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13th July 2010

1:19am: Five years
I made it through another July 12th.  Five years ago, Aunt Julie died of ovarian cancer.  A month and a half later, we left New Orleans for higher ground.  Five years later, several family funerals later, and--get this--two college degrees later, I made it through the day without any giant emotional outbursts--a first for the date.

However, it's probably because I spent the weekend in such emotional places that by today I was rather spent.  Wednesday of last week, I drove to western North Carolina for my grandmother's funeral.  Mamaw's been a decline of Alzheimer's for the past several years, so her death wasn't really a surprise--and is in a number of ways a relief--but it still hit me rather hard.  Mark simply couldn't get off of work--his last day is this week, and he's been swamped--so my wonderful friend Rebecca went with me.  About halfway through the visitation, when I got yet another strange look from a preacher, it occurred to me--as I haven't seen most of Mamaw's family since the 70s, and didn't know any of the preachers there, introducing myself and "my friend Rebecca" probably means that half of Canton, North Carolina, now thinks I'm a lesbian.  Which Mamaw would probably find quite funny.

Except my great-uncle Frank, who kept hitting on Rebecca.  As my brother pointed out, if you find yourself explaining to someone that you're not really a dirty old man, that's probably a clue that you are.  I don't really care for my Uncle Frank--but as several of my relatives would explain, he's not blood kin.

Funerals are such a bizarre mix of joy at seeing long-missed relatives (or never met, or some I've seen a million photos of, but have never met in real life) and sadness at missing others.  I love talking to my relatives, and hearing stories--so many stories.   Apparently, when my great-grandparents were first married and had their first three kids, they lived in a boxcar in a lumber camp, where they one night hid a man accused of murder.  According to Uncle Chris, Paw-Paw said that they were okay hiding the man, because his victim needed killing.

In case one wonders where my interest in southern literature comes from...

The funeral was hard for me.  It was in the tiny Plains Methodist Church in Canton, where not only my mother grew up going, but my grandmother went there as a child.  My cousins sang a couple of surprisingly moving songs, so much so that I kind of wished that I had gone before the singing.  I was a bit afraid that I'd go up to the podium and burst out crying.

I didn't.  Despite my shaking hands and nervous feelings (seriously? nerves about speaking at Mamaw's funeral?  I love speaking in front of people.  I was really surprised at how difficult it was), I got up and talked a bit about Mamaw's love for working with her hands and poetry, two loves we shared, and then read the poem "My Life is but a Weaving," one of her favorites (which I later found out was also a favorite of my great-grandmother).   Despite my worries about reading such verse without sounding sing-songy, I discovered while reading it to the congregation that, per Rebecca's advice, if I simply paid attention to what I was saying, the meaning of the words, it wouldn't sound like doggerel.  And I don't think it did.

And then I carried the ashes out of the church, in my brother's car, to the cemetery.  Such a responsibility.  Such a surprisingly heavy (in all ways) responsibility.  Funerals do ultimately end up being about ourselves--I felt such loss.  I felt the loss of Aunt Julie all over again, it seemed.  I felt worry about Uncle Rick in the midst of chemo and COPD now. 

And I felt the absolute weirdness of the past five years.  I am incredibly grateful for the past five years, that I've been as physically close to my family and been able to get to know so many of them.  And, quite frankly, I am glad that the funeral took place while I was still here, so that I could go and take part.  And I'm glad that my mother can finally start to get some healing, as the past five years have been rough on her: July, 2005, she lost her sister; August, I escaped a hurricane; July 2006, Mamaw's sister died; July 2007, Papaw died, and we realized the extent of Mamaw's Alzheimer's; and finally this summer, Mother had to field the calls from the nursing home confirming that as Mamaw declined, we only wanted comfort care for her. 

Those last calls, at least Mother was with Michael and me when they came--and she was able to get back to Georgia and see Mamaw before she finally died.  She was with her when she died, which she took great comfort in.  I'm glad that I saw Mamaw last when she was still able to talk some, and understand who I was. I take comfort in that.

I should watch Angels in America again, at least the end, when Prior chooses more life.  It's a very hopeful ending to a movie for me.  I do feel hopeful, but I feel the weight of change and sadness, too. 

1st July 2010

8:14pm: Me too!
After having decompressed from school being out for a while, had a lovely week of fun in Cincinnati, and reading fyshmom 's return to blogging bit, I'm going to start writing on here somewhat.  I'd like to have a smaller, less public outlet than fb for my thoughts, but still in a forum where I'm writing (theoretically) to more than myself, but fewer than the 200-some potential readers on the bigger thing.

I just finished reading Peter Elbow's article on ranking/grading/evaluating student writing, which lit up a bunch of bulbs in my head.  Central to these lightbulbs was his discussion of the phenomenology of liking--it's easier to deal with students and read their work if you like them.  What makes you decide that you like someone or something?  Can you just decide that you do, until proven otherwise?  His compassion for teachers was also comforting, in that he said that he's found that teachers also need to feel okay venting to each other when they feel fed up with dumb students and their stupid antics.

Mark had his going away party at the law school yesterday, which I attended, as I used to work there.  There were some really nice things said about him, and we came away with the sense that what he's done there was important and appreciated--there were even some judges who attended and said nice things.  Afterward, Mark was really moved by the experience, reflected on the things he's learned from this job.  Besides the gazillions of technical skills he's learned, he's also felt it was a maturation and learning process, where he learned what he referred to as to stop fibbing to his boss.  If he's not got something done, he's straight about it.  If he's worked his ass off and wants a day where he sleeps in, he's reached a point where he can say that to his boss, and it's cool.

I don't often think about the idea of honesty, other than to be in favor of it, but recently I've been thinking about the idea of emotional honesty.  What am I actually feeling?  What am I actually thinking?  And in being more conscious of this, I've been thinking about the Byron Katie Four Questions book I read a couple of year ago:

Step 1 Is it true?

Step 2 Can you absolutely know that it's true?

Step 3 How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

Who would you be without the thought?

I learned a version of this in therapy several years ago, and find it really useful when my mind starts spinning off into big dramas of its own which often have little to do with reality.  I'm thinking now about consciously thinking of these questions when approaching students.  Or the bigger question of likes/dislikes--what would happen with or without these thoughts or judgments?

I'm especially interested in paying attention to these things as I approach the next few months (and, honestly, next few years), in which there are so many big changes afoot.  I'd like to try to feel my feelings/fear/excitement/anxiety as I'm feeling them, rather than let them bottle up.  Part of the trick is going to be to not isolate myself, not just sit on the couch with my laptop, but to seek out people and connection and communication (as well as physical activity and non-academic stimulation); but part of it I think is going to be to keep up this line of self-honesty.

So, we'll see how it goes.

3rd May 2010

12:16am: Masterhood
In the context of the orange satin thing in the spare room which I'll be wearing next week at the hooding ceremony to commemorate my earning my master's degree. 

What a blur the past two years have been.  Obviously--there are very few posts on here from the past two years.  Most of my spare time since starting grad school has gone to school--it is really unbelievable how there's never an end to work.  A major lesson I've been working on (and am still working on) is learning how to stop.  Even now that I've passed everything and am pretty much Monica Miller, MA, I'm still working--before starting LSU this fall, there are several books I really want to have read.

I try to keep in mind what Dr. Haddox announced in class once--that regardless of what we do, we're never going to read everything because eventually we're all going to die (which prompted a classmate to complain--"Spoiler alert!"--which was possibly the funniest thing I've ever heard in a classroom).  I have read a lot--and I feel like I've read nothing.  I hope to develop a more accepting attitude towards this as I progress (and, admittedly, read more).

When I start at LSU, I'm going to be expected to "articulate my scholarly position," which I'm thinking about right now.  Haddox is right, I am interested in the sublime--which may be why I like modernists so much.  Modernist technique addresses the sublime well.  I'm also primarily interested in 20th century southern women writers.  There are three big directions I'm considering dissertation-wise right now: (1) the portrayal of "ugliness," or "ugly women" in the work of southern women writers; (2) the intersection/influence of British women writers on southern women writers (like, Lee Smith seems to be rewriting Jane Eyre over and over again); or (3) a contribution to the rediscovery of Evelyn Scott.  She's a modernist southern writer who seems to be to Faulkner what Edith Wharton was to Henry James--much more successful at the time, but quickly forgotten and overshadowed by the man in her life in the canon.  I've read one of her novels, and part of her memoir, and am about to read her massive 600-page Civil War novel, The Wave.  That will help me determine if I want to focus on her.

It really is strange to find myself on such a "career track."  One reason I'm quite happy with LSU is that they have such a commitment to getting students through the program and into a job.  I know so many people unhappy with their phd programs or unhappy with adjuncting that I am determined to get through my own without bitterness or regret.  As I've been asking everyone I know for their advice, the consensus seems to be to keep lines of communication open with everyone, including yourself, and be proactive in figuring out what I want to do.  Thus, the work I'd like to get done this summer.

My other big challenge is not letting schoolwork get in the way of everything else.  I'm hoping that now that I've taught two semesters, that I have a decent start on lesson plans, so maybe teaching won't be so much creation of the wheel from here on out.  LSU's comp program is a little different from UT's, but not terribly so (at least from what their website seems to say).  I want to figure out how to put some boundaries around my schoolwork so that I also do things like move around, meditate, and keep my surroundings cleaner/less chaotic.  My hope is to use the work I want to get done this summer as a test case for drawing boundaries around schoolwork and keeping time and space clear for other things, and then see if I can carry that over this fall.

That's the theory, anyway.

16th December 2009

12:11am: In which I return to posting
It's been so much easier to post status updates and a couple of tweets than it is to sit down and write a blog post. This is so much more private--who knows if anyone will actually read this?

I just read back through the last year or so of entries--what an unbelievable year and a half it has been. Uncle Rick is still alive, though I don't know what state he's in--his last blog post was November 20th, in which he compared himself to the Aging Mariner and talked about qualities of fatigue that people who have not been through chemo might not be able to grasp. His tumor hasn't responded, and has grown a bit. I called a left a message for him today--I'm not terribly surprised he didn't answer, in that besides his cancer and all, today was Aunt Julie's birthday. It's a tough day for me--though I realized when I was putting on my pajamas tonight that I had put on one of her old jazzercize tshirts under my sweatshirt today, so that was comforting to re-realize that I am surrounded by memories of her, both physical and not.

Today was an official winter break day. After taking my last final Thursday, and submitting my 101 grades Sunday, and going to campus Monday to pick up a paper (which had over two pages of single-spaced comments by the professor, which I haven't had the heart to read yet--though they end with him urging me to revise and try to get it published, which is good) and have lunch with Mark and his boss, today I stayed home and did nothing school related. I did three loads of laundry, and knitted, and read a novel, and wrapped Christmas presents. A wonderful day.

It is weird switching down from the high gear I've been in all semester. I knew it would be tough, and indeed it has been. All I've done is work. And work. And work. And then at Thanksgiving it hit me that part of all the work I've been doing has been heading so that next Thanksgiving, we'll be someplace else. And that was weird. Plus, filling out all ten phd applications (lord!!), I had to write lots of "what I've done with my life" sorts of things, listing all of the undergrad and graduate English classes I've taken, I realized a bit more just how much I've done the past five years. It was sort of vertigo-inducing.

It's exciting and anxious-making, and now I have to wait until at least March to get some sort of answers from the apps. Of course, I have a 102 class to plan for and teach and comps to study for, and two classes of my own I'm taking starting in January, so I'll be busy again (though certainly it won't be possible to repeat the level of busy of this semester). I'm excited about 102--I actually get to teach a class about the South. It's a research methods class, and they make a big deal about how it can't be just literature, but I am teaching Lee Smith's Oral History both to talk about Appalachia as well as at the idea of an oral history. I'm teaching my first novel!!

I am so glad to have reached a place of rest for now.

30th July 2009

4:26pm: A bit about my trip
The idea of writing a grand narrative is a bit daunting--if you want narrative, look at my pictures on Facebook.  To start in the middle, then, I was reminded in my reading last night of the reading and speaking Shakespeare workshop we did in Stratford.  My first week was in Stratford, and was quite organized and scheduled--four plays, lectures and workshops every day at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, scheduled tours of Shakespeare's birthplace, and residences of various family members.  After each play, often the next day we would get to talk to someone involved in the play at the Royal Shakespeare Company--we had a discussion with the assistant director of Julius Caesar, and with the actress who played Rosalind in As You Like It.

During the voice workshop, the voice coach had us walk around, read aloud a soliloquy, and punctuate the ends of each line by slapping the floor each time we got to the end of a line.  This is different from how I'm used to reading verse aloud--usually, you're not supposed to stop at the end of the line, but stop at the natural ends of ideas, or emphasize important words in the text.  The RSC person, however, noted that Shakespeare's lines are broken up in the way that they are on purpose.  He also had us pay attention to alliteration in the text--I'm used to alliteration being important in, say, Anglo-Saxon literature, but it's not normally something I really stress when reading aloud.  Again, a different way of looking at verse.

So, right now, I'm reading Simon Callow's Being an Actor, which I got at a used bookstore in Bloomsbury.  I had no idea he had written so many books--I feel I may be about to be on a Simon Callow kick, after seeing him in Godot   in London (and getting his photograph and autograph after the show, and telling him what a fan of his I am.  Which is true--I had just watched him in A Room with a View for the 500th time before my trip--many of the other people waiting for autographs claimed they had no idea who he was.  They've apparently never even seen Four Weddings and a Funeral.).  Anyway, he wrote about learning to read Shakespearean verse, and how he learned not to focus on particular words, but rather on the ends of lines.  With that emphasis, Shakespeare's language really jumps.

Here's the example he gave:

Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore
So do our minutes hasten to their end.

Instead of emphasizing words, like "waves" and "minutes," he instead emphasized the phrases "toward the pebbled shore" and "hasten to their end."  I think it makes the meaning much clearer.

Now I'm going to be reading poetry with another tool.  Very cool.

Another really nifty part of my trip was the British Library, which was just up from the dorm in Bloomsbury.  (By the way, all of the museums in London were free.  There was sometimes an extra fee for a special exhibit--like the Gay Icons exhibit at the National Portrait Gallery was 5 pounds, but general admission is free.)  While I didn't have any scholarly credentials, which means I couldn't actually use the library, there is the incredible exhibit room at the Library which I went back to twice.  In just one room, there's the Magna Carta, Shakespeare's First Folio, and so many manuscripts on display of things I love.  It was really something to see a page and illustration of Alice in Wonderland in Lewis Carroll's hand (he had such neat handwriting!), and seeing "Reader, I married him" in Charlotte Bronte's handwriting was mind-blowing.  As was listening to the Beatles while looking at the hand-written lyrics for things like "Help!"

I kept thinking about the Proust and Benjamin I read this past fall, about the idea of objects being embedded with an actual aura of memory--even though there was glass between myself and Virginia Woolf's notebook, I still felt that I was interacting with it.  I was definitely interacting with the park where there's a bust of her in Bloomsbury; it's the park she walked while ruminating over To the Lighthouse.

I was pretty dumbstruck by the drawing of Jane Austen in the National Portrait Gallery.  It's huge (the National Portrait Gallery, not the drawing) (although not compared to the British Museum, or the National Gallery, which is one of the most confusing places I've ever been to, even with a map and numbered rooms).  In yet another smallish-room, the walls were covered with life-sized oil painted of writers like Keats and Shelley and Mary Shelley and Wordsworth and Coleridge.  The Keats one was particularly striking, as he struck a very intellectual pose.  In front of these giant paintings, was a pedestal with the one known image of Jane Austen taken from life that's known to exist,   it's a simple pencil drawing done by her sister, Cassandra.

Certainly, Keats is read now, but he doesn't have nearly the following that Jane Austen has.  I stood in front of her drawing for probably ten minutes, thinking about her popularity now versus her own quiet life.  Could she have even imagined Colin Firth, or Days and Nights at Pemberley?  Or Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

Three weeks is a very long time, especially if one gets a bad cold in the middle of it, and misses her own pillow and comfortable bed.  Despite the discomforts, though, it was an amazing trip for which I am very grateful.

28th June 2009

2:58pm: One more week
I leave this coming Saturday, July 4th,  at 2:30 pm, arriving at Heathrow Sunday morning around 7-something.  I'm feeling excited, anxious, nervous, and a bit scared.  I really enjoy flying, but I've never flown this far before.  I have books to read, knitting (with wooden needles, which are allowed), a neck pillow, and an mp3 player in my backpack. 

I have taken out a bunch of guidebooks from the library, and finally decided upon buying my own copy of the Fodor's guide.  After I returned them all, I realized that I also returned the one I bought in with the others.  Happily, it was in the library's lost and found today.

So.  We'll spend the first week in Stratford, doing lots of Shakespeare tourism, and seeing Julius Caesar, As You Like It, Winter's Tale, and Comedy of Errors.  We'll also have a day in Oxford that week, see Kenilworth Castle, and have a wine-fueled reading of Midsummer's Night Dream (which I think sounds like fun).  Each day, there are lectures and workshops with Shakespeare people--I think I'm most looking forward to the workshop of make up and wigs.

The next two weeks are in London.  In Stratford, we'll be staying in a bed and breakfast; my friend Rebecca and I will be roommates.  In London, we'll be staying in a dorm at the University of London, where we'll have our own rooms.  Shopping for this trip has meant buying things like flipflops for the shower and a caddy to carry shampoo and stuff--it's been amusing to connect to my inner-17-year-old, when I bought such things in preparation for going away to college.  The university is across the street from the British Museum, which is free, and has things like the Rosetta Stone and the Magna Carta in it, and the British Library, where things like Jane Austen's writing and an original Beowulf manuscript are on display.  I plan on spending a lot of time there.

In London, we're seeing: Wicked; JB Priestley's Time and the Conways, Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida (which is not nearly as good as Chaucer's); Beckett's Waiting for Godot (with the faboulous people in it); Stoppard's Arcadia; Warhorse (a giant puppet production that takes place during World War I); Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem; and Richard Bean's England People Very Nice.  Whew. 

We have a long weekend while in London.  Rebecca and I have plans to spend one day in Avebury, where there's a stone circle bigger than Stonehenge, but much less crowded--and you're allowed to climb on the stones.  The other day trip we have planned is to Haworth, which promotes itself as "Bronte Country."  I plan on running on the moor and shouting "Heathcliff!" at least once.  I also want to go to Westminster Abbey--my goal is to buy a rose and scatter rose petals on the grave of Aphra Behn there, as Virginia Woolf says all women writers should do in A Room of One's Own.

I'll be back on Saturday, July 25th.  I decided not to return to my library job when I get back.  Workshop week in the English department starts August 10th, and I'll want to have my 101 syllabus done by then.  Classes start August 19th.   I'm grateful that I'll be able to have a little bit of official summer vacation down time before starting up again in August.  There is other work I'd like to get done in August (of course!)--I have a paper I'm presenting in September, on faeries, to adapt from my thesis; the deadline for the gothic paper I've worked on this summer is the end of August; and I'd like to get a jump on my personal statements and writing samples for phd applications this fall.

So, I've got my suitcase out, my backpack out, and my big purse.  That's all the luggage I'm taking.  I'm making an effort to keep space in my backpack especially, to leave room for purchases.  I was thinking of taking a sunhat, and even momentarily toyed with the idea of making a bonnet (because how fun would it be to wear a bonnet in Bronte country?), but then Mark pointed out that the perfect hat for England would be the hat that one purchases in England, and I'm tempted to agree with him.  I'm not going to shop, but to see; the only real souvenir I'm considering looking at would be if I see actual Liberty cotton for sale there.  That would be neat.  And lots of photographs and post cards.  I like pictures.

I am going to work Monday through Thursday of this week.  I hope to have more the of the lovely brainless work I've been doing--Thursday of last week, I spend the afternoon doing data entry while listening to vintage WOXY online.  I'm glad to have something to keep me busy this last week!

16th June 2009

9:44am: This weekend
It was long, and tiring.  Friday night we went to Sevierville to Mark's grandmother's visitation at the funeral home.  We stayed away from the open casket.  I met some of his relatives I hadn't met before, whom I really liked; I was particularly interested in learning who the woman with the discreet om necklace on was--she and her husband, and cousin of Mark's, were good to talk to.

We went to his Aunt Chris's afterwards, and then went home that night.  Saturday morning, we went straight to Gatlinburg.  His family's cemetary is hidden right in the middle of tacky tourist crap.  You actually turn into an alley behind a strip mall and go up a hill to get there.  The relative who had sold the land that the strip mall was on had done so with the stipulation that there always be a church on the land; the current owners have gotten around that by including a Christian bookstore on the site, which I think is quite tacky, moneychangers in the temple and all of that.

The service was not surprising--I would have preferred fewer quotes from Revelations and more Psalms.  Given that we were up in the mountains, I would have liked to have heard my favorite psalm, the one that starts, "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my strength," but, oh well.  The minister was related to the family,  (something like his grandmother and Mark's grandmother's grandmother were sisters), though I think if your family goes back a certain amount in time in Gatlinburg, you have to be related.  Afterwards, we walked around the cemetery, appreciating the wonderful archaic Southern names.  My favorite with Amorintha.

In an attempt to give Mark's aunt a break from having a million people at her house, we went to lunch with Mark's mom, and then went to the park for  a while.  We went to Newfound Gap, and then managed to find the old family cemetery which is still in the park.  The directions were on the vague side, and had been told to Mark by two great-uncles talking at the same time, so I maintain that he found it with the help of his ancestors.  It was quite amazing, to find in the woods a stone wall still standing, and lots of very old stones.

We went home that night, too.  Sunday, we were quite tired, but went back.  Mark's mom and her siblings were going to meet at 2 to start going through his grandma's things, and Mark volunteered to make a big pot of soup for dinner.  They didn't come back until after 6, quite exhausted emotionally.  Having a big pot of chicken-based soup was quite good for them, I think.  We were able to pick some onions, garlic, and lettuce from the garden to bring home; I'm looking forward to an actual garden salad.

We left a little before 8.  However,  because of Tennessee Department of Transportation insanity, we didn't home until close to 10 (what is usually a half hour trip).  I got so desperate that I had to pee in a bottle.  TDOT still hasn't answered my email.

Yesterday we were both rather tired.  At work, because we've done most of the big moving stuff, there was leftover work to do.  My boss, when going down her to-do list, kept saying she was trying to find me something "not mind-numbingly boring" to do, and I kept assuring her that mind-numbingly boring was just fine with me.

This evening, Mark's going to pick up his mother after work, and she'll stay with us for a couple of days.  Last night was a frenzy of cleaning, though the clutter's just going to remain clutter.  I'm coming home after work, to set up the air mattress and stuff.  I also want to make sure I'm here at 7:30, for my inaugural skype call with my little brother and my fabulous nephew.

And it's only Tuesday!  Happily, I've taken off work the rest of the week, to spend time with my mother-in-law.  Friday, I'm having lunch with an incoming MA student who's been assigned as my mentor, and then there's a meeting of the MA reading group.  I'm reading Pamela for that righ now--Pamela is an absolute twit.  I think that Jane Eyre needs to kick her ass and invite her to a consciousness-raising group.

12th June 2009

3:42pm: Blood on the door
So, in the past week:
  • I had a long talk with Uncle Rick, who's been given a prognosis of a year with lung cancer
  • Mark's grandmother died Tuesday (his Aunt Chris was the one who found her); we're going to see family in Sevierville tonight, and graveside service tomorrow
  • Jay Lake, an author Mark follows, announced on his blog that his cancer has metastasized and spread to a dangerous degree
  • I saw X, and then learned that this is probably their last tour ever, as Exene has been diagnosed with MS
  • Got an email from my mom that a cousin who is my little brother's age was found dead by her mother
I'm thinking that we either need to get some sheep's blood and mark the door, or at least make matzoh ball soup, in order to provoke some sort of Passover-type situation.  The Angel of Death has been much too busy here as of late.  Usually, it waits until July--since 2005, when Aunt Julie died, someone in my family has died in July.

Reading Sandman before bed has been oddly comforting, seeing a personification of Death which is comforting and at times amusing.

But really.

In happy, distracting news, Rebecca came over today, and we planned some London itinerary.  The long weekend we have, we're taking two day trips: one to Avebury, which is a not-very-touristy stone circle way bigger than Stonehenge, which you're allowed to climb on and stuff.  The next day, we're taking another day trip to "Bronte country" (insert lots of jokes about free-range Brontes, and full-flavor whatever here).  That Sunday afternoon, I want to go to South London, to the evensong service at Southwork Church--there's been a church of one sort or another on the site since 606 CE, and it's where Shakespeare attended when he was in London.  

I've been working on expanding this gothic paper I have the last couple of days, which has been a wonderful activity to lose myself in.  I'm now past the 5000 word point--I just need at least 6000 to submit.

Warning to everyone: wear your seatbelt.  Eat your vegetables. Take your vitamins!

9th June 2009

9:43pm: Today
Either Adorno's getting easier, or I'm getting used to it.  I think it was a bit of both--this chapter was on ethics after Auschwitz, so the subject matter was a bit more concrete--or at least had more ties to concrete things than previous chapters.  I have finished my reading for Thursday's reading group, which is a relief to have finished.  Last night I finished editing all of the death penalty manual chapters that I have so far, so that's caught up with, too.  I finished Remains of the Day last night--what a lovely book.  I still have reading to do for Friday (Rebecca and I agreed to read another 200 pages of Fiedler), but I'll think about that tomorrow.  

I had been feeling a bit daunted by everything I've set myself to do right now, but right now, it's feeling doable.  Having England four weeks away (and an X concert tomorrow night)  is a good carrot, too!

Now, I'm going to look at this gothic paper I wrote, to see if it can be expanded by 3000 words; there's a cfp for a journal that I would really like to submit to.  The deadline's August 3, which seems doable to me.

8th June 2009

7:17pm: Monday, Monday
I finally found a gift to send to Uncle Rick to help him get through chemo--I just ordered him a travel mug emblazoned with "fuck cancer" across it.  I found it cheering; I hope he will, too.

I started the novel Remains of the Day last night; I should be done with it this evening.  It's on the MA reading list, and is a delightful change from Adorno and Leslie Fiedler and all of the other difficult stuff I've been slogging through.  It's a quick read; I'm so enjoying it.

I had so much fun watching the Tonys last night with all of my online friends!  It was nice to not be alone in being weirded out by seeing Poison on Broadway. 

5th June 2009

10:27pm: More weirdness
So, I was supposed to go to "Corset Karaoke" tonight--friends had arranged an outing to country karaoke at a dive bar, and everyone was going to wear corsets or other sexy wear and be fabulous.  I was looking forward to it.

I had lunch today with several friends, the five of us going to the southern women writer's conference in September, so everyone could meet and start making plans about coordinating travel and stuff.  Then Rebecca and I spent the afternoon going through Love and Death in the American Novel, so that hopefully come comps time we'll be able to "trace the development of the American novel."  

By dinnertime, I was feeling kind of over my social interaction limit.  I had a great time today, but the thought of going out to a bar and being fabulous just felt beyond me--though I couldn't quite put my finger on why, I just didn't want to go.  So, I posted on facebook that I wasn't feeling well, and started working on my 101 syllabus.

Then, Uncle Rick called.  Long story short, he got his doctor to give him a prognosis, and she said best bet, he's got a year.  If that.  Urgh.

He wanted to know what books of his I would like, and talked about the ideas he's had for articles that he hasn't published, but would be happy for me to take and run with, and stuff...It was a very weird conversation to be having.  I did make him laugh so hard at one point that he had to put the phone down to cough something up, which caused in me a strange combination of happiness and fear.  He's taking a lot of comfort in Milton right now--and while I am not a Milton fan, I do now have a whole new appreciation for his "When I consider how my light is spent."  

I feel sad.  And still a bit of the crankiness that I always feel when there's pain to be felt.  Tomorrow, the poet Jeff Daniel Marion is reading his new collection, Father, at the bookstore; I was already planning on going, but now I figure I'll end up going and probably tearing up at some point.  Poetry is where I take my refuge.

3rd June 2009

11:27pm: busy busy busy
Apparently, "summer vacation" is just meaningless for me!
Right now, I'm working Monday through Thursday, noon to four, in the Special Collections library, which is moving to another building (because the wing of the building it's currently in is falling off--right now, leaves come through the crack)--we've got 60,000 volumes to move by August. It's really nice moving around so much, doing something that has nothing to do with siting in front of a computer.  The biggest challenge is not stopping to read everything--the giant folios of the illustrated Blake have been hard to just put on the cart.

The editing job I was first asked about a year ago has finally come through this summer, too--so, when I'm not at the library, I'm editing a book on the death penalty for a law professor.  I know grammar, mechanics, and blue book formatting.  It's a good, well-paying job I can do sitting on my couch listening to Duran Duran, which is lovely, but it is time-consuming.  In the midst of all of this, I've been trying to keep up with reading from the comps list, and reading plays for my London trip in July.

On top of that, I stumbled into the critical theory reading group last week, which is meeting weekly in the summer.  As I'm taking a class in it this fall, I'm happy to get a jump on it..  The reading group is very much like taking a class with Dr. Dunn, who's teaching the class this fall--but goodness, is it heady stuff.  Gender theory, which is the reading group I've been going to, I'm familiar enough with that even when I'm reading Cixous, I can follow it.  Frankfort school critical theory, like this Adorno book I've been reading for tomorrow, is really theoretical, abstract stuff.  I'm just hanging on.

Plus, there's a paper I wrote that I'd like to add about 3,000 words to to submit to a journal that has a deadline of August 3.  And, I'm gathering info about phd programs, and have been starting to try to write some sort of personal statement for these applications, which first requires me to figure out what I do want to do.  It's very weird, seeming to have to declare what it is I want to read and study for the next however many years.  Like, I have to choose a camp--do I want to be Southern, or Appalachian?  I can't be both, apparently.

Anyway.  The daily activity is very good at keeping me sane.  Friday night, friends have organized "corset karaoke" night, in which we're going to dress up and go to karaoke night at a country-esque kind of bar (it's a pretty hipster place, with old country on the jukebox); next week, I have tickets to see X.  And you've probably already read my account of the Loretta Lynn show last week.

I leave July 4th for three weeks in England.  I have a stack of books from the library, to help plan out what I'd like to do.  There's a six-day weekend in the middle, that I'm really considering trying to get to Paris during, just because I can.  I mean, how cool would lunch in Paris be?

Oh, and I'm writing a syllabus.

I'm very conscious of not wanting to get overwhelmed, and to try to keep a pragmatic attitude about everything.  And pay attention to my priorities, which include reading Sandman and watching Duran Duran on dvd.

18th May 2009

7:46pm: Monday weirdness
After my whirlwind tour of Ohio, I started my job in Special Collections today. It was quite a relief to do grunt work, lifting boxes and filing things.  Starting Wednesday, Special Collections starts its move to the main library building; at that point, I'll work Monday through Wednesday, 12-5, loading books onto carts. It's a nice change.

I went to the UT gardens afterwards with a friend.  It was gorgeous today. However, when I got home, I got an email from Uncle Rick, sent to a bunch of people (he's my Aunt Julie's widower; she died July 2005 from cancer).  He's now been diagnosed with cancer, with a grapefruit-sized tumor in his lung.  It was quite a blow.  I'm still feeling grumpy about it, which I know is my defense mechanism/cover for sadness and general upsetness.   Urgh.

What weirdness to start the week with.

29th April 2009

8:37pm: One year down, one to go
Well, you know, and then a phd program.

Monday I turned in my Gothic paper; yesterday, a two hour feminist theory final (a two-hour really challenging feminist theory final); and today at five and went to the Crown and Goose, a pub in the Old City, to trade my pedagogy final project for a beer on Dr. Gold's tab.  After spending all semester not enjoying his self-described "agonistic" pedagogical style, it was a nice change to have a chat about Neil Gaiman and traveling in Europe with him over a pint this afternoon.  Not only did it end the semester on a positive note, but it boded well for next year, when I'll have to deal with him in his new position as head of first year-composition.

I think the most important thing I've learned the last year (besides who the heck Wittgenstein is) is pragmatism.  I simply can't know everything, or read everything.  It is possible to not read absolutely everything for a class and still have a rich educational experience.  I understand that this will come in handy this fall, when I'm trying to take my own classes while teaching two first year comp classes, too.

I am glad that I had the first semester I did, because, while it was a giant adjustment and really hard, my professors and classes were challenging in a wonderful way.  Last semester was all about pretty words.  This semester, not so much.

Feminist theory was a good reading list, but as there were only five graduate students (and only four of those were English majors), the discussions weren't the best.  People were constantly leaving class to go get coffee or coming in half an hour late; any given class period, I would guess that maybe half of the people did the reading.  The grad students were given the opportunity to be in charge of teaching one class, though, which was great--I taught a class period on Adrienne Rich's "Compulsory Heterosexuality."   Several people even contributed to the discussion that day.

I'm happy that I made it through 22 gothic novels this semester.  Originally there were 24 on the list, but Dr. Billone took one off the syllabus (originally, she had two novels due on one day), and then I decided not to read the novel due the day I was out of town at a conference.  That's when the whole pragmatism thing really sunk in for me--there was really no benefit for my reading that novel that I would miss the discussion for--still, it took some self-talk in order to feel okay about not reading it.

Pedagogy, I'm just glad I'm done.  I'm just not that interested in most of the theory (and we read a ton of it--so much of it seemed to make things so needlessly difficult), and class was excruciating, with all of the headgames the professor always seemed to be trying to play.  It wasn't until the end of the semester, when we read about a "pedagogy of charity," which means that you assume that students are human beings and treat them as such. Apparently, many people consider that to be naive.  Oh well--I used a Mr. Rogers quote to start off the teaching philosophy that I turned in today, so I'm probably completely naive.

And now, my first year of my master's degree is done.  Hooray!  After a short trip to Ohio in May, I've got a job in the Special Collections Library for the summer--Mondays and Tuesdays, 9-2, and Wednesdays and Thursdays, 12-5. The rest of the time, I'll be working through the master's reading list (I just bought Paradise Lost today--it's a giant gap in my knowledge), and getting ready to go to England in June.  I leave July 5: one week in Stratford, two in London.  That is going to be so much fun: the anticipation is what got me through a lot of this semester.

And, I've got to start investigating phd programs, as I'll start applying to those this fall, along with taking the subject-specific GRE (another reason for the summer reading).  That's rather daunting.

However, for now, I'm on book two of Twilight.  We read the first for my gothic novel class, and, despite myself, I was hooked.  I've decided that Twilight is like if Trent Reznor wrote novels--there are places where I even wrote NIN lyrics in the margins.  It's some wonderful doritos-like reading.

I'm also doing lovely things like cleaning off the coffee table, rearranging things on the walls...I have some fabric to cut out some shorts, and I'm hoping to pull out a bunch of quilt squares and fabric I got from my grandparents' house and see how much of a quilt top I've got.  

Happy Summer!

4th April 2009

10:58pm: For those playing at home, I came up with the clever title part for my fairy paper: Fairy Elves by the Forest Side.  It's a quote from Paradise Lost; I figure you can't get much more English major-y than Milton.  So, that proposal is sent.

My Cold Mountain paper went well.  Pretty much everyone at this conference just read their papers, so I, too, read mine; it took 20 minutes to read my 12 page paper, which is standard.  There were only 5 people in the audience for my and another person's paper; there also was no moderator.  The Southeastern Women's Studies Association conference was not nearly as well run as the Appalachian Studies Association, though the tote bags were better. Nevertheless, Boone, NC, is really cool, and Mark and I had a really good time.  If you haven't seen on facebook, Mark got me fun presents while I was attending panels (though he attended mine)--besides some lovely jewelry, he also got me a very fun "Teacher Barbie."

We took the Blue Ridge Parkway home for a nice, leisurely side trip, pulling off frequently to look at mountains or follow trails.  We stopped in Spruce Pine for some fabulous barbeque.  The place had many markings of quality barbeque: the police were eating there, there were NASCAR decorations, there were free Christian newspapers, and "Gunsmoke" was on tv.

We went through Black Mountain, which my Aunt Julie and Uncle Rick were always fond of going through. Black Mountain was the home of the Black Mountain poets in the 1950s, and is still a cute little town (without a college anymore, though UNC Asheville's only about 20 miles away).  Very Yellow Springs in the mountains.  We went to Asheville, too, and I bought more bubble bath and yarn, which seems to be a requirement when I go there.  When I went in the bubble bath store where I'd purchased my "elemental equinox" a few weeks ago, Heather, the woman who had mixed my previous scent, remembered me and that I had be looking for the scent that I'd bought in Yellow Springs called "Zen."  She'd actually researched the scent, and thought she could do a reasonable fascimile.  Apparently, the key ingredient is freesia.

I love Asheville.  

While I enjoyed parts of this last conference, I was rather annoyed by parts of it.  I'm annoyed by the very essentialist "men are like this, women are like this" themes I heard a lot, and I'm also annoyed by people using ideas which they apparently don't completely understand.  More specifically, I was really annoyed by the talk on why math is sexist that I sat through--according to the student presentation, more men than women are drawn to math because they enjoy dominating struggling abstractions.  No kidding.  It was absolute crap.  I politely expressed my skepticism, and moved on to the enjoyable talk by Marilou Awiatka, one of the people I was looking forward to hearing.

Having last weekend's Appalachian Studies Conference to compare it to, I found it much easier to strike up conversations with strangers at ASA than at SEWSA.  I think part of it was due to having more to talk about at ASA--hey, look at that quilt, did you see the band last night, doesn't that chocolate fountain smell divine...SEWSA seemed to have more people there in groups, and when I did the exact same thing I did last weekend to strike up conversations, found people to be less willing to talk to me, someone they didn't know.  I overheard many more political or strategic conversations, about someone introducing someone to someone important, or about how they're going to get whoever elected to the something caucus...I'm just not that interested in such things.  It's funny--in Asheville this afternoon, I got involved in long conversations with people in the bubble bath store and in the place that sells yarn and spinning wheels and stuff--though it sounds obvious, I find it much easier to talk to people with whom I have stuff in common.

Now that I've been to three women's studies conferences, I realize that I'm not actually that interested in generic women's studies--I'm more interested in feminist theory, which is not the same thing. I really enjoyed the two literature panels besides mine that I attended--the paper on Woolf's use of the female artist in her work was really interesting, though I could probably sit and listen to people talk about Woolf all day.  My panel turned into an interesting q&a about magical realism and the global South, which is another thing I could talk about all day.  I guess that right now I'm just not that interdisciplinary; I just want to talk about fiction and poetry.

So we are home now and have a day to recover, and then a blessedly short week.  Now, to my real homework!

31st March 2009

6:22pm: Clever title needed
Here's the abstract I want to submit to the Southern Women Writers conference--but, I'd like to have a clever title to put with a colon before the descriptive title.  Any ideas?

Lee Smith’s Use of Fairies in On Agate Hill as a Connection to the Global South

As part of the heterogeneous South, Appalachia’s existence as both a part of as well as separate from the American South gives it a sense of what Allen Batteau has called a “double otherness.”  The diversity of Southern Appalachia, particularly the cultural and mystical diversity of the region, provides an ideal landscape from which the magical can emerge.  Lee Smith takes particular advantage of this foundation for the ineffable in her novel On Agate Hill, in which many manifestations of the magical appear.  This paper looks specifically at Smith’s use of fairies in her novel as such an appearance.  While fairy lore can be connected directly to Celtic traditions in Southern Appalachia, Lee’s portrayal of them as genuinely real in her novel links these fairies to a tradition of magical realism, which signifies not only the hybrid, marginalized nature of Appalachia, but also connects it to a larger tradition of magical realism in many “Souths.”  This paper, then, will ultimately examine how Smith’s use of magical realism, specifically through her portrayal of fairies as existent characters in On Agate Hill, connects Appalachian literature with a larger tradition of magical realism in the global South.

29th March 2009

9:22pm: Another first
I am home, fed,and bathed.  What a weekend! 

Thursday morning, the rental car people picked me up at 8:30; I was on the road by nine.  There's really no direct route between here and Portsmouth, Ohio; Mark did a lovely job of tracing me out a route.  It took me five hours to get there; it's right next to the river on the Ohio side, in Southeastern Ohio; the conference (of the Appalachian Studies Assocation) was at Shawnee State.

Because I booked early, I got a room in the Ramada across the street from the university.  My room was fantastic--it had a giant comfy recliner in it, which was much appreciated after my drive.  I enjoyed vegging to cable television--there was entire show on the biography channel on Rick Springfield's career.  

I went to fabulous panels--history of women in Appalachia, one on Underground Railroad codes in quilts, some on literature...My cousin Bill (who was one of the founders of ASA) was there, and he introduced me to some very cool people.  On top of everything else, it was cool to be in a group of around 600 people, pretty much all of whom one can assume love quilts and bluegrass music as much as I do.

However, at the quilt panel, I discovered that at least a couple of the attendees were voudou practitioners--and I felt incredibly anxious, imagining them coming to my panel and telling me that I had it all wrong, or how dare I talk about voudou at all.  That did prompt me to add a bit to my presentation, clarifying exactly what I meant by the word "voudou," which ultimately strengthened my position, I think.

I told Mark about my nerves on the phone that night, and he posted on facebook that he was sending me happy energy--it was so nice to see how many people chimed in with good wishes, including people I've never even met before. 

The panel was at 9:45 this morning--for the last time slot of the conference, I think it was decently attended.  And, none of the voudou practitioners were there.  However, Rodger Cunningham was in the audience--fortunately, Cousin Bill had introduced us the day before, which allowed me to be a bit more comfortable. 

I went first--I didn't run over my time allotment, I didn't lose my train of thought, and everyone's comments were positive. One of the wonderful people I met this weekend attended--it was really nice to have a familiar, friendly face in the audience.  There were interesting questions--one of which was asking my expert opinion on the best resources for an introduction on the African American experience in Appalachia--fortunately, I had something to say (in fact, I was able to say that Frank X. Walker, the coiner of the term "Affrilachian" who runs the Affrilachian Journal was just at UT a few weeks ago).  It was another first--speaking to a group of strangers on a rather out-there idea (reading voudou in a scene in a Lee Smith novel as commentary on cross-cultural spirituality) for twenty minutes straight.  I'm glad I had water.

Next week, Mark is going with me to Boone, where I'm presenting on ecofeminism in Cold Mountain.  That paper isn't finished yet, but it is in pieces; I should be able to finish it this week.  I also have a deadline for another conference proposal this week, and a reflective essay on my tutoring session due this week as well (I taped a tutoring session with a student, and have to watch it and write a reflective essay on it).  That, on top of regular schoolwork.  So much to do!  I'm off to write out my schedule for the week, and then try to finish this gothic novel.

It's a good feeling to have another "first" behind me, especially as it turned out to be such a positive experience.

26th March 2009

3:15pm: On the road
It took my five hours to get from Knoxville to Portsmouth today--I left a little after nine, and got here at 2:30.  There were a good three hours in the middle which were absolutely in the middle of nowhere--I started contemplating strategies of "what if my car breaks down here?' towards the end of that.  However, I have a lovely rented Saturn (which apparently has heated seats, which I haven't tried), and am now in quite the cushy hotel room (why don't more hotel rooms have really comfy recliners?  It's a brilliant idea) in the middle of quite a pretty little city.  It looks as though it were quite the bustling city 100 years ago, and hasn't done much since.  The Ramada's across the street from Shawnee State, so the next few days should be nice and pedestrian-based.

I didn't bring cds with me, and relied upon the radio here.  The middle of nowhere in Kentucky is pop country and classic rock--I've heard the Eagles' "Lying Eyes" three times today.  However, I also heard Fresh Air, which was really interesting--Terry Gross interviewed a man who works at a Refugee Trauma Center in Boston.  He's worked with Tibetan monks and nuns and Guantanemo prisoners--what amazing work.

I'm feeling rather hopeful about the fall today.  Teaching schedules are posted (which I can't help but be charmed by seeing my name listed as "instructor" for the first time).  My own classes are Monday and Wednesday, 11-12:25 and 2:10-3:25; my 101 classes are Tuesday and Thursday, 12:40-1:55 and 2:10-3:25 (in a couple of bizarre engineering buildings--far away from the English department, but strangely close to the stadium, which is where offices for grad students are.  So, the offices which most people complain about will actually be close to my 101 classes, and convenient to hold office hours in before class.)

The best part is that Fridays, I have no obligations on campus. So, this seems like I might be able to keep at least a shred of my sanit
y for what I hear is the "harder" MA year--learning to juggle my own classes with teaching two classes, while I'm studying for comps and applying to phd programs.  I'm hoping that by keeping my summer clear (you know, except for three weeks in England), I'll be able to both get some recovery from this year, as well as get a jump on the fall.  

That's the plan, at least!

16th March 2009

12:18am: Spring break
Is here, finally.  My to-do list for the week does exist, but it includes some much-needed break-time.  Friday night, I played cranium with some friends, which was a lot of fun.  I'm quite good at drawing with my eyes closed.  Saturday night, Rebecca came over and I introduced her to the wonder that is Pretty in Pink (which apparently seems to be one of my roles in life, to introduce people to this movie); we also watched an episode of The Young Ones,  which I was thrilled to see the library now has on dvd.  This episode had not only the actors who played Wooster and Jeeves (and, you know, House), but also a very young Emma Thompson.  And Motorhead played.  Today it was wet but not raining, so Mark and I were able to go to the nature center for a hike.  Wildflowers are just barely starting to bloom; greenery is now about waist-high.

I have gotten some work done over the weekend; I finished a book on the roots of ecofeminism in Appalachian literature (which I'm writing a paper about this week), and finished revision one of my draft of my voudou paper.  I want to finish my voudou paper and my ecofeminism papers this week, and write a proposal about fairies in On Agate Hill; those are priority number one. Voudou and ecofeminism are papers I'm presenting the last weekend of March and the first weekend of April.  I think I'm on a decent track to get them done.  I also want to get some other reading done, and have four extra credit papers to grade for my first year comp class (I'm a bit disappointed that only four people wrote extra credit papers (it wasn't hard--watch a "gen x" movie and write about the generational characterisistics displayed in it), but I'm not complaining about not having extra work.  Two papers on The Breakfast Club, one on Sixteen Candles, and one on Top Gun.).  

Besides this, though, I plan on getting some recreation time, too.  I have plans to watch the good Pride and Prejudice one day this week, and Friday I'm finally going to get to the Biltmore House in Asheville--I've been wanting to go since, like, birth.  I'm so looking forward to several days of my own time, to work out, meditate--oh, and, keep playing this terribly addictive game on sporcle.com, seeing how many countries of the world you can name (and spell correctly) .  My high score so far is 130/195.  I'm getting better at spelling the "stans."

Lower down on my priority list (I don't actually need to have a plan for this until May) is to start investigating phd programs.  By this fall, I should have a list of 7-10 schools I want to apply to come December.  I have a continuum of excited, anxious, excited, daunted, and scared emotions thinking about this. 

I'm also taking responsibility for making some dinners this week, which should be interesting.  I think Mark will be tired enough to not be that picky about it--next week, his "department" (meaning his boss and him) are putting on a conference at the law school.  Given all of the work I've been doing lately, we just agreed that March was going to be difficult for both of us, and we'd get through the practicalities of it as well as we could, and not sweat things like clutter or stuff.  Having Rebecca over this weekend was a nice impetus to get some of the clutter put away, and floors mopped, and it does feel better being in a cleaner environment.

I am off now to put beans on to soak for dinner tomorrow.  Happy spring break!

3rd March 2009

6:45pm: Blasphemous thought
I have a Facebook friend who keeps posting the Bible verse, "Love bears all things."  I keep misreading it as "Love bares all things," which is a very different idea.

23rd February 2009

8:12pm: Today
Happily, today went okay.  After a ton of preparation last night, I had a good meeting with the professor I was dreading--as others have reported, he's a great guy outside of class.  He told me that he's happy with my work in class, and has heard good things about my work in the Writing Center.  So, that was a giant relief.  I think I have a handle on my giant project, too, though I need keep up the pace for probably the rest of the week to really get on top of things.

Tired now.  I've got to finish reading some Freud before I'm done for the evening.

22nd February 2009

7:42pm: Busy busy busy
I'm writing this while I wait for Endnote and Microsoft Word to do their magic--if it works correctly, the list of 11 works in Endnote that I've highlight should show up as a works cited list in Word, already in MLA format and all of that.  However, sometimes when I ask Word and Endnote to play together as they're supposed to, the result is just freezing.  So, I'm writing this to try to be patient.

Last week I got so sick-my lungs didn't feel like fiberglass, as those of poor Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, but it was impossible to be within a three foot radius of me without getting snot on you.  I stayed home both Monday and Tuesday, which meant missing a lot, but there wasn't really an alternative.  Thursday of last week, I had both a test in feminist theory (quite the formidable test--it took me the full hour and twenty minutes to complete it), and a presentation to give on The Necromancer, a late eighteenth century gothic novel.  On the feminist theory test, the essay question I answered was, trace the development of materialist-feminist criticism from Woolf through two or three other feminist critics.  For The Necromancer, there was so little to go on--very few people have written about it apparently.  So, there's a good opportunity for me to write about it, but there wasn't a ton to say about it's current critical context.

Saturday, I met with seven other first year MA students for our first reading list study group.  I'm so glad that Rebecca and I got the leg up we did on this over Christmas--this group will be even more of a help.  The plan is to meet every other Saturday, and either have group members or outside people (like, phd students or extra nice professors) present on different time periods and works.  Hopefully, by this time next year, we'll be in a good place for taking comps.  It's such a nice surprise, having a good study group experience.  I've hated group work so much during college, that it's been fun to realize that it can be a good experience.

Group work is on my mind right now, as I think that's what I'm going to focus on in my pedagogy project.  I'm meeting with Dr. Gold tomorrow to discuss my project--I'll be really happy when that meeting's over! Tomorrow's a long day--I go straight from 9-4:40.  Wednesday's the same.  

Last night was incredibly unusual, as I went out with a friend to a bar, where I drank beer and we shared nachos.  I don't know if I've actually done that before.  It was such an odd bar--I noted that the jukebox at one point played "Mamas don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys," "Psychokiller," "It's the End of the World as We Know It," and "We didn't start the fire," in that order.  It was fun, but it was so incredibly smoky that I doubt I'll go back.  

Today, I met my 102 mentor at Panera to grade papers.  There seems to be a common misunderstanding that one's thesis statement should be the first sentence of one's paper.

In the midst of all of this schoolwork, I'm trying to get two conference papers into shape to present the end of March/beginning of April.  Mark's coming with me to the conferencein Boone, NC, which I think will be fun.  There's a tour of a woman-owned goat farm, which I hope I get to go on, as I'm writing about the goat woman in Cold Mountain.

So much to do.  Back to it.

btw--Endnote worked!  It's one of my favorite things.

25th January 2009

8:24pm: Very odd synchronicity
This evening, I commented on passing a pawn shop with a "Layaway now for Valentine's Day!" sign out front, on how much it was like the George Jones/Tammy Wynette song, "Golden Ring."  A few minutes later, we walked into Senor Taco, where as we walked in, at a table with a bunch of people, a group broke out into the very song.  I wonder what sort of message I should take from that synchronicity?

16th January 2009

10:56pm: Stuff and junk
It occurred to me this evening that in that list of movie quotes, I totally forgot this movie exchange:

R: Do you think Death could possibly be a boat?
G: No, no, no... Death is "not." Death isn't. Take my meaning? Death is the ultimate negative. Not-being. You can't not be on a boat.
R: I've frequently not been on boats.
G: No, no... What you've been is not on boats.

We watched Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead tonight--as the play is on the MA reading list,  I've been thinking about it lately.  In addition to laughing my head off, as I usually do watching it, on this viewing I was struck by just how many big ideas it takes on.  I had never noticed the preoccupation with memory throughout, which is interesting coupled with the preoccupation with death.  I now want to take this bit:

Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one. A moment. In childhood. When it first occured to you that you don't go on forever. Must have been shattering. Stamped into one's memory. And yet, I can't remember it. It never occured to me at all. We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the word for it. Before we know that there are words. Out we come, bloodied and squawling, with the knowledge that for all the points of the compass, theres only one direction. And time is its only measure.

and compare it to Lacan.

Anyway.  On a completely unrelated note, it was 17 when we left for school this morning.  The cold actually worked to get me out of bed this morning--though my first class wasn't until 12:20 today, had I slept in, I would have had to wait for the bus.  Instead, I got up, went in with Mark, and started my day at the nice, warm gym.  It's getting down to 8 this evening, which I find ridiculous--the temperature just shouldn't be a number smaller than my shoe size.

I'm slowly warming up to my classes this semester; it's not nearly as great as last semester.  I'm taking the required 505 "Teaching First Year Composition" class, which started off not that great, but is slowly getting better.  The first day of class, the Peter Lorre-looking, new professor seemed like he thought he was teaching a law school class or something--very confrontational, strangely controlling.  And there's a ton of work, tons of reading about pedagogy.  There has been such an emphasis on the importance of the "Academic Discourse Community" that I have decided that I want an AC/DC t-shirt, to signify my intention to be a member of it.

I'm also taking a Gothic novel class, which has 24 required novels.  That professor admitted that she hasn't read most of the novels, and doesn't know if it can be done.  Oi.  I've read The Castle of Otranto, and most of The Romance of the Forest so far; I'm doing a presentation in a few weeks on The Necromancer.  It's an okay class, and will help me both by having a good grounding in the gothic, and in the gothic influence on Southern writing, but it's just not that exciting, to me. 

And, I'm taking Feminist Theory--the syllabus is mostly the list of works that I want to have read, but probably wouldn't just go read on my own (I mean, I'm never going to motivate myself to read that much Freud, or Cisoux,or what have you), but the class is a split undergrad/graduate class, and the first classes were awfully boring--though we read Vindication of the Rights of Women, the discussion somehow derailed to a long debate over whether it's feminist to wear high heels.  Urgh.  Fortunately, Thursday, the four grad students in the class decided amongst ourselves to step it up a bit, and the discussion was much more interesting.  The reading is great, but a ton, and unfortunately, we seem to be barely touching on it in class.  For example, the extra graduate readings for this week included one that made me really glad that I read so much Foucault over Christmas, because it referred quite a bit to his History of Sexuality.  But, we never got to discuss it in class.

Last semester, I read Proust and Faulkner and Shakespeare and Marlowe--all gorgeous and packed language.  This semester, not so much.  I miss delving into the language.  However, in my other reading, I discovered Jeff Mann, a queer Appalachian poet and author whose work I'm quite infatuated with.  That and my working on conference writing has reminded me why I wanted to focus on Southern and Appalachian writing to begin with, and I'm now thinking of returning to my undergrad thesis on magical realism in Appalachian lit for my master's thesis.  I think there's more there I'd enjoy doing, and I've already got a start on it.

And, my other happy thoughts are of England--I went and talked to the professor in charge of the three-week trip to Stratford and London today.  I am so looking forward to it.  A week in Stratford, two weeks in London.  Plays and lectures and we'll even get to see Shakespeare's second best bed.

Happy three-day weekend to everyone. I certainly need it!

9th January 2009

2:56pm: This made me laugh today
And I needed it!  This may only be funny, though,  if you're an English major dork.
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