Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Graduate School: A Beginning

On my first day of graduate school (I had but one class), I expected to feel much like I did in the orientations.  Introspective and paranoid like I didn't belong, like it wouldn't be long before they discovered that some mistake was made in the office that allowed me to slip in.  Some huge, heinous mistake.

They call this "impostor syndrome" and while I am sure I will feel this way many, many more times throughout my academic career, after my first day of graduate school, in my one class, I couldn't have felt like I belonged to a group of people more.

First up was TV Theory, which will likely be my favorite class of the semester. After the obligatory syllabus chat, not in a classroom but around a conference table, our young but accomplished professor, talked to us about his experiences studying with some of the early TV scholars - before the field was really born or accepted.  People I admit to knowing nothing about - call me ze impostor.

Of particular interest to me was the discussion of one John Fiske, who approached his studies not from the stance of the medium itself, but the importance of the context of Television - how you watch it, who you're with, where you're at, etc. TV not as a "monolithic icon" to be studied at, but studied with.

But, I think it was when the professor brought up his dissertation topic, spy shows during the Cold War, that I experienced a sort of unbridled enthusiasm I've haven't felt in a long time - the kind where I have to physically stop myself from giggling and waving my arms uncontrollably.  Occasionally, I refer to this as a "gay attack."  And yes, that is something my mother would be very embarrassed to read, but something she would likely know all too well.

The class was fabulous enough that I caught myself jotting down quotations (I'm an over-zealous note-taker). Things like, "I hesitate to say this, but you'll learn to triage your readings."

"If you miss a paper, I'm not going to take away your birthday or something."

And when the conversation about leading those class discussions that digress so nothing gets accomplished, "All of a sudden it's like a U.N. conference!"

On being too stringent like the academic, Adorno (who I've never read) , "I don't really want to die on that hill."

To which a Ph.D. student in the room responded, "One of my professors always said, 'A day without Adorno is like a day WITH sunshine.'"

Part of the fun of being a Media Studies student in the department of Radio, TV and Film is that my classes have screenings - we watch works that relate specifically to the texts - works that include shows like, Glee, 30 Rock, The Sopranos, 6 Feet Under, ER, Friends, CSI, Extreme Home Makeover, Mad Men and various soap operas (all of which are on the syllabus).

Then prompted the introductions - a part of syllabus day that I usually find awfully boring - but they were somehow incredibly stimulating.  I was one of the last to speak, and by the time it got to me, and everyone was looking at me, and waiting to hear what I had to say - all these incredibly interesting people, I HAD to preface:

"I'm Taylor Miller, from Kansas.  Toto jokes welcome.  I am an overly enthusiastic person, and I think if I were an 'artist-formerly-known-as' my symbol would be an exclamation mark.  Apologies in advance."

Then, I went on to talk about my interests in the intersections of sexuality and heroification on TV saying that, even though I was a Spanish major - I managed to sneak Xena into my capstone paper, and you'll more than likely find True Blood in my thesis.

The professor responded positively mentioning that he had removed the "camp" section from the syllabus, but, citing all the obvious fans of campy-TV sitting bright-eyed and bushy-tailed around the table, he would be considering bringing it back.  At this point, I stopped myself from spontaneous clapping.

This is going to be a fun class - this is going to be an awesome career.  Occasionally I feel like I am an impostor - what have I done quitting a perfectly good job in this economy - especially when I hear all the naysayers and eyebrow-lifters who think academia is a waste of time.  But to those people I say, I'm going to live a life of constant learning, constant reinvention, and stimulating conversation - I know what I'm doing.  And, although I realize that I am right where I'm meant to be, WHEN I'm meant to be, part of me is sour I didn't arrive sooner.


At our Meet and Greet, in the icebreaker, when one of our professors had to state an "interesting fact," she said, "I'm having trouble with True Blood right now, and if you want to know why, come and talk to me."  I INSTANTLY knew what she was talking about - shuffled over and had a very pleasant, intriguing conversation!  But more on that, soon.


Matthew Hull said...

Taylor, I'm thrilled for you! (Personal e-mail message forthcoming. . .)

Anonymous said...

Glad to hear that things started off so well.

I'm also having issues with True Blood right now!!


David Ta-Pryor said...

I hope you get to read some of Henry Jenkins's work on media convergence and queerness in Star Trek. He's one of the bigger names in cultural studies.

Jonathan Gray is a huge up and comer that examines paratext, synergy, and the connection between different media.

Stewart Hall is a classic for his encoding and decoding model of television.

Just to give you three scholars (that you'll hopefully cover this semester) that I like :)

Unknown said...

Here is an online quiz for the impostor syndrome:

Anonymous said...

Taylor--So glad you are enjoying yourself so much. Graduate school, otherwise, is incredibly expensive and miserable. So fun to read your impressions and experiences. Thanks for including me! I look forward to the next upddate...

-Mrs. Jones

Anonymous said...

Taylor, this blog has made me so proud of you. I want to TALK to you soon, but I know you're super busy with school and everything, so call me when you want to catch up.

Anonymous said...

Here's another television scholar that's hot in the field right now:

Oh and you're lucky to be hosting the Flow Conference where you're at :) - David

Anonymous said...

Loved the post, it made me laugh! - Shelly