LLM October 20, 2011Posted by Fiona in University, Sheer bloody-mindedness, Law, Edinburgh.
It’s hard work, this LLM business.
First of all, I have no lectures (well, one lecture, but the politics department are weird like that). It’s all two hour seminars, once a week for each of three subjects, the result of which is that I don’t have a lot of contact time, but what I do have is very intense, and requires I reckon in the region of 300 pages of reading for every seminar. Yes, you read that right. Come to think of it, chances are I probably didn’t. Read it right, that is. Sometimes it’s more, sometimes it’s less. Most of the time I do as much as I can without smoke coming out of my ears and call it a day.
The content is highly technical, and assumes a good deal of prior knowledge. For my politics module, International Relations Theory, I started off not understanding any of the technical language and having to sit down with a dictionary and try and work out what this means: “The anti-foundationalism of post-modernism so undermines the discipline… that it often provokes anger and despair among those it attacks. It calls into question the very possibility of non-normative theory; to charge post-modernists with relativism does, of course, rely on the assumption that it is possible to be non-relativistic!”
For the other modules, the law ones, I (nominally) know what they’re talking about, so it’s just a case of processing the ideas. Undergraduate law is child’s play. Well, it’s not. But it feels like it at the moment.
I am getting through an ink cartridge every six days, on average. It’s taking me longer to get to sleep, because I have to shut the thought processes down, and longer to wake up in the morning, because I have to start them all back up again and these days it takes a few warm-up exercises. It’s very strange, to get to the grand old age of twenty-one and be very, very aware of your own intellectual limits, in the sense that at times, I feel like I can’t make my mind go any faster. I genuinely can’t figure concepts out in my own head fast enough to have time to process them, and that’s something I’ve never really dealt with before.
Oh, but it’s such good fun, though. In the last five weeks, I’ve dredged the depths of GCSE History (League of Nations, self-determination, post-war social movements), Year Nine Geography (who knew half of these places were countries, never mind where they are and who they border!), Politics-By-Osmosis (I spent an entire afternoon last week looking at Central African dictators in the 1970s on Wikipedia – which, by the way, is an absolute godsend – I really have no recollection of international current affairs pre-2006, which is a bit scary). It’s like the world’s biggest pub quiz has gone crashing into a newspaper archive, and expected you to have something useful to say out of the end of it. The remembering, and rediscovering things I used to know about, is just as much fun as the finding out new stuff. I love it to pieces.
The trouble, then, is working out where to stop. Historically speaking, I am not very good at this. It is very difficult to put the brakes on. But I’m trying to remind myself that if I want to keep going, I have to pause occasionally. Sometimes your brain freezes up, or grinds to a halt and there’s nothing you can do, and you just have to accept that and take a break. So it’s taking a bit of practice, at the moment. We’ll see.