Thursday, May 22, 2008

Reflective Essay

I recall walking into Mr. Gallagher’s classroom, redone pink-tinged schedule in my hand, as everyone was taking a test on their knowledge of the books they read in their summer reading. Seeing as I was formerly going to be an AP student, and therefore did the summer work for Ms. Clapp’s class, I basically just sat there watching people’s expressions, which basically depicted their distaste for the fact that summer was over, and a test was currently being taken. When Mr. Gallagher asked why I chose to be in an honors class as opposed to an AP level class, I exclaimed that the workload of such a class is just too much. He nodded and turned away with what appeared to be a small smile. I was to realize in time that his class was not exactly an easygoing set of English lessons.Our first assignment was easily my favorite. We were to explain what the poet, Ted Berrigan, was trying to say in his poem ‘Red Shift’. Poetry being a favorite subject of mine, I received what was probably my best grade on an essay for the entire year. We did more work with poetry, namely William Carlos Williams and his poems on the artwork of Brueghel. We also read Camus’ The Stranger , which was full of Existential philosophy and got me quite interested in the theories of the human condition.The class also got to pick a book of choice, written in first-person, that was to do with a theme we wanted to look into. I picked the novel Lolita by Vlladimir Nabokov because I wanted to focus on strange, unorthodox characters. Humbert Humbert obviously fits such a description perfectly. I ended up loving the book and its fascinating language and descriptions; the fact that the simplest phrase, or even, a morally frowned-upon scenario, could be described with such beauty astounded me. Even more so when I found out that English was not Nabokov’s first language, nor his second, but his third language. It ended up inspiring me greatly to better my own writing.The poetry of Charles Olson ensued, and so did James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. By this time, I no longer attended school, and was being tutored instead. I read the novel, and the works of Franz Kafka, and found two new favorite authors in doing so. Joyce’s book was very difficult at times, which made me want to try even harder to understand it. Kafka’s symbolism and bleak vision was quite intriguing to me. I then moved on to Hamlet (which is now my favorite play by Shakespeare that I’ve studied thus far), and when I finished, I returned to school to finish out the year.Upon returning to Malden High, I came to the realization that my English class was still reading Hamlet. When the chaotic conclusion to Hamlet came up, some of the students, and Mr. Gallagher, acted out the final scene. It was, in all actuality, amusing, even hilarious at times. I greatly enjoyed their efforts to bring Shakespeare’s characters to life in our classroom. Shortly after, many students went on to intern at places of their choice, and only a short amount of us were left behind. Seeing as we previously had over thirty students occupying our class, I’d say it was a bit of a relief. The remaining students were to compose a fifteen-page paper.This paper was a research paper on a partially obscure contemporary artist of our choice. I chose Lucian Freud, a grandson of Sigmund Freud, whose paintings conveyed a model in a skillfully realistic light, yet brought out their inner negative aspects in a ghastly, almost disturbing way. Freud’s overtly dark and gruesome vision appealed to me and fascinated me. However, I was not sure how I was going to write fifteen pages on this man, no matter how interesting he was. We ended up doing the paper in small increments, which was undoubtedly helpful. We did all the research and found our sources first, so we had all of the material to write it. It ended up being much easier to write than I thought. While I thought I’d be staring at a blank page for hours on end with nothing to write, I had the tools in front of me to type it all out. However, it did take up a large chunk of time, and so I was relieved to format it in class and then to finally hand it in.Upon typing this paper, we also had to memorize a Romantic or contemporary poem of our choice to recite to the class. This terrified me, as I am not exactly amazing at memorization, and, quite frankly, I have a phobia of public speaking and become mortified at doing so. However, I ended up memorizing ‘Evening Harmony’ by Charles Baudelaire well enough and getting through the recitation without any damage.All in all, I enjoyed Mr. Gallagher’s senior honors English class greatly. I learned much, I found a vast amount of new literature to enjoy, I improved my writing style, and I even repeatedly faced my fear of speaking to my fellow classmates. While it seemed to be a lot of work sometimes, I actually benefited from it all in the end, as Mr. Gallagher said we would. Therefore, while I cannot wait to leave, I will hold this year in my mind as a pleasant memory.

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