On the Coming of Winter in Boston
like buttery sheathes
sizzled brown skin
off a roasted turkey
that your grandmother
accidentally stuffed with snow
As you can see, the existence of the humanities at MIT is non-trivial. In fact, I have just proved this fact in such a way as to cause e.e. cummings to weep in his grave.
As an MIT student, I devote at minimum ten hours a week to thinking about the humanities, listening to lectures about the humanities, going to recitations about the humanities, writing papers about the humanities, eating lunch with the humanities, working on problem sets about the humanities, going to off-campus events about the humanities, and generally making sure that the humanities don’t unfriend me on Facebook. In my endeavors, I am greatly assisted by the MIT HASS (Humanities and Social Sciences) course requirements. By assisted, I mean something more like “forced to comply in order to graduate,” but let us not fret about semantics.
HASS, in a vague and deformed nutshell, is MIT’s method of making sure that students take at least one humanities/communication class per semester. As you may be able to surmise, I’m trying to avoid telling you anything specific about the HASS requirements because there is a 93% chance that I will say something that is completely imaginary, spurring a horde of upperclassmen blog commenters to descend like locusts upon a ripe orchard of false information. Anyway, the main point is that (1) thinking too much about the HASS requirements will erode your massive brainpower, which is why I don’t do it and instead just listen to my advisor when I have to pick classes, and (2) HASS is kind of awesome, even if the requirement descriptions are written like a psycholinguistics aptitude exam.
This semester, Paul B. and I both selected Introduction to Linguistics (24.900) as our HASS course. The workload involves:
2 five-page papers
Regular fieldwork with a native speaker of a foreign language (read: some random international student in your hall)
A midterm but no final
4 or 5 problem sets
A ten-page final paper
Laughing at Professor Norvin Richard’s jokes and/or beard and/or beard jokes
Realizing why the “and/or” construction is actually redundant but using it anyway
Interestingly, it seems that about half of the theories covered in 24.900 were written by MIT professor Noam Chomsky, whose Wikipedia page is about as long as that of Switzerland.
Speaking of famous writers at MIT, Pulitzer-Prize winning MIT professor Junot Diaz gave a reading of his Pulitzer-Prize winning novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao a few months ago in the non-Pulitzer-Prize winning Stata Center. After first hearing about The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in the brief, wondrous blog of Matt McGann over the summer, I entered a long and fruitless cycle of (1) going to Borders, (2) intending to buy the novel, and (3) failing to reach the d-section of the alphabetized-by-last-name bookshelves without becoming irrevocably distracted. Blasted Truman Capote.
(Trust me, it’s his signature. He won a Pulitzer for literature, not for autographing.)
It almost goes without saying that Junot Diaz was brilliantly witty, humble, and daringly honest, with hand gestures to prove it. I was inspired to go forth and fill the Internet with art, which is why you’re reading this right now.
Luckily, I have a four-hour plane flight on Thursday, so I shall proceed to rescue myself from literary starvation as I feast on overpriced peanuts.