So, gentle reader, do you know what I just did?
I just finished all of the assigned reading that was on my desk.
This moment is a magic moment every week. It generally happens at some point on
Monday morning directly preceding my 1:30 class. After a long weekend of toil, struggle, cramming, doing everything I can to convince myself that I have more in me, over-saturating my spongy grey-matter with words, words, words, I eventually reach a moment where I simply have nothing left to read.
Of course, this isn’t actually true. I could always start on the readings for next week. And I also have my own research to do. There’s always something more on my desk, and generally it involves class work of some kind, even if it isn’t ABSOLUTELY REQUIRED RIGHT NOW READING.
But research reading goes beyond… beyond I say! It’s a cherry on top of the literary Sunday. It’s the other task that can get done between the more pressing weekly things.
This week was a doozy. Eight full-length plays, one one-act, one full book, one theatrical preface, and eight articles/book chapters ranging in length from seven pages to twenty-seven pages. On the whole, I calculate that this week’s reading load (simply assigned for classes, mind you, discounting any extracurricular research or leisure reading) was 783 pages’ worth and spanned literature representing approximately four hundred years of history.
No wonder I’m tired. Seriously. I haven’t even touched final papers this week (except for one trip to the library with some scanning which I have yet to read – 48 more pages, as well as the glorious bounty of one book – 160 additional pages, and more books awaiting to arrive via ILL – realistically about 500-600 pages combined).
I also managed to attend a fun-filled social gathering this weekend with a bunch of dear friends, most of whom I haven’t seen in some time. Of course the usual conversation starter “how have you been?” was asked over and over, to which one has the option of the easy reply (“Oh, fine, you?”), or the long-winded one (“BHSWOERND:LKJF:JSIFOWEO:JKDM<N>FJK:JXKJOIJ!” “….?” “Well, my brain is leaking out one ear, but I’m ducky!”)
I’m also beginning to wonder about the outer-limits of information retention. There have got to be studies on this somewhere… at what point is it simply counter-productive to read more? How much can you truly cram into three pounds of gray matter while expecting to not only retain it, but also process it critically?
In addition, I’m well and truly wondering about expectations of PhD students cross-programs. Two out of three of my professors this semester are new to our department, so in theory their pedagogical styles are not yet indoctrinated into Tufts ideologies, which leads me to believe that perhaps this work load isn’t entirely uncommon. If that’s truly the case, how does anyone have time to think for herself? When imbued with THIS MUCH of EVERYTHING ELSE, at the end of the day the last thing I want to do is squeeze out an original idea. There’s a very fine line between being inspired by the different readings and notions kicking around in one’s head, and being stifled by them. While I’m not an expert on pedagogy, I for one would be very interested to see a study on the curve of original thought as it relates to the amount of other stuff an individual reads.
We know that good readers make good writers. Period. The best way to teach grammar, syntax, and heck even style, is to have the student read. But do EXORBITANT readers make good thinkers?
….things to ponder as I wade through another week. I’m hoping to carve out time for some of my own research this week which means either less class-reading, or more brain integrity. Maybe it’s like lifting weights; the more you do it, the stronger you get.
Somehow, though, I’m pretty sure that that only applies to a point.