Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Day Three

Calc III's now met thrice (love that word!), and Oulipo twice. I've learned a lot in both, already.

The second meeting of the latter offered a great discussion on the many ways we can construe "constraint," and how constraint affects us. "What kinds of constraints do we see in our lives?" I asked. One student spoke of the way her anxiety constrains her actions: she must choose to do or not do certain things for fear her anxiety will overwhelm her. Another student talked about physical constraints, explaining how the perspectives we take on, constrained by the routes we take when we travel and the modes of transportation we use, affect our engagement with the world. While much of our discussion focused on the negative aspects of constraint and the ways in which removal of constraints liberates us, I asked the students to indicate some positive effects, too.

Regarding constrained literature, one student brought up a point an Oulipian might make: by constraining the words you're allowed to use or the way you're allowed to use them, though you you may find yourself with an impoverished list, you can nevertheless focus your attention on this list and make more astute, intentional choices as you write. Indeed, much the same can be said in other forms of art: as one of the Honors Program's star musicians pointed out, once free jazz hit the scene and all bets were off, one could argue that music became meaningless and it was only with the reinstitution of constraint that meaning was restored. Though we find pleasure in flouting constraint, as another student pointed out, that pleasure is unobtainable if constraint does not exist: how can we break the rules if there are no rules to break?

This class is going to be a good one, I think. The only complaint I have is that the classroom stinks, as I explained in a previous post.

More on my Calc III class, and curriculum-review goings-on, Honors Program whatnot, etc., soon. For now, I've got to get to dinner.

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