If the Neo-Classicists and ABBA got into a fight, who would win?

Once long ago,  I was of the age where one’s teeth spontaneously fall out to be replaced with bigger, more impressive teeth. On one such occasion, I placed a newly-displaced tooth beneath my pillow, as is customary, expecting to awaken to a dollar and a handwritten note (my tooth fairy had the tendency to write me long and detailed letters describing her life in fairy land. Her name was Zilly and she was very, VERY dedicated to her job). However, when I rose, I instead found– nothing. Aghast, I waited, and after perhaps years, perhaps months, perhaps weeks, probably just days, I finally received the lost correspondence. She claimed to have fallen asleep beneath a leaf and slept straight through her scheduled visit. Frankly, I was skeptical of this excuse, but had no choice but to accept it.

So dear readers, if you were wondering where I have disappeared to for the past two weeks, let’s go with that– I fell asleep. Under a leaf.

Okay, by fell asleep under a leaf, I may mean that I was running around impersonating a 4-year-old child and acting out movie parodies whilst listening to ABBA:


The above images are from Bedlam Theatre’s Freshers’ Play. Freshers’ play, in short, is an evening of ridiculous skits conceived of and performed by “Freshers,” aka first year students. Though I am technically a third year, I am new to Bedlam (Edinburgh Uni’s student run theatre), so was still eligible to participate. Our skit was based on the song The Winner Takes It All, and featured famous movie showdowns from throughout cinematic history.

At first, I was miserable working on Freshers’ Play. I was ill the whole first week, and let me tell you, there is nothing more gruesome than listening to bad Star Wars puns while half hallucinating from fever. The suggestion, “We should explode a watermelon onstage to represent the death star blowing up!” basically killed me. However, once I recovered from my pitiful state and the skit started to come together, I had a really wonderful time. The people working on the project were a lot of fun, and we would go out to the pubs in the student center every night after performing and eat nachos. Dear God, so many nachos… By the end of the project, I had decided that sticking with Fresher’s play was the best decision I had made so far in Edinburgh. I was meeting lovely people, getting integrated into the student theatre (which I love!), and hell, I got to wear a onesie every day. Win.

The other clearly important addition to my life was the start of classes. I am taking three of them: English Literature 2, Scotland and Orality, and Intro to European Theatre. I have a lot to say about all of them, so I’ll just cover English Lit 2 in this post, and address the other two in posts to come.

English Literature 2: At first, this class really intimidated me. My school back home, Hampshire College, is very small and artsy. All the classes there had 20 students in them at the very most, and were all discussion based. We would sit at tables arranged in a circle actively debating as a group any reading, and all written assignments had the option of being poems or short stories. Essentially, everything I did was intimate and creative. This class, however, has over 250 students in it, is entirely lecture based, and is completely devoid of any intimacy, flexibility, or imagination. Half the time the lecturers themselves seemed displeased to be there and completely apathetic about the material. In fact, the one professor who gave a genuinely enthusiastic lecture received a round of applause at the end, as it was such a rare occurrence. This was extremely difficult for me to adjust to at first. I want to be in an environment where you can have a relationship with professors, and both parties are excited to be learning and sharing knowledge.

However, as the classes went on, I got used to this different energy, and began to enjoy it. Not that I enjoy a lack of enthusiasm– rather, I enjoy the material we are learning about. I love reading and I love learning about literary history, and while the lectures can be a bit dry, they are, for the most part, informative and cover topics I never would have been taught at Hampshire. While Hampshire is perfect for expression and creativity, it fails to provide more classical background information. As a writer, it allows me to write creatively all the time, but without the reading to back it up, a writer’s arsenal can be lacking. Vice versa, a creative writer who only studies past literature without having the chance to actually write is missing something, too. This is why having the opportunity to study both there and here is so valuable.

Edinburgh is great for giving you the background knowledge in a subject– for example, we have been learning about neo-classicism lately, so I’ll rant (“Don’t say RANT,” one of my professors chided recently, “say TIRADE– it sounds much more dignified.”) to you about the neo-classicists for a wee bit.The neo-classicists believed that the purpose of poetry was to imitate nature or imitate ancient writers who imitated nature. If a poem did not subscribe to very specific classical rules and guidelines, it simply was not considered good writing. “Imagination” was considered an absolute waste, and only wit, or intellectualism, was valued as legitimate. Now, initially I was a bit pissed at the neo-classicists for their seemingly oppressive squashing of creativity, so I chatted with the lecturer after class, sharing my distaste for the neo-classicists. Now, I am a pretty damn stubborn person in my convictions, but hot damn, I have never in my life had my mind changed so easily. He told me that while in the present day we associate imagination with liberation, back then it was entirely the opposite. Imagination was linked to superstition, and superstition lead to unfounded oppression and persecution. Therefore, returning to classic rules for writing was a type of freedom from this, and extremely liberating. While I still am not the biggest fan of the neo-classicists’ writing, I now have a new appreciation for their reasoning.

Anyway, if literary history bores the daylights out of you or if you already knew all that, then I apologize. If you stuck with me through that, though, I appreciate it. In summary, despite being a bit unprepared for this new (or rather, very old) type of education, I am all pumped up about what I’m learning.

I will leave you with some tips on British lingo, should you find yourself ’round these parts. I have been made fun of for not knowing these so you don’t have to be! Wooo!

Cheese Toastie-– this is what British people call Grilled Cheese Sandwiches. I rather like it– sounds a bit cozy, doesn’t it?

Tea— “We are having stir fry for tea, want to come?” Now, this made no sense to me whatsoever when the question was posed. However, here, tea means dinner. “A cup of tea” means the beverage.

-Nachos are to be pronounced nAH-chos, not nAW-chos.

-Edinburgh is pronounced Edin-bra. As in “Hey bra, wanna do a keg stand before the big lacrosse game?” Yeah. Like that.

With that, dear readers, I shall say goodnight.