Saturday, September 8, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 61 (J.M. Synge)

Playboy of the Western World
Synge, J.M.
The Playboy of the Western World & Riders to the Sea

Purchased at the Fordham University Book Store for a an undergraduate course called, "Modern Anglo-Irish Literature." The course was taught by Gail Schricker, one of a handful of professors I respected and admired as an undergrad. Before taking the class, many had warned me away from her, saying that she never gave "A's" to anyone. I took it as a kind of challenge.

The syllabus began with Yeats and I wrote my first paper on, crap, which poem was it? Hmmm...I'll have to look. I think it may have been about "To Ireland In the Coming Times." I remember we were supposed to do a close reading. It was the first time I had ever done such a thing. I read the shit out of that poem. After a while, I began to see that there was a kind of structure to the stanzas. There were three. The first had a lot of birth imagery and the third had a lot of death imagery, so I surmised that there was a kind of three part life-cycle structure to the poem.

I remember struggling to write in an authoritative voice. I really had no idea what I was talking about and no models upon which to base a close reading. Anyhow, she gave me an A- and included a note telling me that she almost never gave out A's on the first paper and would I come visit her during office hours. Of course, I did, and I was beaming when I arrived.

I fully expected she would want to talk about my paper, but instead she told me she had read a poem of mine in the student magazine and that she thought it was good. Well, I was just about beside myself by that point. She told me that she, too, was a poet. I only ever saw one of her poems. I remember an image of a dagger and someone hanging from a cliff. Later she started a poetry group for grad students, but that was after I'd left.

I think I ended up with an A for the course. I took at least one, if not two more classes with her, including a graduate course in Modernist American Poetry, which was also very important to me. I think she later remarried and changed her name to Swintkowski. Last I checked, she had moved on from Fordham also, though I can't quite recall where, possibly Connecticut.

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