Monday, May 5, 2014

The English Major Mile

Okay, runners. Okay. I get it. There is evidently nothing that cannot be eaten or chugged during a mile-long run.




But you know what? I'm not that impressed. Drinking beer during a run just adds another physical obstacle. More stress on your body. Runners make a habit of putting stresses on their bodies. That's almost the whole point. Burritos are a weird stress, I'll give you that, but a physical stress nonetheless.

So here's my idea: let's add a mental challenge to these mile runs. We know runners have the physical willpower, but do they have the mental fortitude?

Quiet, Ogre.

There's a lot of ways we could go with this, but I'm going to go with what I know: the English major. I can think of one or two activities typical of that degree could add challenge to a run.



Ideally, this would take place around a track, with a laptop, two or three other students, and some professors (more detail on who in each step).

Pre Run

The clock starts. You have to write a 300 word essay about a poem with between three and five lines. The shorter and more abstract the poem, the better. A haiku works best. Only the author's name will be given. The runner will have to look them on Wikipedia for historical context, but then pretend they didn't by citing Wikipedia's own references in the paper.

*Deduct thirty seconds* if you make sure the author's Wikipedia entry only says that the author wrote this poem, and nothing else.

"Why didn't this unpaid stranger include all the relevant details?!"

Hand off the essay to a professor who has written a book on the author of the poem. Begin running.

Post Lap 1

As the runner finishes up the first lap, arrange two or three students in a semicircle. When the runner arrives, hand him or her a paragraph from an essay from a modern school of thought. The more prefixes before "modern," the better. This one paragraph should take up at least a page and a half of single spaced 8.5 x 11 paper.

The runner must read the theory and then lead a short discussion with the students on its meaning. None of the other students are allowed to read the theory beforehand. To finish this stage, the runner must be able to elicit one relevant question from another student.

*Deduct thirty seconds* if you make sure the paragraph is roughly translated from a theorist who also made no sense in their native language. Think Wittgenstein or Baudrillard. Why?

Because screw you, that's why.

Post Lap 2

Have the runner pick out a piece of pop culture he or she loves. It cannot be a book. Think movie, TV show, song, or video game. After lap 2, the runner will have to think of the title and abstract of a thesis he or she could write on that subject. The abstract must then be defended to a panel of classical and medieval literature professors who haven't consumed a piece of pop culture since T.S. Eliot.

Modern garbage

The runner can move on as soon as one of the professors admits that the idea "could work."

*Deduct fifteen seconds* if the abstract's title makes believable use of at least one semicolon.

Post Lap 3

Have the laptop ready, preferably already connected to a library database system that hasn't been redesigned since the mid-90's.

The runner must find five critical sources for the aforementioned thesis. They cannot read more than the first paragraph of any one article. Along with listing the sources, the runner must provide a paragraph summing up how the sources create room for your thesis in the "critical conversation."

*Deduct five seconds* for every time the runner chooses to just read an article's title instead of the whole first paragraph.

Post Lap 4

The runner must meet with the professor who has since evaluated the essay he or she wrote at the beginning. To finish the challenge and stop the clock, the runner must interpret the meaning (literally, if the handwriting is bad enough) of cryptic corrections to his or her paper, and then discuss plans to revise with the professor.

Revise, then resubmit. If the professor feels progress has been made, stop the clock. Repeat the process a maximum of one more time if needed before stopping the clock.

*Add five seconds* to the final time for every grammatical mistake in the essay, abstract, and improper MLA citation style in the works cited list.

"Your tears only fuel my rage." - MLA Handbook

Do that in under five minutes, and I'll be truly impressed. Do it in under an hour, actually, and I'll still buy you a beer, burrito, and glass of milk. Then we'll go running.

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