Archive for November, 2009

Reading in French

Next semester should be one of my lighter semesters as far as my academic workload goes, as I’m only taking 15 credits (and only 6 of these are for classes that will require a lot of effort). I’ve been wanting to at least start a language for grad school for a little while now, and the logical choice seems to be French. Now that I’m going to have an easier semester, I’m entertaining the idea of bearing down and getting a good start on French in the spring. I’ve looked around at various programs, and even entertained the idea of getting Rosetta Stone (someday I’d really like to be fluent in at least one language, and maybe spend some time abroad during grad school), but the one book that seems to stand out for me is Sandberg’s French For Reading. I’m wondering if anyone who has happened by the blog and is reading this has anything to say on the matter. It would be especially helpful if you can read French and/or have used Sandberg’s book.

Here is a link to the book on Amazon. What do you think? Should I order the Sandberg book and dedicate 10-15 hours a week to reading French? Do you have a better alternative for learning to read French (by alternative I don’t mean easier, but instead more efficient, etc)?


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Throughout the semester, I’ve been working on an independent study on Paul Ricoeur. I’ve hopefully gained much more knowledge in the reading process than has come through in the paper, but last night I finished the first draft of my paper. I’m toying with the idea of throwing it up on the blog when I’m done with it, in case anyone would like to read it. My goal for the paper was roughly speaking to situate Ricoeur historically and explore some of his important influences while also charting some of his own insights. I quickly realized that this goal was too vague for one paper; obviously, such a task is better suited for a Ricoeur scholar who is writing a book for something like the Oxford Very Short Introduction Series.

In any event, writing the paper was still a beneficial process for me, and working on Ricoeur generally has been a good way to become exposed to some fields of philosophy that I haven’t had to chance to study as an undergrad, such as phenomenology. Lately, it has also led me to appreciate Gabriel Marcel, who was Ricoeur’s university professor and I suspect a pretty influential figure (at one time he hosted Friday evening philosophical discussions that were attended by Ricoeur, Wahl, Levinas, and Sartre among others). As chance would have it, Marcel is one of the figures I will be looking at closely in a seminar next semester.

The paper is historical/explanatory and probably somewhat boring if you know anything about Ricoeur, but I hope is a good introductory study that can give the reader some inroads into understanding where Ricoeur is coming from. I noticed while I was writing that there were multiple possibilities for smaller, more focused topics and I wish I had more time to keep reading and exploring these issues. One general area that I think some interesting work could be done in is reading Ricoeur alongside existentialist thinkers.

The paper is a little over 7100 words currently, and I’m meeting with my professor tomorrow to talk about some things that I might need to sharpen up, cut out, or work in. If anyone thinks they might want to read it (even if you know a lot about Ricoeur and want to critique me!), feel free to post a reply. I’ll probably end up putting it on the blog anyways, since the Augustine paper I uploaded a while ago still gets me a ton of hits.

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Birthday books

Last year, while in England, I randomly decided to buy Barth’s Epistle to the Romans at Blackwell’s on my birthday. This year, I kept with the Romans theme and ordered Agamben’s The Time That Remains and also ordered Walker Percy’s The Moviegoer. I’m excited to get to both books over break, and am especially looking forward to Agamben’s. This past spring, I decided to write a paper for my class on Pauline Literature on Alain Badiou’s Saint Paul: The Foundation of Universalism, which I found to be interesting, although I’m not sure I was able to get as much out of it as I would have had I been more familiar with Badiou. From what I’ve read, Agamben’s is more like a commentary that sticks to the text, unlike Badiou who jumps around quite a bit. I had looked into all of the various philosophical appropriations of Paul, but went with Badiou thanks to the advice of the posters over at An und fur sich. I was very impressed with Agamben after reading Infancy and History this summer, so hopefully his book on Romans won’t disappoint. Perhaps I will have the ambition to blog through it.

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