I am currently in the process of trying to write my final paper for my W1 class. And I use the vague title of “W1” because throughout the entire semester, we have debated what to categorize the class as. English? Philosophy? German? Literature?
The class is GM120 (so, in the German department): “Gaga to Kafka: Writing the Self,” as it was advertised on the curriculum search when I was selecting classes in May. I was drawn to the title – it seemed a very “college”-type class. I mean, we were gonna talk about Lady Gaga. And I didn’t want to take a bog-standard W1 class because I wasn’t looking to just get the requirement out of the way – I did want to have a rewarding experience.
Thankfully, I got into the class. On the first day, none of us knew what the heck was going on when we sat down, were handed a section of paper, and were told to write for twenty seconds. I froze. Should I write “I am Taylor. I am from Minnesota.” or should I actually write something a little more meaningful? After ten seconds of panic, I started to write something like, “Writing for twenty seconds is hard to do” and that was pretty much all I got out.
Four months later, in our last class Thursday, we reflected on what “Writing the Self” actually is. Is it writing what you believe to be true? Is it writing what you see yourself to be? Is it writing from deep within, regardless of what you may be judged for? I don’t think any of us know. But I think those twenty seconds when we had to write the very first day were meant to expose the writer within us – the unguarded, unaltered writer who was just writing to write.
The first thing we read was a letter by Rainer Maria Rilke that he wrote to a poet, Franz Kappus, who was asking for advice on what he should write. I really, really liked it. So much so that it is one of the texts I’m writing my final research paper on (along with Dearest Father by Franz Kafka). I also walked around for a week with a quote from it written on the inside of my wrist for a class assignment. I liked how Rilke discussed why we write and what we write and how we write. My favorite quote (that became said tattoo) is: “try to say what you see and feel and love and lose.” I like how Rilke’s letter is him expressing his thoughts and opinions so beautifully to the point where it still gets me thinking each time I read it or skim it. (Also probably key to note that Lady Gaga has a tattoo of an excerpt from this specific letter – the tattoo inspired the class.)
I have to say that this is my favorite class I’ve taken so far (of the four I’ve now taken). Now that I am done with my first semester at Colby, I’m thinking about this kind of thing. I definitely remember hearing on various college tours that there are all kinds of classes you can take to get rid of the freshman writing seminar requirement that many schools have. I know whenever the tour guide would list the really cool classes I’d get super excited and couldn’t wait until I did it (because I love English class – always have, even when I had to write analytical essays about the Bible (ok maybe a bit less then)).
So I guess a random bit of advice to tack onto the end of my rambling would be that if you’re applying to a college – Colby or otherwise – that has freshman writing seminars (or if you’re already in college and are selecting your spring classes for that matter), don’t just settle for a standard English or literature class. Do something exciting, because it’s a class that you might not take otherwise, and it might only be offered now. And you’ll only be a freshman once, and this is the time to take strange classes because starting quite soon, your major becomes your priority.
And with that, I return to writing my paper. Happy weekend!
(Here’s a picture of the fog on Sunday night – no filter!)