My summer creative writing class was cancelled, and I decided not to take a fall class because of some health issues and the general state of chaos of my life.
Just this morning, I registered for a 19th century American literature class that's intended for undergraduate seniors. They created a graduate section of the class just for me. The deal is that I have to do more work than the undergraduates. The cool part is I have a lot of say in what that extra work will be.
The super awesome thing I found out this morning is it's not just a 19th century American literature class (Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, Melville, Dickinson, and other authors I absolutely adore and haven't read in quite a while). It's specifically a class on Poe. 16 weeks of Poe and friends.
I love Poe. One of my favorite childhood movies was The Pit and the Pendulum (yeah, I realize that's a little odd). My favorite genre to write in besides the impossibly challenging genre of historical fiction is dark comedy. While I realize Poe maybe wasn't going for comedy, for me it always will be.
Now that I know the class centers around Poe, I'm even more excited about it. I think I will take the opportunity to rewrite one of my dark comedies while I'm in Poe mode. The cool thing is I probably can use my rewrite as my final project for the class.
The recurrent theme that I keep finding in my work is the complex relationship between hopelessness and mental illness. There's a lot of that in the literature of this time period - like "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1892), which echoes Poe's "Ligeia" (1838). I'm curious to see how authors in this time period write about mental breakdowns of men compared to women.
Today I'm reading Washington Irving's The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon (1819-1820). Apparently Irving was the first American author to earn a living entirely from writing. He is considered an inventor of the short story genre. Apparently he was a hell of a salesman and a master of self-promotion because what I'm reading so far is not that great. "Rip Van Winkle" is amazing, but the other "stories" I've read so far are just reflections, like the sort of thing we write here on our blogs. I can't believe he got paid for them.
I'm going to trudge through as many of Irving's reflections as I can. And then I'm going to jump into Last of the Mohicans. I've seen the movie but haven't read the entire book. I remember the little sister going a little bit nuts toward the end of the movie. I'm very interested to see how Cooper handled that in the text or if it's there at all.
Happy Thanksgiving. I'm going to spend my week reading - and hopefully will do a little bit of writing too before I pop in my The Pit and the Pendulum DVD.