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    Sobriquet 53.23

    Thursday, April 30, 2009
    Although I actually have a few things I would like to say, I am a bit too tired at the moment to write much worth reading, so I will have to put off discussing today's events for another time. Suffice it to say, it has been a long, busy day for me and, since I have yet to read anything for my dissertation, it will be even longer by the time I get myself to bed.

    For tomorrow: Read or, preferably, write.

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    I spent the better part of the last five hours writing a single paragraph, straining to produce the words. Not surprisingly, I am not especially fond of what I have written, though I honestly do not know what more I could have done to make it any better. At any rate, I will have to content myself with having gotten something done, with the knowledge that I did not remain idle despite a tremendously powerful urge to wallow in ineffectual stasis. I suppose it did not help to start the day with yet another New York Times article highlighting the abysmal job market for humanities doctorates, but I tried to channel the anxiety that sparked into productivity. What ended up helping, in the end, was taking a long walk with the Minutemen, writing a bit of short fiction for the first time in far too long, and speaking with loved ones. Then, and only then, did I manage to write that tortured paragraph.

    For tomorrow: Read or plan.

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    Wednesday, April 29, 2009
    I just finished reading Nadine Gordimer's "Living in the Interregnum," which I sought out after having seen it referenced by quite a few critics of Coetzee's recent fiction. Basically, while the essay does not seem likely to figure into my dissertation in any but the most cursory of ways, I am glad that I read it, if only to enhance my understanding of the socio-historical circumstances of concern to Coetzee's generation of South African writers.

    For tomorrow: Write or get some prep work done.

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    Tuesday, April 28, 2009
    Since it's getting late and I have to wake up fairly early, I'll just say that, after a week of running around collecting and reading assorted background material, I finally returned to the Disgrace chapter and wrote a bit more.

    For tomorrow: Read.

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    Monday, April 27, 2009
    Well, I have about two more pages to read before bed and then I will feel fairly comfortable saying I have finally finished the ridiculous amount of preparatory work I decided I needed to complete before finishing up the section of the dissertation I am currently writing. At the root of this whole week-long jaunt is my sense of obligation. Among the people I know writing their dissertations at various institutions around the world, quite a few have alluded to the fact that, a my dissertation is not a book, the writer really need not do as much research as I have been doing, which I find rather difficult to accept. I mean, isn't a dissertation supposed to demonstrate one's expertise, supposed to distinguish a scholar as an expert in his or her field? Perhaps this is just another instance of an idealist working in a cynically pragmatic environment but, hell, I want to at least be able to look at myself when this thing is done and say, "Nice job, Erik. You really couldn't have done a better job." I mean, really, if you're gonna spend years on something, it's going to be a massive part of your individual history, right? Might as well make it as satisfying a memory as possible, I reckon.

    For tomorrow: Plan or write.

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    Sunday, April 26, 2009
    Although I am still in the process of reading some background material for the final bit of the current section of my Disgrace chapter, I do not anticipate needing more than another day or two to finish. This is good. I mean, I have been growing quite uncomfortable taking such a long break from writing.

    For tomorrow: Read and, if possible, finish the background research.

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    Friday, April 24, 2009
    Today is beautiful

    +

    Erik is off
    _______________

    Erik shall read outside

    For today: Read.

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    Thursday, April 23, 2009
    One of the things that has been bothering me a bit lately has been an growing sense of anxiety focused on finishing the dissertation by a certain date I have, at least in my mind, always regarded as my ideal date of completion. This anxiety is compounded somewhat by the stress of writing a long chapter. As I have identified in a previous post, the deeper I find myself in a given chapter, the more I worry about whether or not it will be up to snuff and that worry grows stronger with each page tacked on, making it that much more difficult to proceed. Additionally, I find, certain external factors (i.e. non-dissertation) in my life at the moment have had an unpleasantly adverse effect on the amount of time I have been able to devote to writing on some days.

    For these three reasons -- and because I need to wait for a book to arrive -- I have been focusing a bit on some background reading, using the time to recuperate some of the energy I'll need to make the next push in writing the Disgrace chapter. And, so far, I think it's helping. I mean, I've gleaned some really useful information from a few sources. Still, I am eager to return to the actual writing of the chapter

    For tomorrow: Read/research.

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    Wednesday, April 22, 2009
    Although I am about ready to finish the section of the Disgrace chapter I have been working on for the past couple of weeks, I've decided to hold off for a few more days. There are two reasons for this decision:

    1. Someone has checked out the books I need, so I have had to order some material.

    2. I rather like the idea of reading up on some bits of South African history . . . I reckon it'll help me a little.

    For tomorrow: Read, research, or write.

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    Tuesday, April 21, 2009
    Since I skipped writing anything last night, I'll just make a quick post this morning to say that I did a bit more background research yesterday.

    For today: Read and/or research.

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    Monday, April 20, 2009
    I'm just finishing up a late night of research, so I'm not going to write a whole lot tonight. I'll just say that, seriously, all this research had better make the one paragraph I needed it for worth it!

    For tomorrow: Read, research, or write.

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    Sunday, April 19, 2009
    I woke up today and found myself utterly unable to get any dissertation writing done. Compounding the not uncommon sense of I doan' wanna write today! was the fact that, for the first time all spring, the weather was truly delightful.

    The solution?

    I went skateboarding, watched the Cavaliers beat the Pistons, and listened to the Marked Men's killer Ghosts album.

    Then, happily, I wrote.

    For tomorrow: Attempt to locate and integrate certain theoretical material into my outline for this section or read.

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    Friday, April 17, 2009
    I would have posted something last night but was unable to do so because of a rather perplexing software issue. Right now, it seems I might be able to publish a post or two, but there may be some glitches.

    At any rate, I did get some writing done today, trudging a tiny bit closer to an end that still seems quite a distance away.

    Yesterday, owing in large part to a particularly long day at work, I only read a brief review of Elizabeth Costello. In "The Rest is Silence," The Guardian's Hermione Lee gives a brief synopsis of each "Lesson" in Coetzee's text, ultimately concluding that, "[j]udging by this difficult and unforgiving book," Coetzee is a better novelist than essayist.

    For tomorrow: Read, plan or write.

    Work Cited

    Lee, Hermione. "The Rest is Silence." Rev. of Disgrace, by J. M. Coetzee. The Guardian 30 Aug. 2003. Available online.

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    Thursday, April 16, 2009
    I accomplished very little today and it was entirely my own fault. Last night, after I finished my reading for the day, I set about tweaking one of the little art projects with which I occasionally amuse myself. Before I knew it, it was quite a bit past four in the morning and I could hear the first birds cheeping merrily outside my window. So I slept in. Then, when I woke up, I felt the familiar twinge of anxiety I associate with those moments I feel pressed for time. So, rather than write, I decided to take a long walk, enjoying what I hope will be the first of many pleasant spring days, socialize, watch South Park poke fun at the economic stimulus package, and read Adam Mars-Jones's rather negative review of Elizabeth Costello.

    Faulting Coetzee for the author's absent "sense of play" in the book, Mars-Jones dislikes the literary effect of the novel's strange structure, finding the Costello family a bit too conveniently arranged "to dramatise the divide between the arts and sciences" or bring about a "confrontation between humanist and religious" worldviews. Interestingly, this type of arrangement is a quality of realist fiction Coetzee's narrator discusses rather early on in the novel when (s)he claims
    Realism has never been comfortable with ideas. It could not be otherwise: realism is premised on the idea that ideas have no autonomous existence, can only exist in things. So when it needs to debate ideas. . .realism is driven to invent situations - walks in the countryside, conversations - in which characters give voice to contending ideas and thereby in a certain sense embody them. (9)
    The result of such philosophical embodiment in Elizabeth Costello, for Mars-Jones, is that "[e]ven the heroine's inmost experiences, of sexual pleasure, generosity or trauma, feel like enrichments of the debate rather than revelations of the character." Furthermore, Mars-Jones continues, "[a]s the book goes on, it becomes more abstract, not less," effectively alienating readers with an imperfectly crafted hybrid text that is, by turns, didactic and confusing.

    For tomorrow: Read, write, or prep.

    Works Cited

    Coetzee, J.M. Elizabeth Costello. Penguin: New York, 2003.

    Mars-Jones, Adam. "It's Very Novel, but is it Actually a Novel?" Rev. of Elizabeth Costello, by J. M. Coetzee. The Observer 14 Sept. 2003. Available Online.

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    Tuesday, April 14, 2009
    Although I would have liked to have fit some writing into my schedule today, the reality is that my Tuesdays are simply too busy for me to find the time it takes for me to dissertate effectively. So, rather than frustrate myself by attempting to write, I decided to get a bit of reading done for the next chapter.

    I ended up selecting the introductory essay to the American Anthropologist symposium devoted addressing several of the anthropological issues Coetzee raises in Elizabeth Costello. As one might expect of an introduction, the essay offers relatively little insight into the novel. Instead, it provides a thoughtful, accessible overview of the critical reception of Elizabeth Costello while also, predictably, making a case for the sort of interdisciplinary discourse it introduces.

    For tomorrow: Read, write, or plan. Preferably write.

    Work Cited

    Mascia- Lees, Frances E. and Patricia Sharpe. "Introduction to 'Cruelty, Suffering, Imagination: The Lessons of J. M. Coetzee.'" American Anthropologist 108.1 (2006): 84-87.

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    Monday, April 13, 2009
    I'm pretty satisfied with today. I finished my day's writing by early afternoon, which left me with several hours to enjoy the sunlight, a rare luxury in these parts. Without the stress of having to write hanging over my head, I ended up taking a relaxing ten-mile hike, listening to old pop-punk records, and otherwise loafing around. And it was delightful. It's funny what a string of productive days can do for a guy...

    For tomorrow: As always, read, prep a bit for the chapter, or write some more.

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    Sunday, April 12, 2009
    Although it took me a few painful hours to squeeze another chunk of writing out of myself, I did manage to make a small bit of progress on the Disgrace chapter this morning and afternoon. Now, having written for a second straight day and three of the last four, I do not feel as far removed from the chapter as I had been. I'm not saying I am loving the chapter yet, but I am a bit more comfortable with it now that it seems I have regained a bit of control over the process.

    For tomorrow: Read or write.

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    ____________________________________________
    Although I initially doubted that I would get any writing done today, my Saturday was a pleasingly productive one. Somehow, I managed to wake up considerably earlier than I had planned and, rather than return to bed (as I often luxuriate in doing), I decided to try to get a bit of work done instead. Of course, I suspect that, had I not made plans for the afternoon, I wouldn't have been nearly as diligent as I ended up being. Basically, when I realized that I had enough time to get some writing done if I started early, I figured I'd have a much better time socializing later in the day if I managed to get my work done sooner. That way I'd prevent myself from feeling the strain of having work ahead of me. And I ended up writing some decent stuff. And then I had a great afternoon. And now I feel more confident and refreshed work-wise than I have in quite some time. I'm pleased.

    For tomorrow: Try to write a bit more.

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    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, April 11, 2009
    You know that cartoon cliche where a snowball rolls down a hillside, gaining mass as it picks up momentum? It sorta looks like this:


    Well, writing a dissertation chapter makes me think of a slightly altered version of the same image, where the tiny snowball starts at the bottom of the hill:
    The only problem is that, with gravity pulling the increasingly heavy snowball in the opposite direction, the force required to continue pushing it up the hill becomes greater and greater. And this is the problem I have been having lately. The deeper I get into the Disgrace chapter, the heavier the burden and the more energy I seem to need to carry what I have already written to the end of the section. Ugh.

    At any rate, I finished up the little bit of pre-writing I had hoped to take care of today, so I am at least a tiny bit pleased with myself.

    For tomorrow: Since I have a headache and because I will be spending time with a friend, I do not know how realistic it will be for me to get any writing done tomorrow. That's still the preferred objective, but reading a bit for the next chapter might be more reasonable.

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    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, April 9, 2009
    Well, now that I have returned from my brief visit to the Twin Cities, I find myself struggling to keep my shoulder to the wheel. Although I did continue reviewing Disgrace as well as my notes on the novel while I travelled, I cannot help but feel as if I have been slacking off. Now, I do realize that one must take breaks here and there when engaged in something as large as a dissertation and, naturally, there will be stretches of time during which one's productivity may flag, but I have really been having a rough time of it lately. I mean, I have already written forty pages of the chapter, so I really cannot claim to have gotten myself stuck. Nevertheless, as has been the case with every single stage of the Disgrace chapter from reading the criticism to the pre-writing phase, the writing of this chapter is taking me much longer than either of the first two chapters did. And I'm tired. I want to be done with this whole thing and, of course, the only way to be done with it is to finish it. You know, precisely what I do not feel like doing. In other words, I feel precisely the same feeling that prompted my hastily-arranged (though thoroughly enjoyable) vacation in the first place.

    It.

    Just.

    Takes.

    So.

    Damn.

    Long.

    At any rate, to try to fend off the feelings of stagnation, I decided to write a bit today and, pleasantly, the result was, even when filtered through my own jaded eyes, a solidly-written beginning to the section. Now, while I am satisfied with what I have written this afternoon, I still feel as if I need to prepare a better outline for the segment, which is what I intend to do tomorrow. Once that's done, I reckon, I'll be a lot more comfortable with things.

    For tomorrow: Pre-write for the current section of the chapter.

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    ____________________________________________
    Monday, April 6, 2009
    Minneapolis, MN
    I'm going to keep this post extremely brief since I haven't loads of time to devote to writing anything worth reading. I just want to say that, despite being in transit and spending time with friends, I have been able to get a bit of work on the dissertation each day, reviewing notes and listening to the audiobook of Disgrace. I intend to keep doing so.

    For tomorrow, etc.: Keep reviewing the novel and notes and get ready to begin writing the next section of the Disgrace chapter.

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    Friday, April 3, 2009
    I skipped posting last night because I had some non-dissertation work that took my attention away from blogging, but I did get some more planning done for the next segment of the chapter. In fact, I'm probably a day or two from resuming writing but, since I have some rather busy days ahead of me, I don't imagine I will get any writing done before the middle of next week.

    For tonight and the next few days: At the very least, review the novel, even if it means listening to an audiobook while doing something else. If possible, work on wrapping up the pre-writing phase of this segment.

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    Wednesday, April 1, 2009
    I spent a good chunk of time this evening plucking relevant critical quotations from my master file as part of my preparatory scheme. While it's not the most mentally-intensive part of dissertation-writing, I found that I began reflecting on the chapter, thinking about how everything fits in with everything else and, essentially, began planning some of the next section. I did hit a particularly heavy period of anxiety when, for a moment, the whole chapter seemed too big, too sprawling for me to handle. But, happily, I worked my way through that bit of tension, reanalyzed my outline, and ended up concluding that I have a pretty solid roadmap as it is. Granted, there are still some variables that I will need to address but, largely, I am going to stick with the format I came up with in February.

    For tomorrow: Do a bit more planning.

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