2007 final words
steve: "it's been insanely gratifying to look at my shelf and see three feet of books." jeff: "the fact that a class like this exists at penn is unbelievable... we talk not just about literature, but about life, too, and that's been really helpful... i think it's clear that writing is a way of life - not only that, but it's not easy to find the way you want to live your life, and it's a lot of work. it's settling to know that not everybody just falls into what they're doing." aichlee: "jamaica kincaid gave me encouragement and inspiration...to speak precisely without fear of not being heard correctly, or having my opinion out there even if they're not what people want to hear...it's ok to follow a calling...to know that that's what you want to do and it's ok to kind of go after it." lisa r: "what's remarkable to me is that they offer a class like this at penn, or not just at penn, but at penn especially...what was so refreshing about this class was that people were interested for the literature and interested for the discussion and not for the grade.... these authors are human beings who go to the bathroom and wear eyeliner and get cold.... everybody should read the book and meet the author, it gives it a real fullness." gabe: "i think it really taught me to read critically... a real feeling of grappling with the ideas in the book [rather than the form]....you come out of the literature with something pretty amazing...we're best when we're inquisitive and excited about the material, and not faking... sometimes it's so easy, it just clicks in. when you approach these works with inquisitiveness and humility, we get a lot more done." ellie: "just being able to read a work like Life Work and get some affirmation that it's ok to do what you want to do... it's something that has been really important to me in such a preprofessional environment...we're more concerned with the discussion and what we can get out of it." jane: "i've been telling all my friends that they have to take this class... this class hans't just been about literature, or reading... it goes a little deeper than that... this class was very moving. we thought a lot about things that i think we'll continue to think about... carly, you really see what's going on outside the frame... i think that's awesome. nova, you put yourself into literally everything you say... you've totally challenged me. steve, a lot of your position papers i had to read twice because i couldn't understand them the first time. andy, i think you're really honest and really perceptive... aichlee, i loved your position papers...they constantly brought your outside knowledge into them. al, i think you're the kind of professor that every student thinks about when they want to go to college." me: i'm a wreck. lisa t: "it was collaborative... i didn't feel like i was writing a paper on my own and turning it in, i could be called out for something.... realizing that i don't want to be a writer as a profession was a big deal... i definitely re-evaluated my definition of bravery. by the end of this, i almost turned it on its head - things we would consider brave are almost less brave. which i think is great and will stay with me." ben: "i like you guys more than most of the people i've met at this school. i feel a little ambivalent about my time at this school, and to be honest, i feel a little disappointed. this class is the exception. on saturday i don't want to go out, i wish it was monday so i could go to al's class... this class i think made the difference between graduating form penn and not graduating from penn." pia: "what i thought was coolest about this class was reading so much by each author... when you see it all laid out like that you see that they didn't just write a bestseller and call it a day... this is what they do. this is what i want to do. i don't know that i could do donald hall's routine, but i want a routine of my own. seeing how much other people were affected by it... i was so emotional all day. i want to thank everyone for being so honest." jen: "i came into this class really really excited to get away from the holocaust class... after that class i had the semi-existential crisis. i don't know what to do with my time - how do i change the world? - but pursuing your own happiness is nothing to be ashamed of." mara: "the fact that we're doing this now is an expectation that we were moved by this class... and the fact that you had these expectations motivated me.... i look back on what i read and what i was moved most by was what was personal. learning about individual lives and people. i'm glad everybody here had an expectation that this would be meaningful and moving...because we fulfilled that expectation." nova: "this whole year has been such a journey for me in terms of understanding my own issues with writing... whereas last semester i was just starting to face the problem of bearing witness, in this class i'm more grappling with the problem of writing it. extremely miserable and extremely happy and moved. i feel very special and lucky to be part of this group and to be facing these things with such a wonderful group of people. i don't think i would be as happy leaving this place as i am now, if it hadn't been for this class to be the final splash at penn." al: "the reason i like teaching this class is i really haven't any clue about how it's gonna go... the fact that it sort of does happen is something of a miracle to me. it has surprisingly little to do with the fellows....if we could somehow digitally put them in this seat and have them say all these things, which aren't all that memorable - i remember the things that YOU said.... i really do admire them but that's not why this thing works. the combination of individuals and intellects in this class, it worked better than it ever had before. this was much more - everybody had something to contribute - all three of them say something like this after the visits - it wouldn't work if the students weren't as great as they are. well, they're just people who were allowed by the pedagogy to interact with each other...if you get a lot of people into a room who are as passionately engaged - you're gonna solve these problems. it's really impressive. i used to think that teaching was the ox-cart man. teaching can get a little depressing like that, same thing every year, you get older but the students sell the same age. i think it's wrong. when i get back on the cart, there are all these people still there. it's not ox-cart man. we started from somewhere. we had a base. there can be a continuity. andy - you're smart as all get out but you don't take yourself too seriously. you don't take anybody else too seriously, either, and you might want to work on that. ellie kane - she's so special and so ornery. it's amazing she can still fit in the university of pennsylvania. jamie-lee - we have a connection that i think we can use as a model for other connections. the thing to do is to remember what we made, which is really new and really fresh." eric: "to hear such an accomplished writer say that to us - this group of 20 kids - i'm still shocked. this is an unbelievably impressive group. you guys know i want to be a writer, but i want to be your contemporaries. i'm so intimidated by all of you." jamie-lee: "i've been thinking a lot about the idea of life work in a couple different ways... in terms of my life, and my work, my job, which is to be here. i don't know the last time i had a day off... sometimes it's frustrating, but more often than not i know the real thing is that i care so much. i live here. it's part of me. it's everything to me... the fellows class is why i'm here, and i can still say that, and i wasn't sure if i'd be able to say that because a lot of my close friends left last year. but it is. i'm so excited to be able to say that, and i'm so excited to be able to say that in front of people who are like, yeah. who know. i just feel so lucky. i agree with al about this group, this collective. there was no "here are these friends" - it's a level playing field. and to end on a sad note, i get really nervous at the end of the semester. i hate the summer. i'll be all right and i'll keep the momentum of all this energy, but there really is something to be missed there." andy: see youtube. bill: "being out of sync with the day stuck in my head as sort of a metaphor for what fellows is all about. we're dealing with these three fellows who are out of sync with the day... when i think of being out of sync with the day, i don't think first of the fellows, becuase to be honest not many of the fellows books struck me when i first read them. i was sort of lukewarm on a lot of them. and then i came to class. soemthing goes on in this class that made it clear in retrospect all of the things in the book that i was lukewarm on... it's not always the books we're reading that makes this experience work. the effect of taking this class has gotten me to the point where i don't just want to read books any more, i want to fellows them." carly: "al, you've converted me to the position paper. traditional paper writing always felt a little hollow to me. but position papers, the point is to take a side. wow! i'm believing what i'm writing! and even if i didn't start out that way, by the end i had convinced myself! it forces you to be brave a little bit. for position paper you have to just sit down by yourself, no help from anyone, and send it out to everyone. you have to trust yourself. it was cool to wake up in the morning and see that everybody felt the same thing. in this class i think we're all people first, and students and other things second. we're critical of each other, but we're gentle too. and i think it's a real model of how people should be with each other in the world. we can spar our ideas but we respect each other." rachel: "i think i've been more myself in this class than i've been in a lot of places for a very long time. so i've really enjoyed that. i'm starting to feel ok about the fact that i don't know yet [what i want to do, whether i want to write]." anna: "i feel very spoiled and deeply grateful to have been able to take a class like this. i know it's not offered everywhere. i don't know if the position paper is the best way to get to the heart of these works. i don't know if have been entirely honest in my position papers because i was expected to take a position. After Life Work, my position paper was sort of cynical and snarky and that's not how i felt about the work. i think it's better to ask questions, let the works speak for themselves rather than manipulating the works for our argument. just watch the works... people that i have just met, it's actually harder to say goodbye."