To state the painfully obvious, many senior essay drafts are due this week. Hundreds of important papers are due in the coming days. All this compounds the greatest problem Yale students currently face: Five days before spring break, we’re uninspired for brilliance, or even competence, in our writing.
We’ve done enough research — usually. We’ve even discussed interesting ideas on the topic — generally. Still, the refrain in dining halls and the Payne-Whitney gymnasium and, more realistically, Rudy’s, is the same: I just can’t write the damn thing.
For me, it’s no surprise I lack written insight. My art history TA’s comments last semester — “Your writing is convoluted, but underneath all the confusion, your thoughts are not rigorous and sometimes even banal” — left no question about that one. From all accounts, a few other Yale students share the same difficulty: the infamous “admissions error” Harold Bloom papers.
I say, why deny the obvious? One week from Cancun, Barcelona or home sweet home, Yale students are not fit to be writing anything, much less something allegedly insightful. We need a moratorium on all paper-writing until Yale produces a more realistic alternative.
Writing is silly. Daily Themes, a Yale course devoted solely to this very activity, says it best: “Whenever you come across a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” Not only is writing useless, it’s unimpressive. Infinite monkeys typing infinitely will produce Macbeth, right? So why should America’s best and brightest waste their time with it? Turn off paper-writing, turn on life.
And above all, many writing assignments are just plain absurd. Last week my roommate had to go to the Yale University Art Gallery, look at a painting and write two pages on the topic “Where’s the Art?” The entire institution of academia gives further testament to this: Ridiculous writing assignments lead to absurd works of scholarship, which lead to obscure doctoral dissertations.
And these obscurely-qualified “experts,” in the end, propose ridiculous classes, which we read about in the Residential College Seminar Committee. Last semester’s gem was “Blood: A Drama in Thirteen Weeks” and explored the image of bloodletting in drama throughout the ages. At least my roommate didn’t have to write two pages on that. Suggested topic: “Where’s the point?”
Still, eliminating paper-writing from the Yale curriculum would have some unhappy repercussions. For one thing, the residential college writing tutors would become existentially meaningless. Yale University Press would also be useless. Most of all, Yale students would have no common feeling of doom lingering over our heads. Our shared bonds would disappear. And perhaps this is the crux: We hate wallowing in our procrastination before writing much more than we hate the actual act.
Monkey-authored or not, Hamlet had a point: There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Compared to the never-ending hellhole of talking-about-worrying-about-thinking-about not paper-writing, actually typing up a few pages is a walk in the academic park. Even ridiculous writing isn’t really useless — the “Blood” professor got somewhere on her knowledge, for whatever that’s worth. The ultimate importance of all this obscure scholarship to the real world is a debate for another time. The ultimate importance of, say, a senior essay to your graduation prospects is not up for debate.
Close your Pine account for an hour — your friends can live without Dubya-joke forwards– and get yourself out of Rudy’s — they’ll survive, too. Quit your griping, quit buying model Smurfs from eBay, and start typing.
Where’s the art? Only one week until Cancun.
Frances Brown is a junior in Branford College. Her columns appear on alternate Mondays.