Home > Uncategorized > Yellin, Grad School, & Reconsidered Realities

Yellin, Grad School, & Reconsidered Realities

Well, I must say, I really did enjoy the Yellin article. As I mentioned in class, I particularly found her recollections of graduate school particularly valuable. As a freshly enrolled graduate student myself (with George Washington University’s Master’s of American Studies program), I appreciated learning about the types of researching hindrances and decisions others have already made and the types of source explorations which may become available to me. It really was shocking, in its own way, to learn that there had been a time when Jacobs’ text was not only obscure but considered unscholarly or, at least, without trustworthy merit or consequence. I’ve run into similar problems in my own research of Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl” insofar as learning how to justify certain sources and when to exclude them, but it’s never been in question if one of Ginsberg’s letters  or poems were truly his or not. And in this way, Yellin’s research seems beautifully unique, like she had unearthed a mummy or rediscovered some lost part of America.

As of yet I’m not entirely certain if I want to dedicate my life to academia or if I’d rather dedicate my time to more adventurous things but, I must confess, Yellin has revealed to me that academia can be both. Of course, I also loved her question about whether or not Jacobs had written a memoir or a novel. This type of reality-question fascinated me and made me reconsider some of the rejection letters I’ve been receiving lately from other graduate programs. It made me reconsider the nature of personal essays and statements and how others may percieve them, what type of people or realities others must create for themselves based off of the autobiographical materials presented to them. It seems to me that every memoir and autobiography is in some respect, novel as well as non-fiction. Our lives are constantly reshaped and transformed by the perceptions of others and what their conception of our individual lives actually are — and, in this way, I begin to better see Walt Whitman’s point: I am Large. I contain Multitudes.

And this — to quote Stephen Colbert — brings us to tonight’s Word.

Given my current research on attempting to better understand what the experiences may have been of African Americans in antebellum Williamson County, Texas, I have found myself continuously frustrated by the impossibility of the task. After all, it would be grossly presumptuous of me to say I understand the experiences of any African American citizen today let alone during the days of slavery. However, this recognition of multiple realities through Yellin’s work has helped me better frame this question in my mind — that I am not necessarily attempting to say what the experiences of African Americans in antebellum Texas were, but to display for others some of the recorded aspects of their experiences which will culminate into brand new conceptions of the varying realities they endured and thus in part create new and varying realities that people of antebellum times will now endure in our own minds’ eyes today.

Did any of that make sense?

Categories: Uncategorized
  1. March 12, 2011 at 12:08 am

    I was thinking the same thing. It’s weird to think that this book was not credible 30 years ago.

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