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    Sobriquet 42.31

    Saturday, May 31, 2008
    Well, it would seem that I have become nocturnal. The problem is that I don't really want to stay up all night. Whereas a few weeks ago, I would routinely fall asleep by one or two in the morning, I now find myself struggling to fall asleep by six or seven. It's ridiculous.

    Of course, it is my fault. Since I haven't much of a schedule at the moment, I don't have to wake up by any particular time. So I sleep in. A lot. Not surprisingly, if I sleep until one in the afternoon, it's hard to fall asleep before, say, three or four in the morning. I also know that I should probably not be drinking caffeine at two a. m., even if it is part of a beverage that tastes really, really good.

    Plus, I nap too much. Part of the problem there is that I read in bed. If I left the house, say, and plopped myself down in an nice air-conditioned place, I might get more done, but I don't feel comfortable spending money on gas and other expenses, so I stay home...and read in bed...and fall asleep...and stay up all night...and sleep until the next afternoon...

    But, whatever. I will be working again soon (thankfully), so I will consider days like today a luxury. And the money I save by not driving around, perhaps, could go towards decaffeinated drinks. Practical, innit?

    All lamenting aside, I have finished several audiobooks just by laying in bed when I can't fall asleep at night. And that's good, right?

    At any rate, despite sleeping in far too late this afternoon, I did manage to get myself working, rereading Sue Kossew's short essay "The Politics of Shame and Redemption in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace." Like many of the studies of Coetzee's 1999 novel, Kossew's paper deals with David Lurie's growth as a person, from a self-centered academic rake at the beginning of the novel to a self-effacing and empathetic "dog-man" by the book's conclusion. Along the way, Kossew discusses Coetzee's use of the body as a locus for the dramatization of power struggles, the Dostoevskian complexities of the confessional mode, and the implications of Lucy Lurie's acquiescent behavior in the wake of a brutal sexual assault. Ultimately, though, Kossew focuses on the meanings signified by the concepts of grace and disgrace during a period of turbulent change, concluding that Disgrace shows us that it is "not through any grand revelation or absolution, but through attending to the everyday" that one can attain some semblance of grace (161).

    Work Cited

    Kossew, Sue. "The Politics of Shame and redemption in J. M. Coetzee's Disgrace." Research in African Literatures 34.2 (2003): 155-162.

    For tomorrow: It's a busy day, so either read another essay or work on my bibliography.

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    Sunday, February 10, 2008
    Amazingly, I managed to finish today's rather hefty load of grading by early evening and finished a fascinating--seriously--essay on sexuality among older individuals (it mentions several of Coetzee's texts), all before ten pm.

    Of the three essays I've read this weekend, Thomas Walz's "Crones, Dirty Old Men, Sexy Seniors: Representations of the Sexuality of Older Persons" is, by far, the best. It says quite a bit about the state of contemporary literary criticism that the most interesting, most readable journal article I have read since I began working my way through the critical writing for my dissertation in December was written not by a literary scholar but by a gerontologist from the University of Iowa's School of Social Work. Although Walz's essay only marginally addresses Coetzee's novels, I found myself happily reading through the entire article, taking notes and reflecting upon the many acute observations the author makes regarding sex and sexuality among the aging.

    On Friday, before a night of bowling with my friends, I somehow found the energy to resist napping all afternoon and read one of the essays I was dreading the most. Now, I should emphasize that it was the subject matter (Derrida's philosophy) and not the author of the essay (Derek Attridge) that had contributed to the dread. In fact, had the essay been written by anyone other than Attridge, with whom my correspondence has been extremely cordial and whose previous articles on Coetzee have struck me as extremely solid examples of criticism, there is an exceedingly good chance that I would have skipped over the essay entirely.

    Jacques Derrida, for the uninitiated, is one of the biggest names in the pantheon of poststructuralist theorists whose collective impact on literary (and other cultural) studies effectively redefined the field between the sixties and nineties. Known as much for his radically new, post-Nietzschean, post-Heiddegerian deconstruction as for the abstruse language with which he delivered his ideas, Derrida gained legions of followers and detractors. While I can acknowledge the presence of interesting ideas and clever wordplay in Derrida's writing, I count myself among the large number of Derrida's detractors. I find his writing needlessly abstract, the bulk of his ideas mundane, and the misappropriation of his work irreversibly damaging to my field of study. Like that of Gayatri Spivak, Derrida's writing defeats itself by effectively rendering the ideas it expresses almost impossible to decipher for the vast majority of hominids. Over time, as I read through literary scholars eager to cite Writing and Difference or Margins of Philosophy, I developed an aversion to any and all criticism drawing upon Derrida's theory. So, when "Expecting the Unexpected in Coetzee's Master of Petersburg and Derrida's Recent Writing" appeared among my search results, I shuddered.

    Fortunately, Attridge is one of the few scholars out there capable of taking Derrida's philosophy, distilling it into more coherent language, and applying it to literature in a way that illuminates the fiction. I find Attridge's application of Derrida's concept of arrivant (from Aporias) to Coetzee's novel actually provides a good deal of insight into the dark sense of waiting pervading The Master of Petersburg. Furthermore, unlike some of the poststructuralist literary critics one encounters every so often, Attridge writes in clear, precise language, a trait of his for which I am particularly grateful.

    I also read over Sue Kossew's "The Anxiety of Authorship: J. M. Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg (1994) and Andre Brink's On the Contrary (1993), which, while not wholly original in scope, does provide a reasonable reading of Coetzee's novel, focusing on the creative process and the role of writing in an author's life.

    For tomorrow: Transcription.

    Works Cited

    Attridge, Derek. "Expecting the Unexpected in Coetzee's Master of Petersburg and Derrida's Recent Writing." Applying--to Derrida, eds. John Brannigan, Ruth Robbins, and Julian Wolfreyes. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1996. 21-40.

    Kossew, Sue. "The Anxiety of Authorship: J. M. Coetzee's The Master of Petersburg (1994) and Andre Brink's On the Contrary (1993)." English in Africa 23.1 (1996): 67-88.

    Walz, Thomas. "Crones, Dirty Old Men, Sexy Seniors: Representations of the Sexuality of Older Persons." Journal of Aging and Identity 7.2 (2002): 99-112.

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    Saturday, January 5, 2008
    All right. It's after four in the morning and I should really get some sleep tonight, so I will keep this very, very brief. In any case, I did not get much reading done during the day because I was out and about in Ithaca with Minxy, with whom I also spent most of the evening eating pizza, making candles, knitting, and talking--in other words, I had fun.

    As a direct result of the aforementioned fun, I did not finish reading the chapter Sue Kossew devotes to Age of Iron in Pen and Power until a few minutes ago. But I read it and, being in a considerably better mood than I have been in the past couple of days (thanks, again, to said fun), I processed the text and did not struggle as much to make my way through. For any Coetzee scholars out there, I would recommend Kossew's book as a wonderful starting point for any study of the author's work. She's very readable, intelligent, insightful, and refreshingly concise.

    In any case, tomorrow I will start my pre-writing, a phase which should not last more than a few days and I anticipate starting this chapter sometime next week. And, yes, this blogging idea totally got me this far. . .

    For tomorrow: Arrange notes, review notes, copy notes, and otherwise prepare for the writing.

    Work Cited

    Kossew, Sue. Pen and Power: A Postcolonial Reading of J. M. Coetzee and Andre Brink. Amsterdam: Editions Rodopi, 1996.

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