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


  • 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


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...