Okay, time for an update. Is that cool with you? Great!
Classes are going great. German Gender Politics has me excited for every Thursday; it has definitely beat out Confucian Ethics for my favourite class. On the second day, we met our new teacher (our previous one, Dr. Daniela Tepe, was going on maternity leave – which is somewhat ironic, when maternity leave is one of the topics of the class! :P), Isabelle Hertner, who is actually a Ph.D candidate at another UK university. While a bit timid of a teacher, she is incredibly nice. On the first -real- day of class, she asked us who the first feminist was. Someone rose their hand and answered Simone de Beauvoir; her reply was “Yes, Simone de Beauvoir was an important feminist thinker, but she was not the first.” I rose my hand and answered with Mary Wollstonecraft, the writer of A Vindication of the Rights of Women. She smiled and class resumed. She later asked if anyone had read anything of A Feminist Mystique; I was the only one. Does this mean I will get a good grade? Let’s hope, haha! 🙂
In the past week however, I have been just attending classes. I have more or less seen everything in London there is to see (except for a couple places which I plan to see later in the year). I’ve e-mailed Dr. Olson and he mentioned attending St. Paul’s Cathedral for evensong, which I am definitely planning on doing. But the most important thing LAST week was Judith Butler.
Oh my gosh, Judith Butler. Now I haven’t read anything substantial of her work, but as a feminist, you do get to learn a couple points of theory when you read a widespread amount of blogs. 😛 Judith Butler talks about the idea of gender being a performative act, meaning, as one of my blogs has explained it, “the repeated performance of gender which actually constructs the physical condition of sex while simultaneously hiding that construction.” I know, hard definition is hard – but basically, it boils down to the idea of gender being a way in which sex has social meaning. Nonetheless it is pretty cool, and I cannot wait to read some of her stuff (I actually will be able to read some of her stuff because of The Year of Feminist Classics – although, I am still needing to finish Wollstonecraft AND Mill :().
I went to see Judith Butler at the London Review of Books, but the thing is, she didn’t talk about feminism or gender; instead, Butler talked about the writer Kafka, and the claim by both Israel and Germany that his works should be considered culturally theirs. She argued that art has constantly been used for propaganda, and that the claim by Israel for Kafka’s work, because he was Jew despite the fact that he disagreed with Zionism, is a nationalist claim that could create a precedent for Israel to take the work of OTHER Jewish artists and say it is a part of their own unique, creative heritage. The claim by Germany is another type of nationalist claim, in that they wanted to use Kafka’s work as a premiere example of migration standards. They argue that Kafka could write in perfect German, and thus, all other migrants (because he was a immigrant from Prauge, I believe) should meet his standard. So not only is this nationalistic, but also racial/xeno-focused. Problem is, comments on Kafka was that he barely could speak German well and that his writing was probably doctored up. Butler spent most of the talk discussing how these claims are ultimately problematic. It was rather incredible.
But then came this week. This week is Reading Week – which means it is a week where there is no school and all I do is read and prepare/write coursework. I have one assignment due at the beginning of next week (for Introduction to Philosophy of Religion) on St. Augustine and David Hume. I am nervous because I am not sure I will be able to write what my Simon Cowell-impersonator teacher wants from me. We shall see I guess! I also want to get out of London sometime this week, but my money issue is rather tight. Not only that, but I am finding it incredibly confusing trying to figure out how the trains/national buslines work. I want to visit the Eden Project which is on the southwesternmost tip of England. I also want to visit Glastonbury and Avebury (both suggested by Dr. Olson), the first because of the whole New Age vibe, and the second to see a henge. Yes, I need to see Stonehenge still – but I am waiting for two lovely ladies to come to England first before I see it.
Last thing I wanted to mention is that today I went exploring some more where I lived. I found this really neat church, St. John’s-at-Hampstead that had a graveyard built around it. I think I love the fact that old churches in older countries do this: burying the dead in close graveyards. Definitely really cool. But the more important discovery was Hampstead Heath. Hampstead Heath is a park, or more like a giant park. And when I mean giant, I MEAN BLOODY HUGE. I found one section of it, and where I travelled was probably like 1/10 and not even that of its real size. Hampstead Heath was the place where one of my favourite movies, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, was shot at, and it has one of the most spectacular views of the London skyline. I couldn’t figure out where the spot I needed to be at, so I wandered through a forest (mind you, this was frightening because people randomly appeared out of the bush – I kept dodging and weaving :P). I will definitely take pictures when I go back Wednesday.
Also, I have more pictures to put up, so look for those soon!
(Title comes from the 1929 semi-autobiographical novel “A Farewell to Arms” by Ernest Hemingway – whom I do not like, but whatever. :P)