Bryce

Chapter 07 - Classes

Leaving Damon in the halls of the Stuart-Warren Building, Bryce proceeded to the classroom assigned to the Milton course. He found a seat, and set out his laptop, before the instructor entered. As he did, he thought a girl two rows over was looking at him in a peculiar manner, but could not be certain. Each time he tried to catch her, she looked the other way. This game was interrupted by the entrance of the instructor, listed in the schedule of classes as E. Drake. According to the catalogue, E. Drake was Dr. Eleanor Meade Drake, Professor of English, whose specialty was seventeenth century British literature, especially Milton. Seemed appropriate.

Dr. Drake was an imposing woman, perhaps in her mid fifties, neither especially short nor tall, but with an upright carriage which suggested either a strict girls' prep school or military experience. Once class began, her voice rang out clear, carrying to all crevices of the room without difficulty in a soft, genteel, Southern accent, which nonetheless hinted that no nonsense would be permitted. She began by introducing herself as Dr. Drake. No nonsense about "call me Nellie" or anything of that sort. She mentioned the title of the course, then called roll. When she got to the girl who Bryce thought had been scoping him out, he discovered that she answered to "Moore, Madeline Carter." As there were only sixteen students in the class, it did not take Dr. Drake long to get to "Winslow, James Bryce." This time, as he responded, he was certain the girl was taking note. He also thought that Dr. Drake lingered over him longer than over the other students, but that might just be because his was the last name on the list. Being a "W" was something Bryce had never really come to grips with. Sometimes it could be excruciating, waiting for the people in charge to get to you, but at other times it was a lifesaver, giving you time to think of something before they got to you.

After the roll call, Dr. Drake asked whether everyone had the syllabus, which was available online, passed out the lecture schedule, and then discussed what she proposed to cover during the semester, and what the students would be expected to accomplish to achieve their grade. They would cover not only the writings of the famed poet, but also influences on him, or what Dr. Drake preferred to call the milieu of seventeenth century England. This was, after all, one of the more tumultuous periods in English history, and Milton was in some ways in the midst of it all. Each student would be expected to produce a term paper of between ten and fifteen pages, double spaced ("to provide room for comments" the instructor said). The topic must be approved by the instructor within the first two weeks of classes ("beginning now, not next Tuesday"), and turned in as a completed work two weeks prior to the final examination. A rough draft might be submitted at mid term, which would not be graded, but which might be useful in making certain the student was on the right track. This was not, however, required. If none were submitted, "you're on your own." There would also be two examinations, an hour long test on the day which fell exactly at the mid point of the semester, or immediately after returning from the short fall break at the beginning of October; and a longer cumulative examination at the end of the semester. Both examinations would consist primarily of writing essays on topics set by the instructor. "Proper English usage will be expected not only in the term paper but also on the examinations," Dr. Drake announced. "This is, after all, an English class. Not only that, but you are in the process of becoming educated, and proper use of your native tongue is a sign of an educated person." She peered at a student who had responded to the name "Sandoval, Juan Miguel," "If English is not your native language, I will take that into account," she concluded.

Following that introduction, Dr. Drake asked if there were any questions. Of course, there were a few predictable ones, indicating a certain nervousness about the requirements. One student even voiced the sentiment that a literature course should be about ideas, not grammar and punctuation. Dr. Drake merely stared at him until he stammered to a halt. She passed on without commenting on that sentiment. Bryce was profoundly grateful that he had done nothing to evoke that stare. Then, as the class was being dismissed, Dr. Drake called out, "Mr. Winslow, please remain behind for a few moments."

When the other students had left, Bryce approached the Professor's desk. "You wanted to see me, Dr. Drake?"

"Yes. I note from my class roll that you're a freshman."

"Yes, ma'am. I examed out of Freshman Composition, and have AP credit for the literature survey sequence," Bryce replied.

"Why have you chosen this course, may I ask?"

"I have a strong interest in Early Modern British history. I'm also signed up for Dr. Dickinson's Stuart Period course. I thought the two would go well together."

"I see. Well, it's unusual to find a first year student in this course, but you seem to have met the prerequisites, and to have a decent reason for taking it. Have you read any Milton?" the Professor asked.

"I read parts of Paradise Lost and Samson Agonistes as part of my AP lit course last year," Bryce told her.

"Very well. If you seem to be having difficulties, please see me before they become acute. Information about my office hours and campus e-mail address are on the syllabus."

"Thank you, Dr. Drake. I hope that won't be necessary, but I'm glad to know that resource is available should I need it."

Dismissed, Bryce left the room feeling that he had passed his first major test. Glancing at his watch, he noted that it was barely past ten o'clock. He had plenty of time before meeting with Damon for lunch prior to their Biology lab. Consequently, he decided to check out the library, and begin giving some thought to a topic for his Milton term paper.

The James Kennedy Patterson Memorial Library actually consisted of several units, with the main undergraduate library dominating one end of the central quadrangle. It was a classical building with a broad portico featuring imposing Ionic columns. According to the catalogue, it was erected in 1907 with a gift from the family of the late Dr. Patterson, a devoted educator, matched by funds from the state and city. The building was designed by D. X. Murphy, a noted local architect. In addition to the main library, which had been added to several times since the original construction, there were satellite libraries in some of the specialized schools of the University.

As Bryce approached the library, he became aware that there was someone just ahead of him heading in the same direction. When he reached the main door, he found that this person was the student in his class with the Hispanic name. The student held the door for him.

"Thanks," Bryce said. "Um, you're in the Milton class, too, aren't you?"

"Yeah. Thought I'd get a head start on that bitchin' term paper."

"Me, too. I'm Bryce Winslow, by the way."

"Mike Sandoval," the other student said, shaking hands.

"Not Miguel?"

Mike looked at him. "Your name is English, I guess, but there are plenty of people with names from other ethnicities. I seem to recall that your first name is actually James. If you were named O'Malley, would your first name automatically be Seamus? Or if your last name were Schmidt, would you automatically be Jakob? Or if you were named Sandoval, like me, would you want to be called Diego? Or if ...."

Bryce held up his hands in surrender. "Okay, okay, I get the point. Dr. Drake did kind of indicate you might have difficulty with English," Bryce defended himself.

"Profiling," Mike replied. "Okay, I'm not ashamed of my heritage. I can speak Spanish, and my folks gave me the Spanish version of my name on my birth certificate, but I grew up right here in Clifton, and I'll bet I can write English as well as most of the people in that class. Contrary to what a lot of bigots think, not everybody with a Spanish last name is a recent immigrant, and not all immigrants are illegal. My great-grandfather came to Clifton in 1943 when there was a munitions plant here during World War II, and a lot of the men were off fighting. He came legally, I might add. I've got the papers to prove it. I did a paper on that for my history class in high school. Actually, it's no more unusual for me to have a Spanish given name than it is for somebody of German descent to be named Carl, or somebody of Irish descent to be named Sean. It's just that some nationalities have been absorbed into the American mainstream longer, so nobody even recognizes that those are essentially foreign versions of the standard English names Charles and John. And what about all the Juanitas and Anitas who can't speak a word of Spanish?"

"Man, you've got it all down. For what it's worth, I admire you for standing up for yourself, even if it does make me look like an idiot."

"I don't mean to put you down," Mike assured Bryce. "I just want you to realize that I belong here every bit as much as the next guy. Did you even wonder why I'm in a class on Milton instead of one on Cervantes?"

"Um, no, actually."

"I'm going to tell you anyway. I plan to be a secondary school teacher, and I'm going to be teaching English, not Spanish."

"Good for you. Just to set the record straight, I decided a long time ago that biases based on race or ethnicity were stupid," Bryce assured him. "I guess making that decision, and applying it in practice, are two different things. Sorry."

"Not a problem, amigo," Mike joked. "You stood there like a trooper and listened to my harangue, and didn't even once mention tacos."

At that, Bryce burst out laughing.

"Let's go find the Milton section of the library," Mike suggested. He obviously knew his way around better than Bryce, for whom this was all new territory. They located the relevant section of the library, and spent well over an hour looking over what was available. In addition to the collected works of Milton, there were numerous works about him and his writings. Mike then led Bryce to the periodicals section, where they checked various literary journals, indicating there was a great deal available on just about any aspect of such a central figure as John Milton. Bryce entered copious notes of possibilities on his computer, but shortly before noon he left Mike and the library, heading over to the University Center to meet Damon for lunch.

Arriving at the student cafeteria, Bryce looked around to see whether Damon had preceded him. Sure enough, he located his neighbor on the patio, where Damon had spread out, taking up an entire table. As he approached, he also noted that, in addition to books and papers, there were five coke cans on the table, their bent and distorted condition indicating they were empties. When his shadow fell across Damon's page, the other teen said, "Sorry, this table is taken." He then looked up and said, "Oh, it's you."

"Well, I'm sorry to be such a disappointment. Who were you waiting for?" Bryce teased.

"Seems everybody and his brother wants this table. I've been here for hours waiting for you."

"Looks like it," Bryce said, flicking the coke cans. "What, are you trying singlehandedly to support the entire soft drink industry?"

"I need the caffeine to stay awake, since you got me up at the crack of dawn," Damon defended himself.

"I got you up in time for your first class," Bryce responded.

The two agreed to guard the table one at a time while the other went through the cafeteria line. Settled, they ate their lunch and discussed their mornings. Damon evidently had nothing really significant to report. Either nothing happened in his class, or he was too sleepy to notice. They had plenty of time, so, loading up their book bags and Bryce's laptop, they went for an exploratory walk around campus before heading off to the place where their Biology lab would be. Damon complained the entire time, of course, but he kept up with Bryce, and interspersed his complaints with comments on the campus, the students, and the party on Friday. Evidently, that party had taken up a major position in Damon's consciousness. Bryce suspected it was because Mr. Aeropostale had been rejected by Sigma Alpha Tau, but he refrained from saying so at this time, not wanting a new diatribe.

In good time, the two new students made their way to the large room in Audubon Hall, the Biology building, where their lab was scheduled. They found that the Biology lab would be presided over by a staff technician and several graduate students, rather than a regular member of the faculty. Today, they were assigned work places (Watson and Winslow being together), given a lecture on lab safety, and given a lab workbook, which was covered as part of the lab fees paid at registration. Then they were dismissed. This left both Bryce and Damon free for the remainder of the day, and it was barely two o'clock.

Damon announced his intention of returning to his room and making up for lost sleep. Though Bryce had been unable to sleep the previous night, he was too tense to get any real rest, so he decided to return to the library to check out some more Milton references. He spent the rest of the afternoon in the library, where he found that many commentators thought of Milton as a champion of liberty and toleration. Maybe something along those lines would make a good term paper topic.

When he returned to his room, he carefully stowed his computer and books away, then went to check on Damon. For a change, his dorm neighbor was there and awake, though lying on his bed.

"You about ready for something to eat?" Bryce asked.

"Huh? Oh, yeah, I guess," an obviously distracted Damon replied.

"What's up? You have something on your mind?"

"Oh ... nothing."

Bryce laughed. "I used to give my mother answers like that when I didn't want to tell her the truth."

Damon glared at him, then got up saying, "Let's eat."

They went off campus, finding a decent place a couple of blocks away. Damon said it had been recommended by some of the brothers. They enjoyed pork chops and mashed potatoes and gravy and biscuits, washed down with ice tea. Damon was quieter than usual. Towards the end of the meal, however, he said, "You know, today wasn't too bad. I think I can hack this stuff."

For the first time, it occurred to Bryce that his outgoing, determined neighbor might have doubts about his ability to do college level work. Without taking too long to consider this, he responded, "Sure. You're never going back to the projects, remember?"

"Right! Never! Even if I don't have a shirt with Aeropostale written across the chest," Damon said, recovering his spirits. They banged their fists together, and grinned like they had done something important. Maybe they had.

On the way back to campus after eating, Damon asked, "What do you know about this dude Dickinson? I've got him for History first thing in the morning."

"He's my advisor. I met him yesterday. He's really brilliant on Early Modern British history. I found him very interesting, but he's also kind of ... eccentric," Bryce replied.

"Eccentric? How?"

"Well, for one thing, he speaks with a British accent, but he was born in this country. He also is kind of unpredictable in his gestures and movements."

"I don't know about this," Damon said, his doubts returning.

"Don't worry. Remember, you have an AP history neighbor. Besides, if you make it though tomorrow's classes, there's that party."

"Yeah! Party. Par-tee!"

Back in the dorm, Bryce gave his attention to what he could dredge up on Milton on the web, while Damon retreated to his room, then, about nine, stuck his head in. "I'm going out with some of the brothers. Want to come?"

"No. I'm too involved in this Milton thing. And don't you stay out too late or come back drunk. Remember, Professor Dickinson at nine in the morning."

"Yes, Mother. Or should I say motherfu...."

Bryce threw a pillow at him.

Tired from missed sleep the night before, Bryce went to bed about 10:30. Thursday night there were no more torments. He slept soundly, awakening to his alarm at 6:00. He thought of checking on Damon, whom he had not heard come in, but decided on mercy. Throwing on his gym clothes, he again made his way across campus to the Fitness Center, stopping along the way for a cup of coffee. This morning Curtis arrived just as he did, so once again the two guys helped each other with their work-outs.

"Expecting you at the party tonight," Curtis said while pumping iron.

"Planning on it. And Damon will be coming with me. He's been really getting excited about it," Bryce replied. "What's a good time to show up?"

"Probably between nine and nine-thirty. Off the ground by then, but still in on the ground floor, and with plenty of time for us to give you the third degree," Curtis grinned.

"We'll be there. Is it permitted for us to ask you guys some hard questions, too?"

"Sure. If we don't know the answers, we'll fake it."

Bryce left the gym before eight, returning to the dorm. First priority, wake up Damon. With the previous morning in mind, he decided to avoid direct contact. Taking a peek, he saw that Damon was on his back this morning. With a grin, he soaked a washcloth in cold water. With it dripping, he entered Damon's room, cautiously approached the bed, then dropped the dripping cold washcloth in Damon's face. He jumped back immediately. It was a good thing he did, as there was an immediate flurry of fists, accompanying an outburst of curses.

Bryce stood well away from the bed, but was bent nearly double with laughter. Once he regained his breath, and Damon calmed down enough to hear, he said, "Time to rise and shine. Class in forty-five minutes. Don't want to be late." He was still laughing, with Damon cursing him thoroughly, as he slipped into his own room to dress. He had showered at the gym. Fifteen minutes later, Damon entered his room.

"You are Satan, Beelzebub, Lucifer, and the Antichrist all rolled up in one," Damon proclaimed.

"Is that any way to show your appreciation for me risking life and limb to make sure you are up in time to grab a bite before class?" Bryce grinned back at him.

Damon heaved a long-suffering sigh, and the two went off to do just that.

For Bryce, the first class of the day was the Survey of French Literature, Part I. As Professor Anjot told them, they would cover the development of French literature from the Middle Ages through the eighteenth century. If they survived, next semester they would continue with the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He spoke briefly about the transition from spoken Latin to early forms of French, and the Celtic influence on that process, mentioning the Strasbourg Oath and a few other fragments. But the first real literature, he said, was Le Chanson de Roland, dating to about 1080, and written in the Provençal dialect, which some recognize as a distinct language. The south of France, called the Midi, spoke what was also called thelangue d'oc, while the north spoke the langue d'oïl, which included the dialect which eventually became standard French. Bryce found this fascinating, and did not notice the hour slipping away until the class was dismissed. Then, he had an hour free until his Psych class at eleven. On Mondays, he would have Freshman Orientation at this time. Feeling exhilarated, he made his way to the cafeteria for a more complete breakfast than the rolls and coffee he had grabbed before class. As he expected, he found Damon there as well.

"How was your history class?"

"The man's a fruit."

"What!"

"He's a fruit. He talks funny. He moves funny. Weird, man."

Bryce took a deep breath. "I take it you're still pissed at having to study about dead white males."

"Yeah. But he's still a fruit."

"Whatever."

Bryce tried to ignore Damon for the rest of the hour. He was a bit put out at his role model being dismissed like that. Shortly before eleven, he left for his Psychology class, held in Widmer House. His instructor was Dr. Alfred Greeley. He gave the standard introduction - name of the class, his name, roll call, hand-outs. Then he swung into his spiel. "You should know that I belong to the Freudian school of Psychology. That means that we will be talking about sex quite a bit in this class. If that bothers you, now is the time to change sections. Now, I see the panting tongues and the lust filled glaze in the eyes of most of you. If you're expecting pornography, you can forget that, too. We might be X rated, but not triple X." That brought a nervous laugh from most of the students. The rest of the class was not nearly as interesting. There would be another paper of some sort, a 'research project,' whatever that meant.

After Psychology, which met at the same time Damon was having his Political Science class, the two met again for lunch. They heard there was another student cafeteria over in Rebecca Ruth Hall, the Home Ec – no, they discovered that was not the PC designation – the Human Ecology building, so the two decided to experiment. The offerings were not as extensive, but the desserts were absolutely intoxicating, so they were almost late for their Biology lecture, back in the Audubon Building. There, they were introduced to Dr. John W. Harris, a geneticist, who was the instructor for the course. He was a large individual, who wheezed when he talked, but he seemed friendly enough. He promised them a basic knowledge of the natural world of plants and animals, including humans, if they stuck with it for two semesters. The 101-102 sequence was a general education course, not for scientists, so he did not expect them to go further in the discipline.

Immediately after Biology, Bryce had his Stuart Period history class, while Damon departed for another free hour, followed by his Math class at 3:00. Bryce reminded him of the party that evening, as though that were necessary. Back to Filson Hall, Bryce appeared in Dr. Dickinson's classroom with time to spare. When the instructor appeared, he seemed to bounce, as though he were walking on springs. Damon's assessment of Dr. Dickinson as a 'fruit' kept popping into Bryce's head. It did not detract from his interest, nor his respect for the professor, but it did make him wonder. Dr. Dickinson, despite his unusual demeanor and way of speaking, was quite professional in class. After calling roll, he explained that he would not be doing that at each class, as it took precious time from his lectures. He would know who was there and not on the only relevant days, which was when tests were administered. There would be two exams during the course of the semester and one comprehensive exam at the end. The first would come "after we execute King Charles" and the second "after we dethrone King James." Unless there was a serious emergency, documented, there would be no make-ups. There would also be a term paper on an approved topic, very similar to what Dr. Drake outlined the day before. Bryce wondered whether they conspired on this. After these preliminaries, Dr. Dickinson did not dismiss class, but spent a half hour giving what he called background material, much to the displeasure of most of the students, although Bryce did not mind at all. This was his meat and potatoes, his area of specialization. He found the Professor's summary of the previous, Tudor, period both fascinating and thought provoking. When, as the class came to an end, Dr. Dickinson asked whether there were any questions, Bryce's hand shot up.

"Are you saying, Professor, that the Tudor period was when England came closer than at any other time to an absolute monarchy?"

"Precisely, Mr. Winslow. And it was the misfortune of the Stuarts that their attempt to emulate that under altered circumstances led to their downfall."

The other students did not seem to appreciate more questions, so Bryce remained quiet, and class was dismissed.