July 28, 2020:

I can't follow this.

The lecture room is like an indoor Greek theater, there must be 1200 bodies here, high above the lecturer at great enough distance I'm wondering why there isn't an arena-sized television monitor, as you'd find at a rock concert. The speaker's voice is amplified but it's so distant it's hard to connect it to whatever thoughts it should be focusing in my brain. Instead there are my own thoughts, nonstop, in multiple monologues overlapping. It's cacophonic, it's a jungle of word-weeds, it's a hundred radio channels receiving and rebroadcasting at once.

It's English Literature 101, Introduction to English Literature. Undergraduate prerequisite I'd be happy to absorb were that practicable. I want the reading. I like the book, the Norton anthology, the 1968 Revised Edition with the Ditchley portrait of Elizabeth on the cover, off-puttingly inappropriate in black-and-white. I like it enough to have kept it since 1976, re-reading it several times since then. In September, 1976, I've already read most of it and this is just the third or fourth week. But I don't know what to do with the reading. These lectures do not stick to my brain, the section head is nervous and inarticulate, I don't understand the assignments and am soon to do badly as testing begins.

French is so much worse. I'm not sure why I'm taking French. Perhaps to read Proudhon? Perhaps Flaubert or Proust? Perhaps Levi-Strauss, given my interest in myth? It does't matter because I can't follow it. The idea that I'm going to successfully memorize one hundred words every week, pronouncing them properly in the lab through headphones, is beyond unrealistic. Instead I slowly surrender, retreating instead into the Norton anthology, which at least has some relationship to who I believe I am.

I do wish to be here. I want to study literature and myth and philosophy. Yet to me the mechanics of this system of instruction seem broken. They have nothing to do with the way my brain works, generously assuming my brain does work. I know from other contexts that I do learn, albeit slowly and typically only through repetition. This is not that. This is not about exploration or interest or collaboration, the ways in which I'd previously learned avidly and successfully on this very campus, in the years when I participated in student movement study and discussion groups and swallowed knowledge whole. And its structure seems to have been intentionally designed to interdict and preclude the ways I absorb learning, through iteration, digestion, mulling, and marinade.

There is no back-and-forth here, very little opportunity for questions, I read too slowly to achieve the assignments. I'm forced to be too passive, too constrained, and I'm disallowed from self-direction, where self-direction is the only mode of absorbing information I've practiced since opting out of school in fourth grade.

As days drag I become increasingly dejected, approaching despondency. This is not so much the standard depression I'm more or less acclimated to. It's defeat, the outcome of my square-shaped learning style not fitting this round hole of a school. Overdetermined by the many instances of my own voice filling my head, cacophonic multi-monologues, symptoms of undiagnosed ADHD.