Friday, November 30, 2001
I've been making the rounds to the mega-stores in the area: Wal*Mart; Big K; Staples; Home Depot; Bed, Bath & Beyond; and Linens 'n Things. There are a few more, like the Office Max / Office Depot places. But I really don't know what to do. Should I buy some do-it-yourself furniture like I always have? Or should I try to get something a little nicer, a little more fun? I've decided I want a nice, expansive table to work on rather than a dinky desk. I don't need the drawers for storage so much as a large surface area for work. I also need more bookshelves. And I want a comfy armchair for extended reading. And of course I need a dining table with chairs. Right now the apartment is very empty. It echoes.
>> 1:15 PM
Thursday, November 29, 2001
>> 1:06 PM
Wednesday, November 28, 2001
Reading and commenting on student papers can kill. I felt like that's all I did yesterday morning. And the worst part is knowing that my students don't even care about the comments I give them about their writing . . . .
The rest of yesterday was pretty good, though. I had a late lunch with a friend before going to campus for class. I missed a talk by [Adrienne Davis] on interracial love (in the context of slavery), but I got to tag along with some people to a free dinner with her at [Crook's Corner]. The food there was amazing! I had a grilled tuna dinner with yummy asparagus, lime, spices, capers, and cheese grits. It was heaven in the form of food. And the dinner conversation was fun, too. I was very nervous about going into this dinner situation. I didn't know who was going to be there and didn't want to deal with a huge party. And even though it was an [English department] sort of thing, there were going to be mostly faculty. I hesitated going into the restaurant and kept walking up to the door then walking back to my car. I called Joe at home for reassurance and left messages on his voicemail because he wasn't home. After about twenty minutes, though, I finally just went in. And to my happy surprise, I saw that there were only five other people and one (the other student) of them was someone I know.
Adrienne Davis was amazing at dinner. She's a legal scholar. She's very smart and very socially adept. She engaged all of us at the table with our work. I talked about my master's thesis (in progress) on [Lawrence Chua's] Gold by the Inch and also talked about my interest in thinking about how the law deals with (deviant) sexuality. I mentioned wanting to do an independent study next semester about the complexities of thinking sex in the law and how many gay rights advocates attempt to work parallels with the Civil Rights Movement and its claims of equal rights protection. Such protection hinges on the ability to define a category of persons for protection, meaning that there need to be immutable characteristics that define such persons. And so I just mentioned I was interested in figuring out what such a strategy means for dealing with sexuality.
So the greatest thing was that Adrienne Davis actually seemed to understand me and talked to me a bit about my interests. She asked me if I am familiar with [David Eng's] work (re: my thesis) and also talked a bit about the whole immutability thing in the law. One of the other people there went off on a rant about the tactic of arguing immutability afterwards, though. But Adrienne Davis also told me about a conference on Critical Race Theory she is helping put together along with the [University Program in Cultural Studies] for January. It sounds exciting. She talked about the people coming and they're all doing exciting work on race and the law.
After the dinner, I went to P's to watch Smallville and then we had a long-ish talk about Joe's and my breakup. It was just about midnight by the time I got home, and then I had to watch Buffy and read some more student papers.
Early this morning I got up to do conferences with students. Very difficult in my zombie-state. But I got through them. Another handful of students to talk to tomorrow morning, and then I'll be done with conferences for the semester! Whee!
>> 10:08 PM
Tuesday, November 27, 2001
I'm having major second thoughts about the rightness of our breaking up. I really want to be in the relationship and to work on purging my insane insecurities. But I also realize it's not fair to subject Joe to my demands, tantrums, and such.
In some senses I feel like what we've had has always been more of a close, intimate friendship than a full relationship, at least from Joe's point of view. But even that is not really a fair characterization because we were together in such a connected way and lived together quite comfortably. I think it was all in my head and all a part of my delusions. I just wanted our lives to be melded together, as if we were one person. It's not that I thought Joe hid things from me, but it unnerved me and sometimes upset me to feel like he had his own life running along in tandem with what we shared in our life. I need to get over myself.
I'm really going to miss the presence of Joe, the sense of closeness I feel to him even when we don't talk. And I don't know what I'm going to do with all this affection I've given Joe because I've never been affectionate with anyone else and don't really feel like an affectionate person. Still, all this compulsion to hug, caress, and otherwise cuddle with Joe came from somewhere and has to go somewhere else now. :(
I'm just realizing how much I need Joe and how foolishly I wanted him to need me in the same way without acknowledging his distinct idea of what he needs in our relationship. I'm so stupid stupid stupid. I spent the morning just watching Joe, and when he got out of bed, following him around the apartment as he got ready for the day.
I handled this situation all wrong. I did exactly what I know is unhelpful -- demand that we are either to stay together or to break up. I nstead we really needed to work on figuring out what makes us work in many ways and what few things don't work in our relationship (and if we can make them work or make them not matter).
I hate being full of contradictions sometimes. Intellectually, I think it's stimulating and absolutely necessary for maintaining critical awareness, but emotionally, it just means confusion and sometimes heartbreak. :(
>> 10:40 AM
Monday, November 26, 2001[My Kind of Christmas] this weekend and have been listening to it in the car. It's a funny mix of upbeat songs and more contemplative ones, but what makes it awesome is the consistency of Christina's overblown diva style. I love it.
>> 2:26 PM
Everything is so bittersweet now. Joe and I seem to be taking turns being sad / hopeless and strong / comforting. We've always been good that way. But it's not enough.
The movers are coming for his stuff tomorrow. It'll be difficult to deal with the emptiness left behind afterwards, but at least he'll still be here for another week. I just wish I could help him move in to his new place.
There has been only one other time in my life when I've felt this overwhelming sense of loss. It was when I was leaving for college. One day shortly before I left home for college, I suddenly had this profound realization that my life would never be the same again. I realized that how I related to my family and other people in life was about to change radically and irrevocably. It was an odd moment when I was sullen and upset at my mother's carrying-on as if things weren't going to change (or so I thought). And I sat at the piano and cried in a way I'd never cried before. My mother knew what I must be feeling, and my siblings who were impatient with me (we were supposed to head out on a last-minute shopping excursion for college dorm room necessities) fell quiet. And in some ways, that's how I feel now. Joe and I will always have a memory of our relationship these past three-and-a-half years, but it won't be the same as having that relationship. There's a lot of sadness and loneliness there. But we also both realize this is a necessary break. It's something we need to do in order to sort through our expectations and feelings about relationships. And we both have so much to deal with concerning ourselves.
>> 9:32 AM
Sunday, November 25, 2001
* * *
I rented [Antitrust] yesterday afternoon to stave off maudlin thoughts. Usually there's nothing like a teen suspense movie to take my mind off things. But though it helped, my thoughts kept wandering from the movie anyways. I think it's hilarious, or maybe utterly depressing, that there are so many films out there that are anti-capitalist, anti-business-mentality. But in the end, they aren't. Antitrust features a battle cry for [open source], but doesn't really explore what it means. In the movie, it is just the antithesis of "monopoly" which even hardcore business-minds will accept as an evil.
>> 8:02 AM
Saturday, November 24, 2001
>> 2:25 PM
It's also notable and creative that the Coens explore this dilemma of articulation and identity through the lens of film noir, a genre that generally deals with archetypal, passionate characters (though especially good examples of film noir question the expression of identities, motivations, and feelings, too). Film noir always deals with the enigmatic -- coded expressions and surprising twists. This film was more than a parody or satire of film noir, more than an updated example of such; it is of a particular class of work that is self-conscious about its place in a history of other work.
>> 12:33 PM
This show is really about growing up. It's really about how hard it is to grow up, how hard it is to make it through life without just cashing in your chips or becoming a complete, insufferable schmoe.
A plausible explanation of one reason why I'm so attracted to the show. Life's a struggle. And Buffy makes that struggle into the stuff of life rather than the obstacle. But it's not a kind of resignation to the trials and tribulations of an unjust world. It's a conscious struggle to change the woes of life on a personal and social level (rather than political and legislative, for example).
>> 12:23 PM
It's hard not to cry and be sad about the end of things. But I also know that it's not worth keeping things as they are to avoid this sadness. If we are not able to accept the difficulties and consciously work on them, we must part ways.
>> 11:56 AM
Friday, November 23, 2001
>> 9:24 AM
Thursday, November 22, 2001
Happy Thanksgiving, y'all. I guess it's time to demonstrate my thankfulness because the rest of the year I'm so caught up in my self I don't give a moment to express these things. A year or two ago, my mom told me that I should spend the first minute of every morning after waking, before getting out of bed, recounting things of which I am thankful. And I wish I were able to do that more often. In lieu of that:
I am thankful for my loving, caring parents who leave me voicemail messages all the time. I am thankful for my kick-ass siblings with whom I can have long conversations about the state of my life. I am thankful for my wonderful friends who support me no matter how little I express my friendship with conventional displays of affection (I don't hug). I am thankful for close friends who spend hours talking to me about problems in my life. I am thankful for close friends who offer a place to stay in their houses when I need to get away. I am thankful for all the intelligent and(/or) opinionated people I've met in my return to school who have helped me think about all sorts of crazy ideas. I am thankful for [Buffy the Vampire Slayer]. I am thankful for enthusiastic students in my class who really understand what I am trying to teach them. I am thankful for yummy food and the good company of people in holiday cheer. I am thankful for the beautiful sun and cold, crisp days. I am thankful for endless books, fascinating authors, imaginative worlds, and critically astute artists. I am thankful for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from Wellspring Groceries. I am thankful for mochas from the Daily Grind. And I am thankful for the wonderful man with whom I have shared the last three-and-a-half years of my life, no matter how we go on from here.
>> 1:39 PM
Wednesday, November 21, 2001
the multiplicity of new-writing caused my writing self to change, without my knowing it, completely subsuming the former self. i discovered that i've become a writer, not in the sense that i'm talented or worthy of recognition or published in print or the least bit interesting to others. but a writer in the sense that the writing sustains itself, grows by itself, changes in accordance to the mutation of the writing self, has its own personality that is every bit as predictable and same time irrational as the me-me.
>> 1:10 PM
>> 11:47 AM
One student came in this past Monday wanting an A in the class. Unfortunately for her, she has been absent too much, not turned in minor assignments, and turned in major assignments late. And participation is an important part of this class. She has missed so much in class and in the work that she should have done, but didn't. Instead of actively making up that work, she came to my office and tried to justify herself. She even claimed that the assignments she didn't turn in or turned in late didn't matter, implying that I give them busywork -- assignments for the sake of assignments. Which if you think of it, is a remarkably forward thing to say to a teacher. But I didn't even think about how crazy all her comments were until my officemate talked to me afterwards and said how outraged she was and how she wanted to smack my student for being so insolent. All the while, I just tried to address my student's concerns and explain to her why she needed to do the work, even the ones she thought were unncessary, and to explain to her how she can redeem her participation grade by doing the work and demonstrating her commitment to understanding my assignments.
So many of my students write in their journals, after the fact, that they don't understand my assignments, and yet absolutely none of them have come to my office to ask me for clarification or even asked questions in class unless I specifically set aside time to field questions about the assignments. They're just not ready or used to being college students, taking the initiative for understanding what they're doing in classes. For most of them, it's still all about satisfying the teacher's idiosyncratic expectations. They have little to no concept of what it means to learn for the sake of gaining knowledge (and skills). Rather disappointing, really. I do have one group of students who have made gigantic strides in writing and have become increasingly engaged in classwork (both inside and outside of class meetings). And I think somehow I was able to explain to them what it means to be a self-motivated student. Or else they happened to understand it already. (But then how did I manage to get them all in one group? I guess peer motivation really has a strong impact on people. I always note that group discussing at the end of class when they can meet outside of class to do their research together so they can help each other out. I love them.)
>> 9:13 AM
Tuesday, November 20, 2001
In my office now, I'm trying to be focused on my work. I have so many things I just need to write down, to set in stone in some senses. I need to decide on my research papers due in a couple of weeks. I need to write down a list of all the things I need to do before the end of the semester so I can diligently go through them without this constant, nagging sense that I am forgetting more important things.
I have two sets of student papers to read and comment on as well as a set of grammar exercises to check. I really shouldn't bother correcting these exercises because they were supposed to do that with each other in class, but I noticed so many mistakes in some of them. Disappointing.
Joe and I are talking more and the situation seems less dire, the relationship more salvageable.
>> 1:59 PM
* * *
I watched [Monsters, Inc.] yesterday. Disney movies are often soothing and lulling. And this one was, too. Such cute monsters and situations. Tugging at heart-strings. I thought the story concept was very original (though not the story plot), but maybe I'm just out of touch with monsters in children's stories. In this movie, monsters scare kids at night by entering through closet doors because children's screams generate power for the monster world. But there is this funny reverse-fear of the monsters that contact with children is toxic. The monsters fear being touched by kids on their forays into bedrooms. Any cross-pollination of things, too, results in panic and extensive detoxification procedures. Funny. And of course, like all happy movies, this one ends with the monsters' realization, through the hero dedicated to the old way of producing power through children's fear, that children's laughter is far more productive (of power) than screams of fear. So Monsters, Inc. becomes a laugh-factory rather than a scream-factory. I really liked the alternative-dimension feel of the monster world. The closet door literally became that liminal space between children's bedrooms and the monsters' world. Very cool.
>> 10:22 AM
Monday, November 19, 2001
It is all so upsetting. All I can think of is that Freud was right, repression is essential to the psychic and social lives of many people. (I should know, since I am king represser of all things uncomfortable.) Joe simply can't function openly with his emotions and thoughts the way I want him to. But I just don't understand why Joe, therefore, wants to give it all up. Maybe because we didn't talk about what's good for us in the relationship. But all I wanted him to do, all I have ever wanted him to do, is to feel more comfortable and willing to talk to me about his thoughts and feelings. He thinks it's too much to ask of him. He said last night my expectations are too high. But my expectations are close to nil. All I want is for him to be happy with who he is, what he does, and me. And I guess put that way, it does seem like a lot to expect happiness, but what I mean is that I wish happiness for him and want to help him achieve it through his relationship with me. All I want is to be involved in his thoughts in a way that I have never been involved in his thoughts. I don't want to be just a person to consider when making decisions; I want to be a person involved in making considerations. I don't know if the distinction is even there or even valid, but apparently it's too much for Joe.
And it's all so sad. I knew last night that if we were truly going to declare it quits between us, we needed to separate ourselves from each other. I said we should sleep in different beds last night, but after two hours of lying awake, I couldn't take it and I had to ask him to come to bed with me. I'm such a wimp. I think Joe thinks I'm this ogre-type, demanding impossible things. But all I want is to be understood and to be a part of his life beyond the person he "loves" and "nurtures." I'm such a fucking idealist. I hate it.
>> 5:29 AM
Sunday, November 18, 2001
I think a lot of people, especially me, suffer from a sort of anti-solipsism. So, instead of thinking that we can only know ourselves and our thoughts, we think that everyone knows what we're thinking. I've come to this realization these past few days that I really confuse Joe and other people. They don't understand me and my motivations at all. But in what my friend E calls our "summit talks," Joe and I, in discussing what the state of our relationship is, might be, or will be, have realized that we don't understand each other's basic assumptions about life, careers, and relationships.
One important example is the issue of careers. Joe always feels uncomfortable that I am able to pick up and move to where he is to be with him. Now that he is moving to St. Louis, he can't understand how I can both take care of my "professional" goals and go to St. Louis with him. But what he doesn't understand is that the way I see my life is in some ways antithetical to how we usually think of career paths and goals. But that doesn't mean that I don't imagine myself having a stable job at some point in my life. And so it is easy for Joe and other people to think of me now as someone trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life. But I want to say, no, that's exactly what I'm not doing. I'm living and experiencing, exploring and relating to people, ideas, things, and places. This is how I see my life. There may be consequential goals to my options (getting a PhD leads to a career as a professor), but I refuse to approach my life thinking that I'm going to be a professor, and therefore need to instrumentalize that goal. Instead, I see endless possibilities for what I might do with my life, how I might incorporate my interests (intellectual and otherwise) into what I do to make a living. Living, and making a living, are not the same thing. It's all very idealistic, but it's how I choose to approach my life.
But I guess I haven't been clear to Joe, either, that I do want to go to St. Louis for the time span of the spring semester. I've already planned it all on this end. I'll be finished with the coursework for my master's degree so that I can just work on my thesis in the spring semester. (Additionally, it's not like my advisor is in North Carolina anyways. He's on a year's leave in Berkeley, California!) St. Louis will be a great opportunity for me to experience and write. I want to do a sort of research project into finding out about Shulamith Firestone's past there. (She was sort-of influential as a feminist in the Sixties and Seventies.) The poet Carl Phillips is at Washington University's English department, and whether or not I talk to him, the knowledge of his presence there can spur me finally to take on a study of poetry and its mechanics, how it makes meaning. Not taking classes or teaching will allow me the time to explore these things. PLUS, I'll have a whole new city to explore.
I also noted to Joe that I have always thought my life, at least in my twenties and probably thirties, would be fairly rootless. I can't imagine myself staying in one place so long as to become stagnant, too contented to learn. And again, this is an idealistic view of life, and clearly a privileged one. I can only be the way I am because I know that I always have roots and a home to return to. (Reminds me of the end of Happy Together when Lai notes that Chang is able to wander the world because he has a "center" with his home and parents.)
>> 6:46 PM
On the subject of films, I need to see if I can find any of [Louis Feuillade's] films. (Edward Gorey really liked Feuillade and considered him one of his major influences.) He was a silent film director (or at least an early film director who did silent films . . . might have also done some talkies later). He did a vampire movie, [Les Vampires], that was later taken up by director [Olivier Assayas] in [Irma Vep], a film about the re-making of Les Vampires, Irma Vep (the vampire from that film), and the whole idea of cinematic perspective and object-ness.
>> 10:15 AM
From an interview with Edward Gorey by Christopher Lydon on [NPR's] ["The Connection"] on 26 November 1998:
What is your mind and your imagination doing when you watch that stuff [on TV]?
Oh, just having a good time. And I'm very fond of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I recommend that highly to everybody.
>> 9:56 AM
Saturday, November 17, 2001
Joe and I are still on the outs. I was hopeful yesterday that we might be able to talk about the state of our relationship to see if we're committed to making things better for both of us. But then there was just more mis- and non-communication and I got upset and angry and now I'm seriously veering towards feeling that change is impossible between us; it's a lost cause.
I've been reading this book of interviews with Edward Gorey, Ascending Peculiarity. It's one of the books I asked the [library] to get for me this semester and it just came in. I'm very intrigued by the Gorey persona.
And I saw [Waking Life] last night. Umm. Yeah. Very strange film. A dream movie.
>> 3:25 PM
We should be in for a heavenly treat if we turn our eyes skyward in the pre-dawn hours tomorrow (Sunday) morning. Astronomers are predicting that this year's Leonid meteor shower could be one of the best in decades, as the Earth passes directly through a cloud of debris from Comet Tempel-Tuttle. The shower should peak 4-6 a.m. Sunday morning, with prime time more generally being from midnight tonight until 6 a.m. Skies should be clear.
For all the traumas here on Earth, the stress in our own lives, it can do us well to take a moment's (or an hour's) solace in the magic of our universe, and open our eyes wide to the glories that come with being alive.
>> 3:17 PM
Friday, November 16, 2001
>> 8:34 AM
Thursday, November 15, 2001[I love the rain.] (Wish it would rain here. Dry spell has put the area under recurring fire watches.)
[It may not be as blissful as it seems.] I am definitely lucky to have found such a great man to share my life with, but I keep finding myself questioning and doubting the contours of our relationship. I think one of my problems is the incredible disconnect between what I think should constitute a relationship and what I feel in response to actions and situations that arise from that conscious imagining. But what I think is really the problem is my self-esteem. I'm still very unsure of myself. I'm still hopelessly in need of constant affection and validation. This is why I've been so asocial in the past, I think. To avoid all attachments and contact obviates the satisfaction of my needs. But yesterday Joe said he thinks I have so much to offer to others and that I am depriving both myself and others from the enrichment of life that comes from interaction. It's just so hard. And I want to crawl into a hole and just read my books in solitude.
>> 7:43 AM
Sunday, November 11, 2001
Spent the day reading most of a book by Terri Kapsalis called Public Privates: Performing Gynecology from Both Ends of the Speculum. I really learned a lot about gynecology (surprise), especially the history of the specialty. I don't quite know where I stand on Kapsalis's reading of the performance of gynecology, though. Theoretically, she borrows directly from a lot of work about the cinematic gaze (i.e., the male, penetrative, active gaze on the female, passive body). Her reading of gynecology does seem to be very nuanced, though, to the point of not taking much of a particular stance on how to see the performance of a gynecological exam. And I guess that's partly her project, to trouble the easy reading of active / passive, patriarchal / submissive, etc. She wants to open up the gynecological experience to productive readings for feminists and women in general. In the end, she does advocate strongly the importance of self-exam and women's self-knowledge.
I talked to my friend E a bit about the book on the phone and she said that she finds gynecological exams to be empowering because she learns about her body and feels its presence in new ways. One specific example she offered was getting to feel her ovaries, a simple procedue Kapsalis describes in the book. In any case, I thought it was great that E saw her gynecological exams as liberating. That's exactly what Kapsalis thinks is possible with these exams, although the way she frames her work with anecdotes, it seems like no woman is currently able to think of her exams as self-empowering. And yet, she acknowledges the tremendous shift in how doctors and other health practitioners have administered these exams since the 1970s when many feminists took charge of how to view their bodies by forming well-woman health collectives and clinics, teaching themselves and others about their bodies away from traditional inscriptions of mystery, disease, and difference.
Ummm. Oh, and I find out yesterday that E's good friend Chris whom she's visiting in a couple of weeks in Oakland / San Francisco is the Chris who started [National Novel Writing Month]!
>> 8:55 PM
Grrrr. (Gosh, I've been in such a foul mood lately, eh?)
prolegomenon: n. (pl. prolegomena) an introduction or preface to a book etc., esp. when critical or discursive.
>> 11:57 AM
Saturday, November 10, 2001
I got to talk to Joe on the phone last night. Finding an apartment is difficult, as always. But at least there are many do-able options, if not optimal ones. He might go ahead and choose one today so he can come home soon. Yay!
extirpate: v. tr. root out; destroy completely.
>> 6:39 AM
Friday, November 09, 2001[Blogger].
I had an awful class experience yesterday, too. We were discussing Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's Epistemology of the Closet. The way the class is structured, two students give presentations on the week's text. The first presenter tried to go into Sedgwick's project, but as his concluding criticism of the book showed, he didn't understand that project at all. His criticism of Sedgwick's work was that she reduces identity to considerations of (homo)sexuality. I don't think I understand Sedgwick well enough to defend her work; I definitely don't understand her well enough to articulate her project in my own words. But I was so frustrated with the way the presenter completely missed Sedgwick's project of considering how we know who and what we are. In a fundamental way, I think Sedgwick's project is exactly to think about sexuality outside the bounds of identity, to think about identity outside fixity and reductionism. In any case, I voiced my disagreement with his reading of her work, but couldn't explain myself. And no one else in the class could help me. Even the professor wasn't very helpful in trying to negotiate the rift between the presenter's views and mine.
As often happens in class -- the reason why I seldom speak in class -- I felt like no one understood what I was saying. My comments only elicit silence. But worse, yesterday they also seemed to elicit fear (of me) or uneasiness. I'm not sure why. I think part of it was that it was obvious I was frustrated with the presenter's interpretation. But I tried so hard to be nice. I tried so hard to phrase my disagreement in a way that would ask the presenter to reconsider his comments. But it was obviously unsuccessful. It was all the more frustrating because I realized how far I have to go if I am to be a professor presenting these ideas to a class of students. How do I even begin to go about teaching this stuff I can't even have a conversation about it with my fellow graduate students?
I realized yesterday how utterly unable I am to articulate my thoughts (yet again). And the most frustrating thing was that I think I derailed discussion of the text to talk of "coming out" and "homosexuality" in general because no one could understand what I was saying and didn't want to say something that didn't address what I said. Anyways, I also felt that I came across as being really arrogant. And in some ways, I was frustrated by what I saw as an absurd ignorance or lack of careful critical reading on the part of the presenter and others in the class (who didn't offer any comments to challenge the presenter's reading). But I certainly don't think I am smarter than the people in class. I just wish that we were able to take up the terms of debate as Sedgwick laid them out.
I went to a talk by [Eben Moglen] after class in an attempt to wash the frustration out of my mind. Moglen was incredibly articulate (he's one of these people who speaks in complete, complex sentences and highly structured paragraph-like ways). But it didn't help any and I drove home with my music cranked up really high to drown out my self-doubting thoughts. I went to sleep curled up under the covers with sappy pop music turned up high to create an ambience of happiness around my unhappy mind.
I woke up this morning very disillusioned still, but more detached from the frustration of last night. I couldn't get out of bed, though, and only wanted to lie under the warm covers in the dark. Unfortunately, I had to teach at eight in the morning, so I forced myself up at six when my alarm clock went off. Being in the company of my officemates later in the morning was great. I was able to decompress / debrief about my frustrations with the class. And they're just fun and loving people.
desideratum: n. something lacking but needed or desired.
>> 3:34 PM
Thursday, November 08, 2001
Cardboard boxes on the road, making my drive an obstacle course. Why can't people be considerate enough to pick up after themselves if they drop things in the road? Kids. Loud kids, really. Screaming, throwing things, blocking paths in the store / restaurant. Over-indulgent, yuppy parents. People suck. This is why I want a dark, smoky coffeehouse somewhere to retreat to -- somewhere that is anti-thetical to the specialty-coffee drinks places that have sprung up in suburbia. I know, I know. It's not like I'm really any different from other suburbanites, but I still hate them / us. I can't stand these people who are so overbearing in their heterosexual, reproductive lives that they can inflict their loud children on others and expect everyone to coo over their cute kids.
The fucking six-foot iron bar tumbling down the road that hit my car.
The bus driver who decided that the speed limit was only fifteen miles an hour.
The dust that blew directly into my car because it's so hot I had to open the windows as I was driving.
>> 12:20 PM
My face is peeling. I want it to be cold.
>> 12:13 PM
Sinead O'Connor's version of "Nothing Compares 2 U."
salubrious: adj. 1 health-giving; healthy. 2 (of surroundings, etc.) pleasant; agreeable.
>> 7:35 AM
Wednesday, November 07, 2001
pullulate: v. intr. 1 (of a seed, shoot, etc.) bud, sprout, germinate. 2 (esp. of an animal) swarm, throng; breed prolifically. 3 develop; spring up; come to life. 4 (followed by with) abound.
>> 2:59 PM
Tuesday, November 06, 2001
So I did a web search on "anti-intellectualism" and the first result was [an article on George W. and a renaissance of anti-intellectualism]. And it's amazing to think about how much anti-intellectualism is a power strategy, like what Sedgwick in Epistemology of the Closet notes of (male) ignorance in rape trials (the burden of proof is on women to show they did not "want it"). And it is in an inverse relationship to the power of silence in constructing closets.
>> 9:07 AM
aegis: n. a protection; an impregnable defence. under the aegis of under the auspices of.
>> 8:57 AM
Monday, November 05, 2001[NCSU] titled "The Hidden Costs of Our Degrees: Labor, Censorship, and Exploitation In the University." The panelists were Joel Westheimer, Marc Bousquet, and Barbara Foley. Westheimer told his story of being denied tenure at NYU even though he'd been told he was performing stellarly up until just before the tenure-granting process when he testified on behalf of graduate students' demands for collective bargaining at the National Labor Relations Board hearings. Marc Bousquet talked about a shift in the university to a climate of providing information rather than education. (He talked a lot and discussed many terms like "informatics," but essentially he was saying that the university system exploits its faculty and graduate students by shifting focus away from the material realities of labor to the abstract idea of information production.) Barbara Foley talked (explicitly as a "Marxist" and "Sixties Radical") about US foreign policy as a cause of the terrorist attacks of 9-11 and how that general climate of "capital accumulation" affects academic labor, too. (She didn't go much into that connection, though.)
I came away from the discussion very unsatisfied. I should've realized by now that traditional Marxist-based analyses of labor and such always leave me feeling helpless. It's not that I don't agree with these people's analyses of how universities exploit the academic labor of graduate students and adjunct faculty, but so what? What kind of solutions can they offer? All three panelists could only gesture vaguely towards a "utopia" in the future or to the importance of "unions" and "organizing" without talking about what those things entail. In the Q&A, I asked Joel Westheimer what could be done about the tenure-granting process, to make it more "democratic" in his own terms. But all he could say in response was that tenure was just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the "administration's" control over the faculty. And Barbara Foley was adamant about considering administrations and the "ruling class" of the US (referring to W. Bush, etc.) as "them" rather than the patriotic "us." While I'm not much of a patriot or one even to embrace a collective identity, I couldn't help but feel that their rhetoric of distancing themselves from a corrupt ruling elite was rather unproductive. In the case of dealing with the tenure process, I can think of a million things that might be done: to try to shift accountability away from corporate administration, to foreground accountability of decisions (what are the criteria for advancement and how can they be made less fudge-able?), to advocate a different way of adjudicating tenure or promotion. Not that I have all the answers and that these things will work, but I think the major conceptual block of Marxist analyses is a failure to realize that "workers" are not completely alien to "managers." There has got to be a way to reconcile labor to capital, right? I guess I'm just not a very good Marxist. But this is where it's crucial to deal with paradoxes and contradictions as productive moments (rather than simply as exploitative ones). For example, Foley talked about utopias without money, without professionalization, etc. And she talked about her radical beliefs of needing a complete overhaul of the capitalist system in the US and the world; reform is not enough. And yet, she recognized the necessity of the continual "struggle" for reforms pointed to greater equality (economic and otherwise). So this is the first and most important paradox, I think: knowing that reforms are not enough to change the basic structures of capital exploitation, yet knowing that we have no alternative but to struggle for them. Whatever.
On a brighter note, I've started reading Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick's Epistemology of the Closet for the first time and I'm in love. Sedgwick is amazingly smart and articulate; her prose is beautiful (talk about a book of criticism as art in itself!). I'm always blown away by people who can analyze dynamics of sociality in such complex, yet easy-to-understand ways. And of course, her explicit commitment to an antihomophobic project, as in her earlier work Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire, in this book makes her just that much more agreeable. I'm only on page thirty-four or something, but I like her engagement with the critical issues of feminism and lesbian & gay studies. I particularly like her insistence on analyzing sexuality apart from gender, not because she believes the two modes of differentiation to be entirely separate, but because they operate in their own logics (even as they are often definitionally dependent on each other).
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>> 11:14 AM
Oh, I saw a car in Chapel Hill with a [Blogger] bumper sticker today. Whee!
limpid: adj. 1 (of water, eyes, etc.) clear, transparent. 2 (of writing) clear and easily comprehended.
>> 11:12 AM
Sunday, November 04, 2001
I need to work on my productivity. Five hours after I left home to come to campus to do work, I've accomplished next to nothing. Maybe I'll just go home. I did talk to Better Fangs :F? on the phone, though. That was great, since I haven't heard from her in ages. I blabbered on incessantly about my career woes, just like I've been doing here. Didn't come to any conclusions, though.
>> 7:16 PM
I wish I could believe in an ordered world. And I wish I were smart. And I know that the way I conflate "literary criticism" and "theorizing" in [the earlier post] (as well as the way I reduce "theorizing" to a vague, singular kind of work) is exactly why I am not able to understand what it is people in the academy do.
sortilege: n. divination by lots.
>> 1:21 PM
Saturday, November 03, 2001[The Laramie Project], a play, at [Playmakers Repertory Company] at [UNC]. It was amazing. Maybe more later, but just wanted to mention now that it's well worth seeing! I really like the idea of how it was written and produced, too, with Moises Kaufman and the [Tectonic Theater Project] going to Laramie and interviewing the residents there for material; the play is mainly a concatenation of excerpts from the interviews.
concatenate: v. & adj. § v. tr. link together (a chain of events, things, etc.). § adj. joined; linked.
>> 2:52 PM
Friday, November 02, 2001[novel-in-a-month] thing. Especially since they are already writing enough to fill a novel each month. So they're really writing two novels! I could never. I think it's funny that some of these blogger-turned-novelists-to-be have set up group-support blogs like [Writing in the Dark], meaning they'll be writing even more! Phew!
>> 5:16 PM
(1) I haven't really read Notes of a Desolate Man, but I started it a couple of years ago. I was turned away then by the narrator's explicit engagement with the theories of Lévi-Strauss and Foucault because I was unfamiliar with them. But now that I think about it, there's something very interesting about a novel with characters who live in a theoretical world. They see their lives through the lenses of structuralism, post-structuralism, etc. And I think in some way, that's how I see the world, even though I don't understand the different theories very well. My question here is, what do we make of a novel that speaks theory?
(2) I'm still working on my master's thesis on Gold by the Inch. My paper at this point relies heavily on a few things like Marxist understandings of exchange and fetishism and theories of globalization in Southeast Asia. And I find myself asking why it's so important to retell these theories of personhood and economic flow when they are already so embedded in the novel itself. (Susan Sontag wrote back in the Sixties an essay called "Against Interpretation" that argued that interpretation is really just a restating of the content of a work and that critical writing should focus instead on elucidating the structure and mechanics of art. I don't know if I completely agree with Sontag, but I think her definition of interpretation is in some ways useful to understand what I'm doing in English studies.)
(3) I wrote a convoluted and truncated paper on Dictee last semester. I wanted to understand why it is such a central text for the Asian American Studies scholars who published widely in the 1990s. It is a peculiar text because it is not a novel. Cha was an experimental artist, a performance artist, an avant-garde artist. Her book is powerful because it lacks the usual conventions of narrative, even down to the level of syntax and sentence. So how is it that this book holds so much critical importance for these scholars? Why have they chosen it as a cornerstone for a new canon of Asian American literature? In the collection of essays on Dictee, Writing Self, Writing Nation, four of these scholars (and one visual artist) commented on Cha's text, reading it for what it said about Korean / American history. But what can we do with how Dictee functions outside the sphere of materialist readings?
(4) A nascent project for this semester is perhaps the most overt catalyst to my thoughts on creative vs. critical work. I read Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights for a class and remembered a book I had started a couple of years ago called Windward Heights. I had picked up Maryse Condé's book because I had heard about Condé and was interested in her work and because the book was a rewriting of Wuthering Heights, one of my favorite books. As I started re-reading Windward Heights a couple of months ago with the intention of writing my seminar paper for the class on it somehow, I realized that all I was doing was describing an anti-colonial project of Caribbean literature as manifested in Windward Heights. But I wanted to think about why Condé explicitly was rewriting Wuthering Heights. Is it a kind of interpretation? An homage? A satire? An interpretation? And if it is an interpretation, what makes it different from what literary critics do in interpreting Wuthering Heights? What is the relationship between the two novels? Why does Condé choose Wuthering Heights? How is it commenting on the novel? What does Windward Heights do that Wuthering Heights doesn't?
In some ways, I want to figure out what the differences are between an artist, a critic, and a theorist. Obviously, their (overlapping?) roles can reside within the same person, but how much can we blur the boundaries between the work they do? What does it mean to be a cultural worker (a term I take from the strange but thought-provoking collective, [Critical Art Ensemble])? Is a literary critic an artist, too? Can't an artist say some of the same things theorists do?
ineluctable: adj. 1 against which it is useless to struggle. 2 that cannot be escaped from.
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Thursday, November 01, 2001
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I looked at the comments I received on my exam earlier this semester. They were not very good. I was recommended to continue on to the PhD level, but not enthusiastically. In effect, the exam committee thought I was sort of an imposter, someone who read literature, but didn't do it quite in a scholarly way. And I just don't think I understand what that "scholarly way" is. Is it a stylistic thing? Is it a perspective? Is it something about the content of writing? I just don't know. And I don't feel like it's worth my finding out anymore.
Of course, that means that over two years later (after graduating from college without a clue what I would do with my life), I'm still no closer to figuring out what kind of career I could undertake. In the past, I had been fairly optimistic about that search. I structured the pursuit as an end in itself, believing that the concept of becoming was the important thing. As long as I continued to think about what I could do in this world, what work would satisfy my existence, I would be fine. But now, I'm not so sure. Maybe because I feel like I should've found at least something by now that I can do. I just feel wholly incompetent. And at the same time, like I am simply running away from everything that requires determination, persistence, and patience. Is that why I ran away from a medical career? Could I just not envision the long haul of medical school and residency? Am I doing the same thing with a career as an English professor? Am I just unwilling to do the work to become fluent in literary studies? I wish life came with an instruction book. But then, would I even follow it, or cast it aside as constrictive? I think that's my main problem: at the same time that I want answers, I don't want them as explicit instructions. I want to make my own answers, but I don't know how.
And then I'm also always feeling like a fake. I feel like I'm just making the gestures of teaching my students in the composition class. I can't imagine that they're really learning anything from me. I feel like I'm not really even a good student in my own classes. As much as I want to think of myself as a life-long student, one of those people who always have to ask questions, I consistently find myself mute in class. I have nothing to say in class. I'm not moved to say anything in class. I'm not inspired or provoked or intrigued to engage other students in class discussion. Even reading material, I don't feel like I read critically enough -- not in the sense of being argumentative or negative about the text, but understanding it not just on the level of what it says, but what its assumptions are, what it responds to, what its critical context is, etc. I feel like I'm just this passive, not-too-astute absorber of information. So sad.
Often in the last month, I've felt that I made a mistake in choosing to go into graduate English work instead of entering the library science degree program. If I had gone into library science, I wouldn't have gotten into debt taking out loans for school (I was offered a couple of fellowships for library science). I would be almost done with school at this point (it's a two-year master's program) as opposed to only really at the beginning of my PhD program (I'm almost done with a master's in English literature, but as a degree it's practically worthless by itself -- you can't really do anything with it that you can't do without). Plus, it's such a practical, career-related degree that I would feel more ready to take on a job in a library somewhere. Instead, I'm thinking it might not even be worth it for me to finish out the master's degree. I probably will try just because I've come this far anyways and I have nothing else to do.
Maybe I need to tackle seriously my desire to write novels. Or maybe I should take up my adolescent dream to be a comic book artist (and writer). Such capricious dreams, though. Of course they're mostly impractical as career paths, even though some people do make a living as novelists and comic book artists . . .
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- Henri in Jeanette Winterson's The Passion
At some point I need to go retrieve my pumpkin from out front and deliver it to the dumpster out back. So sad to see it go. It's November! EEP!
I've been sort of thinking lately that my life would be so much easier if I had continued on in the medicine-doctor career path. I mean, in some ways there is so much more stability to the idea of "doctor" than to the idea of "professor" (especially a professor in English). There's a reason why my parents pushed me to be pre-med in college and all; medicine is a stable career, a well-defined practice, even if it changes at a tremendous rate each day (new technological advances, etc.). Now that I'm floundering in the slipperiness of trying to define "knowledge" and "discipline" and "fact" and all, I'm beginning to wonder if the seeming arrogance of science-based thinking isn't perhaps necessary to get on in life. Which is not to say, of course, that science is foolish or bad in any way, but that in my experience of how it is taught and how it is used in everyday life to support beliefs and ideas and justify relations between peoples, it seems so simplistic and reductive. I dunno. My mind isn't big enough to grapple with these questions. I'm just glad that there are people strong enough to remain in the sciences while questioning the assumptions of science-based knowledge and its implications in our social-political-moral views.
catarrh: n. 1 inflammation of the mucous membrane of the nose, air passages, etc. 2 a watery discharge in the nose or throat due to this. catarrhal adj.
>> 11:59 AM
atom site feed
asian american writers' workshop
the new york times
jon carroll @ sfgate
the village voice
let bygones be...
the old stuff