As some of you know, this spring I went back to school. Back to university, to be more specific. I’m co-teaching an undergraduate seminar on historical romance at Yale with fellow author Lauren Willig, and the experience has been amazing. I’ve had such a wonderful time engaging in discussions with our students, and I hope I have been able to impart some of my knowledge—such as it is—about the Regency genre. (But more on that in a future blog . . . to the right is where I teach. Our seminar room is the two twin leaded glass windows to the left of the archway gate.)
In addition to the satisfaction of teaching, I’ve also really been enjoying just being around an academic environment again. The creative energy just thrums through the air. Like music? Check the campus bulletin boards and you see there are recitals in chamber music, jam sessions of jazz, rock ‘n roll, hip hop . . . you name it. Like art? There constantly rotating student exhibitions in painting, sculpture, photography, computer animation and graphic design. And the libraries routinely showcase some of the university’s more esoteric collections, including Babylonian seals, playing cards, musical instruments and fossils. As for theater, it’s flourishing—seems there is some sort of play going on most every night.
Everywhere you turn, there’s something HAPPENING. People are experimenting, testing, shaping, honing their ideas. There’s an exuberance, an excitement about the process of learning, and no fear of failure. Imagination is at play! It’s incredibly inspiring. I find myself walking with a real bounce in my step.
This week, there is a special conference sponsored by the Medieval Academy of America. Here are some of the topic listed: Medieval Elementary Education: Schools, Schoolrooms, Schoolbooks; Outside In, Inside Out: Medieval Theologies of the Self; Literature and the Courts; The Middle Ages in Film . . .There’s also an interactive exhibit on Lyme disease at the natural history museum . . . a woman’s lacrosse game out at the athletic fields . . . a lecture on Japanese choreography . . . an exhibit of letterpress posters.
Some afternoons before class, I wander through the main library, gleefully accessing the stacks and online data bases that my precious university ID gives me access to. I’m currently working on a historical mystery manuscript and needed some information on the stock exchange in 1813 London. Finding it here was way more fun than google. I discovered hard-to-get books were right at my fingertips. (I had to laugh when I checked one out and saw that I had been given it for a year!) When I ran into a snag, a research librarian answered my e-mail query within 24 hours. (To the left is one of my favorite stone carvings in the main library. It shows a sleeping student overwhelmed by a pile of books.)
Insert an audible sigh of bliss here.
I appreciated my college days, but I would probably appreciate them even more now. (there is that old adage that youth is wasted on the young.) I would love to go back to school for a semester and really immerse myself in learning a whole host of new subjects. I know little about Tudor England, and would love to explore that world.
I know that I’m probably not going to become a full-time student any time soon—life gets more complicated as time goes by. But if you are like me and love learning, here’s something that you might find of interest. There is an online site called Open Yale. If you go there, you will find 25 classes from a wide variety of disciplines available to download as podcasts video lectures or text files. Each selection is the exact set of lectures heard by an undergraduate enrolled in the class, (complete with reading list, etc.) And they feature some of the top professors at the university. Best of all, it’s free and open to “all who wish to learn.” (I’m proud of my alma mater—they feel it’s a Good Thing to share knowledge.) I’ve downloaded “Introduction to Ancient Greek History.” Professor Donald Kagan (shown above) is a legend at Yale, but somehow I missed him first time around. Now I get a second chance. I’ve also just put a course on Milton’s poetry on my i-pod, and the courses on ‘European Civilization, 1648-1945’ and ‘Introduction to the Old Testament’ look really interesting.
So how about you? Would you like to go back to college? What class would you love to take?