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


  • 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


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.


Thursday, October 11, 2007


(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.

  • 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


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.