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October 12, 2009

Tess Yanisch ’13

Hello, dear readers! I apologize for the brevity of this entry, as I am usually prone to long-winded rambling more than short overviews. However, tonight I am feeling a little under the weather and I want to do some homework and maybe watch part of a movie before I go to bed. (And by "go to bed," I mean "read either Walden or American Gods for at least half an hour before I actually contemplate sleep.") Anyway, I'm trying to be brief to save time for actual sleep. At least I don't have any stress over midterms--for me, they're over, and I did well on them. :)

Typing is taking me longer than usual, too, as I'm teaching myself the Dvorak keyboard layout. It's better for your wrists than Qwerty, which is good because I strained mine writing up a Sociology essay over the weekend. I only mention it because it seems like a very Obie thing to do.

However, you probably couldn't care less about my bedtime or my wrists, so here's the meat of the entry.


ExCo, noun: an abbreviation for "Experimental College," a class designed and taught by Oberlin students. Classes must be approved by a panel, but subjects are very broad--right now they include fencing, improv, immigration, storytelling, pirates, Korean, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, various ethnic drumming groups, OCircus, and something called "SexCo: The ExCo." In the past there have apparently been ones on sitcoms and surviving the Zombie Apocalypse.

I love the idea of ExCos--it's part of the reason I came here. I signed up for a bunch of them but only one really worked out with my schedule. (One of my sophomore friends told me that it's funny how first-years try to do everything, but the truth is, there's so much interesting stuff going on, it's impossible not to at least try it.)

I am in an ExCo on superheroes. It is amazing.

To give you a taste, in the first class, we went over what makes superheroes compelling, why we find them interesting, and what makes specific ones endure. We were introduced to the Big Three: Superman, Batman, and Spider-Man. Between them, they cover most of the aspects of superheroes: the three common origins (magical/extraterrestrial being, self-made man, science accident); they've all got secret identities (although it could be argued Superman is the "real" person, not Clark Kent, and Spider-Man and Batman are disguises for Peter Parker and Bruce Wayne); they have consistent, recurring villains who push them as far as they can possibly go; they have the drama of using a do-not-kill ethic while fighting killers; and people can identify with them, either via wish fulfillment or empathy (Peter Parker is popular because a lot of nerdy kids grew up reading Spider-Man and being able to point to him and say, "This is how I feel").

I have four pages of notes in a red Moleskine notebook just from that hour and a half. Since then, we've covered the history of comics, motivations of heroes, and, tonight, ethics and morality in Watchmen.

This is a fun class, but we're being serious in our analysis--casual references were dropped to 1984, McCarthyism, psychological issues (if you've read the book, you'll know where those come in *coughRorschachcough*), Machiavelli, and the Nietzschean theory of the ubermensch (spelling? Sorry German philosophy fans). This is nerds having fun. This is Oberlin. Fearless. (Except we're all terrified of Rorschach.) (And the Comedian.) (And, hey, Ozymandius is scary in a very chilling, analytical way.) (But otherwise we're fearless.) (No, really.)


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