Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hola de españa!

We made it to Spain safe and sound. The flight got to Barcelona at 7am local time--but our brains were still at midnight, which was Arkansas time. We wandered around Barcelona and slept a tiny bit in the train station until we could take a late train to Madrid, where we arrived about 11 pm local time. After getting kicked out of the train station, we quickly found a sketchy (but much welcome, since we had so little sleep) hostel, where we gratefully crashed for 5 hours. It was our first real sleep since leaving Arkansas. We arrived in Torremolinos (the south of Spain, near Malaga) this morning, where we´re staying for a week in a neat little studio.

It´s pretty cool here. Lance loves all the pork products that he can eat as well as fish. I may not be able to talk him into getting back on the plane at the end of our stay--or me either! We´re having a great time. We did a little grocery shopping today, buying the staples: wine ($1.50 a bottle and good!), baguettes, and cheese, tuna for me and salty anchovies for Lance. We also walked on the beach, picking up shells and watching the Mediterranean flow in and out. I haven´t seen an ocean since I was a little girl, so that was pretty neat for me.

Well, internet time is limited and expensive, so adios for now.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Today, I made several calls to get everything prepped for our Spain trip. Like calling credit cards, printing out itineraries, e-mailing them to people, and making copies of passports*.

It's the last day of work before the holiday break, and the air is festive. And restless. We're all bouncing off the walls, though I'm not sure how much of that is the sugar consumption. The Dean just hinted loudly that we could leave early if we could live with that on our conscience. That may be up to my boss, though...

Well, back to do a little last minute work in hopes of getting the heck out of here a teensy bit early...I'll try to post while on vacation, but we shall see!

*I have the WORST passport photo EVER. I think I've talked about this before, but seriously...it's awful. I weigh about 70 lbs less now than I did when I had the photo taken, so I pull it out to remind myself not to eat too much and get fat again.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bookish Things

My daily web browsing and Google Reader offerings have brought several different websites to my attention, so I thought I'd share them with you all.

First is a used book site, Alibris. Like Amazon's used books, Alibris coordinates independent sellers who might have what you're looking for. I've noticed that often their prices are cheaper than Amazon's (and the shipping is also standardized). And right now they are offering $2 off any order. I ordered a book from them, and I was pleased with the speed of shipping, which is sometimes lacking in Amazon's sellers. (Though I'm guessing it might vary). Basically, it offers an alternative place to look for used books should Amazon let you down or not have what you desire.

Now, have you ever desired to make your own paper? Recycle the paper that accumulates around you? This tutorial looks interesting, and I'm longing to try my hand at homemade paper for my bookbinding purposes...I guess I just gotta get someone handy to build me the frames for it!

If you're environmentally minded, recycling paper is great, but what about the paper that goes into all those books I purchase? All the textbooks that I need to buy? Eco-Libris offers a way to make up for the environmental impact of new books. For $1 each, you can buy a tree and balance out your paper consumption! I thought this was a pretty neat organization, so I wanted to pass it along.

And finally, do you want to read new books, but don't want to spend all that money for a book you'll maybe read once? The BookMooch is a program that allows you to trade books with other Book Mooches, creating a reading community and cutting down on consumption. It's a way to share good books, de-clutter your bookshelf, and get books you want to read with minimal cost. Woo! (Donna, aren't you using BookMooch or something similar?)

Anyway, that's some nice fruits from my web-browsing. Time to go home and make some books!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Setting Up House

Yesterday, I received a packet through campus mail. It was a paper I had written last spring for my literary theory class, graded with comments. I had earned a 95% on it--and the only fault he had with the paper was that I hadn't done much outside reading for it.

I do believe that was a paper I actually worked pretty hard on. It helped that we had to present a 10-page version of it, so all I had to do was expand and edit and incorporate feedback. A 95% is better than I was expecting, I think. I tend to feel like I don't deserve my A's (I got all A's again this fall) because I don't always put 100% of my effort into a given project or paper, and sometimes I slack off. Really, I'm probably just too hard on myself, but I still feel guilty for being rewarded so richly for not putting forth a whole lot of effort.

Going back and re-reading those papers has been enlightening. I like my academic writing style. It's clear and concise, and I sound confident and intelligent. As Emily says, my writing and style still needs a bit of polish and sophistication, but I'm starting to see how I can be good at this writing/publishing aspect of my chosen profession.

In other news, I've moved into my new space, and after 3 nights there, I'm in love. Not only is the layout better than my other apartment, not only do I have much more space, I'm now living alone (with my kitty), and we're both very happy. Rory (the kitty) is less stressed, I'm much more relaxed, and because I'm content, so is Lance. I still have a lot to unpack, but I managed to get the kitchen in order (you see my priorities?) and a friend helped unpack some books, which was really nice. I even went ahead and set up my Christmas tree! So homey. I love it.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Enemy Fire

When someone gets it into her head to be openly hostile and mean, there's not much you can do except avoid them. When you live with that person, however, it makes avoiding significantly more difficult. I've been trying to keep my head low, counting the days down eagerly, and avoiding her, but the hostility is just too much for me; I broke down last night and fled to a friend's apartment.

All of this merely affirms that I'm making the right decision, but it's hard to watch a friendship disintegrate. Perhaps I didn't handle things very well, but I'm not sure it warrants this sort of treatment of my person. I'm so tempted to retaliate (i.e. cutting of the utilities early, etc), but I'm trying hard to come out of the situation cleanly and honorably.

I want to think of myself as an assertive person, but when it comes to hostility, I shrink down into a little ball--unless I have reason to feel righteous fury. Even then, my impulse is still to flee. I don't like nasty confrontation, but I will do it if forced.

Anyway, this nastiness will soon be over. I hope to leave behind an olive branch if she cares to take it up, though I'm not holding my breath. I just want to be in a comfortable, stable environment--something I haven't had for at least a few months.

Oh! And there are still 2 slots on the pay-it-forward exchange. If you're already participating and paying-it-forward elsewhere, I think you won't necessarily have to pay it forward an extra three times, if you want me to make you something...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Various Sundries

  • Pay It Forward: like some of my fellow bloggers I am taking up the Pay It Forward challenge from my ISE 4 pal. Which means the first three people to comment gets something mysterious and homemade (i.e. I don't know what yet, nor what craft...) from me within 6 months. The catch? You gotta make the same offer to pay it forward. Always wanted something lovely from yours truly? A book, a knitted thing, a sewed thing, a box? Leave a comment and join in the pay it forward challenge!
  • I'm moving, possibly, tomorrow. If not tomorrow, possibly Saturday. I really hope I can get all my stuff moved this weekend, so I can relax and enjoy my home once more.
  • Christmas stuff! Yikes! If you want a Christmas card from me, send me an e-mail (*ahem, Tim*) with your address so I can send one.
  • Christmas baking--I may post on the ol' Baking Blog. Keep your eyes peeled for fun stuff.
  • Umm, it's now 5 o'clock, and I'm going home to pack, bake, and attempt to ignore my roommate and her rudeness.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No Rest for the Wicked

...Or the really busy.

I foolishly delayed my Christmas stuff until too late. It wasn't entirely my fault--I had a lot going on this past semester. So now I'm making lists and planning days to sew, knit, and glue things together because otherwise there will be crying children. Or I'll have to actually spend money and buy gifts, and I don't like that idea at all.

I've been making Christmas gifts for quite some time--this year my goal was to make as many as possible. This year I went all out, combining my many talents to make books, knit projects, and sew things. If I can pull it off, it'll be exciting. If I can't...well, we'll see what happens.

Back to being busy!!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Finished, I suppose...

I printed the project out. I'm not excessively proud of it--however, it's done, and I'm going to turn it in and hope that it doesn't kill my A in that class (I highly doubt it will).

I reached the saturation point for the semester, and so I just decided to do as best I can, but not stress too much about it. I think it's probably a bit shorter than she would want, but I simply couldn't do any more. The writing is decent, though, and I did a lot of research and leg work.

I'm very tired now. I was up until one working, but then I didn't sleep until 2 because I was so wired from the Americano that I imbibed at the coffee shop.* Up at 7 am, out the door by 7:30 to get to work early and do any last minute edits.

Tonight, I think I'll collapse in front of a TV and knit. Sounds like fun to me!

*Usually caffeine doesn't affect me late at night except when the stars are in a specific configuration and I drink espresso later than I should. I never know when or how, but then I'm super alert for a while...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

E-S-C-A-P-E: Escapay?

Ahhh, I'm at the coffee shop. Of course, there's an art sale going on, and I'm sitting on the corner of a giant table because I couldn't find a smaller one of my own, but it's a change of scenery, and I'm out of my dratted apartment*. (The cats have been distracting me, big time.)

I hope I can finish up my project here, but I may just hang out for a few hours, then go home (or over to a friend's to finish up). It's noisy, but if I can fall into a rhythm of writing, I can tune out everything, and I do have an iPod to neutralize some of the noise.

I've been trapped at home for most of the weekend, and I'm just ready to be done. I had a hard time sitting down to work because it feels like the semester should be over already. I'm working on my project where I got to hold the 200-year old Crevecoeur piece in my hands--Letters from an American Farmer. In the course of my research, I discovered that it was the first American printing of the book. The project has been pretty fascinating overall, but I'm looking forward to turning in the project tomorrow.

Well, back to the scribbling away!


*One more week, I hope. Please let me move next weekend!!

Friday, December 07, 2007

Word Game



Thanks to Lance, I'm now addicted to a word game. But not just any word game--the more you play, the more the world benefits. How?

Free Rice teams up with advertisers to donate rice for every word you play. Not only do you learn vocabulary (hircine means goat-like? I knew what a seraglio is!), but you help feed hungry people. So hop on over and play...

And I have a challenge. My current high score is 45 (out of 50). If you can beat my score then I'll...well, I'll do something cool. Like donate some money to Heifer Project*. Play, play!


*Heifer Project is a great organization--if you're looking for a good place to donate to (and also give donations as a gift for Christmas), it's a good one to pick.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Excitment...

Lots of exciting events are developing. No, and I'm not just talking about Christmas (which is becoming that thing that happens before we go to Spain). I'm talking about moving, about my own apartment, about finishing the semester, and about Spain.

I'm usually a big fan of Christmas, but I think the unreasonably early exposure to Christmas decorations and music on the part of retailers and my roommate has killed my normal Christmas buzz. So now I'm just focusing on making sure I've got the gifts I need to give. I'm certain I'll feel differently when I get to my parents' house (and Lance's parents').

We set up and decorated Lance's grandparents' tree yesterday, which made it feel a little more Christmas-y.

So, if you didn't hear from other sources, I'm moving. Unfortunately I wasn't able to exit with the grace and amiability that I had hoped, but I did try. Now I just have to get through the next week or so. I'll be into my very own place sometime after December 15th!

And Spain. I'm so excited. We have to plan some stuff still, but I think we'll get it all together--Lance's parents are even helping us out a bit with a lodging deal. Yay!

Sorry I haven't posted much this week. I've got one more final, then I'm done until January 14th. I hope next year/semester is better...

Monday, December 03, 2007

NaBloPoMo--Finis

I'm sad to say that I was two posts short of completing NaBloPoMo--and it was tragic. I was in a place with no internet or some such excuse.*

I did learn some things from blogging daily (for the most part). Usually I don't, and I only post when I have things to say. I found that when I was compelled to post, I didn't always write things that were useful, meaningful, or all that great. I struggled at first with this, but then I found posting meaningfully became a little easier**.

I think that my fellow bloggers also liked that I posted with some frequency. I'm not too terrible--I don't go weeks without posting or anything. But several of them are daily bloggers, so it gave us a sense of community. Or something. But I did like posting with some regularity, so perhaps I'll try to keep it up--I make no promises for when I'm in Spain, though!

*This sort of thing usually seems to confirm my inability to actually complete things when I start them. Do I really have that sort of tendency? I hope not...but I fear it is so! Will I get to the end of my Ph.D. program and not graduate because I just can't finish? Or will it be confined to things like desiring to run a marathon and not completing NaBloPoMo? Perhaps...
**Don't think it meant all my posts are this. Quite the opposite.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Don't I Feel Smart...

cash advance


(Stolen from Tim and Donna). However, now I feel a little pretentious. Oh well, I am writing about being in graduate school, so I should hope that my reading level would be equal to the task...

But I do want to make my thoughts accessible to anyone who stumbles across the blog; I don't want to be some snooty academic pontificating on literature.

I think I just won't worry about it. I have fun with my posts, and I hope you (my dear readers) have fun reading too.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Paper in a Sentence

I had a paper due today, where I discussed the nature of the picaresque in relation to graphic novel; now I am done, and I'm afraid the paper isn't great, but I'll live.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Homework, Oh My!

I have a paper due tomorrow. After that paper is done, I cannot relax because I have a presentation on Monday and a huge final research project due on Thursday.

After that I can relax. So now, I shall take a deep breath and get back to typing.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Holding a Slice of History

My final project for Intro to Graduate Studies is based around a text that resides in our university Special Collections office. Mine is Letters from an American Farmer by Hector St. John de Crevecoeur in 1782. I went to go look at it yesterday.

It was really neat: I got to hold an over 200-year old book in my hands. It was small (about 6 3/4 inches by 4), bound in sturdy leather (probably a while after it was printed on March 4th 1793). My bookbinding interests got me to look at how it was bound, and I was able to spot the heavy bookbinding thread that bound the book together. It smelled like an old book.

I started imagining reading this when it was first printed. The paper was heavy (probably cotton rag paper), yellowed with age. I could feel the roughness from where the printed letters pushed through to the other side of the paper. It had obviously been taken care of for the past 200 years because it was in amazingly good condition.

I wondered about the book's owner (before it was donated/purchased for Special Collections). Were they a scholar? A gift to a traveler on his way to Arkansas? How did this particular book get to where it is today? It's all pretty interesting, really.

Mostly, though, I was just happy to be holding an old book and thinking about how neat it was to hold an object that has been around almost as long as the United States has been a country.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Catching Up

After a small blip in my posting (I failed at NaBloPoMo, drat), I figured I should update you all on the entertaining world that was my Thanksgiving weekend.

The weekend itself was quite nice. I had my apartment to myself all weekend, since I came back on Friday, and I was able to just relax with my cat and Lance.* Of course, before leaving my parents' house on Friday, I met with a minor mishap.

My parents both had to work on Friday, so I was left at their house alone to pack up and get ready to head back home. I needed to go get my boots out of my car, so I slipped on some shoes, threw on a sweater, and walked out the front door and shut it tight. When I heard the little "click", something switched in my brain, and I turned to check the knob. Yep, that's right, I was locked out.**

Since I've been dating Mr. Industrious for 3 1/2 years, I let out a sigh and a curse, and went to the nearest window. I pried off the screen only to discover that my parents have gotten better about locking their windows since the last time Lance and I broke in. The small window over the kitchen sink was my last hope. The screen popped off easily, and the window was indeed unlocked. I cleared off the sill, grabbed a chair, and crawled in.

Luckily that was my only other Thanksgiving mishap. I didn't do as much homework as I should have, unfortunately, and have found myself in varying degrees of not caring about my classes. (Shame on me). I hope next semester will be better motivationally.

In other news, I should be moving soon since my roommate has decided to cease communication***. I only hope I can find an apartment in my complex soon before I wake up smothered or something...

*Reason #247 that I need my own apartment.

**They have one of those annoying locks that you can still open the door from the inside even if the door is locked. Drat!

***Reason #47589 to get my own apartment. I'm sick of living with other people.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Home Again

I'm back in my apartment today. After traveling from my parents house (after a sticky incident, which I'll relay later), I'm supposed to be working on homework...

I just don't feel like it, though. I'm tired of working all the time, going to school all the time, and just being generally busy. *Sigh* I'm sure I just need a break--it's been a hectic semester, and the course load has been pretty heavy. My boss has been asking me about taking two classes next semester, and I'm wondering that myself. I'm signed up for two; however, should I be? One's not even for credit.

I think I will, nevertheless. There's nothing like a good, intellectually stimulating class to make me happy, and I think the class I'm taking (that I don't need to take) will do that for me. Now onward to homework!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Literary Thanks-Giving

I am thankful for Emily Dickinson and her wonderful poetry:

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church --
I keep it, staying at Home --
With a Bobolink for a Chorister --
And an Orchard, for a Dome --

Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice --
I just wear my Wings --
And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,
Our little Sexton -- sings.

God preaches, a noted Clergyman --
And the sermon is never long,
So instead of getting to Heaven, at least --
I'm going, all along.

I am also thankful for the British Romantics, for Nathaniel Hawthorne, for J.R.R. Tolkien and the world of Middle Earth. I'm thankful for Jane Austen and her terrific heroines and her sharp wit. I'm thankful for brilliant song-writers, poets and lyricists, and those writers who bring magic to their art.

I'm thankful for books that capture my imagination, books that take me to new worlds and new experiences. Books with words that catch my breath, thrill my heart, and make my spirits soar.

And I'm thankful for an easy post tonight. Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Interpretation and Authorial Intent

Breaking news* in the literary world! A letter from Edith Wharton has been discovered that could alter how critics interpret the end of The House of Mirth!

Okay, so it's really only exciting to me (and other English-types), but it is a situation which makes me think of some of the issues we've discussed in Intro to Grad Studies. How much to we allow authorial intent to influence interpretation? Do we prescribe to the theory of the intentional fallacy (which means you ignore authorial intent), or do we try to figure out as closely as possible what the author wanted? And what role do letters and journals play into the editing/interpretive process?

As a critic, I want to take a more moderate approach. A work will always have plausible interpretations which we can never possibly validate according to authorial intention. Most of the works we discuss are written by those long gone. We can't dig up Shakespeare and ask him which version of Hamlet was the one he intended, so we have to muddle through it the best we can with the evidence we have.

To a certain degree authorial intent should influence how we interpret a work. For example, if an author created a female character, we can't really say that character is a man. If a character loves a woman, we can't argue that it's really a man--unless the woman turns out to be a man in drag. It just wouldn't make sense. There were times in my Intro to Grad Studies paper that I disagreed with a critic's interpretation because it didn't make sense in the text--they were reading what they wanted into the text**.

By the same regard, all we do have is the text. We can't necessarily postulate "what ifs" about it--we have to work with what is there. Which makes introducing letters, journals, etc into the interpretive process: we start moving into murky waters. Wharton's letter is certainly interesting, but should it change how we interpret the end of The House of Mirth? I'm not so sure--perhaps Wharton wanted it to be ambiguous when she reached that point in the novel's composition, but the letter reflected a phase where she was more certain about the character's fate. Plus, it just seems so much more cool for the ending to be ambiguous***. One reason I like Margaret Atwood is that her endings are often ambiguous, straddling the gap between dystopia and hope (The Handmaid's Tale, Oryx and Crake).

An author doesn't necessarily always have a final interpretation in mind. Most of our best literature is the stuff that leaves the reader with lingering questions, leaves us wondering how we should view the literature and the ideas. Those questions can be the spark of some great conversations, great articles, and great literary debates.

*So for two days in a row, my posts have been inspired by the NY Times. I'm okay with that--I hope you, my dear readers, are as well!
**This leads to my hatred of a good chunk of feminist and gender study criticism. No, Fitzgerald, you cannot argue that Theodore in The Monk is actually Agnes in drag. It's unsupported by the text and all we have is the text.
***Ambiguity is what we often base our publications on. If there's uncertainty, we can argue forever about it!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Where's the Tenure-Track?

While reading the NY Times this morning, I ran across an article about tenure. As an aspiring PhD student and hopeful professor, I find myself thinking about things like tenure a lot. However, the number of tenured or tenure-track faculty are decreasing. I don't know if it's because they are going off of percentages, but the general trend is to hire adjunct faculty because they're cheaper than tenured professors.

The tenure system was created to keep professors from being fired for political views, religious beliefs, personal ideology, etc. I personally think the system is in serious need of overhaul--we still need to try to maintain the "independent" nature of academia without making it quite so difficult to get into the tenure club. Tenure can also saddle a university with professors that aren't good teachers; however, the university can't get rid of them because they have tenure.

The whole tenure process makes me nervous. If I want to be in academia, my best (and best paying) option is to pursue tenure. It's a difficult process from all accounts, with lots of pressures. The pressure to publish is currently one that I want to overcome.

It is comforting to know that more universities are realizing that overextended adjuncts are not going to make the best teachers. They are increasing their number of tenured and tenure-track faculty, realizing that it makes a difference on the success of students--there is a correlation between student retention and who teaches them. The article didn't really address the plight of adjuncts, however.

Adjuncts often work at several universities, teaching more than a full load of classes, to make ends meet. It's difficult for an adjunct to live comfortably off of what they can make working part-time, so they do what they need to make ends meet--which means more teaching and less time to spend with students. I think there needs to be a system to support adjuncts, especially since higher education is depending on them increasingly to teach classes.

It's really interesting to read about issues in higher education and realize that those issues will someday affect me--or have already.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Oh, the Research

I've gotten to where I really enjoy research. I have a little process I use now: first, I find what I can online, through JSTOR, the online library catalog, etc. Then I dig around those sources and interlibrary loan what we don't have at our library. It seems to work for me so far.

I'm working on my final project for Intro to Grad Studies. We were given a list of choices that the U of A special collections has a first edition of (we even have a Blake, with all the engravings--how cool is that?). I chose J. Hector St. John Crevecoeur's Letters from an American Farmer. My choice was influenced by the fact that I knew a little about him, and have read part of the Letters. Now off to do more research!

Two more papers and a presentation, and my semester will be done. Fun times!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Abstractly Writing

I had no idea how to write an abstract, so I tried to copy what our examples did. We'll see if she accepts it or if I have to rewrite it...

Broken vows of chastity, a bastard child born and dead in a crypt beneath a convent, and a monk who rapes and murders his own sister: in Matthew Lewis’s The Monk, sexual aberrations abound. The characters who are free from these crimes or seek to rectify their mistakes are men who have male friends. Using Eve Kosofsky Sedwick’s definition of homosocial, I argue that Lewis explores the role male friendship plays in the creation of virtuous, noble, and manly men, and that these relationships are responsible for the restoration of social and sexual order at the end of The Monk. Other scholars use Lewis’s suspected homosexuality to support the presence of homoerotic undertones within the novel. I argue instead for a reading that looks at the relationships between men in terms of fraternal and paternal friendships, demonstrating that what other critics may see as homosexual is actually homosocial. Lewis describes men who interact with one another—Lorenzo, Raymond, and Theodore—and then contrasts them with Ambrosio, a man who exists without male society. Ambrosio could have lived happily if he’d associated with men. Lewis is careful to describe Ambrosio as “possessed of many brilliant and manly qualities”, and he then insinuates the possibilities: if only Ambrosio had friends like Raymond and Lorenzo, if only he hadn’t lived shut off from society, and if only his manly qualities had not been suppressed and feminized by a woman. Instead, he dies broken and blaspheming, while his counterparts Raymond and Lorenzo end the novel in domestic bliss. I assert that in The Monk, Lewis explores ideas of what makes a man a man, and how a man of good character can fall into sin and temptation if he lives without homosocial relationships.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Writing Papers (For Tim!)

I was just going to reply to Tim's comment with another comment--and then I decided that it would generate a post for today, so here are my possibly fallacious tips for writing a good paper.
  • Edit. Edit. Then edit some more. This is the lesson I learned when we edited the paper a total of three times, not counting all the edits we did to it in the prior class for which the paper was written.
  • Edit by reading it out loud. Yep, you'll catch all sorts of fun things by reading it out loud.
  • Edit by handing it off to someone you trust to offer good, constructive criticism. And not someone who just looks at it and says, "Oh, it's so good." You want a nitpicker. I'm a nitpicker, so I'm a good editor like this.
  • But before all the revision and editing you have to write the damn thing, which means coming up with an idea. I talk out ideas with people who sort of care, write them out on my blog/journal, and outline to see if I can flesh out the idea. Do most research after you come up with an idea (it makes you feel good if your ideas are supported by the research you find). And even if someone else had your idea already, you may still be able to offer a new angle.
  • Don't be afraid to change your original idea if you start writing and find that it doesn't work. It's almost inevitable that the paper you start writing is not the one you finish writing, and that's usually good.
  • Don't stick with a sinking ship--if it's not working, abandon it and use the driftwood to construct a new boat.
  • Writing is hard work. I find that if I can just sit down and concentrate for a few hours, I can knock it out. The earlier the initial drafting is done, the better because...
  • You should leave yourself time to set it aside so that you can come to the edits fresh faced. Because revision is key. Revise, edit, revise, proofread and revise. Very important. I usually fail at this step, though...but I try to leave myself enough time to set it aside for a day or two.

I hope that helps Tim! Go forth with enthusiasm and courage, and don't be afraid to have an idea. Run with it and see where it takes you--and if you need someone to edit anything, feel free to ask me! I've read your writing and I know it's good. First seminar papers can be so frightening (I was terrified when I turned in my first grad school paper), but don't let that fear show up in your writing--fake confidence until you forget you aren't. Good luck!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Return of the Paper

I got back The Paper that I've been dealing with off and on all semester in Intro to Grad Studies. We finally submitted a final draft (19-35 pages) a couple of weeks ago, and my professor handed them back this week. Here are the comments that greeted my eyes:
A [I got an A! Yay!!] Picture with me, reader, a dark November night. A woman [my professor] sits at a table in a richly decorated and furnished but otherwise empty living room. Before her lies a mysterious manuscript, its pages gleaming in the lamplight. She bends her head, heavy with its burden of untamed russet curls--she lifts a page--she discovers--and extremely good paper!

Jenn, this is really excellent work. You have a fine voice, a strong argument, and reasoning and evidence that it's very difficult to argue with. [Aw, shucks]. I do feel that your writing is not as sophisticated as it will be, but that's a matter of time and practice.

I think you should consider sending this out for publication. [Really?!?] I suspect you will get a revise and resubmit, but the comments will help you learn, and you can resubmit if you choose to. Consider sending it--we can talk about where.
You can probably imagine my response when reading this--overjoyed, excited, etc. I felt really good when I saw her comments and thought about the prospect of getting published. It was hard work, but I see now that I can do it--I can produce work that has a shot at publication. What a great feeling!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Anti-Censorship, Pro-Literature

As I was doing the meme yesterday, I found myself in varying states of shock and outrage about censored works of literature. I get pretty heated up about the issue.

In my second semester of college, we had to write an argumentative paper for Honors. Being the child of conservatives, I thought I should talk about the horrors of partial birth abortion. The paper was boring, but okay--I'm sure my instructor read more than one of them*. Then we had to pair up and write a paper about some issue. My friend Wes and I chose to write about censorship, an issue I immediately and passionately threw myself into. After completing the project (and enjoying it), I realized: for the first paper I picked a topic I thought I should care about deeply but really didn't. But censorship--now that was something I could fired up about.

Why do I care so much? Part of it is that I don't believe kids should be as sheltered as some parents want them to be. I grew up over-sheltered, yet books taught me about the world in ways I didn't have to experience. Books (and some that my parents wouldn't have approved of) allowed me to escape from those unbearable teenage years for a short time.

The other part is that it pains me to see beautiful, wonderful, magical books treated like filth, like they have nothing to offer readers. And it pains me even more to see how those calling for censorship judge the works: off a word, a scene, a situation. They don't take the work for it's full value; they act like themes of violence, sexuality, and crudeness can never have a deeper meaning. And they can. A book like Speak can enhance rape awareness, for so many people who refuse to speak out about it. So many good books get tossed out because they aren't mundane and "wholesome". But they are beautiful works of literature.

I could go on and on, but censorship of these kind of books that are real and marvelous is such a mistake. Though, if parents try to hide books from their kids, maybe the kids will try to read them more...



*When I taught a homeschool writing class, I forbade any students writing their argumentative papers on things like abortion, gun control, and the death penalty. I really didn't want to read 20 paper on how horrible abortion was when all they were doing was spewing back everything they'd heard from their parents, church, and community for the past 14-18 years. I wanted them to choose an issue that they had a vested interest in.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I Read Banned Books!

Thanks, ADAllen, for the meme.


The name of the game: highlight/comment on the following banned books you've read.

The American Library Association's most challenged books of all time

"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" (Maya Angelou)

"The Chocolate War" (Robert Cormier)
I read this one in my adolescent literature class in undergrad. It's definitely a book for boys, but it has something to offer teens of all sorts about resisting the pressures of authority if personal convictions conflict with that authority. A valuable lesson, especially under our current administration. Oh wait, that's probably why it's banned...we don't want kids to learn to challenge their social structures.

"The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" (Mark Twain)
Thanks to my liberal education (haha), I read this in American Literature in college. I was always puzzled by the accusations of racism--the book is about as anti-racist as a book published in nineteenth century America could possibly be. Twain would be both proud that his book can spark so much to debate, and a little sad (maybe) that people are dumb enough to only read the surface, to only see the words and think that's what the book means.

"It's Perfectly Normal" (Robie Harris)

"Scary Stories" (Alvin Schwartz)

"Daddy's Roommate" (Michael Willhoite)

"Of Mice and Men" (John Steinbeck)
This is a beautiful, sad book. I'm guessing it's banned because of violence; however, the novella is a tragic story of friendship and the inability to survive in this cruel world for someone who is different and misunderstood. I cry every time I read this book.

"Harry Potter" series (J.K. Rowling)
I'm a fan. I actually avoided the series in high school because my parents warned so strongly about it (the one time that they actually said anything about books that I paid attention to). I finally picked up the first book when the movies were coming out because all my friends were reading them, and I was hooked. (This is also, incidentally, where I started to realize that my parents' judgment was not absolute, and that perhaps I should start figuring things out for myself.)

"Heather Has Two Mommies" (Leslea Newman)

"Goosebumps" series (R.L. Stine)
I read a couple of these in junior high, and found them stupid. They really were just not my kind of book.

"The Catcher in the Rye" (J.D. Salinger)
Why does the best literature always get banned? I didn't encounter Salinger as a teenager, unfortunately, but when I read The Catcher in the Rye, I realized why so many adolescents love this book and found meaning in Holden's narrative.

"The Color Purple" (Alice Walker)

"A Wrinkle in Time" (Madeleine L'Engle)
I read this many times as a little kid, and am baffled as to why it's on the banned list. I haven't read it for a while, so maybe I should go back and read it again...

"Earth's Children" series (Jean M. Auel)

"In the Night Kitchen" (Maurice Sendak)

"The New Joy of Gay Sex" (Charles Silverstein)

"Blubber" (Judy Blume)

"The Handmaid's Tale" (Margaret Atwood)
Of course a feminist dystopia would be banned--it's too easy to misunderstand Atwood's intention, which is to horrify and shock us into seeing how easy it would be for our world to become like the one in her novel. I'm guessing most of those crying out for the book to be banned get caught up with all of the sex and violence and miss the true point...if they bother to read it at all.

"The Bluest Eye" (Toni Morrison)

"The Outsiders" (S.E. Hinton)
I like The Outsiders. It's another one of those books about not belonging, a condition so many teenage readers could identify with, I'm sure. If they were allowed to read it...

"Captain Underpants" series (Dav Pilkey)
Banned because the hero wears underpants? How silly...I've seen these books and thought they were harmless and cute. My potential kids are going to be so corrupted...

"A Light in the Attic" (Shel Silverstein)
How can they ban Shel Silverstein? The man who gave us The Giving Tree? Man, this book was hard to find in my elementary school library because so many kids wanted to check it out all the time. I'm guessing the silly poems about boogers didn't endear it to parents in the same way that it captured so many children's imaginations.

"Brave New World" (Aldous Huxley)

"Asking about Sex and Growing Up" (Joanna Cole)

"Cujo" (Stephen King)

"James and the Giant Peach" (Roald Dahl) .
I have a great story about this book. When I was seven or so, I was reading this book and noticed the word "ass" cropping up a lot. (I think the grasshopper calls everyone an ass). So I showed my parents. Shocked and outraged, they then petitioned to have it banned from school--in the end, they blacked out all the "ass" with a Sharpie. Little did they know that their act would help create a die-hard anti-censorship liberal daughter...

"The Anarchist Cookbook" (William Powell)

"Boys and Sex" (Wardell Pomeroy)

"Ordinary People" (Judith Guest)

"American Psycho" (Bret Easton Ellis)

"Athletic Shorts" (Chris Crutcher)

"The House of the Spirits" (Isabel Allende)
I've started this several times. Allende is a great writer, and I really need to finish it...

"Slaughterhouse Five" (Kurt Vonnegut)
I feel like a bad English major for not having yet read any Vonnegut.

"Lord of the Flies" (William Golding)
The rule must be "all disturbing literature shall be kept from those of tender years". You know, because kids need to be innocent until they encounter all the world's nastiness in person.

"Mommy Laid an Egg" (Babette Cole)

"Private Parts" (Howard Stern)

"Where's Waldo?" (Martin Hanford)
I was enlighted by ADAllen that this is banned because of wantonly bared tiny breasts. I never saw any tiny breasts, since I was too busy looking for Waldo.

"Little Black Sambo" (Helen Bannerman)

"Girls and Sex" (Wardell Pomeroy)

"How to Eat Fried Worms" (Thomas Rockwell)
I'm always astounded by what makes it on the list. Is it because he eats worms? I don't get it...I remember this book being tremendously entertaining and with some sort of good message.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Future of Literature?

I've been working on a presentation for Jessica Abel's fantastic graphic novel La Perdida, and thus I've been reading about graphic novels. There's a lot of banter about the term "graphic novel": is it just an attempt by comics creators to legitimize (and thereby canonize) their works? Or are we observing the development of a new genre, one that is different than the term "comic" can cover?

I think we're observing the rise of a new genre of literature. Part of my presentation is about how graphic novels are particularly suited to the picaresque: it seems that more and more marginalized voices are using the art form to speak out. They aren't sharing their experiences in film or in novels necessarily; they are drawing their lives out on a page. It's a genre where Art Spiegelman could tell his father's story (Maus); where Marjane Satrapi could tell her tale of growing up in Iran during Iran's political unrest (Persepolis); and where journalist Joe Sacco could explore the situations in Bosnia and Palestine in such a way to bring those realities home to his readers (Palestine and War's End: Profiles from Bosnia 1995-96).

In his article "A Comic-Book World", Stephen Tabachnick asserts that we were seeing a new direction of literature. As television and electronic media pervade our culture, graphic novels are the book's response to shortened attention spans and the inability of readers to wade through lines of straight text. I think that this is valid, but I also think that the graphic novel offers much more than that. It has its place not as the successor to the novel, but as a totally new reading experience. I value them for that quality, the world they can convey without words. It takes a skilled artist to know when to use words and when to allow the pictures reflect the themes and ideas that she wishes to convey. Incidentally, Abel is one such artist.

I embrace the teaching of graphic novels, but not in place of literature, but as a new genre. Graphic novels are more than the book's answer to the rise of film and television; they can become a valuable teaching tool, a refreshing and illuminating way to access literature.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Textual Editing!

I was given the assignment to talk about how I would handle the editing of the letters of famous literary figure Eupheus MacAdder, author of the famous sonnet sequence "On the Teats of Muffy, My Catte". Here is what I turned in, after a bit of research and thinking.

***********************

Why do we publish collected letters? Almost every (dead) major literary figure has at least one edition of published letters, and likely more than one. Perhaps the motivating factor is to give us some insight on an author’s creative processes. Or perhaps editors wish to show a human face to often-mythologized poets and novelists: Grant F. Scott in his recent edition of Keats’s letters offers, “For those who have encountered Keats’s poems only in weighty anthologies, it is refreshing to come upon them in this warmer human environment. In context they seem to breathe again, to take on new life and interest” (xxiii).

Since not every letter can be included in an edition (unless one is publishing multiple volumes, or the extant letters are very few), an editor must decide on an approach and let that approach determine which letters she selects. The traditional method is to choose those letters which include details about an author’s works or in some way illuminate their texts. Humphrey Carpenter chose this approach when selecting among the massive quantity of Tolkien’s extant letters, “Naturally, priority has been given to those letters where Tolkien discusses his own books; but the selection has also been made with an eye to demonstrating the huge range of Tolkien’s mind and interests, and his idiosyncratic but always clear view of the world” (1). H.L Jackson’s purpose for Coleridge’s letters was “to display his achievement as a writer in the minor genre of the familiar letter; to reveal his complex personality in evolution; and to record his astute judgment, especially in literary matters” (xii). Leslie Marchand chooses to illuminate Byron’s personality in comparison to the tone taken in his works. Alan G. Hill chooses the letters of Dorothy Wordsworth “not only for the interest of their subject-matter but also to indicate the range of her correspondents,” i.e. her brother William Wordworth and their friend Samuel T. Coleridge: Hill seems interested in using Dorothy Wordsworth’s words to illuminate the humanity of the famous men who were her correspondents (xvii).

A more holistic approach (like that of Grant F. Scott with Keats’s letters) allows the editor to present the author as a whole person by including letters with various details not pertaining to them as an author. This second approach is the one I’d like to take with Euphues MacAdder’s letters. Working with Jack Stillinger, Scott brings a fresh approach to Keats’s letters: several definitive scholarly editions of Keats’s letters have already been published, therefore Scott’s goal was offer an edition that would allow maximum accessibility for any reader to the life and mind of John Keats, including his poetry but not excluding details of his life. Scott even chooses to end his edition with letters written by Keats’s death-bed companions, instead of Keats’s own final letter written several months before he died, commenting that they “offer valuable additional testimony concerning Keats the man” (xiv).

MacAdder’s extant letters include a mixture of his own letters, received letters from his correspondents, daily ephemera, and drafts (that may have been part of his letters) of his famous sonnet sequence, “On the Teats of Muffy, My Catte.” I favor Scott’s approach precisely because he does not include only the letters that show the influences on a writer’s works: he wants to give as full a picture of Keats-the-man as he can, which of course includes Keats-the-poet. Thus my choice would be to include some of the minutiae of MacAdder’s daily existence, where it is most charming or interesting or illuminates MacAdder’s habits and relationships with his friends. (As Scott points out, the letters that contain Keats’s most brilliant ideas often begin with a simple account of day-to-day occurrences). Also, if the letters from MacAdder’s correspondents contain some ongoing dialogue about his poetry or ideas, I think it would be worth including selections to give a reader a fuller idea of MacAdder’s composition process and how much other people contributed to his writing. If anything, I would at least summarize the letter to give a reader context for MacAdder’s reply. I agree with Stillinger that writing rarely, if ever, occurs in isolation.

Which leads to the question: what about all those drafts of his sonnet sequence? I think they are worth including, especially if there are indications they were part of his letters. After all, the reason readers are interested in the letters is to get some glimpse into the mind of a well-known author, and that includes how they came to produce their art. Thus, I would certainly include the drafts of his poetry where evidence suggests they may have been included with a letter, and refer to the other drafts in a footnote or appendix if no evidence exists to demonstrate that they were sent to MacAdder’s correspondents. Since this is an edition of letters, poetry manuscripts and other papers would be better suited in another volume. I believe, however, that to the degree the poetry was part of MacAdder’s letters, they should be included in my edition.

Another question that most of the editors brought up was how much an editor should interfere with spelling, typographical errors, and punctuation. Correcting obvious errors is generally not considered interference. The murkier situation is a particular author’s spelling and punctuation habits. Jackson felt that readability was not lost (and may in fact be “refreshing”) by leaving Coleridge’s letters as they were, fixing only typographical errors (xii). On the other hand, Scott believed that accessibility was enhanced by “principled modernization:” he is conscious that altering letters from handwritten to type is an act of translation and interpretation (xv). He is sensitive to Keats’s particular quirks in capitalization and their significance in his letters, and Scott also leaves errors where they are “wonderfully spontaneous and creative” (xvii). The traditional stance is to leave the spellings as they were or with very little interference. My decision would rest on who my target audience is: if this is the first time MacAdder’s letters have been in print, I would probably leave the spellings as they were since my likely audience would be scholars. However, if I were attempting a new edition to essentially refresh MacAdder’s letters as Scott does for Keats, then I would apply a little principled modernization of my own because my audience would not necessarily be scholars but those wishing to learn more about MacAdder.

Out of all the editions of letters that I perused, I admired Scott’s edition of Keats’s the most. Scott’s approach did not attempt to focus on the possible influences on his poetry; instead, they offered up a picture of Keats through his own words, minutiae and all. I think scholars and editors enter into murky water when they attempt to determine what is could be an influence and what is not, since questions of authorship and creativity are not so easily answered. My edition of MacAdder would take a similar approach: I want to offer my readers a MacAdder that visits friends, drinks tea, and buys shirts not just a MacAdder that locks himself in his study with only his Muse (or Muffy) for company and feverishly scribbles. That image would be false. I would like readers to be able to connect to MacAdder as a real human being, not an abstract ideal of an author.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Ah, Homework

A short post--once again--because I need to do some homework tonight. I have to finish my textual editing exercise and read a bunch. I made it back home safe and sound with some craftiness done. Perhaps I'll post the cookie recipe I devised last night on my baking blog!

My kitties were naughty this weekend--my roommate has started decorating for Christmas, and they were trapped in the house alone, so when Lance came to check on them, they had "destroyed Christmas" as he phrased it. Basically, they knocked her decorations down. Crazy cats. Guess that'll teach me to leave them alone for the weekend...

Sewing weekend was a mostly success, considering the sleeping most of Saturday on my behalf. I have lots more to finish, but it feels good to get a start on the Christmas gifts for the year.

Well, back to work. Plus, Lance's laptop has a messed up backspace key, so it's making typing extremely difficult (I had no idea I made so many typing errors!) I'll be posting about my assignment tomorrow. Good night, dear readers!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Crafts Weekend!

Or it would be, had I not been feeling like a plate of death. Finally, at 4 pm, I was able revive myself enough to move, eat a little something, and help my friend get ready for having some friends over. The only crafting that was to be had was some knitting on my ISE5 scarf and buying fabric. It's tragic, really, but I plan on accomplishing one or two project before returning to Fayetteville, never fear.

While I was trying hard not to move lest the contents of my stomach rebel, I managed to finish La Perdida, which was really good. I think my presentation is going to take a genre theory approach to the graphic novel, discussing how the form of the graphic novel enhances some of Abel's major themes of miscommunication, being between places, and trying to find something lost. I even get to bring in some Derrida!

Now to do sometime domestic--baking some cookies with a recipe that I'm making up as I go...

Friday, November 09, 2007

Plodding Steadily

I've been moving steadily through my final assignments. What I have left for the semester:
  • one textual editing assignment, due Monday
  • one presentation over La Perdida (such a good book!), due Thursday
  • one 12-15 page paper (probably also over La Perdida)
  • one mysterious final project, to be revealed on Monday. (yikes!)
I feel like I have a decent handle on the semester, so that's a nice feeling. The pieces have been falling into place, so I just need to work steadily to make sure the semester ends as a success. Then I can throw an awesome Christmas party!

My arms are sore right now from getting two vaccines, so I'm going to cut this post short. And since I get to leave work at one today, I get to have a bit of a longer weekend...hooray! Hope you all have a good Friday.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tidbits

  • Remember my recent post about the link between mental and physical health? Today, the NY Times posted an article about how staying active can reduce the risk of dementia and keep the brain from deteriorating in later life. Better go hop on that treadmill!
  • I'm heading down to LR this weekend to sew and have fun. Whee!
  • I have mastered the butterfly swimming stroke. Well, "mastered" is stretching it a bit, but I am doing it almost right, and I can swim a length using it.
  • I was planning to go to a lunch meeting today because it would teach me about creating a CV and resume, but now I feel hesitant. I should probably just go...
  • I have a fun assignment that I need to work on. I'll post more details later, but it involves an imaginary Scottish poet and his poem about his beloved cat's nipples.
  • Thomas Pynchon's Vineland is interesting.
  • I am really enjoying Jessica Abel's La Perdida. It's full of all sorts of good themes, like the failure of communication and learning to exist in a new culture. Fascinating--and I get to give a presentation on it and write a paper!
  • Less than one month of class left. Oh, the pressure!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Autumn

Walk outside and take a deep breath of air. Do you feel it? Smell it? It's autumn, folks, and it's my favorite time of the year. I used to wonder if I had a favorite season, but then I realized that every fall, my blood would sing, my spirit would soar with exhilaration, and my eyes would dance from all the brilliant colors around me.

I really love this season. The trees all dressed in their elegantly brilliant hues: gold, crimson, orange. I encounter one tree each day that looks like it is on fire, the leaves are so vibrantly red. For someone who loves color as much as I do, the trees provide a feast for the eyes, and all I want to do is look at them, take pictures of them, and soak in the colorful rays. Even when the leaves fall to the earth, they look like confetti decorating the green lawn--I love the contrast.

The season's first frost was upon us, in my town. I walked outside slightly before dawn and had to scrape my windows. I didn't mind. I like how the world looks with a light frosty coat.

The air smells crisp and clear. I've heard this is better in other areas, but I think the air is nice here too. I inhale and inhale, enjoying the feeling of the cold air in my lungs, the smell of wood stoves and warmth and soups on the wind. I like how I walk in from a jaunt outdoors and my cheeks and nose are blushed and my eyes feel brighter.

Soon the leaves will fall off and fade away, raked into piles by industrious folks. I won't mind--I'll just have to wait again for my favorite season so I can revel in all it's glory. (And by then, winter's promises of snow will claim my attentions...)

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Academic Imersion

I joined MLA today. (Yay for student rates). Joining MLA gives me a subscription to PMLA and several other publications, and allows me to be connected to a national organization. I joined on the impulse of professionalism that I've been cultivating as of late.

My Intro to Grad Studies class must be influencing me. We're immersing ourselves into aspects of the profession (as did the class that I took last semester), and it's got me thinking about steps I can take now to help my future career.

We're going to be giving a mini-conference on the paper that just won't go away, and next week we'll be discussing how we wish to present ourselves to the public eye. When I decided to go to grad school, I had no idea that there'd be so much involved! In the end, however, I like it.

I'll probably join NCTE soon too, and subscribe to College English, since there are sure to be articles I would find useful for my thesis! Yay again for student rates...

Monday, November 05, 2007

Body and Brain

The dumb jock, the unathletic geek: we usually assume that being good at sports and being smart are mutually exclusive. Why is this? Is it because we think of the highly intelligent hiding in their ivory towers, descending rarely to mix among us mortals (and get a breath of fresh air)? Do we think that those who enjoy physical pursuits don't have to use their minds--or don't have the inclination to do so?

This connection is one that I've been thinking about for a while. About three years ago, I started running, playing Ultimate Frisbee, and enjoying all sorts of sports. Recently, I've been taking swimming lessons. I enjoy physical activity. I also enjoy reading, writing, and thinking.

I'm planning to be an academic, something which (shockingly) doesn't require physical abilities. Part of me occasionally longs to find a occupation where I'd use both my body and my mind.

The connection between our physical and mental abilities is subtler than one might think. My mind doesn't shut down when I start running: no, instead it becomes more active. My mind is always more alert (and my body more energetic) when I'm working out regularly. When my body is healthy, my mind is sharper.

So why does our culture persist with the separation of mind and body? I think part of it is that we do like simple dualities--they make life easier. And I do admit that I know some really dumb people who are great athletes and some really smart individuals who suck at anything athletic. But I also know a lot more people who are both successful athletes (or have physical abilities) and intelligent, capable individuals.

Personally, I'm cultivating a life of the mind and greater physical abilities. I think that understanding the connection is deeply important to my own success and well-being.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Cat Naps and Articles: A Picture Post


My cat, Rory, decided to help me with my homework:





Homework completed with purring furball demanding my attention. It actually worked out fairly well...

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Lack of Homework

I have piles of homework. Yet, somehow, I manage to be lazy enough to not do any of it yet. I blame Netflix, Heroes (season one), Lance, and my own desire to bake cupcakes. So in the hour I have remaining, I suppose I shall read Vineland and wonder why I squandered my Saturday.

It was a fun squandered day, however. I got up, checked on the newly fixed kitty in the house, who curled up on me and slept, read a bit of my book, ate some breakfast, strolled down to Farmers' Market (only two left!), baked cupcakes, and cleaned a bit. So, as you can see, I'm quite productive.

I just usually want to kick myself, though. I get to the point of being caught up, have a chance to get ahead, and then all I can do is just be lazy and not do any of the work I should. I do blame the fact that since I work all the time, the only time I have to blow off steam is the weekend, which means I don't wish to spend it doing homework. I am, however, a graduate student, which means I should make school more important.

Thus I sigh, shake my head at my silliness, and attempt to work in a smaller chunk of time. I guess I'll be at the library tomorrow, holed up, awaiting my fate for my lack of diligence...

Friday, November 02, 2007

Learning to Keep My Mouth Shut

Occasionally, I have the urge to tell people things that they are doing wrong. Sometimes I do, then they feel embarrassed. I often feel superior. I've been realizing, however, that sometimes what I define as "wrong" is merely just slower, but equally effective.

Sometimes, however, they are just wrong.

One case is those instances of misuses of grammar. Unless it's someone that I'm close to and can call them out on it, I don't, even if I want to. Like all of the English graduate students who don't realize the difference between "quote" and "quotation". Every time they say "quote" when they mean "quotation", I wish to yell. But I don't. Some things are bad manners.

The other times I've learned to keep my mouth shut involve working with other people. Sometimes a co-worker will do something in a way that I find to be inefficient, slow, and overly cautious. Occasionally I say something, and it makes her feel inadequate, and then I feel bad. So I've learned to keep my mouth shut because in the end, she gets the job done well, and just because I can do it nearly twice as fast doesn't mean that her way doesn't work. She's probably a little more conscientious and has a stronger work ethic than I do.

Another is with my family. I'm the sole liberal in a sea of stanch Republicans (my dad doesn't think women should be senators, let alone president), and I'm also more honest about my doubts about traditional, mainline Christianity than they would like. I have learned that even if all I want to do is offer up a different perspective, without arguing, I should just keep my mouth shut. They don't listen, and the situation usually quickly results in a full out yelling match, and my mother cries easily. Don't discuss politics and religion with family--good rule to remember.

What are some situations where you have learned to keep your mouth shut?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Me? Blog Daily for a Month?

That's right, folks. In an attempt to aspire to more conscientious posters, I am participating in NaBlogPoMo. Blog each day in November. Can I do it?

I've discovered a blog that makes fun of misused quotation marks. I also hate that...

It's Stephen Crane's birthday, by the way. If you don't know who he is, that's okay. (He wrote The Red Badge of Courage). John Keats, however, is inexcusable.

I was invited by my Grad Studies professor to take her Advanced Romantic Poetry class. My heart yearned to do so...but, alas, I have to take another class, and my job only permits me to take one during the day. She's a great teacher, and I'd love to learn more about the Romantics from her. I think they really are my favorite period, if I had to choose. Occasionally, when I falter with my Rhetoric Composition plans, I think fondly of doing something with the British Romantics.

I've been enjoying the "Books" podcast from NPR. It puts the different segments involving new books together into one weekly podcast. NPR has become a tool for me to keep up with new literature that I might otherwise read much, much later.

The trees are starting to take on their autumn blushes. I love fall colors, the weather, the sweaters I get to wear--it really is my favorite season.

Excuse the rambles. My brain is all over the place today...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween Happenings

First of all, I would like to note that today is John Keats's* birthday. Some facts: he was from a lower class (and therefore lots of people got irritated about his awesome poetry), he was a surgeon (thus crossing class lines, further irritating everyone except the Romantics--they love class hopping), died of tuberculosis (awww). He was 25 when he died, which made the Romantics love him all the more, since he was a gifted poet AND died young. If you have not had the pleasure of enjoying Keats, please go read at least "Ode on a Grecian Urn". It's lovely.

Another interesting tidbit: I subscribe to the Oxford English Dictionary word of the day, and today the word is "zombie". How appropriate. The first documented use of "zombie" occurred in 1816 by R. Southey, and it originally meant "In the West Indies and southern states of America, a soulless corpse said to have been revived by witchcraft; formerly the snake-deity in voodoo cults of or deriving from West Africa and Haiti." There are many more uses, but how neat is it that I get to learn all about words everyday! (Yes, I'm a word-nerd).

I made a giant cupcake for work today--pumpkin. I took the recipe from the Cupcake Bakeshop, who got it from Martha Stewart. I highly recommend this recipe--it's moist and pumpkiny, and delicious. It doesn't even need the icing!

Last Halloween thing of note: ghosty meringues!

Have a safe and happy Keats's Birthday/Halloween!!

*If you have never heard of John Keats, you are dead to me.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Ah, the Joys...

We're talking about textual editing in Intro to Grad Studies and reading Vineland (Thomas Pynchon) for American Picaresque. Both are interesting. While discussing textual editing, we get into big debates over maintaining misspellings (in a critical edition? No. Misspellings are misspellings, unless you're e e cummings), reverting to a fair copy, etc. It's all horribly complicated and convoluted--and I enjoy it.

Pynchon has been entertaining me so far. I'm only 40 pages or so in, so we'll see if I continue to find the book fascinating.

Other than that, I've been working, avoiding work, or doing more work*. C'est la vie.


*Registration has begun for students. And it's brought in a whole slew of issues. Busy busy!

Friday, October 26, 2007

And Now What?

I'm a little giddy; I turned my paper in this morning (after getting a good 6 hours or so of sleep), and then I bought coffee and a scone from the Starbucks across the street from the English building. Then Lance took me out for some soup at our favorite restaurant, since they commented that they hadn't seen us in a while.

I am making big plans for the weekend, including a Renaissance Faire (at which I'll be making books), a Halloween party (at which I'll dress like a sexy librarian and bring a cake disguised as a cupcake), and starting my ISE5 scarf (finally!). And let's not forget homework and taking a picture of the hat that I finally finished...

I'm glad the paper's turned in, but now I must turn my attention to projects in the near future. It would appear that I basically have one more month of the semester--how did it go by so quickly? I don't understand! I have a presentation and final paper pending for American Picaresque, as well as a textual editing project for Intro to Grad Studies. So I'm going to try to stay on top of these projects so that I can finish them with grace and...well, not panic and get stressed out because I have 5 pages to write, 17 sources to read, and 3 days to do it all.

But for this weekend, I'm relaxing and having fun tomorrow. On Sunday, I'll do all my homework.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Writing Process

Have you ever noticed how hard the writing process is? It's incredibly difficult--you start out with an idea, find lots and lots of sources and textual evidence to support it, then put it all together in some sort of coherent (and long!) piece of writing. You have to pay attention to tone, style, format; you have to make sure you support your assertions with (sound) evidence, reasoning, and logic.

At the same time, however, writing can flow. It's not all hard work: sometimes you sit down and start working, then three hours later, you have added several pages and have a significant sense of accomplishment.

Mostly it's hard work, though.

Right now, I'm on page eighteen of my paper on The Monk by Matthew Lewis. I've hopefully said something vaguely original, I attacked a critic (because she was wrong). I'm trying to decide if that's out of place in the paper--it's easy to pick on one person specifically to better enunciate my own stance, but I'm afraid it might be a bit jarring with the rest of the paper.

It's due tomorrow. I've been working on it since the start of the semester, but it's the final push until it's done!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bullets

  • I have a paper due Friday. Part of me wonders if I'll actually finish it. I do, however, have a thoroughly edited first sentence.
  • Dumbledore is gay. My reaction? "Hmmm, interesting". I really liked this NPR clip, though.
  • NPR has a podcast that's all about books. "Fresh Air" and other NPR shows have been keeping me apprised of all the new books coming out as well as allowing me to listen to authors speak. I really enjoy listening in. Pretty cool!
  • Research and writing is hard work. But it's also pretty rewarding.
  • I am for sure not graduating in the spring. But that's okay. I'll just take more classes!
  • Lance brought me presents from Montana. The only one I could have, however, was a giant cupcake cake pan. Isn't it cool?
  • Halloween is coming up--the time to dress like a slut. I think I'm going as a sexy librarian because I don't have to actually purchase anything for this costume. (After I finished typing that, I realized it made me sound like I had slutty clothes laying around everywhere--it's really going to be in the combination, however, and wearing a shirt that I ordinarily wear a tank top under).
  • Back to work. I'm taking off tomorrow afternoon to try and finish that dratted paper, so I'd best make sure I have everything done.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Last Shopping Trip...

Justin tagged me for this meme. Since I recently went shopping for non-grocery things (what I normally shop for), I thought I'd use that for today's post.*
The purpose of this meme is to inspire some reflection about how we shop and what we purchase. The idea isn't that consumption itself is somehow bad, but that we all could probably stand to put a little bit more thought into what we buy. And, of course, it's supposed to be fun. So here goes!

Pick a recent shopping trip -- for clothes, shoes, groceries, doesn't matter. The only guideline is that it will be easier to play if you purchased at least a few things. Now tell us, about your purchases:

1. What are you proud of?
I went clothes shopping randomly with a friend. I love clothes shopping, and I was proud that everything I bought was something I could wear to work, since I've been concerned with my work attire lately--I don't think I'm being professional enough in my dress, and I worry about what that might say about me as an employee.

2. What are you embarrassed by?
How much I spent on the wonderful coat. It's actually a good price for a coat--I just hate spending money on things that aren't on sale.

3. What do you think you couldn't live without?
Oh, I definitely could have lived without anything I bought. I usually realize that, but then the pretty sparkly things catch my attention, and before I know it, I'm pulling out my wallet to pay for them. But I do have a reasonable amount of expendable income...

4. What did you most enjoy purchasing?
Definitely the earrings. They were 75% off and are absolutely fabulous! I love cheap, quality jewelry.

5. What were you most tempted by? (This last one may or may not be an actual purchase!)
I was most tempted by the wonderful vintage coat that I ended up buying (I blame the friend who was with me). I fit me perfectly, even in the places that most coats don't normally fit, it's tremendously classy, and I think I'll end up wearing it for years and years. And I had been looking for a coat too. (Listen to me justify my expenditures! I always feel I need to do that. I tend to think a lot about the purchases I make, because while I may gripe about the rampant consumerism of our society, I'm often an active participant...and it's so hard not to be!)

Now tag 5 others!

I tag YOU. Specifically, Secret Knitter, ADAllen, Samantha, Tim, and Amber.

*I know you all aren't used to me posting on the weekends. And while that's normally the case, I have a paper I'm supposed to be working on, so you can do the math.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Aha! I have it!

A cross-dressing monk, incest, and demons: critics raged against the lascivious revels of Gothic literature, while readers yearned to encounter licentious material for themselves even as they protested against the novels' shocking elements.


I think this will do. At least it made me happy as I typed it...

Friday, October 19, 2007

Reading List

Books I'd like to enjoy in the not-so-near future:
  • On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
  • The Sister: A Novel of Emily Dickinson by Paola Kaufmann
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons, and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution by Alice Waters
  • Warm Springs by Susan Richards Shreve
  • Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey
  • From Eden to Exile by Eric Cline
  • The Perfect Summer by Juliette Nicholson
  • The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler
  • The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
  • The Almost Moon by Alice Sebold
  • Summer Reading by Hilma Wolitzer

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

First Sentences, Part 2

Thank you all so much for your suggestions. I've messed around with the first sentence a bit more (though not the rest of the intro), and here's my new first sentence.
A cross-dressing monk, congress with demons, and incest: as critics encounter unsettling elements in a novel and heatedly discuss the book's lewdness and question its fitness for public consumption, curious readers yearn to encounter licentious material for themselves.
I'm afraid it might be a little long for an introduction, but I feel happier with it than any of the other drafts--and thanks, Tim, for "licentious"! Such a great word!

I was worried about parallelism in the series that starts the sentence. Perhaps it's still a problem? I know that the addition of "incest" definitely adds some punch to my claims about unsettling elements and licentious materials--and it's racy. It catches the readers attention.

Additional comments are welcome! I've been struggling with the sentence for weeks now, and your help has assisted in making me feel that it's gotten to a better draft, finally.

Monday, October 15, 2007

First Sentences

So much depends upon the first sentence: it's the one shot you have to snag an audience or watch as they toss your hard work aside. First sentences (and last ones) are the hardest parts of writing a paper, at least for me, right now.

I have several versions of a first sentence, and I'm not happy with any of them. (I include a second sentence where necessary). Here they are:
1st: "To be a real man, a man should associate with other men. True friendships, the kind a man can count on, can only be with other men because women are emotional, weak, and conniving, and cannot be trusted as men can."
I thought it lacked...focus. It certainly caught a reader's attention, but after I altered some other things in my paper, I still wasn't happy with it. So I changed it to:
"Authors write shocking books for different purposes; however, these novels' critics and reading public either ignore them, or they loudly declare the works as disgusting--and everyone runs out to buy a copy to see for themselves."
Worse, not better than the first version. But it transitioned better into my thesis, as you'll see momentarily.
Third edition: "Racy novels: how do their audiences react? The critics and reading public either completely ignore them or loudly declare the works as disgusting--and everyone runs out to buy a copy to see for themselves."
Still problematic. I still don't like the first sentence. So here's the current version (with the rest of the introduction). Please offer some advice, commentary, compliments, etc.
A cross-dressing monk, congress with demons, and even a ghost: as critics and readers encounter unsettling elements, heated discussion ensues--and everyone else has to go out and read the novel for themselves. When Matthew Lewis published The Monk in 1796, its disturbing sexual imagery, inversions of socially-acceptable gender roles, and pornographic material made the book so popular that Lewis earned the nickname "Monk," forever identifying him through his best known work. While the novel's foray into transgressive topics initially shocks even a modern reader, Lewis creates lurid scenes not to outrage his audience but to examine traditional gender roles and to define masculinity through the homosocial friendships among his male characters. Although The Monk appears to invert eighteenth-century English ideas of gender, ultimately, Lewis uses homosociality to restore established gender roles.
Sigh. I'll be so happy to have this paper done and turned in.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Knitters' Coffee Swap Questionnaire

QUESTIONS

1. Whole bean or ground? Whole bean--I love grinding my own.
2. Fully-loaded or decaf? Fully-loaded, definitely.
3. Regular or flavored? Regular--I add my own flavors!
4. How do you drink your coffee? Strong, with a splash of cream. Occasionally, I add flavored syrups, like cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, or vanilla.
5. Favorite coffee ever? How do I choose??
6. Are you fussy about your coffee or will any old bean do? Quite fussy.
7. Favorite treats to have with your coffee? Scones, biscotti, chocolate.
8. Anything else about your coffee preferences? I really like organic/fair trade, and usually beans from good local coffee shops.
9. Yarn/fiber you love? Love the natural fibers...mmmm
10. Yarn/fiber you hate? Scratchy, icky feeling acrylics.
11. What's on your needles? Three scarfs, a top, and a dishcloth.
12. Favorite colors? Red, pink, green--warm, rich colors. Earthy tones rock too.
13. Allergies? Cigarette smoke.
14. Anything you really love, really don't like, or just need to get off your chest? I'm so excited about this swap! I'm looking forward to meeting a new person, and enjoying some different coffees.

Ravelry--jenniechris

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lackadaisical

(A word that I was able to spell properly on the first try!)

I wish to drag my feet, but the currents of life pull me along at a sweeping pace. Any attempts made to slow down only result in a backlog of work, stress, and things I desire to do. The work load threatens to strangle me. The unfortunate demise of my dreams to complete my MA in the spring (meaning that I finished it in two years while working full-time, an accomplishment in itself) have contributed to feeling stuck--I thought about leaving after I graduated and moving on. Instead, I stay, though it's not necessarily a bad thing.

I think about my cat. She is busy eating, running around outside, sticking her paws down mole-holes, and trying her hardest to usurp my head's place on the pillow as I sleep. She curls up and sleeps hard, not moving even as I pet her, the deep rumbling from within her furry frame the only sign of her awareness of my presence.

I contemplate diving, the act I finally accomplished three times yesterday evening. I may not be able to jump from a platform, but I dove at last and found it not as bad as I dreaded. I perhaps even enjoyed it, the feeling of directing my body through the water and back to the surface. Like many things I fear and have feared, I find that if I can only get the point of action, the fear lessens, recedes, and becomes manageable. Perhaps this is the first step to overcoming my intense anxiety over leaping from platforms. I have to admit I had to be pushed to dive the first two times, but the third time was the best, when I was able to push myself.

The third draft of my massive paper on Matthew Lewis' The Monk has returned to me, and I find it lacking. And since it is lacking, I have much to do to get it up to snuff. I need to add at least 5 more pages as well as smooth out the writing and add authority and clarity to my ideas. This is my current cause for stress.

I look forward to the holidays: a break from work, expecting sister-in-laws (I found out another one is also having a baby!), gifts, a trip to Spain, and the spirit of jollity that I enjoy. I only hope I can make my way through the obstacles that lie before me until then.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Class Contemplations

I just sent an e-mail to my adviser begging to see if anything could be done about my missing requirement--after all, I've already taken 24 hours, and plan to take 6 more, and we only need 24 of coursework total (plus 6 for thesis). We'll see if he heeds my plea.

If anything, I discovered a Readings in German-Jewish authors class that I could take in the spring to meet the lacking requirement: we only have to take classes in three different of the five areas (19th century British, 20th century British, 19th century American, 20th century American, and world literature.) However, if I take that, I doubt I'll be able to take Literacy and Applied Linguistics, which would be very sad. And taking 9 hours plus working full-time would be suicide, and Lance would probably yell at me if I tried. So, perhaps I'll just wait to graduate in the summer. I'll continue to keep you all updated.

*Edit* UPDATE:
Damn! I am missing a requirement. My adviser wants me to come in and talk to him. It looks like I'll be graduating in the summer or next fall after all.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Already Thinking of Spring...

The spring 2008 class schedule has been posted, so I've been perusing it, discovering that they are offering a seminar in 18th century and Restoration literature--exactly what I need to graduate. I was so happy at the thought of finishing my MA in the Spring.

I pulled down the graduate catalog to check to make sure I had all of my other requirements--and I realized, to my dismay, that it would appear that I've taken two courses in 20th century American literature, leaving me one requirement lacking. Oh no! I might be able to work around that, but I'll have to talk to my adviser. It irritates me because I'm usually so careful about knowing what I need to graduate. I think perhaps I got fixated on the seminar requirement that I signed up for the only night seminar offered, forgetting I had already fulfilled that requirement.

If I'm lacking one more class, it's not the end of the world. I'll just graduate in the summer or the fall. But...hopefully I'll be able to graduate in the spring. I'll keep you all posted.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Weekend Update

While I'm slowly suffocating under a mound of homework and neglected thesis work, I'm trudging forth and doing all sorts of things. I only hope that I can get all of my work done, and get it done well! It's sad that I look forward to the week, since my weekends are so busy anymore.

I went to visit family on Sunday (drove to Harrison, hung out, then drove back to Fayetteville, did yoga, then went to potluck). I discovered that my sister-in-law is pregnant with another girl. That means they will have five daughters. Fun times.

Bikes, Blues, and BBQ occurred this weekend in Fayetteville. Since I live close to downtown, I got to listen to bikes go up and down the street all day and all night. Fun. I did go down to the festival on Saturday with my dad and my brothers (followed by a birthday party and a pumpkin party), so that was fun. Sunday, my brother took me on a ride on his fast new motorcycle (I almost flew off the back when he took off), which prompted my dad to take me on a leisurely ride on his.

And now I'm settling down to a full week without Lance (*sniff*), and the growing mountain of homework that might topple if I don't get some of it done this week. Looks like I'll be in the library if you need me...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Ravelry! (and miscellany)

I finally got my Ravelry invite. I was so excited--and I'm impressed with the abilities of the website. One feature I particularly like is how you can put patterns that intrigue you into a queue--then add them to your projects when you cast on for them. And patterns! Ravelry has become yet another way to find neat patterns and cool projects.

Miscellany
  • Lance departed today for Montana for 3 weeks. I found myself a little sad, though happy for him because he gets to hang out with his brother and do lots of outdoors stuff; however, Irealized we haven't been so far apart for so long since before I moved to Fayetteville.
  • I like the word "miscellany"
  • I finished Housekeeping, the beautiful book by Marilynne Robinson. I'm quite taken with it.
  • A good friend brought me some blooms from her orchid plant--it's so pretty, and it brightened my day.
  • My twisted foot is longer giving me pains when I run--yay!
  • I jumped from the 3 meter board yesterday. Next week: 5 meter and diving. (And I went ahead and signed up for the intermediate class...)
I hope you all have a good evening! Look me up on Ravelry...any adding will be delayed with the removal of my digital camera to Montana, however. I'll just have to go with what I currently have!

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Lovely.

Let us take the time to admire a lovely piece of writing:
Imagine a Carthage sown with salt, and all the sowers gone, and the seeds lain however long in the earth, till there rose finally in vegetable profusion leaves and trees of rime and brine. What flowering would there be in such a garden? Light would force each salt calyx to open in prisms, and to fruit heavily with bright globes of water--peaches and grapes are little more than that, and where the world was salt there would be greater need of slaking. For need can blossom into all the compensations it requires. To crave and to have are as like as a thing and its shadow. For when does a berry break upon the tongue as sweetly as when one longs to taste it, and when is the taste refracted into so many hues and savors of ripeness and earth, and when do our senses know any thing so utterly as when we lack it? And here again is a foreshadowing--the world will be made whole. For to wish for a hand on one's hair is all but to feel it. So whatever we may lose, very craving gives it back again. Though we dream and hardly know it, longing, like an angel, fosters us, smooths our hair, and brings us wild strawberries.
--Marilynne Robinson Housekeeping, pg. 152-3.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Paper Pride

The first version of this paper I turned in, I felt like it was bad. A conference with my professor helped me see that while it did have problems, the paper was worth continued revision. Today we have our second revision due, and I'm feeling a bit more confident. Yes, it still has holes. Yes, I still need to do more research and include more information. But the structure of the paper itself is sound, and I feel that that the writing is much more polished.

I'm writing about Matthew Lewis' Gothic novel, The Monk. I was initially intrigued by all of the male friendships in the book, but when I started to research, I discovered that most critics are more concerned with the homoeroticism that the novel contains. I personally didn't feel that The Monk contained much homoeroticism; I believe most critics fixate on Lewis' closeted homosexuality and read it into his work. Thus, I asserted that the real focus was on the homosocial (see Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick), and that Lewis dedicates much of his energy to showing us how male friendships work and how the lack of them can lead a man into depravity. As a woman, I find the whole concept extremely fascinating. (I thought it was pretty interesting in Tolkien too--lots of male friendships in The Lord of the Rings.)

Though, I have to wonder as a heterosexual female if I'm dismissing the effects Lewis' sexuality would have on his art. My assertion is not that it's completely absent; rather, that it surfaces in the gender inversions and sexual ambiguities that pervade the novel. I just don't see any evidence of eroticism in the interactions between the male characters.

Luckily, I'm still fond of this paper and am eager to add more to it. The end product (due October 22nd) needs to be between 19-30 pages; my current draft is 15.