Anonymous asked:

Hey!! Is it realistic (gpa and workload wise) to take the entire 45 sequence in one semester?? What would a 45 veteran consider a realistic load for an English major??

Whoa whoa whoa. 

First off, I like your word choice of “45 veteran.” It sounds like I’ve been through a war, which isn’t really the case at all. 

…I would say that it depends on your year and what you’re trying to accomplish. Have you taken English classes at Berkeley previously? Are you just trying to cram them all in because you want to get them over with? 

Personally, I would be against it. First off, taking ANY three English classes in one semester can get intense. You have to be able to plan very carefully, to make sure that you won’t be overwhelmed with reading. Secondly, you have to remember that the 45-series are introductory surveys to literature. Do you really want to tear through an “entire” survey of English literature from Beowulf to Pynchon all in one semester? 

I started the 45 series right when I hit Berkeley and because I was doing prerequisite work for the Media Studies Major and tackling all of my breadth requirements, I ended up taking 45B my very first semester, 45C my second semester, and 45A and Shakespeare 117S my third semester here. 

Based on how I planned my 45 series, I have to say that I both got very lucky and that I also couldn’t have planned it any better. 

When I took 45B, I didn’t know anything about Berkeley’s English department and simply enrolled in the only 45-series class that was open. I ended up with Professor Sorensen. The reading for that class was almost downright light (something that pretty much never happens) and I got a very friendly and supportive GSI who wasn’t too harsh of a grader. I stand by the opinion that if you are just starting in English, 45B is a really good test to see if you are cut out for the English Major or not. It’s in between 45A and 45C, so the language isn’t as “archaic” and difficult to deal with as in 45A, but it’s also not as tempting and won’t lead you into a false sense of security like 45C (because c’mon - pretty everyone likes modern literature). 

You also have to look at Professors. If you’re relatively new to Berkeley’s English department and don’t have a personal friend who you know to ask, read reviews online to find out who’s good. For example, Professor Altieri is notoriously difficult to understand and pretty convoluted. And, if you’re taking 45A, absolutely take Professor Nolan, who teaches it in the Fall. 45A is a course that many English majors avoid because it can get dry and it’s also tough. Unless you are excited about literature in Old English / Middle English (i.e. “Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote / The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote)…the class focuses on intense close reading, something that I thought I knew how to do pretty well after taking 45B and 45C, but, as it turns out, I really didn’t…

A lot of people who take 45A have already moved into other upper-division English courses and simply postpone taking it until later. Professor Nolan is perhaps the most accessible & down-to-earth Professor in the English department that I know (she also runs the Chernin program)! so if you want to do well in 45A, don’t go with any other Professor! She will make the densest stuff possible for you to understand. 

Finally, you also have to realize that as introductory surveys, the 45-series requires more work. This means that in comparison to larger upper division courses (that simply hire readers to grade your essays), the 45-series will have a more even grade distribution, but there will also be more assignments. 

In each 45 class, you will have discussion section with a GSI. Grades are usually based on three or so essays of increasing length, a final (sometimes a midterm), and participation in your section. Depending on your GSI, he / she may ask you to do anything from memorize poems of your choice to post weekly in a forum. 

In the upper-division courses that I am taking now (although this doesn’t hold true for seminar courses), the reading is more intense, but your grade is only based on final exams and papers. There is no “section,” simply a graduate reader who is pretty much just hired to read your writing and give you a grade. 

So. The entire 45-sequence in one semester? I personally wouldn’t do it, but you have to ask yourself about your own strengths and weaknesses, as well as what you are trying to accomplish. I wouldn’t think that it’s impossible, although I’ve only ever heard of people talking two 45-series classes in one semester, and not three. Again, weigh your options carefully. Look at the professors being offered, and look at the reading lists! 

For example, when I took 45C, I was assigned texts like Mrs. Dalloway and Dubliners. Other 45C series taught by other Professors had to read To the Lighthouse and A Portrait of the Artist, texts that are by the same authors, but (in my opinion) are a lot tougher to tackle. If you’re not too familiar with authors and texts at this point, I would simply Google search summaries and quotes. In other words, taking the entire 45 series and discovering that the reading is absolutely heinous is probably going to lead to some suffering on your part. 

Personally, because I took the 45-series slow and rather steady, I was able to chew things over a lot more and solidify my basis. You know what they say - focus is the key! Trying to cram and do well on everything may mean that you don’t do well on anything…your papers will also shine all the more if you actually have the time to really absorb texts, rather than shoving them down like a starving person at an all-you-can-eat-buffet when you can only eat for…fifteen minutes. 

Hope that this helps! 


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