New Project Plan: Smartening Up Edition

I graduated from college about 5 years ago and in that time I’ve enriched my life in a lot of ways. I’ve made awesome new friends and enriched friendships with old ones. I’ve found new hobbies and interests and figured out my relationships to some new ones.

But intellectually, I feel a lot like I’ve stalled. Part of this blog for me was meant to keep me engaged and analytical and while it definitely has kept me analytical and even opened up analysis for me in different ways…I also feel less academic and intellectual than I used to be.

This felt hugely highlighted this week, as I read through Hamilton: The Revolution, with it’s hard core analysis of this musical I loved so much, and it’s footnotes and glorious stories.  It compared the show to Angels In America and noted it’s multiple literary and theatrical references, as well as enumerating it’s historical facts and foibles.

I was delighted but also felt in over my head.

Then on last night, Crystan and I attended a performance of Richard II at The Brooklyn Academy of Music, starring David Tennant as Richard. It was amazing, but I couldn’t help thinking to myself, “why did it take the presence of a popular television actor to get me off my butt here? I love Shakespeare and find the histories particularly fascinating. There’s no excuse to not just be here…” (This is not to disparage Mr. Tennant’s performance which was incredible. It really was.)

It’s not that I don’t love being able to consume at my own pace rather than an academic one. It’s not that I don’t enjoy overthinking popular culture, it’s just then when I then try to reengage with deeper culture I feel out of my depth, when it used to be what I did all the time.

Anyway all this to say, (Hah! Hamilton reference!) I mentioned yesterday that I’ve got a new project brewing and that is that I’m once again stealing from my hero Jen Lancaster, and I’m spending the rest of 2016 getting myself smarter. (Jen’s project in chronicled in her memoir My Fair Lazy and it is a real contender for my favorite of Jen’s books. It’s hard to pick. I love them all so…) I’m doing it very specifically though…and basing it around some of my obsessions! (YAYYYY!!!)

So, without further adieu I present the very beginning of The Hamilton Reading List and Brush Up Your Shakespeare.

Every month I will read a book about early American history, specifically as relates to Hamilton, I’m currently working through the Ron Chernow biography Alexander Hamilton that started it all as April’s choice. For May, I’m thinking of taking on the actual Federalist Papers, of which I’ve read a few, but not all.

I’m also going to read a Shakespeare play and then watch an adaptation of that play every months. April is Richard II, since I’ve already seen the adaptation. I’m excited about it, hopefully this will kick start my brain a little bit, so I won’t spend all of a Shakespeare performance comparing it to Game of Thrones ever again. (Really, not proud of myself last night guys…like at all. The play was fantastic though, really great.)

So that’s my plan. When I took the semester off my first senior year I did something similar, I made myself read two classic books I’d never read before for every “fun” book I read. When I’ve jump started my brain again I might start that again, but I’m also not train commuting anymore so I have less reading time than I used to and I need to kick start my brain, which is the whole point.

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5 thoughts on “New Project Plan: Smartening Up Edition

      • It’s soooo good. Ellis has just the perfect amount of occasional snark to keep it interesting. Also, he has a remarkably even-handed approach to Jefferson, which in my experience is rare. With many historians, Jeff’s either “Seriously The Worst Thing Ever”, or an infallible saint and so it’s nice to get someone who sees both sides of the coin.

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      • Jefferson is so hard for me because I mean, so much ew, but also, he’s my favorite writer of the founders. (The Declaration makes me swoon, I mean for serious…) so I can TOTALLY see the dilemma.

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      • I tend to lean a little more towards Jeff as “Seriously The Worst” myself (I mean some of the things he said about Washington, just… ew… and in the Jefferson/Adams frenemy thing I’m totally on Team Adams). But yea, I’m with you there.

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