Three of the four I apply to offer me Teaching Assistanceship incentives to come. I accept Carleton U., because Ian has applied to two Ottawa papers and we hope he will follow me. Instead, The Globe & Mail, in Toronto, offers him a job, so we are apart for the year that I am doing my course work. Just as well - in an effort to get on with my PhD, I take all my courses at once, planning to write my thesis over the summer, defend it and start my PhD next September. Did I mention having the quality of impatience?
The first hurdle is to find a prof to work with me on my Thesis. I have decided to study Canadian Literature, thinking it will be more practical than 18th C or 19th C Poetry, which I love. Unfortunately, nothing in our literature really speaks to me; I am not a modernist. This does not make me an interesting candidate to work with. I am told "50% of M.A. students never finish. I haven't time to take on another." One female Prof baldly tells me she "doesn't believe I have what it takes." Finally, with great reluctance, one takes me on.
I sign up for five courses, treating myself to one Drama and one Shakespeare course: the rest are as dull as I feared Can Lit would be. One of those is with the prof who thinks I don't have it in me to get an M.A. She is one of those attack-prof types - she pounces on the student who obviously doesn't want to be called on and berates him/her soundly for not having read the assigned pages or not giving the answer she wants. In the first class after my unfortunate interview with her when she refused to take me on as a thesis student, she calls on me, as I hide behind my text, to explain the meaning and significance of a passage.
Grad school is grueling. I work day and night to keep up, and still don't always get the readings done. (Maybe because I'm taking twice as many courses as most of my grad colleagues?) At any rate, I am madly reading the passage as she hesitates, letting us sweat, before she picks me as her prey. I look up into her wolfish grin, see her holding her breath, her eyes hungry as she prepares to demolish me.
And I begin to explain the passage to her. Let me tell you, I can barely add two 3-figure numbers. Geography and science are foreign languages to me - no, worse, I'm pretty good at languages. But English? I am a whiz at English. Having whipped through the passage for the first time in the few minutes it took her to ask her question and choose me, I begin to explain it, ideas coming to me as I speak, getting more and more interested in this stupid text as i delve into it, all off the top of my head - and I see the grin on her face fade, replaced with surprise, disbelief, a fading hope that she can find something wrong or lacking in my answer, and finally, re-evaluation of me. When I am finished, she stammers, "Yes...well.. very good," and hurries on to the next passage.
I walk out at the end of that class, go straight to the admin office, and drop her course.