And then we handed in the first assignment. We were to do a short presentation- only a hundred words or so- on a mythological figure and how this figure was represented in the English Renaissance. I chose Aeneas- I think, sadly, I was the only one in the class who knew of Aeneas- and did a little quick research, noticed that any time he was mentioned he came with a message directed at the reader or audience, wrote a few notes to that fact and handed the paper in.
As it turned out, my work was a little different from the rest of the class. First off, I was about the only one who kept to within a hundred words or so. The others were writing long papers, as if they couldn't contain themselves to the limits, or if they thought the professor was not serious when she told us to keep it within a hundred words or so. Second off, I was also the only one who didn't tie their mythological figure to a current socio-political-theoretical-gender framework. I simply tried to see what the figure had to offer. Everybody else had already decided what their figure had to offer before they even began their research. Their papers were more about their preferred theory than the figure they were supposed to outline and analyze. Mine wasn't. I was expecting to do poorly because of that.
I arrived at class one day shortly after handing along my report. I was the first one there. The second person to arrive was the professor herself. "My God, you write beautifully," she said bluntly.
I didn't actually believe what she had just said. It had been so long since I had heard a compliment on my writing. After the catastrophe of the creative writing program, I had simply assumed that people hated my writing, but were too polite to say so.
She continued on. "You're going to be great in the PhD. Have you chosen your thesis yet?"
"No," I replied. "My application was turned down."
"That was a mistake. I'll get you in. You need to turn this into a thesis."
I spent the rest of the class in a daze. Was she serious? Could she do that?
A it turned out, yes she was, and yes she could. I was to continue my studies.