My recent trip to Europe inspired all sorts of romantic notions about literary Europe in my imagination. Besides walking around with a notebook (that I primarily used for writing down restaurants I wanted to try) and experimenting with wearing a beret (a failed experiment, I might add), I also decided to read or re-read some of the great literary works about Americans in Europe. So, onto my kindle, I downloaded Joshua, Then and Now (technically about a Canadian in Europe, and not well known by American audiences), A Moveable Feast, Tropic of Cancer and The Sun Also Rises. I read none of them during the trip. I dunno. Reading old books is hard for me. I stuck to modern, critically acclaimed novels (The Art of Fielding) and celebrity biographies (Born Standing Up). Since returning, though, I did go back into the my kindle library and re-read The Sun Also Rises, a novel I first read while I took a high-level Hemingway English class in college.
I remembered my general impression of the book when I read it in college, and it’s still held; the use of language is great, the descriptions of Paris and Spain are evocative/romantic, and the characters are all entitled jerks/anti-Semites. What also stuck me, as I was thinking back, was that I could remember almost nothing about the class I took in college. I couldn’t remember who taught it, how big it was or what I’d written/thought about during the class. Granted, this was seven or eight years ago, an era of my life when I smoked copious amounts of pot, but still. I knew I took a class on Hemingway and I knew that I really enjoyed it, but I no longer knew why. And that’s why, a couple nights ago, as I was in the midst of reading, I put the kindle down got onto my my alma mater’s website to do some investigating.
#1: Look at your old college transcript
It only took a few tries to recreate my university login and my password, and I was in. Turns out I was an ok, but not phenomenal student. B average, with a handful of As, and a couple Cs, in classes where I couldn’t get by on my creativity and ability to bullshit alone. Also, I don’t remember very many of these classes at all, though the ones where I did better, I’m more likely to remember at least a bit about the professor and what I learned, and maybe which pretty girls from college were also in the class. That’s just how my brain works.
But examining the transcript, which only had course numbers and official titles, I couldn’t figure which class was my Hemingway seminar. I started to wonder if I even actually took the class I remembered, or if I’d just read Hemingway on my own and somehow imagined I’d taken a class on it. Despite my flakey memory, though, that seemed unlikely. There were a couple course titles that could have been the Hemingway course. “ENGL 408: The 20th Century”, taken winter semester 2004, and “ENGL 345: Literature and Society”, taken fall sememester 2003, both seemed like likely candidates. But a couple Google searches with those course titles in quotations didn’t reveal anything except what those classes were for the upcoming 2012-13, which, while interesting, but doesn’t help me reconstruct my past. Then I had another idea.