SARAH LAWRENCE SUPPLEMENT 1. A central part of learning at Sarah Lawrence is conference work, the guided independent study on a topic of the student’s choosing that accompanies each seminar course. Conference work is a result of a student’s specific area of interest in a class and a teacher’s guidance and most often results in a substantial paper, project, or piece of research. For this essay, we offer you the chance to imagine what you might do for conference work. Is there a topic you’ve always wanted to learn more about? Has a class in high school rushed past a subject that you found fascinating? The topic can be as broad or narrow as you would like. This is your opportunity to reflect on what you might want to study.
I could hear the rhythmic pitter patter of rain on the window pane as I drifted in and out of consciousness. I stared intently at my notes, desperately trying to absorb the convoluted lines of graphite lead on my paper. After concentrating for an exceedingly long time, I was able to decipher the disjointed language in which I had taken notes. At first it seemed only natural to me that my professor would dictate to me the meaning of a poem or piece of literature, but as I coasted out of the lecture and into my thoughts it all seemed so backwards. Shouldn’t the foundation of learning be one of discovery? A beautiful aspect of literature was its subjectivity, an aspect that had totally been removed from our learning process. I gazed around the classroom as my peers were guilelessly scribbling down notes in an almost mechanical fashion as the teacher effortlessly poured his opinion into their heads. He too operated in an almost perfunctory manner, as he regurgitated all of his information off of a slide he had prepared on The Brothers Karamazov. Continuing my epiphany I began to develop a feeling of remorse for Dostoyevsky, whose life’s work was now being immortalized by four pitiable bullet points. I realized at that point my notes were entirely futile. While this slideshow may have mentioned such great authors as Tolstoy, Lermontov, Balzac and Cervantes, it completely bypassed the depth and beauty of their work. Grasping the impossibility of effectively capturing their work in a 20 minute lecture, I in turn developed a hunger to explore every facet of their work. I wanted to dissect and interpret every aspect of their literary masterpieces and cultivate my own conclusion as to what their intentions were. There is such elegance and magnificence in their writing I nearly felt insulted by being denied the opportunity to explore them for myself. There is a delicate grey area in literature that represents a region of infinite possibilities in which one can explore the true profundity and eloquence of the author’s voice; a voice which cannot be confined to one lecture, one slide or one opinion. The hypothesis is only as important as the journey one takes to reach it. I would delight in the opportunity to embark on self guided conference work and would choose to pursue literary analysis. I want to explore the integral facet of literature that was lost in my education, discovery. The discovery of not only the author’s voice but of my own as well, one that has been sequestered for four years.