incredible that the students there end up at Paris 8 after they bypass the universities entirely. It's like a cruel joke. It is the point of the school, though - it was created after the Revolution to provide the Republic with teachers. Students there are paid to study, but only because technically they're supposed to teach for the government at high schools for some time afterward. Most don't, though. They just end up being professors at second rate universities, I suppose.

After class, we went to CUPA, signed a card for Cecile (she had a baby girl!), printed out my train tickets for London, and got some thai stir fry and gelato, then taught English. It basically rained the whole day - it was miserable. It better get nicer so my sitting at Pont Neuf will be more enjoyable.

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