July 02, 2015

I've decided there will be four sides in my course of study for the following year. Each side has an incentive, and the sides are not necessarily self-contained. Though I am interested in reviewing and interrogating its typical structure, my study this year will still, at least initially, be parameterized by goal-based coursework and reading lists.

The first two of four sides come from a piece of writing I composed at the boarding gate in JFK Airport, just before I flew to Rome on June 3rd, 2015. When I move places, I like to write something either side of the shift. My memory feels more carefully tuned to location, era and affect than to dates, facts and politics. On the threshold of spaces, I seem compelled to transform affect into writing and words, maybe only because I have been told it is an appropriate forum for ideas, and because I have gotten into the habit of it. Maybe this is a reappropriated brand of piety, because I was clearly not cut out to be a nun. On Rome's threshold, I decided that I would gear myself towards finding two things on its continent: first, a proficiency in the Italian language, and second, the ability to develop web and iOS software. My expectations for the acquisition of these things was contained to the original three months I knew I would be staying in Italy; but now that I have finalized this holiday's extension, they are being made into sides of my year's syllabus. During this summer internship with Paideia, I have four hour-long Italian classes a week, and from mid-September I will begin having three-hour-long classes, five days a week (see logistics). At other times I am listening to conversations on the Metro, learning vocabulary through a wonderful app called Quizlet, and participating in the range of other immersions and exercises that naturally take place when one is living in Rome.

My continued involvement with Paideia is the ground for explorations in the world of Web and iOS development, as Web and iOS development are currently the two things I do for Paideia. In addition to this work, I'm starting projects with friends across the globe. Often we are developing locally useful and and not-terribly-complex tools, and in other cases I am developing just for the sake of having collaborative playgrounds in unfamiliar frameworks. As the summer closes, I'll be looking to contract work as a freelance developer, as by then I'll have a couple of iOS applications and a website or two shipped, and which I can use as part of a portfolio. In my current projects, I am using Django, AngularJS, Swift/Xcode, and a few smaller assistant things like Foundation, Jekyll, Gulp and Node. I'm not trying to order these frameworks in any sort of sequential syllabus; I'm learning them as a consequence of the projects that I'm looking to undertake. This approach is more in line with the pragmatics of web development. It is at once free-spirited and directed as form of governance, and it gives my course of study a sense of purpose that isn't quite so tightly bound to institutional methodology, but instead takes more after itself3.

As I mention in reasons, Princeton's Computer Science syllabus does not by nature include a great amount of historical, philosophical or literary material. Despite having no specific vocational interest in these fields, I still find myself eager to study their material. It is strange to express this desire to the adult world, as the contemporary media of success do not crave those things that will not specifically make their actors successful. This is maybe why I crave those things, as a sort of stfu in response to vocational requirements. Pairing this desire with an immanent and imminent lack of historical knowledge, I will be reading prescriptively in two areas over the course of this year, that I have fancied calling history of ideas, and history of events1. My history of ideas reading list is a synthesized score of recommendations that have been made to me over the past two years by friends, professors, and society at large. It is notably eurocentric, a prejudice I may look to combat as I work my way through its beginnings. A woman and professor whom I greatly respect helped me to categorize this list by its ideas. I am thinking, often, I will most likely deviate and read something simply because it strikes me as relevant or interesting. I've only composed the beginning of this reading list, the first ten selections, and it may mutate before I get through even those authors.

To study a history of events, I have a world history textbook waiting for me on my desk, for when I leave this cafe and make it to the regular day this morning. Beyond and beside this textbook, I have been recommended a book on the history of 19th century Italy, and another on fascism through Hitler and Mussolini. A friend has often mentioned her enamorment with Tacitus' mode of historical recreation, and so a return to those First Historians -- Tacitus, Livy, Herodotus, etc -- may find its way into this task of reading.

It also may not. I expect that many of these purposes will peel away, remain unfinished, and be abandoned. More than becoming knowledged and being able to pompously claim that I have read the Greats, and therefore lay claim to being a literate person as proven by the Required Standards of Knowledge, this reading is to trace and think about the reasons why I read. Is it to frame writing? Is it to contribute to academia's body of knowledge, as Princeton's mandatory Writing Seminar is so keen to suggest to its disciples? Is it for no pragmatic reason at all, and simply for inconsequential happiness or joy? Is it only because of Princeton's excessively academic environment that I feel the need to read, to claim education and educatedness? Is reading not meaningful to me at all outside of a socially academic context? I have these questions at the moment.

At Princeton, I stitched coursework into my life and my life into coursework with music. In those experimental gestures, I wrote lyrics that tried to understand the way I was feeling about people and my place with them through essays and books. When I was reading for a class titled German Intellectual History: The Cultural Theory of the Frankfurt School, I wrote a song to search for sex in Adorno and Benjamin and to search for Adorno and Benjamin in sex2. I think I will keep looking to music to join things together here, but I don't feel as though I need to include it in this syllabus, for it will naturally happen as a consequence of thinking and owning a guitar.


  1. I thought about capitalizing these categories, but I'm currently in the middle of extensive negotiations with Capitalization. It might be related to my institutional need for institutional avoidance; sometimes capitals just don't do it for me, and words seem more appropriate in little letters.

  2. This second expression is not very flattering. I understand. It represents my thoughts at the time, though; sex was a complicated thing for me. The song is here, if you'd like to listen.

  3. What does this mean? I'm not sure, you're sort of at liberty to decide.

author Lachlan Kermode

Written by Lachlan Kermode who lives and works in Princeton. You should check out his Resume, GitHub, or Twitter.