Albert Einstein, Narcotics Anonymous, and Rita Mae Brown

Last week my focus was on what I would do differently while studying this year. This week it seemed natural to think about the things that work well.  I was very surprised at how easy it is to make a rather long list of things I would not change. Then I remembered Rita Mae Brown and her famous quote, ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again but expecting different results.’ Authorship of the quote is controversial; my choices are Ms. Brown, Albert Einstein or Narcotics Anonymous. Urban legend attributes it to Einstein, though the concept is first seen in print in a Narcotics Anonymous text from 1982. Poor Rita Mae is betwixt and between. Both the quote and the controversy over authorship made me think quite a bit about what Ms. Brown wanted to accomplish with her writing, and what I would like to accomplish by studying writing and English Literature.

 What would I like to accomplish through my studies, and the writing required to complete my degree? If I want to reach my goals can I really indulge myself by preserving the list of a dozen or so things I would not change about my study habits? The length of my ‘preservation’ list surprised me; it made me realize that, even after a few years of work, studying English Literature with The University of London International Academy is more complex that I expected.

 The complexity of the study process is something I really enjoy. For me, there are some priorities among the complexities. One thing I have really benefited from is reading all the texts in a unit, then focusing on several for close study; multiple readings of my ‘close study texts’ is equally satisfying. My note-taking strategy is really fine, and my organization system is effective and comfortable. Re-writing previous essays and writing research papers is something I value, and so is participating in study seminars. Using visual and dramatic arts to supplement my reading is always a pleasure. As much as I enjoy these things, and as productive as they have been, the new term demands that I re-consider my process.

 My current process of study might not effectively address the needs of the courses in which I am enrolled. In the Advanced Units, there are no assigned texts to choose from, and the historical periods are more focused. We can not repeat material from previous exams. The Advanced Unit Study Guides stress the importance of a mature, deeper understanding of the texts I choose to read and their context within their historical period. That is a new challenge and a welcome one. I can revisit some favorite authors, but with a new, critical eye.

 I am bringing the same critical eye to my study process. As an alumnus, I engage with graduates who are using their degrees professionally, just as I am. As a continuing student I have the opportunity to bring a professional perspective to what I would like to achieve in this course. Rita Mae Brown was onto something; do I really want the same results?  Can I be objective about my study process, no matter how enjoyable, and produce the results I want personally and professionally?  I am full of questions, and really looking forward to what I am going to learn this term. I wonder if ‘Rita’ felt the same way when setting out to get her education in English Literature.

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