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The term is all but over. Classes have ended. The exam period is drawing to a close. McMaster’s English 2H06, American Literature, exam takes place in a few days’ time. It’s been a great year.

We studied sixteen prolific American writers in approximately six months: Poe; Hawthorne; Melville; Thoreau; Whitman; Dickinson; Twain; Frost; Stevens; Faulkner; O’Neill; Cather; Lowell; Bishop; Mamet; Hurston. That’s a staggering list, and yet it only scratches the surface of the rousing and dynamic canon and culture that is American literature. I wish we had had more time to search the art of these writers more. I wish we had had time to consider Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck and and Carson McCullers and Flannery O’Connor and Richard Yates and J.D. Salinger and Raymond Carver and Cormac McCarthy and David Foster Wallace. And scores more. But, my God, a year is such a brief period of time.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the professors who led us through such important texts. Dr. Adamson and Dr. Donaldson: thank you. Between September and April I made it to all but two lectures, I kept detailed notes, and much of what ended up on this blog was inspired by something mentioned in lecture – I, like so many of you, attended lectures with devotion in large part because it was clear from the outset that here was thrilling literature taught by equally exciting professors. We should all be very grateful for having had this opportunity to learn from such prominent, careful, and learned scholars as Dr. Adamson and Dr. Donaldson.

And to the Teaching Assistants – Deirdre, Sarah, and Karen – thank you, as well, for your hard work, dedication, and leadership, as well as for nurturing what I understand were exciting and fruitful tutorials.

Thanks, also, to the students of 2H06. Most of you attended class diligently, contributed exciting and provocative ideas to class discussions, and inspired the instructors with your palpable interest in American literature.

From my end, I’ve had a good time keeping up with the challenges of each lecture and I’ve enjoyed the work I’ve done on Verba Americana. I only hope this blog has, if even in some minor way, contributed to at least one person’s enjoyment and education of American literature.

This post marks the end of Verba Americana’s association with McMaster as the semi-official blog of English 2H06. As of May 1st, Verba Americana will become my own blog. American literature will remain the focus and I pledge to post at least once a month. As the legalese of Hollywood puts it, the opinions expressed hereafter are solely those of the individual (me) writing and curating this blog.

With that, I bid my final thanks to the professors, TAs, and students of 2H06 for the academic year of 2011/2012. It really has been deeply enjoyable and immensely interesting. Good luck to all of you as you prepare for and then write the final exam. You’re going to do great. Stay until the end. Stay and write until the invigilator steals the exam booklet out from under the fiery pencil clutched in your kung fu grip. Write and then write more. If Moby Dick reminds you of your elusive and menacing geriatric cat, say so. If Whitman came off like a rebellious linguist who should have been featured as a hologram alongside that of Tupac at this year’s Coachella, write it. If such lines as “stammering is the native eloquence of us fog people” seems to you like a warning of the twitterverse to come, a caution against the frenetic 140 character world that today inspires uprisings in places while nurturing self-involved indolence elsewhere, slam that assessment down in your exam essay. Maybe you think the cadence of Mametian dialogue is today copied but effectively bastardized by the likes of The Gilmore Girls or Family Guy, in which case it may be worth making it known in the exam. At the very least, such ideas are more likely to help than hurt. My point is this: once you leave the exam you can’t go back, so stay until the end and analyze, criticize, theorize, rhapsodize until the last possible second. You’ve put a year into this work; don’t skip out on it an hour early. Don’t doubt the value of your original ideas.

Good luck with that which awaits you from this point on. Return and then return again to the great literature we’ve investigated. These stories, like the ocean that swallows the Pequod and all its crew save Ishmael, dwarf us and they will endure long after we’re gone.

“Now small fowls flew screaming over the yet yawning gulf; a sullen white surf beat against its steep sides; then all collapsed, and the great shroud of the sea rolled on as it rolled five thousand years ago” (Melville, Moby-Dick, 624).

–          Joe

(US Flag/Octopus image via http://www.flickr.com/photos/hulk4598/3745143397/in/photostream)