Of Tales & Dreams fully supports the Force. Also, I’m always looking for the fun way out of anything potentially mind-numbing. That said, I thought I’d share some of my waaaay cool (or uncool – remains to be seen) study tips as I prepare for the GRE Subject Test in Literature (which has been and always will be known as ‘the exam of DEATH‘). Possible things one can expect in said exam :
Literary works (Middle Ages to Contemporary), British Literature, American Literature, Critical Theory, Poetry, Plays, Literary Terms, World Literature, biographical details about authors, teeny tiny references made in texts to any one who has ever written a text, or had a thought…you see what I mean about the Death part right?
But all is not lost! Sometimes in life you have to push yourself and at least try to pew pew pew with the seemingly impossible.
Reactions we’re trying to ignore when taking this perilous exam include
although as English grad students, the Admiral would probably be reinterpreted as
Haha…am I the only one laughing right now? OK moving on…
b) violent swearing
c) take me to my happy place
We’re gonna hope for option d where we can put on our C-3PO heads (preferably not backwards) and answer those pesky questions correctly, because honestly I don’t think me dressing up in Princess Leia’s gold bikini is gonna help me get out of this one.
One of the poems with a very high chance of making an appearance in the GRE Lit. exam is T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922), an infamous modernist poem divided into five parts :
- The Burial of the Dead
- A Game of Chess
- The Fire Sermon
- Death by Water
- What the Thunder Said
As far as poems go it’s rather lengthy. If you’ve been spending the week cramming as much poetry into your head as ‘inhumanely’ possible as I have been, and you’re afraid you might just miss or forget the beautiful details of Eliot’s masterpiece…well, fear not, I come bearing geeky gifts.
Alec Guinness reading The Waste Land.
Guinness or (as we Star Wars fans like to call him) Obi-Wan, delivers The Waste Land in an effortlessly captivating manner (in a mere 20 minutes or so). In fact, he manages to pull me so far into the mind of the poet that I find myself returning to listen to this poem unnecessarily whilst sipping my morning coffee. Jug Jug.
Unless you’ve lived under a very big rock your whole life, you must have heard something concerning this poem, which is a brilliant mix of allusions to literary greats ranging from Shakespeare (“Those are pearls that were his eyes”as sung by Ariel in The Tempest) to Baudelaire ( “Hypocrite Lecteur”from Les Fleurs du Mal). Unraveling the text and making the connections allows the reader to have an intensive experience with the poem, which is what Eliot intended. Disillusioned by a post World War 1 ennui, he used imagery and abstraction to call humanity out on their downward spiral to stupidity and the importance of finding hope. Where is this hope, you ask? Well, Eliot was a firm believer in tradition (the need to return to the wise and greats that preceded us) but he was also aware of the need for poets to break tradition and create new channels that could (unlike the poor nightingale often alluded to in literary works) give voice to current states. The Waste Land is a canvas splattered with differing meters and styles suggesting chaos, disintegration, union…life.
Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapped in a brown mantle hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman—But who is that on the other side of you?
I’m particularly drawn to these lines of the poem. It has a dark, mysterious flavor brewing in its belly. According to Eliot’s notes, scholars claim he could be referring to the Bible (Jesus walking with disciples who do not see him) or Eliot could be indicating something sinister (created from a story he heard of people who had just returned from Antarctica and imagined seeing all sorts of ghostly things induced by the freezing temperatures). Hey…let’s just imagine that “brown mantle hooded” figure is good ol’ Ben Kenobi.
Now when I’m sitting in my exam – possibly dying- and The Waste Land appears…at least I can filter through my memories and remember that one time that a Jedi Master talked me through it. As for everything else…well, I guess reading stuff in a Yoda voice will just have to do (Yoda grammar not recommended!).Unless you’re able to convince the people grading the exam that these are the answers they’re looking for…
You’re welcome. #maytheforcebewithyou