Friday, April 4, 2014

What English Means to Me

What English Means To Me.

We hates it, Precious
It is a story I have told to many people and will likely tell many more in the future; however, perhaps if you yourself have not heard it I might fill you in on how my love of English began? I was bought a copy of The Hobbit when I was in sixth grade by my mother. At the time I was not explicitly interested in reading; my energies were directed at my SNES, the All-Father of my time and attention. I distinctly remember the issues my mother had with video games and it was this: where will all his time go if he is playing on that thing [the SNES in question]?” It was around this time I was pushed into trying to read things that were harder and harder for me, things that made me frustrated and upset (one of the ‘chiefest of calamities’ at my age being ‘Mad Dog of Lobo Mountain,’ one of the D.J. Dillon Adventure books). 
As I grew up I noticed that I was uniquely lazy when it came to writing I was told to do versus writing I wanted to do. While my prose was in reality no better than the scribbling found on ancient walls that read ‘BEAWARE OF SABERTOOTHED TIGERS, YOU FOOL,’ I did write out countless pages of my own stories. Where school was concerned things were hit or miss. I was asked to constantly do menial writing tasks on subjects as ‘exciting’ as IS ABORTION GOOD OR BAD?! And SMOKING – WILL IT REALLY KILL YOU? None of that impacted me and I did not shed tears for the failed grades those projects yielded when the time came to reap my crop of Cs, Ds, and Fs every week in school.

Over time one of the most important things that happened to me was my ENGL 1301 and 1302 courses.  These courses showed me the diverse meanings that existed across many texts, the ones in High School I had always taken for granted. Through lessons on Frankenstein I gained a deeper understanding of moral responsibility, A Modest Proposal helped inform my interest in political commentary and news, something which has helped me immensely to care about the world around me, and it was closer examination of the Bible in my 1301 course that was a milestone in my spiritual growth. As a new student at the University of Texas at Tyler it was my 1302 class and my Special Topics in Literature course that genuinely laid the foundation down for my interest in English as a life path.
Gives 'bun in the oven' a whole new meaning!
first which went on at the University of the Houston and the other at the University of Texas at Tyler. I was introduced to the importance of Plato, Aristotle, Jonathan Swift, Juvenal, Homer, in many cases the Bible (mainly Paul and books by ‘Moses’). These courses laid the foundation for my passion in English, as well as an English course that taught me about the field of scientific prose (poems, biographies, sci-fi novels, classics, etc… that were written by or about science-topics).

My interest in English was rooted in the concept of Critical Thinking, a trendy ‘buzz word’ that gets thrown around a lot but is harder to pin down than one might expect. It can mean many things to many people but here is how it connects to me: I felt like I was waking up. I am religious however I can say few moments have ever afforded me ‘clarity of purpose’ for my life. It was my English courses that did that for me. It was taking Luke Gobel’s course on Critical Analysis that managed to shock my eyes open to the generations of human lives I was connecting with when I read a text and, then, made use of their works to empower my own. It was connecting with the power of love in Dr. Strong’s many, many courses! It was taking my Writing Center Theory course with Dr. Gray where we talked  in depth about how writing is a personal means of communication and that, as a potential teacher/professor/writing center employee, my bond with a student could make or break their interest in writing. My evolution from a student who could not care less about what writing means into somebody who is frequently astounded at the ripples pens and their scribbles have on hearts has taken years. Every course, every new lesson, every setback, every failure, every new change – all my lessons and As and Cs gradually made me face who I am as a writer and a person.

I write too fast and, at times, I need to learn slow down. I am critical of myself and I sometimes omit re-reading because I don’t want to be too harsh on my own work. I have a love for debate but find it hard to pin down answers. I am passionate about comics and how they can reach kids for educational needs. I am still finding my writing ‘voice’ and know that one day I will be soundly proud instead of constantly fretting. I am sure within a few years ‘who I am’ as a writer will be different. I look forwards to the process of changing and evolving and getting better!

Dr. Ross and Dr. Sloan have listened to me as I have debated in front of crowds ranging from over a hundred and as few as twenty. Jesse Dobson, my 1301 teacher, let me write a paper on Sandman and Final Crisis, possibly two of the weirdest topics possible. Dr. Streufert has listened to me for years now about my P3 Conference, comics, plays both Greek and modern, and so many more topics.

I have come to believe deeply that ‘English,’ for me, was an environment that allowed the student to discover his/her passions and to have that love fostered and developed. English for me is Discovery, a process of constantly looking, thinking, evaluating, understanding, forgetting, and re-reading to start over again. By becoming conscious of meanings behind texts (with and without authorial knowledge) I can apply those tools to life.

English for me is also Growth. With every re-write, fact check, word change, draft, study session, re-read, and second glance at a footnote I become more capable thinker. I never knew I was the kind of person who would consistently fail almost every class I ever had only to believe in myself enough to pursue a PhD in the subject I hated more than math when I was young.

English for me started when my mom got me to read a story about dragons and elves and dwarves and golden cups.

English for me continued onwards when my classes taught me the history that Tolkien built his stories upon and that behind those ‘fairy stories’ there was endless layers of meaning I could discover. 

English for me, currently, is working as a blog writer for the UTT Admission Department and as an article writer for various media outlets.

English for me will continue onwards, long past my PhD. It will continue onwards until I read to my children at night and make up silly songs with them.

To everybody who has ever been my teacher, inspiration, or reader – thank you.

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