Monday, August 09, 2010

Dr. Crazy's Moved House

Not only in real life space but apparently in cyberspace as well. I may do an actual farewell post over here, or this may be it. Who knows. Anyhoodle, you can now find me at Reassigned Time 2.0.

Has Officially Had It With Spam....

And thinks it may be time to move to Wordpress. But I've been screwing around on wordpress for the past 45 minutes and can I just say that the thought of having to redesign my stupid blog and deal with moving and blah is very annoying to me? Grumble. If I move, never fear - I shall direct you to the new location. Still haven't decided yet, though.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

In Which I Am Filled with Positivity (Because Complaining is Exhausting)

Anyway, I'm feeling quite chipper this morning and so I thought I should post so that you all would see how I'm actually feeling most of the time, as opposed to seeing me rant and rave and brood as I feel like I've been doing a lot on the blog of late. I think the broodiness is really just part of my process as a researcher/writer, and it's not really how I am 90% of the time, but the blog becomes the place where I put a lot of that, and so I think it seems like I'm this miserable wretch of a girl, which really isn't true for the most part.

But so anyway. I was looking at what I'd accomplished over the summer (because part of my problem is that summer is coming to a close and I feel a bit at loose ends without having the start of the semester to motivate me), and you know, I've done quite a lot, really. No. I haven't done everything I'd dreamed I'd do, but looking at my binder of book-writing goodness, it becomes clear that I've gone through something like 60 scholarly books (some with more attention and some with less, but still) and I have reams of notes - some of which are in paragraph form and can be transported directly into a draft - and I've got a clear outline and argument for the book. So no, I don't have tons of words written in a coherent way, but I'm on my way, regardless.

I would like it though if I didn't have to read Habermas, still. Or reread. But whatever. It hurts my feelings that Habermas cannot be avoided, but I know that Habermas cannot be avoided, and that is unfortunate.

In other news, this week I received my $8K from Uncle Sam for buying my awesome house. On the one hand, the money is burning a hole in my pocket. On the other, I do not want to just piss the money away. Anyway. So the first thing I'm going to do with that money is to pay off the credit card on which I have been putting purchases for the new house (everything from moving expenses to a new vacuum cleaner to paint to curtains to my new door, and, as of this morning, furniture for my porch). Now, doing that was a good thing because I had 0% interest on those purchases until Oct. 1, so I'll pay that off and will not have paid any interest on any of my moving things. But then I'll still be left with a good chunk of change. Now. I know that what I should do is to get estimates for getting the outside of my house stained first, and also to get somebody to put a cover over my chimney so wild animals don't decide to live and die in there. But then I'll still have a tiny bit of money left after that. I am thinking very seriously about buying a Kindle.... I mean, I deserve a present, right? My birthday is coming up..... Who has a Kindle? Thoughts?

The big thing is that I don't want to just piss this 8K away. I want to be very clear about where that money goes or has gone. I want to know how I spent it. Ah well. There's no reason why I need to spend it all immediately, so I will bide my time and wait until I really know what I want to buy with what remains.

Hmm. What else? Well, in like a week and a half FL* is coming for a few days for a visit, so that will be fun, and then my parents are going to come for a visit over Labor Day. I want to have another dinner party soon, but I've also been thinking about having a bigger housewarming party, though I'm not sure whether it makes sense to do that while on sabbatical. Maybe I should do that only after I'm back from sabbatical.

At any rate, on today's agenda is to do some stuff around the house, and then I shall do some more theory-reading. The brief respite that we'd had from the heat is now over, and that sucks because I really enjoyed having all of my windows open yesterday. But with heat indexes for today and the rest of the week topping 100, I embrace my air conditioning.

Wow, I really don't feel like accomplishing things. Perhaps I'll call some people up on the phone before I buckle down and try to get things done.

*For those of you who don't recall, FL is my first love, and we have now known one another for 20 years, which, as I said to him on the phone last night, my 15-year-old self NEVER would have thought that at 35 I'd be talking to that fool on the phone still. We've actually been talking a lot lately. Dunno what to think about that, but I suppose there's nothing to think about, really. We go through phases, and apparently we're going through one now.

Friday, August 06, 2010

I Guess a Post about Sabbatical-ing, in Which I Complain a Lot

I know that I haven't written in an age. This is in part because much of my energy has been taken up since a week ago with not really knowing where I want to go next with Housewives and Hussies. Things are percolating. Fermenting. Marinating. You know. All of that stuff that has to happen passively. And then I have to feel guilty about the fact that I'm not actively "producing" anything, and that takes more energy. And after all that? Well, clearly I need a nap, and I don't have anything left over for blogging.

So now I have a stockpile of things that I might write about on the blog but I don't really know that I want to write a whole and entire post about any of them. I know. That is irritating. I'm even irritating to myself. So let me talk about my sabbatical and how I'm feeling about it and maybe you'll get an idea of what's going on with me and why I've been so quiet of late.

My sabbatical doesn't technically begin until the middle of the month (so like another week and a half), but I've been considering the summer as part of my sabbatical since I had an award that meant I was paid to do research this summer and was prohibited from teaching. Now, as I began with the leave time, I got a lot of advice and words of wisdom from people. Advice about taking time just to rest; advice about allowing oneself to enjoy oneself in this time, etc. And I have done those things. And, actually, in addition to resting and having fun I'd say that I got a good amount of work done, even considering the fact that I moved and all of that.

But I've found myself over this summer feeling a lot of stupid envious feelings, which I think has to some extent gotten in the way of me enjoying what I do have with this time as well as getting in the way of me celebrating what I have accomplished. See, lots of people I know in my academic generation are beginning their first sabbaticals, too, and they are either a) traveling to fabulous places, and in one case actually living in the fabulous place "abroad" for the time of the sabbatical; b) able to take a whole year instead of the one semester that I can afford (and this envy isn't just about money - it then feeds into the envy about people having partners whose jobs can carry the partner who gets a 40% salary reduction and then I don't have a partner and then woe is me I'm going to die alone and this is bullshit); c) I feel like everybody's work is more interesting than mine, more important than mine, and more ... just MORE than mine, so not only am I trapped in the United States, with only 4 months of sabbatical leave where other people get the whole academic year, desperately alone, but on top of that my research is stupid.

Now. I do realize that all of the above is pathetic and self-pitying and not only not useful but also not even how I really feel. Or, well, I feel those things, every now and again, but I also the majority of the time feel like I don't want anybody's life but my own because my life is pretty great.

And then I'm also feeling irritated about the fact that it's the start of the academic year and that as much as I want to be totally checked out from what's happening at my university and my department I'm not. Instead, I'm trying really hard to force myself away (which I know is good) but then certain things find their way to me anyway, and then I feel like I want to punch people in the face. Like, for example, I've got this colleague who... Ok, the most diplomatic way that I can put this is that this colleague's scheduling needs have had an impact on my teaching schedule (both in terms of times that I've taught as well as in the courses that I've taught) in a number of different semesters. I am sick of it. And yet, what's the first thing I hear when I pop into the office to check my mailbox? That once again this colleague may well be being accommodated and that it may well affect my rotation of courses. And I am sick of it. This colleague is unpleasant, doesn't carry hir share of the service burden, and students hate the colleague. Why in God's name don't we tell this person to suck it? Because I would really like to tell this person to suck it. But, if I were to do that, it would make other people's lives difficult and I don't really want to do that to them, and so.... Yeah. (Anyway, knowing the track record of this person I feel like this is probably going to come to nothing anyway because zie will change hir mind at the last minute, but whatever.)

And then I'm also irritated by the fact that my department chair had asked that people on sabbatical come to the department retreat (even though we are not supposed to have to go to it according to the faculty handbook) and I know that some people are just not going to show up, and I know that if I show up and they don't that it will fill me with rage, but on the other hand, I feel like it might be stupid of me not to go to the retreat because I know that we will discuss some important things and also it's really hard for me not to do what my chair asks. Colleague Friend suggested that I just plan to be out of town and that way I wouldn't need to worry about making an excuse, but that sticks in my craw. I don't want to lie or to shirk. What I want to do is to be up front with my chair about the fact that it's bullshit that I'll be at this thing while other people just ignore his request and that is why I won't be there - or won't be there for the whole time (because I can imagine wanting to be there for a couple of items that I think will be on the agenda). Gah.

But see? I feel like I have all of the irritation of the academic year without any of the joy of being excited about teaching my classes. And I also have hit this block with the book, feeling like it's lame and like I'll never finish it anyway so what's the point? (That last bit isn't true. It's just how one feels at this point in a project I think. I've done enough now that I see exactly how much I have left to do, and that's daunting.)

So. I'm going to go and attempt to make some headway with research (a) and with the conference I'm planning (b). Wish me luck.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Literary Criticism, Some Thoughts

As I've been getting to the writing stage with Housewives and Hussies, I've been thinking a lot about what I appreciate in literary criticism, what I dislike in literary criticism, and what I think about what makes good scholarship and what makes a solid engagement with scholarship. You might think that you should stop reading now if you're not in English Studies, or in literary studies more specifically, but if you bear with me for a bit I think I might have some things to say that might actually be generalizable and that might start an interesting conversation.

I wrote the following in a recent post and I feel now like I should have said more, or been clearer, so that's where I'll begin:

"One of the things that I struggle with . . . is that I ultimately do believe that there is something special about literature and I have little-to-no interest in doing the work of a historian by analyzing pop culture of the time or advertisements or whatever. . . . Not that I think it's a bad thing to do interdisciplinary research - my research is that, actually - but I really hate literary criticism that seems like it doesn't actually care about literature."

First things first: I am not at all saying in the above passage that there is not a place for cultural criticism, nor am I saying that there is something wrong with a new historicist approach that values "low culture" texts alongside high culture ones, or that values an attention to popular reading trends as opposed to the reading trends of an intellectual elite. What I'm saying in the above is that I am bothered by literary criticism - and this can be oriented in a variety of ways - that puts the literature in the background. This happens with many approaches. One approach that can encourage this is a new historicist approach, wherein the critic chooses to focus more attention on the popular media and historical sources of the time than on the Lit'rature. But this also happens with theoretically oriented criticism (come on, you've read books or articles where people have used the literature to advance a theory rather than engaging theory to understand the literary text, and yes, I do believe that there is a difference between the two) and it happens with biographically oriented criticism (wherein the Great Man - D.H. Lawrence, Priest of Love, as just one example - or Great Lady - Virginia Woolf, Bipolar Lesbian Victim of Sexual Abuse, as just one example - overshadows the text that supposedly is the point). I could probably list more genres of literary criticism that perpetrate the "I'm going to pay attention to everything but the literary text" thing, but the point is, I have a hard time with criticism, from whatever perspective, that is more interested in "something else" other than literary texts. Because here's the thing: if one is doing literary criticism, I really think that the primary thing that we should be discussing is literature. That probably makes me ridiculously old-fashioned. Fine. I'm old-fashioned. But I don't think I'm wrong.

Part of the reason that I've been thinking fairly deeply about these issues is, of course, self-centered: I'm trying to figure out how to write the sort of book I enjoy reading. But I think these things are nagging at me for bigger reasons, too. Some questions that have been nagging at me throughout my recent reading and writing:
  • What happens when people who are interested in issues or texts that are marginal to the mainstream canon focus their attention away from literature in their research? The canon is still political, and it strikes me that if marginalized literatures don't get the same amount/kind of attention as do historically canonical literatures, than we are left with separate but equal canons - we've not really revised or opened up the Canon at all. In fact, we reify the canonical (primarily dead, white, male canon as the "real" canon) and then we associate anyone outside of that canon with tendencies that are marginal to being "worth" canonical status.
  • What happens to a discipline - or, to be fair, really a subdiscipline within English Studies, literary studies - when its practitioners fail to see that subdiscipline as having an obligation to produce new knowledge about literature? Is it really so shocking that people question the value of literary studies - notoriously in the annual newspaper articles that pick out wild titles from the MLA program - when it doesn't seem that practitioners in the field are analyzing and coming to greater understanding of literary texts? If we don't demonstrate the centrality of literature as an object of study, why should we think that anybody else will think literature is valuable?
  • How do the first two points intersect and contribute to "the crisis in the humanities" and to generally anti-intellectual cultural discourses?
But so if those are the general questions that keep recurring as I work, more specific ones have to do with women's literature. I think that there is value in situating women writers within a broader canon of literature - not to show how they are "like" their male peers but rather because if we keep women writers off to the margins that it seems we never challenge some oftentimes problematic (if not altogether wrong) commonplaces about the features of canonical literature of particular time periods. At least for me, this means that it's important to look at "literary" works by women - because while considerations of romance novels and chick lit and conduct literature are totally interesting, they just don't do the work that I think needs to be done in terms of the broader subdiscipline, and I think that focusing our attention on popular as opposed to literary works creates a kind of ghetto in which women authors are considered "popular" while male authors are considered "important" and women authors who could easily stand alongside those "important" men have their books fall out of print.

While all of this may seem very field-specific, reading this post over at Historiann's made me think that it really isn't. I wonder about the ways in which contemporary approaches to scholarship - within my field, yes, but also across humanities disciplines - results in keeping certain groups marginal, subordinate, and generally out of academic and public discourse. Further, I wonder if these trends in scholarship ultimately contribute to a public sense that what we do is insignificant, lacking in seriousness, or without value. I wonder, too, how much various approaches have to do with attempting to respond to the demands of a marketplace for scholarship that is severely constrained - is it possible that the effects of the horrible job market and the contraction in academic publishing are to enforce limits on the kind of scholarship that make their way into public view?

I don't really have answers to any of the above, but I think that there are serious implications to the methodologies that we choose - not just for the way that we think individually but also for our disciplines and for the profession more generally. And yes, it is bad to think about all of that because it makes what I'm trying to do seem really overwhelming sometimes, but I also kind of have to think about that because otherwise why would I bother doing this project at all? Because, seriously, it's really hard and I could totally just write a couple of articles and call it a day and nobody where I work would care and I wouldn't have to think about the consequences of scholarship in quite the same way.

Now. Enough of all of that thinking. I need to do some straightening up around the house because, slightly behind schedule but still happening, it is VPW (Vagina Power Weekend, in case you forgot), an annual tradition since 2007. This year J. will be joining A. and I for her first ever Vagina Power. It promises to be awesome.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finding a Groove?

So. Yesterday I was supposed to begin writing. I really had every intention of doing so. Like, for serious. Except... ok, so here's the thing about me actually doing the writing. I cannot attempt to violate my natural writing rhythms. Not at the beginning of a project. So I had this grand ambition that I was going to awaken and just begin composing yesterday, and that was stupid, because you know how people say you should "write first" before doing anything else? I know that doesn't work for me. Know it. Have had problems every time I've tried to do it. I know that what I should do if I really intend to write is to wake up, ease into the day with coffee and some reading, make notes about what I plan to do over the course of the day, and then, somewhere around 3 hours after waking up and after some lunch, then I should begin. And I will then accomplish as much in just a couple of hours as it might have taken me all day - or even a number of days - to accomplish.

Anyway, the point here is that yesterday was a wash because I was trying to pretend that I'm a different writer from the writer I actually am, and so somewhere around 7:30 last night I decided that today I would just go about it the way that feels comfortable and not the way that feels like how I'm "supposed" to do it. And so. I woke up, drank a pot of coffee while reading some things, made some notes, and then had lunch. I retired to the Nook at approximately 1 PM, at which time I sat down and organized 3 different conference papers that should form building blocks for the current chapter, and then after doing that I began writing. Rough writing. Not the kind of writing I'd ever show anybody. But I wrote. I wrote 3 brand new pages, and jammed into that three new pages are 4 other pages of stuff that once revised fits with what I'm getting at. Now, of course I need to do things like add critical context and to theorize what I'm doing and whatever, but the point here is that I have begun, the world has not come to an end, and I'm feeling totally good about the direction in which I'm headed. In large part, I think that my success does have to do with the Nook of Ideas. Which I just realized I've not shown to you all. here are some pictures.

First, the view to the right from my chair at my desk:

And then, looking at my desk from the doorway into the Nook:

Another post will be forthcoming in a bit... I did want to write more about the literary criticism stuff that I brought up a post or two ago in response to comments and in response to some further thinking about it on my part. But I need to make some notes for tomorrow before I lose momentum, so that will have to wait.

(Oh, and before you ask, Comrade Physioprof, there is a space below those books on that shelf of the desk where the MFJ can reside, should such measures be in order :) )

Sunday, July 25, 2010

In Which I Think about How H&H is NOT My Dissertation

So. When I came up with the idea for Housewives and Hussies, I had a fair amount of anxiety about what the project would mean to me in terms of my mental and emotional well-being. On the one hand, I was worried because when I think back to dissertating - which was the last time I embarked on something like this - well, that was a fairly dark time filled with a lot of angst. Part of that darkness and angst had to do with feeling as if I wasn't qualified to do what I was doing - like I didn't know what a dissertation was, like even if I thought I knew what one was that I was going to do a terrible job at it, like my ideas were just generally stupid, etc. I suspect a good number of you went through the same thing. And I was afraid when I started H and H that I was just asking to go back to that dark and angsty place. Which, let's face it, I did not want to do. On the other hand, I think that the beginning of this project has been especially scary because I came up with the idea with little-to-no input from anybody else. While my dissertation project idea was my own, the shape of the project was very powerfully influenced (and constrained) by my adviser and by my committee. By the time that I got to the book phase with the project, it sort of felt like I was polishing up something that wasn't entirely mine, but also that was so carefully crafted that I couldn't make sweeping changes to it. And, with my 4/4 load, I didn't feel like I was in a position to just scrap it and start a new project without a sabbatical if I wanted to publish a book before tenure, which I did, and so, I published a book that didn't really feel like it was mine, but I was confident that it was ok, if that makes sense. With this project, I feel like I don't know whether the idea is any good, really, even though I think that it's exciting, I don't entirely know whether it is exciting, if that makes sense. And sure, I've talked in a general way with others about it, and they seem interested, but who among them really would say "Oh, that sounds like a terrible idea!" People just don't do that when you're not a student anymore. And so, yes, starting on this is a pretty scary thing.

But. It's weird, because one of the things I've been thinking about a lot lately is that for as much anxiety and fear as I've felt in really getting going on Housewives and Hussies, I've also been pleasantly surprised that working on this is not at all like how I felt when beginning work on the dissertation. Let me count the ways in which it is infinitely more awesome:
  1. Virginia Woolf was right that you need money and a room of your own in order to write. Material conditions make a huge difference in what one can accomplish and how one feels about accomplishing it, whether we're talking about creatively or whether we're talking about scholarship. It makes a difference that I'm not constantly worried about money. It makes a difference that I'm not living in a crappy apartment (or, as I did for 3 months during the diss process, with my parents). It makes a difference that the material conditions of my life are not distracting me. In other words, I will never be interested in becoming some sort of starving artist or scholar. Not that I ever thought I would be, but seriously: far from thinking such a thing is romantic and awesome, I know now more than ever that for me it's misery. This is also why I never could have been a hippie.
  2. I have learned so much in the 10 years since I started dissertating, and a lot of what I've learned has happened since finishing my Ph.D. Teaching, and teaching the kind of students whom I teach and the number of courses that I teach, has given me depth and breadth and focus as a thinker that graduate school absolutely did not give me. I find that I have all of these resources in my brain that provide context for the thing that I'm thinking about and that I make connections so much more quickly than I did before. Weirdly, I think I kind of know a whole lot about what I'm talking about and like I might - at least a little - sort of be an expert.
  3. I've found my voice as a writer, and a lot of that has to do with blogging, but also it has to do with the confidence that comes from knowing that I've already done what I'm trying to do. Instead of being in a constant state of anxiety - will I get a job? Will anybody publish my scholarship? - I have the security of a job and a respectable cv. My life will not be over if this takes longer than I want or if it changes along the way.
  4. Nobody cares whether I write this book or not. In graduate school, a lot of people had an investment in me writing that dissertation and in how I wrote it, and that for me was not a good thing. I have been infinitely more interesting and more productive as a scholar since I left an environment where people gave a shit about research. The fact of the matter is, I do best when I feel like my research is nobody's business but my own - sort of like how my blog works for me because it doesn't "count" for anything. Once something counts, I begin to despise it. It stops being fun. This book is ridiculously fun to work on precisely because it's only for me and for nobody else.
  5. As much as not having some authority figure put the stamp of the approval on my idea is scary, I feel like I own this project because no one has done that. I finally feel like I'm a professional in my field and not somebody's student. And that, as much as it's scary, is really exhilarating.
When I was dissertating I was making ~12K/year, living with a guy who was only sporadically employed, totally intellectually insecure, afraid to fail, suffering from periodic bouts of writer's block (the only time I've experienced those, and quite frequently miserable. This time around, not one of those things is the case. Realizing that, and realizing that I'm still doing it without all of the misery, is sort of like realizing that being in love doesn't mean fighting all the time and jealousy and unhappiness and hurting and being hurt by the other person and drama. It's kind of a profound epiphany. And I really have a feeling, though I suppose I could be wrong, that it's going to make for a better book in the end.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Breaking Through

I'm going to begin writing Housewives and Hussies on Monday. I hit that point today - and a glorious point it is - when I saw the entire project whole and entire, and something clicked in my head, and it became apparent that the time for preliminary research is done (or, well, will be done after a couple more days of reading) and the time for writing is upon me. I Have to say, it's really exciting to actually feel this "click," because the truth is that I haven't felt that since I started my job 7 years ago. Because, quite frankly, I have never written something without having some sort of external deadline (conference upcoming, deadline for an editor, whatever) and so I don't typically get the luxury of waiting for the "click" and feeling ready to write.

Anyway, today I revised my outline, and I've realized that my project can go one of two ways: it can be this wildly successful rethinking of gender and women's social roles and representation and stuff - or it might be lame. Whatever the case, my plan is ambitious but it doesn't feel undoable. It just feels... well, it feels new.

One of the things that I struggle with (and this was actually something I hinted that I would write about in my last post) is that I ultimately do believe that there is something special about literature and I have little-to-no interest in doing the work of a historian by analyzing pop culture of the time or advertisements or whatever. I'm a snob. And I'm a bad poststructuralist. But that's been something that's been interesting to me about the process of reading and research over the past weeks, too - not only do I not want to write that sort of a book, but also I find that I really kind of loathe reading that sort of a book. Not that I think it's a bad thing to do interdisciplinary research - my research is that, actually - but I really hate literary criticism that seems like it doesn't actually care about literature. Does this happen in other fields? Are there people who are biologists who seem totally uninterested in biology? Because I seriously don't know why this happens to so many otherwise smart people in my field.

Interestingly enough, Jane Gallop made an argument not unlike the position I describe in the previous paragraph at an MLA a few years ago, in which she talked about the lost art of close reading. I remember at the time thinking that in my world close reading is still very much a part of what students do in the classroom and that I really didn't understand why she thought nobody did it anymore. But in doing all of the reading I've been doing... I think I see what she means. And the fact of the matter is that since I've been reading outside of my discipline, I feel very comfortable in saying this: Historians write history, sociologists write sociology, geographers write geography better than Literary Critics do. And so no, I have no interest in writing the sort of book where literature takes a back seat to culture more generally. Let people in other fields do that work, thank you very much.

That said, I do realize that my vision for this book is so much broader and deeper than my vision for the first book, and I think that is exciting and terrifying... and also probably a good thing. I have a lot to say about how I think teaching and blogging both have influenced that - because I really do think that both have - but not in this post. I'll save that for another day.

Also, I've been reading with interest the conversations about Terry Castle's memoir over at Historiann's and Tenured Radical's and Comrade Physioprof's... but I'm going to just come out and announce that I won't be reading it because I'm not allowed to read things for fun since I'm trying to write a freaking book that requires me to read about a gajillion things. (As I'm seeing the thing take shape, I realize that I'm going to need to read or reread about 15-20 novels over the next 6 months or so, plus reading theory and criticism on the side, so lest you encourage me to read for fun, I will preempt you to say that reading stops being fun when you're reading as much as I'm reading, which is why graduate school in English is often for many people a soul-killing endeavor that makes them despise literature, but I digress.) But I did want to say something about the following in CPP's review:

"The last part of the book is a rumination on how this romantic/sexual liaison influenced both the development of her personality and her scholarly perspective. The latter I found very interesting: as scientists, we pretend that our personal lives do not influence our scientific tastes and perspectives, while Castle sees it as a truism that her escapades with the Professor would influence her scholarly pursuits."

I think that is a distinction between the sciences generally and people in literary studies (I was going to write "the humanities" but I don't know that other humanities disciplines do take things so personally as we do in English), and I think it's also probably why I don't like to write about my research in a concrete way on blog - it feels very personal to me, and I feel very exposed when I talk in non-work contexts about my work. In a very real way, my cv does tell a whole hell of a lot about who I am and what I was going through at different points. So I can see why somebody outside of my field might find that connection between life and work intriguing, but for me... Yeah, think about it people: why am I so interested in looking at housewives just at the moment when I bought my first home? (I've got more examples than that, but I feel like if I write them here that most of them are way inappropriate and more information about me than you want.) I realize that not everybody's research connects up to their lives in such an obvious and transparent (and, some might say, pedestrian) way, but I know a lot of people for whom that is very much the case. And I also think it's interesting that it's much more likely, in the blogs I read, to see that the people who most frequently will talk about books they're reading tend not to be the English proffie types. I mean, just look at the above conversation: two historians and a scientist. (I know that there are more "professional" style blogs by English types out there, and those do talk about the books, but I find them really stuffy and miserable to read as a general rule.)

So anyway, with that, I must go and return to my reading. While it is true that I won't be reading Castle's memoir, I will be taking a gander at The Apparitional Lesbian. Because as much as I whine about not having time to read anything fun, really, every single thing (with the exception of Habermas) that I'm reading for this project is fun. Otherwise I wouldn't be doing it.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wishes She Were the Man-Kitty

No, really. All he has to do is to lay around on my chair, sleeping on his back with his eyes open (which is totally creepy, and which I think is evidence of his utter laziness - he can't even be bothered to close his eyes properly - and also I should note that sometimes he sleeps with his mouth open and snores, which I think is just totally not an appropriate thing for a cat to do). He doesn't need to read books that he doesn't want to read. He doesn't need to do crap around the house. He doesn't need to go run errands, or worry about what to make for dinner. No. He gets to lay around, to meow when he wants his dinner, and every now and then chase Mr. Stripey around the house or use kitten telepathy to make Mr. Stripey kill a bug or something while he watches. Must be nice.

Ok, enough with the whining. I have about 10 books that I really need to get through, but I have absolutely no interest in looking at any of them. However, what I have an interest in doing is not what matters here. I will soldier on, and I will force myself to get through at least a couple. There's really nothing else for it.

In other news, I find people who beat dead horses really, really boring.

Yeah, I think that's all. I have to force myself to do work now, even though it hurts my feelings.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Hates It When People Break Up

This actually has nothing to do with me. Or, well, only by association. A friend of mine is in the midst of the hellishness that is breaking up with a person with whom one lives, and the own special hellishness reserved for being the one who had no idea it was coming. I went through that myself about 7 years ago - though as soon as I heard the "I can't do this" business I immediately was like, "Um, YOU can't do this? I think I am the one who can't do this," so even though I didn't see it coming, I was able immediately to see that it was the only possible thing for me to do (through rage and tears and grief and whatever). My friend's different. She... well, she's not cold and dead inside. Not that I'm really cold and dead inside, but I do shut down pretty quickly when crossed. My friend... she still believes in love and flowers and stuff, and so this is like a nightmare from which she wants to wake up because "this can't be happening." And she thinks that there's something wrong with her - that she caused this. (My theory on ends of relationships is that both people - no matter what the circumstances - are the cause and that there are no victims - only blame enough for everybody. As I write that out it seems kind of a hard core way to think, but it's how I think. So it's not that I don't blame myself when things don't work out - I do - but I never fail to blame the other person, too. And, dude, the person who decides - after three years of living together and after talking about getting married and having kids and all the rest of the shit that people talk about - that it's over probably holds some responsibility for the end of the relationship. Just saying.

But so I hate break-ups. Even when they're not mine. Maybe this is why I like a fake relationship. If it's not real you can't really break up. I realize that's emotionally immature and blah blah blah, but I have been through too many break-ups and I don't want any more. So really the only other solution available to me - besides fake relationships, I mean - would be some sort of hard-core-no-divorce-possible sort of marriage, but I feel like that would require me moving halfway around the world to a third world country where divorce wasn't legal, and that would be a big hassle.

But anyway, things are gloomy here as I try to comfort my friend, and as I silently curse the person who did this to her.

Monday, July 19, 2010

In Which I Make a Lot of Resolutions

I feel like I've wasted my summer. This is a stupid way to feel, for I've actually done a great deal. Nevertheless, I'm in (or at least entering into) the dark place where I feel like unless I get my act together that I will look back over this time and feel like it was wasted.

Like I said, though, I'm actually not being fair to myself. I've accomplished a LOT of research for Housewives and Hussies. I've been amassing a bibliography and detailed notes (I started counting but then lost interest in that - I'd say that since summer began I've probably been through somewhere around 30-40 books, which means that my archive for the project in terms of book-length things on which to draw is probably at around a hundred, and while it's true I've got more to do, it's also true that I'm nearly at the point where I should really begin writing, because that number of sources is not at all including book articles or journal articles or reviews or any other non-monograph type sources, nor is it including primary source material). I've also got about 5 pages of notes that are putting the shape of the project on paper (which I know doesn't sound like a lot, but those are some important pages).

Anyway, and then of course in addition to all that I moved into a new house, wrote and presented a conference paper, reviewed an article for a journal, spent a week doing home improvements with my mother, visited my hometown, threw my first dinner party, and who the heck knows what else. In other words, I must stop beating myself up for not being productive. I'm a productive lady.

Of course, I'd feel a lot MORE productive if I were actually accomplishing tangible goals - i.e., finished with the r and r I've had hanging over my head for an age, or producing actual draft pages of Housewives and Hussies. The problem as I see it is that I keep finding excuses not to write. One of those excuses is another thing that I need to do that I haven't been able to motivate myself to do - which is planning for the conference that I'm hosting next spring and dealing with other stuff related to the group for which I'm hosting it.

So. Today. Today is the day that I'm going to get a TON of things accomplished for that conference stuff. In addition, I'm going to accomplish a lot for that other group. I also need to run some errands (return some things to M@cy's, go use a gift card, bank, library). And I have to make myself do this stuff because if I can make myself do this stuff, then I won't have excuses not to do the writing stuff that I'm finding it difficult to motivate myself to do.

And I actually have a real post upcoming about Housewives and Hussies in which I reveal that I'm a snob and that in spite of the fact that I know it's interesting, I have no desire to write a book that examines popular television commercials or sit coms in order to provide context for the high-brow television that I find most compelling. I actually think that there is something special about the Cable Series As Art Form, and in spite of people's desires for me to be a new historicist, I am not a new historicist. (And, this whole belief in the specialness of one thing as opposed to another pretty much means that I'm a liberal humanist disguised as a postmodern sort of person, but I'm going to pretend that there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.) Oh, and that's another thing. While it may seem like I'm still in the very fuzzy stages of this project, I'm actually not. I'm talking about the project fuzzily still, but in fact I am pretty set on where it's heading. I see the shape of it very clearly, and I see how the chapters build together. I have an outline that is probably sick in its level of detail. In other words, don't trust me when I say that I'm not sure where I'm going yet. I'm actually pretty freaking sure, but I'm not ready to tell people yet so I pretend I don't know. This is a trick of obfuscation that I learned in grad school - to pretend that one's ideas are "fuzzy" when really they are just "private." It sort of makes me sick doing that, but old habits die hard.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Post about Research

Ok, so the Next Book. I feel like I need to give it a title or something so that I can post about it in a way that is vague but at least entertaining, as opposed to posting about it in a way that is vague and boring. Or maybe I should just pretend it's a book about something that it's not about and translate my research ramblings into that fake book project? I know, I know: why not just write about what I'm actually working on? Well, because a) I'm a paranoid freak and b) because there surely are like 3 people in the world who don't know who I am, and I wouldn't want to interfere with their blissful ignorance.

Thinking. I'm thinking.

Ok, so for my purposes here, my next book is going to be titled Housewives and Hussies and it's going to explore representations of women in their home environments in, say, television shows and movies throughout the 20th century. Yes. That's what I'm going to say I'm doing. It is not, in fact, what my next book is, which is sort of unfortunate because I totally feel like I would enjoy reading a book with that title and topic. Ah well. I will write about my fake book here in order to write about what's going on with my real book, which, of course, is not a book but just a jumble of ideas, really.

Anyway, I've been reading. Reading a lot. And can I just say that the experience of doing the research for this is radically different from when I did my diss research. Now, part of that is just technology. It is so. much. easier. to get one's hands on articles and books now than it was 10 years ago, and I'm saying that even though I had access to what is likely the best consortium of academic libraries in the country when I was in grad school. So I'm finding that my research is much more wide-ranging and much more... promiscuous? I think that's the best word to describe it. I'm sort of going wherever my fancy takes me without worrying about consequences.

I'm sure that two things do contribute to that sense of freedom: 1) the fact that I've already got a job and I'm not under the kind of pressure that I was under when dissertating or when taking the manuscript from dissertation to book; 2) tenure, and tenure at a non-research sort of place. It seriously doesn't matter whether I write this book, and with having tenure, I really can just have a good time with this project - it doesn't need to be "serious" in the same way that I felt like my dissertation had to. So, maybe that means I've become a lazy scholar? Eh, I've always been a lazy scholar - now I just get to embrace it :)

But so anyway, here's the thing with Housewives and Hussies, as a project. I feel very certain that this is a book that needs to be written. And apparently I'm on the cusp of something "hot" with the topic, because all over the place there are these books and articles that are adjacent to what I'm thinking about, or that have a sentence or two that gestures toward what I'm thinking about, but nobody ever quite gets to where I'm trying to go. On the one hand, I feel like this is good sign... that I'm on some sort of a right track. But then on the other, when I'm feeling less than confident about myself and the project and whatever, I feel like maybe the reason nobody ever gets where I'm trying to go is because I'm a loser who has stupid ideas. Like that the reason nobody wants to think about what I'm thinking about is because I'm thinking about stuff that is passe or because I'm thinking about stuff that is just boring.

I don't know. Anyway, so that's what I'm doing. I'm reading, and feeling like I'm really onto something except for when I feel like I'm a boring idiot who doesn't have original ideas. But then I figure that I can't really be a boring idiot who doesn't have original ideas, because, well, I'm just not any of those things. I am not boring, and I'm not an idiot, and I am totally original in the way I think. I mean, really now.

But so, I suppose I'm going to get back to it. And the next time I post I'll try to be more specific about some of what I'm doing - in terms of the Fake Book that I'm not writing.

[Aside: Do you notice that I seem to have a certain attraction to thinking of things as "fake"? I really do. I mean, fake boyfriends, fake books, where will it all end? And why is the thought of something being fake so comforting to me? Because seriously: I like it. It's like all is right with the world when things are fake. No lie. I think it might have something to do with commitmentphobia....]

Friday, July 16, 2010

Closeness vs. Helicoptering: Some Thoughts

Historiann wrote a post today - which also directs us all to a column over at Inside Higher Ed - about helicopter parents, and while I left a couple of comments over there, I find I have some more to say that's tangential and I thought I'd write about it over here.

I think that it is true that such conversations can devolve into a discussion of how "back when I was your age my parents left me to survive in the woods with no shoes!" or, well, perhaps not quite that, but it is possible that conversations about this go in that direction. And either it ends up being derisive of "those kids today" - who are immature, illiterate, dependent, and in all ways inferior to the mythical students of days gone by - or derisive of "those helicopter parents" - who can't allow their children to grow into adults, who smother, who interfere, etc.

I suppose the first thing that I want to say is that I don't want any conversation that happens here to devolve in those ways. And I also want to say that I don't believe that the comment thread over at Historiann's devolves that way, which is why it's been an interesting conversation to read.

But here's the thing. I think it's worth it to make a distinction between parents who are involved and engaged in their children's lives vs. parents who helicopter. I do think that there's a difference. Because, for example, I still talk to my mom at least once a week, and I'm 35 years old. Since leaving home, I have always talked to my mom at least weekly. That was the rule. In fact, when I've missed our regular weekly phone date without warning her in advance, she will call me over and over again to complain that I am not doing my duty as a daughter. (This is joking, but at the same time, there's always some truth behind joking, isn't there?)

But so anyway, I don't think that when people wonder about helicopter parents, or criticize the tendency to helicopter, that doing so necessarily means a rejection of closeness - or even friendship - between parents and children. I think instead it's a rejection of certain behaviors that effectively cripple a child's ability to function as an independent agent.

So, for example, it's great if a child wants to share information with her parents about the classes that she's taking and how she likes her professors or whatever. Maybe she even wants to show her parents things that she's done for her classes. That's all to the good, I'd say, in that it means that the child has emotional support in her academic endeavors. But what crosses a line is when the parent is controlling a student's relationship to her education - so, for example, insisting that a child pursue a particular major regardless of the student's talents, or telling the student what courses she should take, even though the parent may not be in the best position to understand the requirements for graduation or the difficulty level of the various classes he or she is mandating. (Those are the two examples that I have the most familiarity with as a college professor; my High School Best Friend, who teaches high school, has many more harrowing tales of parental helicoptering, most of which involve parents who encourage their children to act out against the teacher, who do their child's work for them, who try to force grade changes, who insist on meetings with higher-ups to try to destroy the teacher's career because their little darling should only get positive feedback and not constructive criticism - and yes, that last one was a recent thing that my HSBF had to deal with in a series of meetings and emails and whatever.)

Anyway, I guess what I think is this: I think that children really need their parents to be supportive of their educations. Yes, they can survive without that support, but students do better if they know that their parents are there for them when the going gets rough academically. But I think that by the time a student gets to college - and, really, I'd even say high school - "support" does not mean intervening in their academic lives for them. It means listening to your child - even helping your child to strategize about how he or she might handle what's happening independently - but it doesn't mean looking over their assignments or finding the information for them about how to accomplish a/b/c. I think that constant intervention on the part of the parent ultimately gets in the way of the parent being able to be an effective source of support for the child - because once the parent is intervening, it becomes about the parent, and not about the child, if that makes sense.

And I think the best example that I can think of where a parent of a student-type person supports effectively - although in the 21st century way of being very, very available to one's child - is when I think about BES and her parents. My dinner party the other night? It was BES, Mr. and Mrs. BES, and Mentor Colleague. See, BES does socialize with her parents, and they know the people in her life, and they are very involved in her life. But. When I was giving BES hell during her senior thesis, they were not calling me on the phone. They were not calling my chair, or the dean, or whomever, trying to make me stop hurting BES's feelings. While they were very supportive of BES, they also wanted her to live on her own, and they downsized into a 2 BR condo when she was in college. Yes, she can stay there every now and again, but it's not her childhood home and she can't just live with them. They were there for her emotionally during the process of applying to grad school, but they deferred to me and Mentor Colleague when it came to the actual nuts and bolts advice about how she should proceed, even when BES was freaking out.

Do you know why BES and her parents can be as close as they are (I think)? It's because they're not trying to live her life for her. Now, they are a heck of a lot more involved in her life than my parents were. And yes, she sometimes finds that smothering. But at the end of the day, they don't cross the line. Because they understand that their job is to support her into becoming an adult - not to manage her growth into adulthood, if that makes sense.

Now, can I imagine having had a dinner party with two of my former professors and my parents? No. I cannot imagine that. For a lot of reasons. But mainly because as close as I am to my parents, we don't socialize like friends. So in that way I'm envious of BES, that she does have that relationship with her parents. On the other hand, though, I'm not jealous, because I never feel smothered by my parents, and I never feel like they're in my business, and she does, a lot of the time. I guess the point is, while I have a very different experience from hers with my parents vs. the one she has with her parents, it's still all good. I'd never call her parents helicopters - I'd just call them loving. And that's what my parents are, too.

The point isn't that parents shouldn't be involved in the lives of their children. The point is that "involvement" doesn't mean "control." There's no one right way to parent. Of course not. But there are things that I think all teachers would say were crossing the line, in terms of how students develop academically and into adulthood. And so I think it might make sense for parents - whether they themselves are academically inclined (for there are certainly academics who end up helicoptering) or not - to pay attention to those complaints. Not because their identity as parents is being attacked, but because listening might help them to be closer to their kids.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Roaring Success

My first dinner party is done. The food was lovely, the conversation was excellent, the laughter was consistent, and the happiness was universal.

The dishes are not done, and I will admit that this is one of those times that I wish I had a spouse-type-person who did the dishes after I cheffed up all the food, but the dishes will be done on the morrow.

I am an excellent cook and an excellent hostess! Huzzah!

(Also, wine is lovely.)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

T-3 Hours and 45 minutes

Preparations are moving along well, but do any of you all ever do that thing where you lose interest in preparations as you prepare, and so then you decide to take a break to write a blog post and you think to yourself that perhaps you don't need to finish up with things like making hummus because "it will only take a minute!" even though you know that you have a list of about 10 things that will only take a minute, so you know that what will happen is that you'll waste like 2 hours and then have to run around like a chicken with your head cut off right before the guests arrive?

I have done this nearly every time I have ever invited anyone over and have cooked for them. I am doing this now. Well, not really, because at least I know I'm doing it so I'm not going to allow myself to waste two hours right now, as much as I may want to do so.

So, what must I finish before my guests arrive at 7?
  • Hummus.
  • Slice cucumbers and prep asparagus.
  • Find baking dish so that I can actually make the chicken when it's time.
  • Sweep the floors downstairs. (I should also mop the kitchen floor, but realistically, am I really going to do that? No. I'm not.)
  • Straighten my bedroom, stash a bunch of unfolded laundry in closets, and make beds.
  • Clean toilet.
  • Remove crap from coffee and end-table.
  • Dishes.**
  • Shower.
Quite frankly, once I'm done with all of that, I fully intend to have a glass of wine whether my guests have arrived yet or not.

**90% of the time it is no big deal that I don't have a dishwasher, but I do wish that I had one today.

T-8 Hours

As you all might imagine, I've got a good deal to do today, what with my First Ever Dinner Party in my New House happening this evening. My activities will be divided between doing stuff around the house (straightening up, hanging some pictures, etc.) and getting all food stuff prepared so that I don't need to be doing active cooking when the guests are here.

Tonight will be really fun, of this I am certain, so that takes much anxiety out of the whole event.

In other news, my pre-birthday ruminating has begun. It always tends to take about a month, and I think it hits me somewhat hard because my birthday basically coincides with the academic year, so it ends up being this time of massive reflection and brooding.... bah. Anyway. Suffice it to say for now that I think my upcoming 36th birthday is hitting me harder than my 35th birthday did, and that something about this past weekend... and really about my summer overall... is making me feel like perhaps my life is not going in the direction that I would prefer. Grumble.

Ok, enough of that for now. I think it's time for me to get going with some things around the house.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Note to Self: I'm Too Old for This Shit

So, I'm back from what was a very fun (if not terribly restful) trip to my Hometown. My cousin's wedding was... well, it was many things.
  1. The wedding itself was fantastic. My cousin and her new hubby were married in a gorgeous church (the same one my parents were married in, incidentally), and lots of people attended the ceremony. Very nice indeed.
  2. I ended up taking my friend J. with me to the reception, since the person who had been supposed to go with me (ahem) bailed on the plans. I figured since I'd already rsvp'd for two I'd bring J. along. So I went to the ceremony by myself, and then I went home and glammed up for the reception, picked up J. and we were off.
  3. We went to the hotel, checked in, and then got the shuttle to the reception place. We took the shuttle with a crew of 20something friends of the groom, all of whom had begun drinking right after the ceremony ended approximately 2 1/2 hours before. J. and I, stupidly, felt very smug about the fact that "pre-drinking" is no longer an activity in which we engage. We are sensible ladies who know better. Indeed.
  4. We got to the reception and we were seated with my aunts and uncle, and we both, sensibly, were drinking wine and beer, respectively. We were not going to be an annihilated mess. Oh no we were not.
  5. Dinner, nice conversation, toasts, etc. And then...
  6. J. and I are not sensible ladies. Gin. 20somethings. Many of whom thought we were charming, and many of whom were really angry that their dates thought we were charming. All of the 20somethings who don't hate us insist on calling me Dr. Crazy, in spite of my protests. Things begin to get fuzzy.
  7. Dancing with my aunts and my cousins. More gin.
  8. Shots. I'm not sure how many, though I do know that I became a ring-leader of sorts as the night went on.... because I'm clearly not a sensible lady.
  9. Shuttle back to the hotel, this time with family. My aunts inform me that the party is not yet over and we are to change and then meet back at the hotel bar for continued merry-making.
  10. Hotel bar. I lose J. (More on this later.) A lengthy conversation with a 20something about Bob Seger and the relative merits of "Night Moves" vs. "Against the Wind." Jack and Coke(s)?
  11. I believe I was at the bar until last call, but at this point, it's very difficult to know. I decide I should try to find J. But I have no idea where she is, so I teeter on up to a hotel room where we were told by 20somethings that the party would continue. Bud Light.
  12. General craziness ensues.
  13. I somehow find my way back to J.'s and my room, somehow manage to enter said room, and pass out. No idea where J. is.
  14. We awaken at 7 AM, very confused about a great many things. Apparently I did let J. into the room, though, around 4:30? We aren't entirely sure. We decide we must immediately flee the premises and think very carefully about our seeming inability to make sensible choices and to act like grown ass women.
  15. Where had J. been during the Lost Hours? Um, apparently making out with a 20something in the backseat of a car. She has no idea how she ended up getting back to the room, though she does remember me letting her in.
I really do not know what to say about the above. Other than it was one hell of a night, and that I really should know better :)

Friday, July 09, 2010

Much to Do, Much to Do

So I'm heading to Hometown for the weekend, and I have a bunch of stuff to do (small, stupid stuff) before I can get on the road. I'm sort of excited for the visit, but I also am not excited because I wish I didn't have to leave my house. I love my house. This will be my first overnight trip away from my house. This makes me irritable.

On the other hand, something I love about my house is having my very own washer and dryer, so right now I'm doing laundry and I was able to put that off until the last minute. There are so many things that are good about not living in an apartment, but seriously: having my own personal washer and dryer is tops among them.

But so anyway, I will be off until the beginning of next week, visiting family, whooping it up at my cousin's wedding, etc.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

In Which My Mom Reveals Herself to Be a Balls-Out Feminist

Ok, so my mom.

She has a high school diploma. She thinks of herself as a "traditional" woman, and she is in no way some sort of radical. But Crazy did get her sense of righteous indignation from somewhere, and it probably was from her (or from her mom, my grandma, filtered through her).

So my mom is an insurance agent. She works for a small company. Last week, the "Office Cheerleader" held an ice cream social, on a day when my mom was the only one working in her three-person department. (Her boss and her peer were both on vacation, screwing my mother over, as they like to do.) The social was ultimately a ruse used to get the workers in front of the "Office Cheerleader" (from this point OC) so that she could roll out a Whole New Awesome Plan for kitchen-cleaning duties.

In the past, there was a rotation, wherein somebody would be "Kitchen Queen" or "Kitchen King" for the week. Apparently, this didn't go so well, because people kept getting pissed off when they would get chastised for not doing things as the OC wanted, and so they'd drop out. Some people around the office (not my mom) would refer to the person on Kitchen Duty as the Kitchen Wench, and that hurt the OC's feelings. She wanted people to "respect" the person who did kitchen clean-up. Anyhoodle.

So last week they have this social, and my mom throws herself into the "volunteer" hat (although she felt totally coerced into volunteering) and then left the "social" early because she was the only person in her department in the office that day. Time passes, and the OC shows up at my mother's desk, and dumps on top of her work the following: an apron, rubber gloves, a rolling pin. My mom is apparently the "Kitchen Diva." My mom, well, she was none too pleased. She was trying to do the job that she was hired to do, and this person dumped the paraphernalia of a freaking cliche of a housewife on her desk, on top of the work my mom was doing. My mom was all, "Um, this is totally offensive. What are you doing?" And OC was all, "I'm a dummy and I think I'm totally charming!" And then my mom repeated that she was offended about a million times, with the woman refusing to acknowledge that she was totally offensive, and then my mom said, "Um, I work here! What are you trying to do? Put women back in the 1950s?" At which point the OC was chastised and backed away.

In the meantime, men in the office were joking with one another "Hey, Joe, where's your apron?" or, "Hey, you going to be the diva, dude?"

My mom called me after this all happened, and I was, as you might imagine, appalled. Needless to say, no men had "volunteered" for the "Kitchen Diva" role, because clearly this whole bullshit enterprise is gendered and fucked up. (And, if we want to go further, the only dudes who are "divas" are clearly gay as the day is long, so this is not only gender harassment but harassment based on sexuality. Though perhaps I am a humorless bitch.) I suggested that my mom should contact HR (not located in Hometown - located in the HQ of the company) so that she would get her side of it out on the table first. I said that she should be as objective as possible, but that she should use the phrase "hostile work environment" at some point. My mom hesitated, and thought she should just let it blow over. I said, hey, it's up to you, but maybe write it all out just in case. She did write out the facts of her version of events - without tangents or emotions but with the phrase "hostile work environment" - just in case. Because she listens to her legalistic daughter :)

So, yesterday. Everybody's back after the holiday. The OC sends this fucked up email to my mother (ostensibly) which explains herself and the apron business (though in a way that would get a freshmen comp student a D, complete with circular logic and a definition of "wench" - a word my mother never used - and in a way that totally revealed the utter and total gender inequity of the whole thing to anybody with even half of a brain). But here's the thing. My mom's boss is still out on vacation, and when she's out on vacation, she has my mom read her email. OC bcc'd my mom's boss on that fucked up email. And so my mom saw that had happened. So my mom called me, and I advised her in this way:

Look, mom, this woman is trying to get out in front of you and to discredit you. You MUST contact HR, and you must apprise them both of the email that she sent to you (and to who knows else) as well as of what actually happened. You MUST be as objective as possible - no tangents, no axes to grind - and you MUST stand up for yourself. You are already fucked, here. The best you can do for yourself now is damage control and to make them question this woman. If you wait, you will be totally screwed.

(And I did also advise her that she should start looking in earnest for another job, because clearly things are not cool in this place.)

SO. She did what I said! Huzzah! And at 10AM she got a call from the HR person at the main office, and the first thing he said was, "Are you OK, Crazy's Mom?" My mom was confused by this, and she thought he was thinking her feelings were hurt. I explained that what that really meant was, "Um, you haven't contacted a lawyer, right?" My mom doesn't understand the power of the phrase "hostile work environment."

Anyhoodle, so they had a conversation, and it was fine, and she said not much more than what she wrote, and as the conversation ended when he asked her if she had anything else to add and she said no, he said, "Well, you only fight the battles you can win."

She asked me what I thought of that. What I think is that he was saying, "um, yeah. That was fucked up."

And he said she'd get an answer on the situation by week's end.

In the meantime, OC apparently was crying in her office today because Crazy's Mom is a Mean Lady! Waaaah!

1) My mom would never call herself a feminst.
2) My mom would never say that she could do a good job of advocating for herself in writing. She thinks she's "average."

Here's the thing. My mom is so a feminist. And my mom is so a good writer - is totally where I get my good writing from. And my mom made me SO PROUD in this situation. Though now she needs to look for another job along with keeping her head down so that she doesn't blow up and do something stupid, because, dude, my mom can be a hot-head. Clearly she needs to get out of this company, and the longer she stays the greater the risk that they'll fire her ass.

All of that said? I've never been prouder of my mom. She fucking rules. Apron and rubber gloves, my ASS!

RBOC: Blech

  • Are you all aware of how much of the summer has passed? Because I am now painfully aware of this, and also aware of the fact that between now and August I will be out of town for 4 days, having guests two other weekends, and entertaining in between. When am I supposed to be doing all of my work? GAAAHHH.
  • I watched two movies yesterday, both of which I recommend. 1) An Education, which is just the most awesome, gorgeous movie, and 2) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is, I think, a quite good adaptation of the book (though I was disappointed to see that they eliminated one of the funniest parts of the book/series, which is that when middle-aged Mikael Blomkvist enters a room every woman can't help herself and propositions him and then they have sex as if it's about as big of a deal as having a cup of coffee together).
  • You might wonder why I was watching movies instead of working? Um, well, I'm kind of in denial.
  • I've actually been getting lots of good thinking done, and I have been reading, and I intend to spend today reading more - and hopefully I'll have some things to write down as well. I'm just not being as focused as I always imagine I'd like to be (but very rarely am).
  • I'm really looking forward to going to Hometown for my cousin's wedding, even though it turns out that the person whom I was supposed to take with me is not coming after all. (Long story. Well, not really. The short version is that some people do not honor their commitments and they are so selfish that they don't see that this would perhaps be hurtful to other people. And then after they do realize they've been hurtful to other people, they self-absorbedly feel sorry for themselves for doing everything wrong. What. Ever.) But anyway, aside from that parenthetical aside, I'm perhaps even more happy that my plans have changed because my friend J. is going to go to the wedding with me instead, and that will be more fun for me anyway.
  • I really need to do some things around the house, but then I also really need to read. And then I would really like to lounge around like a lady of leisure. Perhaps I can do some reading that I don't need to pay close attention to, and then I can have stupid television on in the background? Indeed. I think that sounds like a perfect happy medium.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Is Excited!

I will be throwing my first dinner party in my house next week! Well, I'm a little nervous about this as well as being excited. I think it's all of the food television I watch, and most notably Top Chef. It may be the case that my expectations for a meal are a little out of proportion with my resources and abilities.

And then also it's summer. The hottest summer ever, it feels like. And so. What to make what to make? And then there's the difficulty of having a mix of vegetarian and non-vegetarian people.

You see.

But so anyway, I've decided that when people arrive I'm going to have nice olives and hummus and pita and Lebanese stuffed grape leaves (because who doesn't like Lebanese food when it's hot?) Then we'll start with a cabbage and beet salad, and then the main course will be couscous and herb roasted chicken and green beans (or maybe asparagus instead... I really love asparagus..._) and squash gratin. I think that will be lovely. And I'm not responsible for dessert, which I have to say is totally awesome, because a girl can't do everything, and really the only dessert I make is pie, and who wants to bake a pie when it's this hot? The only thing that is a challenge will be the stuffed grape leaves, but I can make those a day ahead, so that's good.

But so now I'm feeling like I really need to buy furniture for my porch. And for my deck, but at least for my porch. And I really need to buy a mirror to hang over the mantle and other wall-hanging type things.

It's such a pain in the ass being house-proud and yet not entirely settled in one's house.

I wish somebody would cook this meal I've planned for me right now. I've been living on hummus, pita chips, and twizzlers because it's just too hot to organize actual food for myself. Maybe tonight I'll make myself actual dinner? We'll see....

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Thing #473 That's Awesome About My House

Fireworks, yall. I see my town's fireworks as if they were made for me from my front lawn. No need to deal with crowds. I have a front row seat for freaking rock and roll fireworks. And, apparently, my neighbors across the street and 2 doors down spend thousands of dollars on illegal private-style fireworks, too, so tonight I was treated to approx. 2 hours of stellar fireworks, all without having to leave the comfort of my own porch/yard.

I love the 4th of July. I love not having to deal with humanity on the 4th of July. Next year I'm totally having a party on the 4th of July.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

A Simpler Time and Place

Ok, so we all know my house is sweet, but I haven't talked much about my neighborhood. Children still wander the streets unaccompanied by parents here. Like they walk to their friends' houses and ride bikes and go swimming and stuff sans parents. People know their neighbors. They talk to them. It's like freaking Mayberry or that town without dancing in Footloose, only, of course, we can dance here. But so, I'm trapped in my house for the duration of the annual parade in celebration of the Fourth. See, I live on a dead-end street, and the only way out is down Name of Town Avenue, and that is now the land of people throwing candy from slowly moving vehicles, horses that stop every few feet for little children to pet them, and people loudly blaring music from 1984. (R-O-C-K in the USA, which made sense, and then Thriller, which didn't. Oh, and I guess there's also been some Christian Rock and some 1960s Motown, too.) And seriously, this is an affair for all ages of the people who live here, from tiny babies through oldsters. People are transporting their children in wagons. I think my neighbors actually went out to the main street to watch the parade and just left their house open.

It hadn't occurred to me that places like this still existed, really. I know I hadn't paid much attention before buying my little house. But it's really sort of awesome that this place seems to have held off some of the perils of the 21st century. I like living in a place where kids roam free. I like living in a place where the whole community comes out and makes a crappy parade regardless of age or lifestyle or whatever. And I like that I somehow get this even though I live like 10 minutes from a city.

Nevertheless, I do feel a bit like I'm in some sort of bizarro world that you see in a movie and that doesn't really exist.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Tales from the Mall, and Whatever Else Pops into My Head

I have a really hard time not titling things. Like, it really upsets me not to do it. Ah well. It was a worthy experiment.

So, yesterday I did absolutely no - and when I say no, I mean NO - work. I mean no reading, no writing, no thinking, no nothing. Instead, the day began with paying bills. Once that was done, I checked my email and learned that apparently my university will not pay for an employee's meals for a conference if that employee does not stay overnight at the conference. Apparently I was to have fasted between 6:30 AM and 11:30 PM? Or I was to have stayed overnight and cost my university more money? Or I was to have lied about staying overnight at a friend's house, sort of like being in high school? Between them shorting me by $30 on my travel reimbursement and the nonsense of having to contact like 4 different offices to get my address changed because apparently changing it within our brand new fancy computer program doesn't actually do anything, I really am hating my university right now. You'd think I'd hate it less since I'm on leave until January, but no. I actually hate it more. Hate.

So anyway, with all of that done, I then went to Home Depot (which, seriously, if things don't go my way and I end up going to hell when I die, hell is either Home Depot or Lowes. I hate those freaking places.) in order to pay for the new door that I'm getting installed in the basement. Now, I'm annoyed to have to buy a door - do you guys know how expensive doors are? - but actually it's costing less than I'd anticipated (score) and I will be very happy not to have a rotted out door jam and to have rain pour through the space between the door jam and the bottom of the door every time it rains. Indeed, they're going to fix the concrete and everything, and there shall be no more rainwater coming in under the door! Huzzah! And no bugs coming in under the door! No who knows what else being able to come in under the door!

Well. After I got that taken care of, I thought to myself, "Self, you know it's super-duper sale time at many stores beginning today because of the 4th of July weekend. You should go to some of those stores!"

Now, this was sort of a weird thing for me to do. I haven't done major shopping in, god, like 2 years? I mean, I was busy not spending money because I was saving for the house. I mean, sure, I bought a sweater here, a top there, but I really haven't spent like a full day shopping. Well, until yesterday. Ostensibly I decided to do this because I thought that I should look for a dress for my cousin's wedding next week. (A wedding for which I am excited but which has an accompanying thing that has me really pissed off, but I won't get into that here.... Suffice it to say that it sucks being the only unpartnered cousin -and seriously: the ONLY unpartnered one - when you're 7 years older than the closest-in-age-to-you of the 15 cousins. A PhD is a great and wonderful thing, but it makes a really, really shitty date for a wedding.) I didn't find a dress (everything I tried on was just sort of lame, and I felt like I shouldn't buy something sort of lame when I could wear something less lame that I might have in my closet), but I did go on a spree. A spree of shopping awesomeness. What did I buy, you might ask? and what were my righteous deals? Well, here are the highlights (though there were some less exciting purchases thrown in as well).

  • A Michael Kors top (really a glorified t-shirt) - Orig. $60; I paid $7
  • Two pairs of Tommy Hilfiger capris (one denim, one olive green cotton) - Orig. $80/$60; I paid $23/each
  • A Wacoal bra - Orig. $60; I paid $10
  • A pair of Born sandals - Orig. $95; I paid $23 (Oh, and I also got a pair of flats and a black gladiator-style sandal, too, and then these AWESOME heels for the wedding.)
So yes, I shopped for like 6 hours. It was exhausting, as you might imagine. Today I need to do some stuff around the house, and I need to go to campus (library) and to the grocery store because there's a parade that will go by my house tomorrow morning, so I won't be able to get out for supplies for a fairly long span of time. So, that's the latest here. Now I'm going to go continue drinking my coffee and try to find things to read on the internet or watch TV or something.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

You know what? I'm just not going to title posts anymore if I don't have a title that comes readily to mind. Because the whole thing about writing here is really about routine right now and not about me actually having anything of note to say. After taking it easy yesterday, the wrist feels basically fine (still a little stiff, but not painful), and so I've learned my lesson and I will not do anymore marathon days where I write for 8 straight hours. 1) Not good for the hand and 2) not, ultimately, good for the brain. See, this is the thing: although when I get into that sort of a zone I want to work until I drop, that ultimately burns me out. I have 6 months of this to go, and if I allow myself to get burnt out, I won't - although it seems counter-intuitive - accomplish as much as if I work more methodically. Slow and steady wins the race. But wow, how boring that is! Ah well. I am boring.

So, I've been rereading a novel that I needed to reread, a novel that I find supremely irritating even if it is important to my project, and today I have to run around and take care of some shopping things (finalize the stuff for my new basement door; shop for a dress for my cousin's wedding) and pay bills. For now, though, more coffee, and easing into the day.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Good morning, readers. So, in case you were wondering, the problem with doing as much long-hand writing as I do on the front end of a project - particularly when I'm in the nutso place where I'm over-doing it, as I have been in the past couple of days, is that it hurts. Well, and then there is the tingling and the hand weakness, too, but the hurting is the one that really gets me down. Now, you might say, but why don't you type your notes instead, you dummy? Well, the fact of the matter is that while my left hand/wrist is not as grievously afflicted as my right, I have the same symptoms in both hands when I type for long stretches of time. There is no escaping the carpal tunnel. And so, I'm an old lady who has to bust out the wrist splint (or splints, if I'm experiencing the symptoms in both hands) and pop some @dvil or @leve and then I need to take it easy so as not to be thoroughly miserable forever. I know that someday I'll end up having to have stupid hand surgery unless I stop writing all together. I just hope that day is a long way away, and thus the managing the syndrome with the splints and the mandatory rest, etc.

So, today I'm not allowed to do much typing or long-hand note-taking. Instead, I'm going to wear my stupid splint (just typing right now is making my hand/wrist hurt again) and spend the day reading (still for NB, but things that I don't need to take copious notes on either in hand-written or typed form - things that are more under-line-y) I also may do some chores around the house and pay bills.

In other news, I actually wrote a couple of pages single-spaced (typed) yesterday, which are pinning down my argument sorts of pages. I'm feeling pretty psyched about my progress.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Thoughts and Stuff

I feel like my titles for posts suck lately. This is partly because I'm not really doing posts with clearly defined topics lately - all of my "clearly defined topic" mojo is being directed at NB.

The thing I've been thinking about over the past couple of days is how doing a major project like this intersects with the other parts of one's life. Heck - even non-major projects, like journal articles, do for me tend to intersect with (or complicate?) the other parts of my life. For me, there isn't a whole lot of separation between the things I'm thinking about in research and the ups and downs of my personal/emotional life, to be more specific. And when I think over sort of "crucial moments" in my intellectual life, they do tend to parallel big shifts in my emotional life....

I don't know whether that's good, bad, or neutral. I would tend to think it's bad a lot of the time - that doing major thinking fucks with my head and then it fucks with my relationships with people by extension. But or, really, it could be good-ish, in that maybe if major thinking can fuck something in my life up, that something probably shouldn't be central in my life? Probably it's all neutral, a wash.

But I do often find myself wishing pretty frequently that I were a different sort of person and that I didn't take the thinking/research stuff so personally. Wishing that I just viewed it as one more part of the job and not as this life-changing thing that touches every other part of my life, whether I want it to or not. I'm trying really hard in this go-around to be honest about this with people in my life, and to try to be honest with myself when I start acting like an asshole about what the reasons for that really are. I'm trying really hard not to use the people in my life to work out my intellectual angst. It's not easy, though. My impulse is to deflect any intellectual angst onto the people in my life, and seriously, there are very few people in my life who have been able to forgive me for that or who have been able to stand up to the pressure of it (and rightly so, quite frankly).

But anyway, so it's a weird time for me. I'm trying to actually use what I've learned over the past ten years - not only in terms of framing the project but in terms of framing my life that surrounds the project - and you know what? That's not actually fun. Of course, it's not fun being a crazy mess for years, either, so if I can avoid the whole "crazy mess" thing by doing what I'm doing, then that's got to be a good thing. Still, though, it's a pain in the ass.

Ok, now it's time to try to plow through a bunch of library books so that I can return them when I go to pick up the mountain of ILL books I've got waiting for me at the circulation desk.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Research Breakthrough

So, I don't actually keep in touch with my dissertation adviser. I mean, I send him the obligatory annual check-in email with updates, but he totally doesn't respond and makes absolutely no effort to maintain a relationship with me. He's never come to a paper I've given when I've given a paper at a place where he's been, and he basically ignores me unless I'm right in front of his face. He was a very good dissertation adviser - don't get me wrong - and without his guidance I surely would not have become the scholar that I am today or gotten a job, but I think I'm finally willing to admit that he has had absolutely no role in my intellectual or scholarly development since 2003. I mean, sure, he has written letters of reference for me when I've requested them - he has not failed to do what he is required to do for me - but that's about the extent of it.

For a long time, I felt like that was a failing on my part. That somehow I had done something wrong or that I didn't build that relationship the way that I should have done. (I think a lot of that had to do with daddy issues being replicated in the dissertation adviser/me relationship - my feelings that I was responsible for the relationship, that if we weren't close - or even in regular contact - that it was because I sucked or didn't fulfill my obligations.) And I also wondered whether I would just disappear into obscurity because I was so cleanly and clearly cut off once my dissertation was defended and filed. I mean, what happens to people whose dissertation advisers forget they exist the moment that they've finished the dissertation? That's a bad thing, right?

You know what? In my case, it has not been a bad thing at all. In fact, I think it's been a great thing. Because you know why? I somehow have ended up with all of these awesome mentors - including people whom I totally admired and thought were rockstars and who I never thought I'd be, like, friends with - who do things like encourage me and recommend that I look at certain books and who do all the mentory things that my dissertation adviser does not do.

I've begun reading a book that I never would have read - or maybe I would, but I don't know how I would have gotten to it given the other sorts of stuff I've been reading - that Eminent Awesome Wonderful Fun Mentor suggested when I saw her at a recent conference. I'm not entirely sure how she knew, after listening to me talk for only 2 minutes about NB, but this book? It is so freaking important to what I'm trying to say! It is like the missing link! And it's not an obvious link - it's a sort of weird connection to make, if that makes sense - but it's exactly the way for me to get from point A to point B in my overall argument - something I hadn't known how I'd manage.

So I just wanted to blurt that out because my world is rocked to the point that I had to stop and take a breath before continuing onward with the book.

On Research, On Writing

So, yesterday I had to go pick up my shortened curtains for the dining room (which look great, btw) at the place by school, so I also took the opportunity to go to the library and to check out a great many books for NB. (Note to student workers at the circulation desk: yes, I really am checking out all of those books, and I'm sick of your attitude that there is something wrong with that or that my doing so is a burden to you. Do your job and stop with the unsolicited commentary and/or pissy looks. Thank you.)

And then, shockingly enough, I did some reading and note-taking. What was sort of neat about this is that it allowed me to realize that I actually had done a lot of reading this spring before the house madness really took off, and also it allowed me to realize that I'm really into working on my project in earnest. It also got me thinking, though, about my process and why I do this stuff the way I do.

Because here's the thing: I do a LOT of long-hand note-taking. The dissertation/book cured me of actually writing entire manuscripts longhand, but a lot of the writing/transcribing that I do in these early stages is done sans computer. At later stages, I also edit long-hand. Here, for example, is my binder for NB. This is where I'm keeping all of my notes for critical books and some theory.

Yes, this is my low-tech way of beginning a project. You may wonder why this is how I do it. I sort of wonder, too. I know one piece of it is that when I type I can transcribe whole passages without actually reading them, so I miss a crucial step in thinking if I don't write out the notes long-hand. Also, because it takes more effort to write things out long-hand, I tend to edit my notes down to what I really might use rather than to try to transcribe everything that is marginally interesting. In other words, doing my notes this way slows me down and focuses me, and also it gives me an ownership over the texts with which I'm working that typing doesn't give me. Or so I think. It may also just be that I'm afraid to do it a different way. What if it didn't work?

So yesterday I worked for about 3 hours (not counting the time I spent in the library), and it was good. I am feeling a bit out of sorts about my project conceptually because it seems like every source I encounter - even the ones that seem like they would be foundational to what I want to think about - gets a crucial thing (or what I think is a crucial thing) totally wrong. But when you encounter that over and over again, you start wondering whether it's not everybody else that's wrong but rather you who is totally off your rocker. Ah, well, I guess I just need to keep plugging away and see where the reading/writing takes me.

And then I was talking with a friend last night and I realized that I don't even know why I'm doing this project really. Or, I do: it's because I really want to think about this stuff. But seriously: why attempt to write another book? Why is that the way that I need to think about this stuff? Why am I compelled to do such a project when, in the grand scheme of things, it promises to be a lot of work for not much reward? Am I a masochist? Something else? What is it that motivates me to do this sort of thing?

Anyway, I know I haven't really written a cohesive post here. I'm just sort of writing whatever pops into my head. But that's the latest. Now I'm going to go eat something and do some house-stuff and then maybe do a little more reading before Naomi comes over tonight for drinks and catching up and reminiscing, etc.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Ok, So I'm Not Working Again...

But I don't actually feel badly about it. See, I'm waiting for a guy to come and measure my basement door so that I can get a new door put in, since the one I've got is ridiculous (as in, you can see the sunlight coming through where there should be a door jamb. It's really dumb to try to work when you know you're going to be interrupted, so I am cutting myself some slack.

I've also remembered some important things about me and summer and work. Like, for example, nearly every summer when I've had major research productivity, I haven't really begun in earnest until the end of June. It always takes me a few weeks to settle into the summer, and also, I think I do need the pressure of feeling like I don't have the whole summer stretching out before me. I've also remembered that even though I'm not technically "working" during this time, I have been doing a boatload of thinking, which means that when I sit down to work I do have a sense of where I need to go. And also, the hatred of the time I'm spending watching TV and not accomplishing anything? All part of the process.

But now on to the next topic. I wanted to address the many suggestions I've gotten that I should sit down with a good book and relax, read a novel, etc. A lot of these suggestions have come from people outside of English, so I want to talk a little bit about how my field affects my reading habits. This is not true for all people in English, but I think it's true for many of us, esp. if we study fairly contemporary stuff and/or teach across a wide range of fields.

I cannot read literature for pleasure. Not if I'm working on a project, whether that's developing a new course or a new research project. See, what you folks think of as "fun" reading? Yeah, um, that's totally my job. And if I read something that's somewhat decent that is fiction, I feel massive amounts of guilt for not reading the stuff that I "should" be reading. And then, if I read the kind of stuff that I can read for pleasure - crappy chick lit, gruesome thrillers, etc. - I then feel like I'm a loser who is totally an intellectual zombie because everybody else takes the opportunity to read things that enrich their soul or something when they've got time to read.

The only kind of reading I can really do for pleasure without hating myself is non-fiction stuff. I'm in the middle of Heat now, as I mentioned, and I'm also in the middle of this book. This is good bedtime reading, but I can't get too terribly involved in this sort of reading, not to the point where I can while away a whole day doing it.

Ok. Think of it this way. Let's say you're a historian, and when you have been obsessing about work, everybody recommends to you that you read things like John Adams by David McCullough to unwind. Or, barring that, that you watch PBS historical documentaries. Or let's say "hey! go to some archives just for fun!" Now, don't get me wrong, you love history, but is that really going to take your mind off the work you're not doing? Not likely.

See, that's the dirty secret of going to graduate school to study what you love. It means that it's no longer a source of relaxation when you're feeling stressed out. This is not to say that it's not a source of pleasure - of course it is - or that you don't enjoy it - you do - but when I read a Margaret Atwood or A.S. Byatt novel, I take notes, people. It's work - not relaxation - even if it might be fun.

Again, I don't think that this is necessarily a problem for all people in my field. I know that my Medievalist and Early Modern friends read things for fun all the time that would count as literature. Also people who focus primarily on poetry or drama. But when I talk to people who do what I do, I find that many of us have the problem that I'm describing.

Ok, off to go do some stuff around the house while I wait for the door measurement guy.