Somewhere between blue-booking in furtive snatches at my summer job and filling Blue Books with exam responses last month, I became a closeted blue-booker. I say closeted because I felt a certain guilt clouding my every ramble through the Online Course Information site — the guilt of an adulterer. Vexation with my fall classes crept in soon after shopping period ended in September; some of the lectures and seminars I’d advertised to my friends with all the delight of the newly smitten became burdens. So, covetously, piningly, I blue-booked.
There were some classes I stared at for a long time, clicking over to the second week of January in my iCal to imagine the coming academic bliss: a writing seminar (which, I can now report, so far fulfills all my hopes), “The Art of the Printed Word” (which denied me) and “The Modern British Novel” (hi, Pericles!), for instance. The same process had happened over the summer: During my nine-hour workdays, I starred, hearted, underlined, highlighted and color-coded a course shopping list on three sheets ripped out of my for-my-job reporter’s notebook.
One small-lecture-that-shall-remain-nameless merited a star, a line of green highlighting and a notation to self: “Just take it!” It tantalized me like a secret crush. One OCI reviewer swooned that he or she hadn’t felt like a true Yale student until he or she took this class.
So I took my seat in WLH on the first day of classes, and then I went again the next time. I recognized my fellow shoppers from the Women’s Center, Model United Nations, even the pages of most beloved scene. Fresh faces, not my usual crowd — how excellent! Analysis of “Colbert Report” clips, a few offhand references to terms I’d never heard before — how hip! What an opportunity to challenge myself! I immediately recognized the professor to be a crazy person, but that, too, was part of the little lecture’s charm.
But lo and behold, by December, I loathed this lecture — or I would have, if it hadn’t become a private, funereal joke between Tom Kaplan ’10 and myself.
I loathed it because it seemed built on a foundation of nonsense words that obscured the speeches we studied rather than clarifying them. Because the most bogus arguments were the most praised. Because only the section (or, lecture) assholes seemed to know what was going on. Most of all because it (and the evaluators) had betrayed me. I’d fallen for my own hype about the course, a hype that had only inflated over the course of long August days.
But at the time, I knew none of this. It went on my schedule, alongside three courses I’d fondly selected in August and another I chanced upon during shopping period, though not at any of those famous blue-booking parties that we all tell our prefrosh about. The two blue-booking parties I have visited were less useful than they were occasions for extreme anxiety: Whether held by the Yale Southern Society or the swim team, blue-booking parties always remind me of the New York Stock Exchange trading floor.
Good QRs bounce back and forth. A small group breaks off, eager to discuss their favorite English professors. Someone always seems to have a cooler schedule than I do. Or they have more intense methods of course selection — though most people I know use iCals or lists, a few manage to shop more than 25 classes in less than a week. The frenzy of intellectual passion combined with academic calculation is overwhelming. I, holding on to my carefully crafted, starred and hearted list, wilt.
Blue-booking at Yale is, in short, an emotional experience. I’d plunged into an entirely new subject for this class, and though I sat down in lecture every time hoping it would live up to its reviews, glossing over my bewilderment at first, it was a disaster. But we Yalies are attached to our hard work, and I’d spent a month cultivating the perfect future schedule, looking forward to this class.
Maybe I should have taken the love-at-first-sight tack: ditch the list, go wild at bluebooking parties and show up in unexpected lecture halls. (Thinking back, in fact, my best semester so far has included three courses I spontaneously burst into midway through the lecture.) Still, the blue-book is a temptress that’s hard to resist. If “The Modern British Novel” doesn’t work out, you’ll find me doodling the name of my next stellar seminar on my notebook, complete with little hearts.