Sobriquet Home | Author Index | About Us | Book Reviews | Music Reviews | Email | Punk Encyclopedia | Punk Links | Writers

Sobriquet

Dissertation Blog Home
About the Blog
Email & Comment Policy
About the Zine
Record Reviews
mediaconsumption
D.O.T.S.T.
Sobriquet on Facebook
Sobriquet on MySpace
Sobriquet on Twitter
Sobriquet on Tumblr

Academia

PhinisheD
The Chronicle
The MLA

Sports

Cincinnati Bengals
New York Yankees
Cleveland Cavaliers
Montreal Canadiens
ESPN

News

Reuters
New York Times
Cleveland Plain Dealer
Newark Star-Ledger
Chicago Tribune
Minneapolis Star-Tribune
St. Paul Pioneer Press
Washington Post
Los Angeles Times
San Francisco Chronicle
Christian Science Monitor

Twitter

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    Powered by Blogger

    eXTReMe Tracker

    RSS Feed Readers

    Sobriquet 63.4

    Sunday, February 7, 2010
    I had a really hard time getting myself out of bed this morning. In fact, I had a hard time getting myself to do much of anything today: I struggled to get out of bed, I took nearly two hours to get myself out of my apartment once I had gotten out of bed, and I had a difficult time focusing on my reading when I got myself to the cafe at which I had hoped to make a bit of progress. In the end, I did manage to get a tiny bit of writing done, most of which seems at least consistent, quality-wise, with what I have been writing lately. I was actually planning on writing some more before going to bed tonight but, after having composed a few lines, I find myself too sleepy to maintain the sort of focus I would need to produce anything worth reading, so I am going to call it a night fairly early and try to use tomorrow to get some more work done.

    As I have mentioned several times previously, I am really struggling with the introduction. I continue to find myself disoriented by a mode of writing that is both similar to and different from the sort of prose I've been writing all along. It is academic, of course, so I am still in scholar-mode, but it is also less critical, which means I have to shift gear to a more general form of writing that, at times, feels alien to me. I mean, I am used to doing lots and lots of very specific research and analysis in preparation for my writing and, while the introduction certainly requires both, the type of research and mode of analysis are just different enough to disorient me a bit. The other very big problem I have been having is that I am so profoundly burnt out (this is the perfective "burnt out" now, which should be distinguished from the less total "burned out") that even the simplest of tasks (reading over criticism, prewriting, taking notes) have become excruciating ordeals for me.

    Then again, I keep reminding myself, my supervisor has rather explicitly told me that I need not devote nearly as much preparation time nor as much mental energy on the introduction because, as I have said, the very mode of writing does not demand the same sort of rigor with which I approached previously-written (i.e., subsequent) chapters. But this knowledge causes problems for me, too: I cannot seem to avoid taking the same approach as I have been taking all along yet I lack the energy to do so.

    But I am trying.

    For tomorrow: Write or prep.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, January 31, 2010
    I haven't been having the most productive of stretches. I had hoped to finish rereading Coetzee's Youth a day or two ago, but I found it remarkably difficult to focus on reading. Part of this difficulty has no doubt been the result of readjusting myself mentally to the routine of a new semester, which can be challenging for an individual like myself, who eschews waking up early in the morning yet regularly ends up with early-morning classes...

    But school-adjustment (and its resulting fatigue) is only part of the problem. The other part is a mélange of extreme burnout, vocational anxiety, and a strange sense of unease with my current bit of writing. It's funny. What is arguably the easiest -- and according to some people -- the least important part of the dissertation, has turned out to be the most nerve-fraying part of the whole project. Perhaps this unpleasant emotion is simply the surfacing of all the negative feelings and worries I'd been able to ignore when the bulk of the project was unfinished, when the conclusion of grad school was still sitting at some as-yet unknown point in my future: I don't really know. Still, it has made working rather difficult at times.

    At any rate, I have done more socializing over the past couple of days than I have in quite a while, which took up most of my weekend. This included an epic two-hour chess match (epic in length, I should say; neither I nor my opponent are particularly good at the game), a few nice meals, a lot of wonderful conversation, a bunch of music, some movies, and more conversation. The socializing I have enjoyed these past couple of days, fortunately, seems to have invigorated me a little bit and I finally made some real headway in my reading this evening. I intend to continue reading for a while this evening before going to bed and, hopefully, I can start February off on a positive note.

    For tomorrow: Read, plan, and/or write.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, January 13, 2010
    I had a hugely successful day today, plowing through the majority of the remaining theoretical material I'd set aside for myself. Still, with the semester fast approaching, I can't help but feel a good deal of stress as I try to position myself to begin writing the introduction sometime in the next fortnight.

    For tomorrow: Try to get through the remainder of the theoretical material.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Friday, January 8, 2010
    The reason I've not written anything here since late December is because I have been doing exactly the same thing every day. I'm still reading the huge pile of theoretical material I want to get through before writing the introduction to my dissertation and, while I have made some real progress, there's not been a whole lot to say. If anything, I have been rather frustrated with the slow pace I have been on and the anxiety I feel to make some real headway before the beginning of the semester has been a constant stressor. Still, I am getting where I need to go, but excruciatingly slowly.

    For tomorrow: Read. A lot.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, December 16, 2009
    I have been having a really hard time concentrating over the past few days. I don't know if the accumulated fatigue of the past semester is to blame or what, but, man, I have been wrestling with myself something fierce. Still, I've read a hundred pages of a six-hundred page book, so I have made some progress, though at a considerably slower rate than I wanted. I suspect some of the problem stems from the fact that I really, really want to get a lot of work done -- to finish the dissertation, in fact -- before the next semester begins and have, essentially, gotten myself all worked up. I mean, for the first time I feel like I have a deadline to meet...

    For tomorrow: Read.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, November 18, 2009
    I finished the conclusion of my dissertation on Friday afternoon, which was a few days after I originally thought I would complete it. I sent it off to my supervisor and, though she made a few small suggestions for revision, it looks like I am essentially done with that section of the dissertation now, too. This means that, save for the sort of minor editing one does with any book-length manuscript, all I have left to do is write my introduction.

    This, however, is a bit more daunting a task than it may sound. Because it has to be fairly lengthy and because it requires that I summarize my ideas, but especially because I know it will be the first thing any potential reader encounters, I am feeling a bit more anxiety about its writing than I had anticipated. I mean, when I wrote my M.A. thesis back in 2003, the introduction was probably the easiest part of the entire project and, really, it did not take me an especially long time to put together. This introduction, on the other hand, feels different, weightier, more demanding. And, indeed, it is. When speaking with my advisor over the weekend, I was more than a little surprised to learn how long the average introduction tends to be. My initial response was, perhaps not surprisingly, mild dismay. "Damn," I thought, "I guess I won't be finishing it by the last day of the semester!" And all my dreams of celebratory December vacations to warmer climes dissipated.

    Of course, it's idiotic to feel anything but satisfaction at this point. I mean, I am remarkably close to the end of my dissertation, something that I could only imagine -- and imagine poorly -- two years ago. Still, it probably means that I will have to do a bit of re-reading over the next couple of weeks in preparation for that final bit of writing. I'll have to read over my dissertation, of course, but also Foe and In the Heart of the Country. I will have to reread some criticism, too. It feels like I have just finished the eleventh hour of a twelve-hour drive and, stifling yawns and straining to keep my eyes open, I see a construction zone ahead.

    So, I guess I will have to shift gears this one last time, regroup, and begin the homestretch.

    On a separate, though related note, I finally got around to watching the film adaptation of Disgrace. It's not a bad movie. The acting is pretty solid all the way through, the cinematography is beautiful, the plot largely true to the book. The problem with the adaptation is that the film essentially dismisses the reflective layer of Coetzee's novel. John Malkovich's David Lurie does all, or virtually all, the things Coetzee's Lurie does, but that's only the most superficial layer of the novel. David's internal life, the thoughts and feelings and reflections that animate and illuminate the book are, by necessity, largely absent from the film. There are, to be sure, moments where David's words or a particularly well-crafted scene gives a sense of the man's thoughts, but that crucial layer of the text is lost in translation.

    For tomorrow: Read.

    Labels: , , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, October 13, 2009
    Having just returned home from another thirteen-hour work day, I haven't much energy to write this evening. Still, given my recent struggle to cope with what seems like an insurmountable workload, I want to use this space to my advantage. Since I would very much like to begin the Afterword this weekend, what I aim to do between now and then is finish rereading Diary of a Bad Year. I need to make that a priority, so I am. I mean, I still have lots of work-for-salary work to do, but I think that this is a reasonable goal. And that's what I am going to do now: sit down and work on Coetzee for a bit before bed.

    For tomorrow: Read.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Monday, October 12, 2009
    This afternoon, I regained a tiny bit of the momentum I lost yesterday. I plowed through a good chunk of reading relatively early in the day and, though I was not nearly as efficient in the later afternoon, a nice meal with a good friend seems to have energized me just enough to get me through some reading for the dissertation as well as a bit more prep work for my classes this week.

    I'm still rather distressed by the seemingly unending onslaught of work coming at me from all sides. I want to finish the dissertation relatively soon, but I have so much other work to get through that I feel I am not making much progress, which is tremendously frustrating for me. I realize now, when it is far too late, that I probably should have applied for a dissertation fellowship of some sort. Instead, I am teaching more than twice as much as the average tenure-track professor just to fund the tail end of my education. But I have to try not to focus on that sort of thing. I suppose I'll take a lesson from Epictetus and expend my energy elsewhere.

    For tomorrow: Since it is a long day for me, just read a little bit more of Diary of a Bad Year.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Today turned out to be one of those days I wish I could do over. Although I woke up fairly early, I got off to a sluggish start and really didn't get anything done until the later part of the afternoon. I spent a few hours grading papers while watching the Yankees-Twins game which, coming on the heels of the Bengals' defeat of the Ravens in Baltimore, made for a very satisfying day for Erik, the Sports Fan but a somewhat less fulfilling day for Erik, the Scholar.

    As I alluded to yesterday, I have been struggling with a remarkably heavy work load this week, a burden that, in its daunting immensity, has resulted in an overwhelming sense of anxious inertia more than a few times over the past couple of days. Thus, while yesterday was a fairly productive period for me, today was unpleasantly slow, work-wise, and I really could not focus on much of anything academic for most of the day.

    As far as dissertation work goes, I have had next to no time to devote to my own work, and this frustrates me something fierce. Although my rereading of Diary of a Bad Year is important, I would really rather have made some headway on my conclusion. Hopefully, I will be able to make some progress on that front this coming week. I'd really like to finish the dissertation by semester's end, if at all possible.

    For tomorrow: Read or, if possible, try to get a bit of prep work done.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, October 11, 2009
    It's been rough going these past few days. I've got piles of student papers to grade, several hundred pages of fiction to read, and a few midterm examinations to write, so I haven't had much time to devote to the dissertation. Perhaps understandably, I've had a good deal of anxiety which, on occasion, has made it difficult for me to concentrate on my work. Today, though, has been fairly productive and, while I have not yet sat down to read a bit more of Diary of a Bad Year, I have made significant headway in my preparations for the coming week. Still, it frustrates the shit out of me to feel that I haven't the time to spend on my dissertation. Hopefully, things'll get easier after this week and I can begin writing my conclusion shortly.

    For tomorrow: Read and prep.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, September 15, 2009
    Well, I'm still here, still plugging away at the dissertation, though it hardly seems like it. Between the twelve-hour days I have been pulling at work and the seemingly interminable amount of preparation I need to do in order to teach the five classes I've got going this semester, I haven't had much time to write anything here. Likewise, I have not had a whole lot of time to work on the dissertation, but I have tried to read a few pages of Slow Man each evening before my body decides it can no longer keep itself awake. Once I finish the rereading, I hope to begin putting together the various synopses and filling in the many forms I will need to complete in order to take care of the administrative side of the degree. And once that's finished -- or, more likely, concurrent with it -- I intend to begin plotting out and writing the final bits of the actual dissertation. It still feel far away and I feel pressed for time.

    For tomorrow: Read and/or prep.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Monday, July 20, 2009
    While I initially thought I would begin writing the penultimate phase of my chapter on Disgrace tomorrow, today's prep work has led me to believe that I should really combine the final two stages of the chapter into a single unit. Thus, I will be spending the next few days reviewing what I was going to save for the very end and try to fashion an outline for a more nuanced final section. This should take a few days, but it will be wonderful to finally finish this interminable chapter. Of course, this chapter will still have to meet with my supervisor's approval, so merely completing the writing is only the prelude to either a gigantic triumph or a massive failure. That fact, understandably, has made writing the chapter increasingly difficult as every word amounts to a wager of one's recent life, embodied in text, on the hope that one has been successful. . .

    Ugh.

    For tomorrow, etc.: Prepare.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, July 9, 2009
    I finally managed to sit down and get some writing done this afternoon, which, to my relief, was not as difficult as it could have been given the length of time I have been away from the text. The anxiety with which I occasionally struggle when returning to a text from which I have taken a break was mercifully mild today and, within a few moments of sitting down, the words began flowing with relative ease. In other words, it was a good day and a successful return to a text I simply cannot wait to finish.

    For tomorrow: Read or, if time permits, write.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Monday, July 6, 2009
    Although it's only a quarter past six in the evening, I figured I'd throw together a post a bit earlier in the day than I normally do.

    For whatever reason, I tend to struggle a good deal more than I would care to admit when attempting to begin writing after a break of any substantial amount of time. I assume a significant chunk of this difficulty stems from a perceived sense of having fallen out of whatever rhythm I'd established in my writing. And this happens every time, without fail. A second factor, of course, is the exasperation I feel at taking what I believe to be too long to write this chapter. I had never planned on spending over a year of my life writing a chapter of my dissertation and, while it has yielded a couple of publications and is longer than my previous two chapters, I am want it finished. This lack of patience, too, has become increasingly vexing for me. In my heart, I am through with graduate school, more than ready to close this segment of my life and try to move on to the next phase, whatever that may happen to be. The problem, however, is that I have to finish the dissertation in order to truly be finished. Combine not wanting to work any longer with having to work harder and you get a potent form of dissertation anxiety and it is that brand of discomfiture that I find myself struggling with today. I mean, every time I sit down to read or write, I grow frustrated with myself because, like everything with the Disgrace chapter, this final phase (writing it) is taking far longer than I'd wanted. And, with summer speeding by, I cannot help but feel I am too far behind my ideal schedule to finish the whole dissertation by my original target date.

    At any rate, and much to my admitted chagrin, I am going to spend time rereading my notes for the mini-section I am currently writing so that, within a day or two, I can return to the interrupted chapter (stupid hard drive failure) with a renewed familiarity and chug through that last bit and begin the penultimate mini-section within the week.

    Ugh.

    For today and tomorrow: Read and, if at all possible, write.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Monday, June 29, 2009
    I'm going to try to keep today's entry about as brief as I can for reasons that, I hope, will become clear soon enough. The anxiety with which I woke yesterday returned this morning with something of a vengeance. Initially, I'd hoped to sit down and get some more writing done, edging ever closer to the conclusion of the seemingly interminable Disgrace chapter on which I have been working for more than a year. When I sat down to work on the chapter, however, a whole new wave of anxiety swept over my mind. I didn't feel comfortable writing on a different computer from that which I feel is "home," and, in a moment of prolonged frustration, I began exploring the possibility of buying a new, cheap laptop so that I could soothe my jangled nerves with a fully-functioning computer I could call my own. At one point, I even started contemplating buying a cheap laptop on credit.

    Then it hit me with the force of Nolan Ryan fastball: I was responding to a miniature crisis in the most extreme of ways. The logical solution, of course, would be to wait a few days for my Mac to emerge from the shop all polished, ready for a mulligan. Instead, I was letting my self-imposed deadlines to get in the way of some very reasonable thinking. I felt as if I needed to finish my chapter immediately and ship it off to my supervisor, even though no such deadline exists. And, since I will finish it soon, regardless of whether or not my hard drive can be scavenged for lost files, there is really no reason I should push myself so hard to write anything in the handful of days between now and when I learn the ultimate fate of my computer. Duh.

    So, I got to thinking, wondering how, exactly, I let myself get so worked up over what is, ultimately, a very minor inconvenience. I concluded that, like many people, I have grown just a bit too reliant upon computers. And, rather than sit around aching like an addict going through withdrawal, I have decided to take a brief vacation from technology. In other words, I am leaving computers and the internet behind; I am signing off for a little while and deliberately placing myself in a situation in which the white noise of the digital age will be blunted, though I will make some key exceptions for safety and transportation reasons. I will have my cellular phone with me and I will, in all likelihood, post occasional mobile updates to Facebook to keep my loved ones informed of my whereabouts. Likewise, I will use my automobile and I may even bring my iPod...but fuck computers. A dissertation is nerve-wracking enough as it is; screw worrying about technology for a few days.

    For tomorrow and Wednesday, at the very least: Shun the internet in favor of reading books.

    Labels: , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    I woke up this afternoon (yes, afternoon) feeling pretty miserable, the previous two days' worth of computer-related stress no doubt playing a large part in my mood's gradual development from morning (figuratively speaking) melancholy to afternoon anxiety. There's just something so utterly depressing about losing one's digital existence. I mean, while there is still technically some hope that the good folks at Apple will be able to salvage some of my files, I haven't much hope left on that front. Like many people in the digital age, I tend to feel somewhat incomplete without my computer and not knowing what's going on with it only exacerbates an already hefty dose of unease.

    As a result of this discomfort, I suspect, my normal level of restlessness ratcheted up a few notches and I found I simply could not sit at home. Not wanting to throw away a perfectly good day for dissertation-writing, I dug up the old laptop on which I wrote my Master's thesis, packed it in my car and set out on a drive to who knows where. In my mind, I envisioned myself checked into some inexpensive motel, hunched over the damaged display clacking away at the Disgrace chapter or else doing the same thing in a park somewhere. I mean, I just had to get away and I knew I couldn't succumb to the temptation to wallow in my own misery, either. So, off I went.

    Of course, I didn't get any writing done in my car or at the desk of some Spartan motel room, but I did spend a few hours driving around in the rain, weaving in and out of the towns and hamlets dotting central New York, enjoying the scenery and listening to Chelsea's Evacuate. When I finally got home, I felt a tiny bit better, but still had to push myself to write anything.

    After a suitable amount of hemming and hawing, I finally did get a bit of work done. Earlier in the day, as I prepared to drive around, I bought myself a new flash drive on which to back up my files so that, in the event another catastrophic disk failure befalls me, I would not have to deal with the stress of having to collect my key files from a variety of de-centralized storage places. For some reason, that little bit of plastic and metal inspired me and I set myself up with this old laptop, a bottle of Diet Dr. Pepper, and a box fan; climbed into bed, propped myself up on some pillows, and got out of my shoes; and listened to the patter of rain while my cat snuggled up next to me (an affectionate cat, I am learning, can do an awful lot of good). It turned out to be a productive evening.

    The main reason I wanted to write, though, was because I knew that the sooner I accepted the reality of my situation and acknowledged that I could and should proceed as if nothing happened, the sooner I would return to a more normal mode of dissertation-writing. I mean, it feels weird writing about Disgrace on this laptop and it did take me a few moments to realize that the slight difference in pagination between my Mac-formatted chapter and my Word-formatted version of the same text owes to the fact that Mac's default "Times Roman" font and Microsoft's "Times New Roman" font are just a tiny bit different. But, I figured, one must move on, even if it feels weird, even if the computer on which I felt at home is spread out in the sick bay of some distant computer workshop. If there's anything I have learned while writing this damn dissertation, it is that not everything goes as planned. Furthermore, my life experience has taught me that it is at the times one feels most discouraged that one must rally.

    What I have learned, I hope, is to be even more vigilant with backing things up. I mean, when floppy disks were the de facto method of storage, I used to save everything to a backup file regularly but, when CDs briefly became the go-to, I fell out of the habit somewhat, put off by the relative inconvenience of burning things to a disk. Now, though, flash drives are about as convenient as can be, so it's about time I return to that old habit. The other thing I have decided to do is switch back to Microsoft's Word as my default word processing program. When I switched to Macintosh last year, I opted for Mac's proprietary Pages program, which has some distinct advantages. But, since I now know just how few computers (including my friend's Mac!) cannot read .pages files, I will be opting for the more common .doc files. Certainly, Pages can open and save things as .doc, but the transfers are still a bit on the messy side and, given my recent experiences, I am not too keen on having to worry about compatibility issues. I just want to finish the fucking dissertation, pass Go, collect my $200, and settle on Marvin Gardens. Or, you know, the postgraduate equivalent.

    But, yeah. I'm still uncomfortable with things, still feeling unmoored by the lack of a digital home base for my dissertation, but I made some progress which is, given my mood today, a big deal.

    So I'm rewarding myself with movies. I just finished watching I Am Legend, a not altogether disappointing interpretation of Richard Matheson's novel. As is all-too-often the case, Hollywood has defanged an interesting text as it processes the story for mass consumption, but Will Smith delivers a solid enough performance to make a rather weak script more than bearable. Still, the novel, with its darker ending and philosophical overtones is a much more satisfying work.

    For tomorrow: Try to write a bit more. Failing that, prep or read.

    Labels: , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, June 27, 2009
    I'm writing this entry from a borrowed computer, my hard drive having died yesterday. Fortunately, a good friend of mine helped me extract the current chapter of my dissertation from the burnt-out hunk of metal before it went completely kaput. I'd saved it as a PDF file, fortunately, so I was able to access it on an old PC I had lying around and, while the fonts and spacing did get a bit messed up in the transfer, I was able to do a relatively quick transfer and now have a presentable Word document with which to work from a living computer terminal. While it looks like the vast majority of my files will have been destroyed, I have been able to locate a pretty good percentage of my key documents in various backup arrangements, so I am not as miserable as I might otherwise be. True, I did lose some recent photographs and probably a handful of word processing documents, but having found ways to access all my Disgrace notes, a relatively recent copy of my bibliography (which I have since revised, updated, and reformatted), and the aforementioned chapter-in-progress has mitigated what could easily have been a really, really bad predicament. Furthermore, in my scouring of email, old disks, and even older computers, I have found most of my notes on Elizabeth Costello, too. Not to mention countless other memories in the form of photographs, scans, and the like.

    All I can say now is that I really want to finish this damn thing. I had intended to get some writing done this weekend and I would still like to do that, though the eight or more hours I spent fixing fonts and replacing footnotes and looking up bibliographic references has wiped me out for the rest of today, I reckon.

    For tomorrow: Read, write, prep...just do something to get closer to the end of this behemoth.

    Labels: , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, June 20, 2009
    Today started off as another one of those mornings when, upon waking up only to see a weak light diffused through thick Southern Tier cloud cover, I really had no desire to do any work at all. I was groggy, too, and, after a less-than-halfhearted attempt to rev myself up for another afternoon of writing, ended up watching some Conan O'Brien sketches and napping for the better part of the day. When I finally woke up, I was considerably more alert and, with anxiety rising as I contemplated writing, I decided to run some errands. Oddly, though, just when it seemed as if I had burnt through an entire day, I sat down, opened the word processing file containing the chapter, and ended up writing more than I have in any single day in recent memory, effectively finishing the subsection of the Disgrace chapter I've been working on.

    For tomorrow: Begin preparing for the next, mercifully brief, subsection.

    Labels: , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Friday, June 5, 2009
    Right now, the big thing I have been struggling with, dissertation-wise, has been overcoming the sense of stasis that my month-long break from writing the Disgrace chapter has brought into my life. I keep feeling as if I have forgotten where I was going or what I was going to say, though I don't think this is really the case. Still, that's where a good deal of the anxiety I have been feeling while preparing to finish up the chapter seems to originate. It's times like this, too, that I grow frustrated with myself for taking so long to finish the dissertation, even though a year-and-a-half of work is hardly out of the ordinary for someone to get through the amount of stuff I have done. It's not always easy to remember that, though.

    For tomorrow: Keep reviewing.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, May 2, 2009
    It took me until 11:00 PM to get myself into gear and now, as it nears four in the morning, I can finally say that I finished another paragraph. I just could not seem to connect my thoughts or, rather, collect them. So I sat, curser blinking menacingly, and stared at the screen for far too long. Every line I typed, it seemed, I deleted.

    And this went on for some time.

    Painfully, slowly, the writing finally came, but only after an awful lot of fretting. And, to be honest, I really do not feel comfortable with the quality of what I have just finished writing despite the amount of time I devoted to it.

    But, I suppose, days like today are part of the process and, if anything, I can at least say that I have pushed my way through one of the more miserable parts of the dissertation,

    Now, though, I want to get some sleep.

    For tomorrow: Read, write, or plan.

    Labels:

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    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.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    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.

    Labels: , , , , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    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.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    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.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, March 31, 2009
    Well, I've had a nice week of relatively low-intensity work on the dissertation. I have spent the majority of the time trying to give my mind a much-needed break from the writing process that had taken so much out of me. To this end, I made a conscious effort to take things easy, allowing myself to reread Disgrace in brief snatches each day but otherwise avoiding the dissertation's less pleasant aspects. This evening, though, I began reviewing the notes I will be using for the next section of the Disgrace chapter, so I reckon I will start that bit soon enough.

    Among other things, I have been plagued by one of the more persistent of my dissertation-woes: the feeling that I just want to be done with school, the sense that I am too old to be doing the student thing. Basically, I have been wrestling with the very feeling that opposes the slow-but-steady philosophy I have been touting the entire time I have been working on the dissertation in earnest.

    My solution to this problem has been to try incorporating some of the things I feel like I have been putting off while a student into my life, whenever possible. I try to read books I am interested in once in a while (Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, Saramago's Blindness, and Schlink's The Reader, currently), have taken a few day trips, gone to concerts, and am planning (possibly unrealistically) to take some longer excursions in the near future. It's really the only solution I can come up with to this lousy feeling. I mean, if I sometimes feel like being a graduate student for the length of time I have been one has gotten in the way of living my life, the only reasonable way to reap the benefits of my studies and live my life is to do both simultaneously, right?

    Still, it has been hard lately. I suppose that's the thing, though: when you see the light at the end of the tunnel, you feel like you've sort of made it there and kinda resent the last leg of the journey. . .

    Oh, and I have begun second-guessing everything I have written thus far, wondering if maybe I could rework it all to ensure that every possible insight I have can be included. This is, of course, not possible, but that doesn't seem to stop me from worrying about leaving out whatever nugget of insight I recall at any given moment.

    For tomorrow: Keep planning.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, March 21, 2009
    As I have mentioned in each of the past few posts, I am having a difficult time writing the Disgrace chapter. The longer I spend writing the chapter, it seems, the more I struggle. Part of the problem, I suppose, is the simple fact that the longer I spend writing, the farther removed I am from the planning stages and from the criticism I spent so much time reading. To remedy this issue, I have been rereading the novel and, within the next few days, will begin revisiting some of the criticism. Since I am (mercifully) nearing the conclusion of a rather lengthy section of the chapter, there's something of a clean break between what I have been writing and what I will be writing next coming up. One difficulty I have had with the particular section I have been working on lately is that, while it is not an introduction, per se, it does set up and unify the sections that will follow it. Once it is completed, however, I will be able to address each of the next few sections as I would an individual essay; that is to say, I can review the criticism and notes for each section, draft an outline, and write it without worrying about altering the structure of future segments. That will be nice.

    The real difficulty I have been having is similar to a problem I first identified while writing my chapter on The Master of Petersburg last spring. Looking back at one of my entries from last May, I seem to have identified the source(s) of some of my discomfort:
    the further I get into a given chapter, the more I worry about its quality. This seems to happen every time I write anything of a certain length. I suppose it is only natural that, the more one invests in a given project, the more he or she stands to lose if it is rejected. Still, the anxiety that accompanies the latter stages of the chapter can make writing that much more difficult.
    and, from another post:
    There have been times when I have felt some satisfaction, have sensed that the day's work was pretty solid but, as is much more often the case, I tend to feel as if I have not done a good enough job, that my work is a sprawling mess, that I have veered off topic. And the weight of those doubts tend to get heavier over time.
    Ugh.

    For tomorrow: Read or, if I can, try to write some more.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, March 19, 2009
    I ended up writing another little bit of the dissertation, but only after I spent the vast majority of the day feeling stressed out over the whole thing. I am so overwhelmed by the size of this chapter. I mean, I've been working on Disgrace for the better part of a year and every single stage of the process seems to take much longer than expected and require more work than anticipated. And that's frustrating. Right now, I am struggling to connect a few dots. There are times when everything sparkles in crystal clarity while, at some other moments, everything looks muddled to me. And that's where the stress really starts to eat away at my desire to work. Plus, the deeper I get into the chapter, the more I feel like I have invested and the more I stand to lose if things don't go together as planned. So, there's a part of me that fretted today. And I fretted all day. Until some time after ten when I told Fretting Erik to get off his fretting ass and start working. Which I did.

    But, man. I always seem to hit this point. Once I cross a certain number of pages -- say, twenty or thirty -- everything changes and the dynamic of writing becomes something a bit more painful.

    Still, I knew there would be some rough patches when I started this thing and, if this is one of them, so be it. I just hope that, ultimately, days like today will be few and far between.

    For tomorrow: Reread a bit or plan some more.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, March 18, 2009
    It's nearing two in the morning and I still haven't started today's work. I will, of course, get my little bit of rereading done before calling it a night, but I am a bit disappointed with myself for having put off so little for so long.

    My real concern, though, is getting myself back into the swing of writing. I'm about to begin writing a rather significant section of my chapter on Disgrace, so I am a bit anxious about it. I mean, I'm already pretty deep into the chapter page-wise, but I still have quite a way to go before I am done and this upcoming section is a fairly significant bridge between what I have written thus far and what I hope to write for the remainder of the chapter.

    So, yeah. There's some agitation...

    For tomorrow: Either write a bit or, if that proves still a day or two away, plan for the next bit of writing.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, February 25, 2009
    Last week, when I decided to finish re-reading Elizabeth Costello, there was a tiny part of me that rejoiced in putting off writing for another week. That tiny part of me, I think, must have known that the section I was to write this afternoon and evening would not be easy. In fact, it took me the better part of the afternoon to find the right sentence to bridge the paragraph I finished last week to the one I was about to type. I'm not especially proud of this fact, of course, but the tortuous process of suturing what I had already with what I was trying to write this afternoon ended up allowing me to further refine some ideas and to -- I hope -- strengthen my analysis of Disgrace.

    And, truth be told, these past few days have been dissertation hell for me. Quite a few of the early bits of self-doubt -- those pesky little demons that made starting the project so difficult in the first place -- have resurfaced and I have really been struggling to overcome them. I suspect one reason for the surge in self-doubt has been that, prior to this evening, I wasn't entirely certain how I was going to tie two very important parts of the chapter together. Putting the writing off for a few days (albeit for legitimate reasons), of course, only exacerbated the situation.

    At any rate, I do feel confident that the next few chunks of the chapter will be strong, but I will have to revisit a few key texts before embarking on the next leg of the journey.

    For tomorrow: Locate and begin reviewing the aforementioned key texts.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Monday, February 9, 2009
    I spent a few hours this afternoon adding to the chapter I began writing yesterday. Though it's only been two days since I started the Disgrace chapter, I'm beginning to recall all sorts of unpleasant writing-related sensations that I'd forgotten about in the months since I wrapped up the chapter I put together on The Master of Petersburg: the feeling of being tethered to my office, the annoying tendency I have to find fault with everything I write, and (perhaps I should add especially) the weight of the albatross I wake up with each morning, reminding me to crack my knuckles and start writing. The lattermost feeling actually reminds me a bit of how I imagine the protagonist of Groundhog Day must feel when he wakes each morning. You know, when Sonny and Cher's "I Got You Babe" jars Bill Murray's character out of the oblivion of sleep and back into the consciousness that, though he feels like he may have moved into the future, he's right back where he was the day before. Now, obviously, I have made progress on my dissertation and I am clearly a bit farther along today than I was yesterday, but that feeling of waking up to a whole lot of the same is, nevertheless, a significant part of my writing days in the hours before I sit down at the computer.

    For tomorrow: Since it's going to be a long day, full of meetings and other thoroughly non-dissertation obligations, I will say either reread a bit more of Elizabeth Costello or do a bit of planning for the next bit of writing. Of course, if I somehow find the time to write a bit more, that would be splendid.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, February 8, 2009
    Since it didn't seem like the anxiety I've been dealing with the past couple of days was heading anywhere I decided to start writing the chapter. Not outline, not tweak the outline, start writing. And so I did. Admittedly, it took me more than an hour to write the first sentence in a way that I found satisfactory (the image of the obscure clerk in Camus's The Plague struggling to write the perfect opening sentence did come to mind. Several times, in fact) but I started writing and, eventually, a few pages dripped out. As usual, I hate pretty much every word I've written and I have been analyzing my tone ever since I stopped writing but, fuck it all, the damn thing is underway.

    Aside from writing more than I thought I would be able to squeeze out of myself, I actually read some more of Elizabeth Costello, too. Overall, not a bad day.

    For tomorrow: Read or write or prep for writing.

    Labels: , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, February 7, 2009
    I woke up this morning with the same weighty anxiety as I felt yesterday and, to be honest, a part of me really wanted to succumb to it for a second consecutive day. I also knew that if I did hide from the blank page, I'd just be pissed off at myself and I'd have made it that much more difficult for myself to push through the unpleasantness.

    So, while I did procrastinate a bit, I made myself promise to myself that I would, before it got too late, actually try to complete the outline I started on Thursday evening. Ironically, part of my procrastination consisted of reading another chunk of Elizabeth Costello. So, yeah. I put off working on my dissertation by working on my dissertation.

    What I have come to accept about myself, though, is that I have a real problem here. There is a part of me that keeps finding (and in some cases, adding) work to do before beginning the chapter, presumably out of the fear of not being prepared to tackle what, in some ways, I have been avoiding for more than a year. (After all, I originally planned to rework a brief essay I'd published on Disgrace a few years ago, add a bit about Age of Iron and Slow Man, and turn it into a sixty page chapter on Coetzee). Here's the thing: Disgrace is just so huge, so significant a benchmark in contemporary literary history that I knew addressing it would require a half-year or more of preparation and that scared me. Now that I have done the prep work, though, I have begun feeling anxious over the sheer size of the project, anxious over my mastery of so many interlinking and often contradictory ideas. So, I'm worried. And this feeling, as I saw it today, left me with two distinct choices:

    1. Write.

    or

    2. Don't write.

    Now, since not writing tends to lead to more not writing while writing leads to less writing, I decided that the first choice was really the only way to go, so, for a little while this evening, I sat down with my outline and finished plotting out the general direction and shape of the chapter-to-be. I'm thoroughly dissatisfied with it, of course, but there's quite a bit of stuff laid out now and I have a road map to help me negotiate the foggy course I am about to take. I imagine I will spend some time over the next few days digging around in my recently-reviewed notes for various info-nuggets to put into the writing but, since that may not be as time-consuming a task as the Erik-in-fear-of-beginning might hope for, I may also dive into the chapter, outline in one hand and reams of notes in the other and stop putting off the inevitable sooner rather than later. We'll see.

    For tomorrow: Read, prepare notes, and/or dissertate.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    My dissertation anxiety may have gotten the better of me today, though it did not prevent me from getting some work done. The part of me that I'd managed to spur into action last night, the part that had gotten some outlining done, froze today. I realize I could have nudged myself back into gear, forced myself to confront the tauntingly regular blink of the cursor on the page, but I opted instead to read a little bit in Elizabeth Costello.

    Now, while re-reading the novel was not my ideal approach towards dissertation work for the day, I did find that the reading reminded me of a couple of things I need to work into the Disgrace outline when I settle down and try to finish it in the next day or two. So, really, I oughtn't complain. Still, I dislike acknowledging that the anxiety surrounding this chapter affects me so thoroughly. This is part of the rationale for "assigning" myself an alternative reading each day, of course. I mean, sometimes one simply needs a break from the intellectual intensity of writing but other times, the need is more emotional or psychological. One needs to remind oneself of certain things, think and feel one's way through a relevant worry before proceeding.

    At any rate, I have really been enjoying Elizabeth Costello, which ranks as one of my favorite Coetzee novels. I enjoy the metafictional and philosophical musings (trends that the author continues to develop in both Slow Man and Diary of a Bad Year) Coetzee weaves into the fabric of the narrative and, admittedly, I find the actual ideas the fictional Australian novelist presents in her rationally-flawed, emotionally-charged speeches to be among the more though-provoking passages in contemporary fiction. Elizabeth Costello is one of those novels that I enjoy both as a reader and as a student, a book I feel challenges me intellectually to question my assumptions about the world and the art it produces as well as provides me with a pleasant way to spend a chilly winter evening.

    For tomorrow: What I said yesterday for today said today for tomorrow.

    Labels: , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, February 5, 2009
    All right. So, I started outlining the Disgrace chapter this evening. Since it involved actually typing and arranging words thoughtfully on the page, I have decided to say I have begun the chapter. I haven't necessarily begun writing it, maybe, but it is undoubtedly underway.

    Finally.

    After, like, six months or something equally insane.

    At any rate, I had a brief meeting with my advisor this afternoon and, it seems, she thinks that my general approach to this behemoth of a chapter is a reasonable one so, with more anxiety than I would care to admit, I sat down at my computer a few hours ago, strained to remember as much of what I told her as I could, and begun shaping the course of the chapter-to-be.

    And, boy, was it a nerve-wracking experience. Since it's been a half-year or so since I last wrote anything, I suspect it will take me a bit longer to work myself into the sort of writing-rhythm I'd had by the time I finished the seemingly endless chapter on The Master of Petersburg in April or May of last year. So, basically, I had to turn the key a few times for the ignition to catch but, eventually, I sputtered my way into producing a few pages of an outline.

    So, yeah. There're still some hurdles left to clear, memories to dust off, notes to consult, but the trip has begun. Again. Still, when you've been off the road for a while, it's kinda exciting to pull back onto the great concrete expanse, look in the rearview mirror at the distance you've come, and forward to a road sign on which, for the first time, the milage separating you from your destination is displayed, even if the number is pretty big.

    For tomorrow: Read some of Elizabeth Costello or work on the outline some more.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, February 4, 2009
    I drew this meat grinder to help illustrate the way I currently feel about the Disgrace chapter I am about to write. Imagine you've got, like, a herd of cattle. Now imagine cramming that herd into the little funnel at the top of the meat grinder and trying to turn the crank.

    Now, imagine that herd of cattle is really a herd of literary critics and my brain is the grinder and the crank is . . . well, you get the picture.

    For tomorrow: Finish putting the meat in the grinder; prepare to turn the crank.

    Labels: , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Thursday, January 29, 2009
    So, I'm still working on reviewing my notes from the criticism I spent half a year reading. As has been the case with every part of the Disgrace chapter, this has taken me several times longer than I had anticipated to get through. I should finish within the next week or so, leaving me with the still daunting task of attempting to arrange all this stuff into a readable chapter on the novel. I have to admit that, at times, this chapter feels so big that it almost seems un-startable. I say almost because, fuck it all, I'm gonna get this damn thing done. I am still debating with myself over how I am going to proceed with the outlining phase, whether I will need to re-organize the re-read notes into more user-friendly thematic bites or if I am going to outline the chapter first, then arrange the notes. Although I initially thought I would arrange the notes first, I am leaning towards the latter approach because it will enable me to foreground my own logic in the structuring of the chapter. Then, as I re-arrange the notes, the writing process will, essentially, be underway. I will have, after all, started saying what's been pent up for so long.

    Soundtrack for the past week: Big Black's Songs About Fucking.

    For the next little while: Keep reading over the notes and working on the bibliography.

    Labels: , , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, January 21, 2009
    I'm currently at a stage in the prewriting phase of Chapter Three that I find tremendously difficult to work my way through. Like many people with hyperactive minds, I often need to harness my excess energy in order to focus on something that does not interest me as much as, say, the crossword puzzle book sitting on my nightstand or the copy of Morris Kline's Mathematics for the Non-mathematician sitting atop it, but I have really been struggling to re-read the pages of notes on and quotes from the critical articles on Disgrace. I mean, I have been making progress, but it is a haltingly slow, frustrating affair. I suspect that I am chomping at the bit a little, itching to begin writing the chapter, thereby building up a fairly potent store of impatience which, in turn, makes it harder to focus on the task at hand. Another factor contributing to the difficulty I have been having sustaining focus, I reckon, is that, having already separated the critical wheat from the chaff, each quotation is something that requires a good deal of concentration and reflection to be properly processed. Thus, in terms of the mental effort one must exert, it's rather like running one sprint after another for the length of a marathon.

    And, of course, there's the constant struggle to mentally arrange things as one reads such material with the intention of writing something worth reading, a struggle that is only partially alleviated by the addition of a pad and pen.

    So, yeah. Like everything else with this chapter, this stage seems like it will take longer than I'd hoped.

    For the next day or two: Continue re-reading and bibliographizing.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, January 18, 2009
    Although it took me a day longer than I'd hoped, I finished transcribing my notes on and quotes from Disgrace. What this means is that I have "only" to review the 170 pages of transcription (the critical material, of course, dwarfing the primary material), organize my notes in such a way as to make sense of the whole lot, outline the chapter, and begin writing. The unsettling thing is that, for the past half-year or so, the writing was a phase set in the distant future, so I really did not stress over the writing the way that I am beginning to do now.

    For tomorrow, etc: Read over notes and quotes.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, January 14, 2009
    Well, I finally finished transcribing all the quotations from and notes I've taken on the critics' essays on Disgrace. In total, the document ended up exceeding 140 pages of single-spaced text. I also finished re-reading the novel earlier this evening. I'd bought another copy of Disgrace a day or so before Christmas because I did not want to risk damaging my already-disintegrating copy of the book by subjecting it to the rigors of holiday travel. Also, I thought it would be a splendid idea to try and read the book (and jot down even more notes) without my previous scrawl to distract me. I figure that when I begin transcribing all that stuff tomorrow, I can compare the two copies and see if I underlined all the same passages and such. You know, see if I'd missed anything. This way, hopefully, I'll have about as thorough a selection of material from which to draw as possible when I begin what promises to be an exceedingly long period of prewriting.

    Since I have been away from writing since the spring, I have to admit I am a bit nervous about beginning the chapter. Whatever groove I'd gotten myself into back then has morphed into something quite different. Naturally, I am also relieved to have finally finished was has been, admittedly, an extremely tedious procedure, but with that relief comes the realization that I must face the blinking curser and begin writing. Again.

    Furthermore, working with the sheer amount of critical writing on Disgrace is more than a little daunting. I mean, I know what it is I want to say but I am currently struggling to find a way to situate my reading of the novel within a huge body of pre-existing discourse without subverting my voice or ignoring the relevant voices of others. It will be tough, I reckon, to sort things out, but I am going to follow the same approach that has served me so well in the past: doing a small but significant amount of work each day, devoting a good chunk of time to the plotting out and outlining of the chapter, and reminding myself daily that Rome wasn't built in a day.

    The anxiety, obviously, stems primarily from the fact that there's just so much of everything: critical essays, notes, quotes, things to say, references to check, bibliographical entries to be made. I simply feel overwhelmed, which is why I will have to spend as much time prewriting as I suspect I am going to be doing over the next few weeks -- a stage in the process I really do not enjoy because it means I have to shake myself out of the inaction that has settled in and begin the invariably hard (though rewarding) phase of creative endeavor.

    I will, naturally, keep my handful of readers posted.

    For tomorrow: Either transcribe a bit of notes from the novel, work on the bibliography, or begin reviewing the 140+ pages of stuff I just transcribed.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, December 23, 2008
    So, I've spent the past couple of days doing what I have been doing for the past month or so: transcribing notes. Happily, though, it appears that I have passed the halfway point of the transcription process, having worked my way through a foot-high stack of critical essays. I have more than 100 pages of notes typed up now, which is both good (I have a lot to work with) and bad (I have a lot to work with).

    I am at a stage in the transcription process where I really have started to wonder how much information one human being can possibly work with before it becomes overwhelming. I realize, too, that this has been done before, so I guess I'll just have to find a way (color-coded highlighting?) to organize what feels like a sprawling mess. . .

    For tomorrow, Christmas Eve, Christmas, et cetera: Transcribe, finish reading Brink's novel, and/or read the short article on Disgrace that I found today.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, December 6, 2008
    Today was one of those days when, if the lingering pain from my accident hadn't kept me from doing so, I'd've spent ten or more hours working on my dissertation. And, to be honest, this would not have been a wholly positive thing. You see, my urge to work as much and as long as possible today does not stems from the sort of sublime scholarly joie de vivre academics occasionally experience when the pleasure of his or her work renders such activity less work than bliss. I have had the pleasure of meeting a few such individuals, the sort of men and women for whom the dusty stacks in some forlorn corner of a library are as beautiful a sight as the Taj Mahal or St. Basil's. They're usually wonderfully quirky folks, from what I have seen.

    But, at the moment, I am not of that admirable clan and, while I derive a great deal of satisfaction and pleasure from learning about South Africa and J. M. Coetzee, I did not feel the tinglings of that great scholastic joy to which I referred earlier. No, my desire to work is essentially a desire to close what has become a long, tedious, and largely unpleasant chapter of my life.

    My concern with the purgatorial liminality in which the average doctoral student may find him- or herself is certainly not something new to readers of this blog, but I find myself particularly unsettled by it tonight and would like to address the topic again.

    The dissertation or, more specifically, the stage in one's life the dissertation represents, is often a highly isolating one. It is the stage of one's academic life when he or she sets out to walk a path hitherto untrod. I recall a friend of mine in Montreal, a doctoral candidate in physics, speaking of the difficulty he had in relating to his family because they simply had no way of comprehending the esoteric nature of his studies. Now, of course, one needn't share everything one does with one's relations, but my friend's predicament expresses a bittersweet truth: the deeper one delves into his or her studies, the fewer and fewer the people with whom he or she can share that passion. For many doctoral candidates, the dissertation literally marks the charting of new ground. We are encouraged, if not outright forced, to go where no man has gone before, thus placing us in a situation where we have no one with whom to commiserate except other people who can relate not to the subject of our work but merely the experience.

    Now, this would not be so bad if it weren't for the fact that so much of our mental energies are devoted to the dissertation that we cannot always leave it behind when we go about our everyday lives. I mean, ninety percent of the time I am delighted when some bit of wisdom from Levinas or Coetzee illuminates some bit of my day at the supermarket or the bowling alley, but there are times when I struggle to shake the dissertation out of my mind. If I am out with friends, say, and some nugget of insight unexpectedly alights on my brain, I am prone to drop out of the present moment to mentally note whatever it is I so serendipitously realized. Likewise, if I am anxious to finish some task or another, I find it rather hard to do anything else or, at the very least, I do not enjoy things as thoroughly as I would if I feel the dissertation looming over my shoulder like a cartoon conscience steering me towards right behavior.

    But that's not really all that bad. The liminality of it, though, can be annoying. It's difficult for me to fully disengage myself from the dissertation. I live as if I am two beings at once: the dissertation Erik and normal Erik. We share the same space but, in many ways, we cannot coexist. Dissertation Erik wants to work all the time while normal Erik wants to sleep in, listen to punk rock and, most tellingly, not work on a dissertation, ever.

    More broadly, the dissertation-writing student is a liminal being in the sense that he or she is neither fully a student nor fully an academic. We teach classes, sure, but we (or, most of us, at least) are most assuredly not professors. We may teach the same classes, we may publish articles in the same journals, we may have the same male pattern baldness and crow's feet, but we earn a fraction of the money and rarely have the fringe benefits of bona-fide (i.e. non-adjunct) faculty. And there are, obviously, legitimate reasons for this. Still, we find ourselves in the sort of financial situation that someone much younger than we might expect. Accordingly, many of us live in the same relatively ramshackle environments, imbibe and ingest the same questionable nutritional fare, drive the same clunkers, and dress similar to college students. This isn't necessarily bad, of course, but when such circumstances are not freely-chosen (yes, I know, attending grad school is a choice, blah blah blah. . .), we may feel a bit like Billy Madison in the dreadful Adam Sandler film of the same name. Especially when our non-grad student peers can afford, say, napkins with their ramen noodles.

    And it is the financial difficulties that often hit me the hardest. I could take out loans, of course, but given the current economic climate as well as the notoriously competitive academic job market, I am not sure I could pay them off in a timely manner. So I choose the "honest" route and work my way through school. The problem with this is that, for those of us who want to work in education, the choices are limited and job security is pretty hard to come by. Many of us end up adjuncting, which can be wonderful if the situation is right. I, myself, have worked as an adjunct at several schools and have had really good experiences. However, adjuncting contracts are often offered on a term-by-term, as-needed basis, with no guarantee of renewal and no medical benefits. Another difficulty with adjuncting is that, frequently, grad students are stuck teaching the work-intensive classes regular faculty members pass on, some of which can be quite demanding. Balancing employment with one's own work, for some, is a very difficult task.

    I have been pretty fortunate, myself, having had the opportunity to teach many classes related to my field of expertise. Still, lacking a terminal degree, I have no way to ensure that I will find such employment in any given semester, which makes it difficult to maintain a comfortable, even when unabashedly Spartan, life. Sometimes I wonder if, despite my love of teaching, a wiser bet would be for me to find a more secure job so that I could finish my dissertation without having always to worry about whether or not I can afford rent or, you know, a burrito.

    Still, at times like this, when my frustrations come to a head, it is the dissertation that I turn to for some sense of accomplishment. If I can get something done on it, I reason, I can take a degree of satisfaction from having made progress. So, it can be a life line.

    And that's another thing about the dissertation: it has this dualistic quality of both giving and taking life. On the one hand, I feel accomplished and I have met a good many people as a result of my research. On the other hand, I am isolated from my friends and family, both in the physical sense that I am somewhat tethered to a location far from my closest friends and family, as well as in the metaphysical sense my physicist friend alluded to that chilly evening in Quebec.

    And it is this isolation, I think, that I find most troubling. Were I younger, I suspect that the distance would be more easily dismissed as a temporary thing. Now, however, I perceive myself as "stuck somewhere because of my dissertation. Naturally, I could find work elsewhere, closer to my loved ones, but after spending several years in this area, I find that I have unwittingly spread roots here. I mean, I had to establish residency here in order to study at the university and with that residency comes a slew of tethering factors: I have worked here and I know people here. To move, whether I like it or not, probably requires that I be offered a lucrative enough position to make the move worth my while. Until I finish the degree, then, it looks like I will be here, in upstate New York. And, if I move now, I will be leaving the friends I have made here behind. . . and that's not good for someone feeling isolated, now is it?

    So I work on this thing, every day.

    Because a sizable part of me wants to pick up and leave, to start my life anew, I work on this thing every day.

    Because I have hopes and dreams too long deferred, I work on this thing, every day.

    Because I want to teach literature classes for a living, I work on this thing, every day.

    But mostly, I just want to be done, close the book on this chapter of my life and move on, do something else, be able to travel and see the people I care about.

    And today, more acutely than anytime recently, I have felt the emotional and vocational lacunae that the unfinished dissertation bores in my soul.

    So I work, gritting my teeth against the frustrations and fears of what has been a particularly rough week, feeling as if the dissertation is both the ball-and-chain holding me back and the plough with which I can turn the earth into which I plant the seeds for my future.

    For tomorrow: More.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, November 29, 2008
    Although I felt extremely stiff this morning when I woke up and while I did feel more than a little discombobulated for the first few minutes of the day, I did set aside some time to work on the dissertation. I transcribed a few more pages of notes and such and, while I would have like to have made a bit more progress, I am satisfied with the fact that I have continued making headway despite my recent setback.

    As the one year anniversary of this blog project looms on my horizon, I find myself a bit chagrined that I am still working on Disgrace, which was initially supposed to be the focus of the chapter I planned to finish by the end of this past February. Granted, I did write eighty-odd pages on the two novels preceding Disgrace, so the illusion of stagnation is not all that convincing. Nevertheless, I would like to finish the chapter on the novel soon . . . I think it will be a significant mental boost for me, a psychological milepost on what has been a peculiar intellectual journey. Strangely rewarding, all things considered, but one whose conclusion I welcome wholeheartedly.

    For tomorrow: Even more of the same.

    Labels: ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Wednesday, November 5, 2008
    Well, today has been another long day, but I did manage to get a bit of transcription done this evening. I can sense that this stage of the chapter is going to be pretty tedious because of the sheer amount of time I will have to spend typing up the notes I have been making and the passages I have highlighted or underlined, but I suppose it is progress...right?

    At the moment, I find myself a bit overwhelmed by the many obligations I have. In addition to the dissertation work, I have a rather heavy pile of papers to grade, a messy home to clean, and lectures to prepare. Stress has, not surprisingly, become a factor for me and I find it difficult to focus on any one task because I cannot ignore the nagging feeling that I am not doing what I should be doing. And this is not a particularly pleasant feeling to have while copying notes. But, as always, I will push my way through. Ergo...

    For tomorrow: Read or transcribe.

    Labels: , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Sunday, October 12, 2008
    I did not enjoy today. I mean, it was a beautiful, cloudless autumn afternoon and the temperature was moderate enough to make wearing a sweatshirt as comfortable as wearing a tee-shirt. The yellows, reds, and oranges blotching the mountainsides made for a spectacular view in every direction. Birds chirruped and neighbors made pleasant small talk. The light breeze was delightful. And yet, I still managed to ruin it for myself.

    At some point during the day I began reflecting on graduate school, something that rarely results in a sense of self-satisfaction, to say the least. Once the math (the number of doctoral students entering the job market, the growing percentage of non-tenured positions, graduate school rankings, the percentage of Ph.D.s with whom I am acquainted finding tenure-track jobs, the number of publications I have had, and so on) began swirling in my mind, my mood plummeted. In Looney Toons-style, I would go from frolicking around the bucolic splendor of a crisp autumn day to getting smacked squarely in the jaw with some exceedingly heavy Acme brand product. The sound of a record scratching would bring the Peer Gynt Suite to which I had so gaily been frolicking to an abrupt halt just in time to segue into a Maurice Ravel's "Prelude a la Nuit: Rhapsodie Espagnole." Clouds would then darken the skies, the wind would pick up, a desolate-sounding dog would howl mournfully in the distance, and a few heavy drops of cold rainwater would dampen my face as I trudged home.

    Seriously, thinking about graduate school can be mind poison, no matter the institution one attends. That hyper-competitive job market just doesn't bode well for many of us. I mean, second-tier students tend to worry about the relative value of their credentials while top-tier students now have to wrestle with the fact that employers are increasingly skeptical about hiring them now, too (so sayeth a New York Times article the LiteraryChica sent my way a while back) because of the sort of hyper-specialization encouraged by many departments.

    Still, despite the weight of the worry (and it was substantial), I brushed the fears away, tamped down the self-doubts as best I could, and read what turned out to be one of the better essays I have come across while working on Disgrace.

    John Douthwaite's "Melanie: Voice and its Suppression in J M Coetzee's Disgrace" picks up quite literally where "Coetzee's Disgrace: A Linguistic Analysis of the Opening Chapter" leaves off. Focusing on chapters two through four, Douthwaite applies the same rigorous linguistic analysis to the Melanie-centered section of Disgrace as he does to the first chapter. The result of Dothwaite's work, not surprisingly, is a stunningly revealing close reading highlighting, among other things, the role of the void in Coetzee's novel as well as the linguistic activities David Lurie employs in a vain attempt at filling it. What I found most compelling in the essay, however, is Douthwaite's rather novel reading of the novel as presenting the free direct thought of Lurie (as opposed to the almost-universally accepted critical assessment of the book as having been written in an overtly free indirect mode). Given that J. M. Coetzee delivered the Tanner Lectures by reading an account of Elizabeth Costello, penned two autobiographical works in the third-person, and accepted his Nobel Prize by reading a narrative centered on Daniel Dafoe, the possibility Lurie is the "author" rather than simple focalizer of Disgrace is a compelling and thought-provoking approach to the novel, indeed. In making his case, Douthwaite nudges open several hitherto unseen (and potentially enlightening) avenues for scholarly discourse. Normally, I do not enjoy linguistic analysis, but Douthwaite is a superior scholar with a genuine gift for literary criticism, making his two essays essential reading for anyone working with Coetzee's text.

    For tomorrow: Read another essay.

    Work Cited

    Douthwaite, John. "Melanie: Voice and its Suppression in J M Coetzee's Disgrace." Current Writing 13.1 (2001): 130-161.

    Labels: , , , , , , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Tuesday, September 30, 2008
    If there were any doubts that an advanced degree in the liberal arts appeals to employers, I suggest you read the following announcement sent to the English graduate student listserv at my university this afternoon under the title "Job Opening":
    JOB POSTING: [Company name removed for privacy] has an immediate opening for a full-time receptionist/administrative assistant. The successful applicant need not have knowledge of the window tinting industry, but must be willing and able to learn the company's trade. This position requires a personable and responsible employee with a professional attitude and outstanding phone etiquette. An understanding of scheduling, invoicing, and accounts payable is required for this busy, rewarding position.
    When headhunters looking for "a full-time receptionist/administrative assistant" begin targeting people with MAs and PhDs, one cannot help but reflect upon his or her decision to attend graduate school. There is, of course, nothing wrong with a receptionist position in the window tinting industry, but from a certain jaded perspective, one has to wonder what this says about the relative value of a decade of post-secondary education in an economy like ours . . . I mean, theoretically one need not attend college to qualify him- or herself for a career in the service industry or in retail, yet many people I know with fancy-sounding degrees end up working in fields they need not have spent so much time and money in school to enter. Obviously, the psychological, intellectual, and spiritual value of an education should be enough of an incentive for an individual to attend post-secondary schools, but the reality of the situation is that the vast majority of people in the United States who attend college and graduate school with the explicit goal of obtaining a particular type of job and lifestyle theoretically only possible with an expensive and time-consuming education. And, sadly, it seems, many of these dreams will go unfulfilled despite the best efforts to succeed. This, too, is another throbbing anxiety in the mind of many a graduate student: will all this work pay off and position me for a satisfying career in academia? The answer in all its painfully unsettling glory: maybe.

    And speaking of emails, I received this message yesterday:
    A request you have placed:

    Cape Argus
    10 August 1999
    Title: Coetzee thinks publicly about new SA
    Author: Michael Morris

    TN: 339109

    has been cancelled by the interlibrary loan staff for the following reason:

    We have exhausted all possible sources.

    There is no library who can supply this item.
    I have a hard time believing that no library has a copy of the Cape Argus from less than a decade ago, so if there's anyone who might have a copy of this brief newspaper article, I would be elated if you could contact me.

    As far as reading goes, I finished two articles since yesterday evening, both of which deal heavily with poststructural theory. Of the two, the essay I read this afternoon -- Zoe Wicomb's "Translations in the Yard of Africa" -- struck me as most relevant to my dissertation. In her discussion of the correlations between the act of cultural transformation and literal and figurative translation, Wicomb cuts to the heart of one of the central issues in postcolonial studies: the palimpsestic nature of cultural production. Indeed, the traces of apartheid-era society is never fully erased and, in Coetzee's book, they often foil attempts at translating experience. This, in Wicomb's estimation, can be shown to reveal "the failure of transition as a crossing over to democracy" (Wicomb). The essay I read last night, Lucy Graham's "'Yes, I am Giving Him Up': Sacrificial Responsibility and Likeness With Dogs in JM Coetzee's Recent Fiction," like so many others, deals with the connections between The Lives of Animals and Disgrace. Although Graham is one of the Coetzee scholars I most enjoy, I wasn't as impressed by this essay as I normally am. This is not to say that her essay is not very good -- it is -- but I feel that the weight of the theory she brings into the article detracts from her astute reading of the novel. Jacques Derrida, Theodor Adorno, Michel Foucault, Emmanuel Levinas, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, among others, each make an appearance in this brief (eleven pages!) essay. Although many academics are quite familiar with what amounts to a who's who of postmodern thought, Graham's tightly-packed essay demands a certain readerly vigilance not to get lost in the waves of complexly-wrought theoretical language running throughout the text. That said, Graham reads against the Mike Marais's Levinasian interpretation of Disgrace, arguing that Coetzee's texts "challenge the limitations of autrui and dissociation implicit in notions of transcendence," providing a slightly different (yet valuable) interpretation of the oft-cited "sympathetic imagination" at work in both Disgrace and The Lives of Animals / Elizabeth Costello (4). While I do not wholly agree with Graham's reading, I applaud her focus on the body as a site of suffering as well as the negative presence of silenced suffering in the two texts.

    For tomorrow: Read another article.

    Works Cited

    Graham, Lucy. "'Yes, I am Giving Him Up': Sacrificial Responsibility and Likeness With Dogs in JM Coetzee's Recent Fiction." scrutiny2 7.1 (2002): 4-15.

    Wicomb, Zoe. "Translations in the Yard of Africa." Journal of Literary Studies 18.3-4 (2000): 209-33.

    Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________
    Saturday, September 13, 2008
    Written on 9/13/2008; posted 9/22/2008:

    Well, my internet connection isn't working again, so I am typing this in my computer's word processing program and will cut and paste it into my blogging software when I can get online. Ironically -- I swear this isn't intentional -- I am listening to Face to Face's "Disconnected" while I write. Weird.

    As I have mentioning repeatedly over the past few days, I have really been struggling to get through the final dozen or so articles on Disgrace. At least three-quarters of them have underlining or highlighting on the first page or two from my aborted attempts to read them. This isn't to say that the articles are poorly written or anything. It's just that I find myself saying "yeah, I know" to quite a few of the critics I have been reading lately because, to be honest, I have not been encountering much in the way of new information. You see, I've already encountered quite a few analyses of, say, Coetzee's critique of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or the role of animals in stoking David Lurie's sympathetic imagination -- and, more often than not, I have already read the arguments presented in a given article two or three times in other criticism.

    Of course, there have been some very fine exceptions, articles that do shed new light on the novel and I appreciate them a great deal. This, though, sounds like more complaining, which is not my aim. If anything, I am trying to document my frustration. I want to share this with those of you who have been kind enough to share your own experiences as dissertation writers with me in case you ever find yourself in a similar predicament. I also want to write my way through the frustration. I want to be able to look back on this experience and, with the aid of these notes of exasperation, keep the distortions of memory to a minimum. That way, I can realistically say I have been here, done this and have written proof of it.

    That said, I did make my way through another essay this afternoon. Admittedly, had I not had plans for dinner, I mightn't have finished my reading so early. Fortunately, I ended up having a nice time with some really wonderful people and I now have the energy to write a bit, so I will try to discuss a few of the essays I have been meaning to mention. As a caveat, I should mention that I will only discuss certain elements of the essays. Each one is considerably more complex and broader in scope than my brief entry could possibly convey and should be sought out by serious students of Coetzee.

    The essay I went over this afternoon, Margot Norris's "The Human Animal in Fiction," only deals briefly with Disgrace. With particular attention to sexuality and the use of bestial metaphors to express human sexuality, Norris's study will prove quite useful to readers interested in broader issues of materialism as well as to those wanting to locate Coetzee within a tradition of human-animal representations. In a similar vein, I also read Kennan Ferguson's "I [Heart] My Dog," which like Norris's essay, considers Coetzee's treatment of animals as part of a larger trend in literary history. Consistent with what may be the orthodox interpretation of dogs in Disgrace, Ferguson views the canine presence in Coetzee's novel as a catalyst in the reformation of David Lurie's character.

    Among the other articles I read over the past week, only Jane Poyner's "Truth and Reconciliation in JM Coetzee's Disgrace" deals exclusively with the novel. Typical of many essays concerned with the theme of reconciliation, Poyner reads the character of David Lurie as representative of the white male figure in post-apartheid South Africa. Where she deviates from the pack is in her refining of that reading from the general to the specific: David Lurie represents not only the while male but the white male writer. Accordingly, Poyner sees the failure of David's musical project as analogous to the white writer's difficulty in finding an appropriate voice for expressing his angst, guilt, and desire for an unobtainable closure in post-Apartheid South Africa. Similarly, Johan Jacobs discusses the ways in which the increasingly comic Byron in Italy mirrors the many reversals taking place in the novel as well as in South African society, including Petrus's displacing of the Luries' on the Eastern Cape smallholding purchased by the latter.

    Works Cited

    Ferguson, Kennan. "I [Heart] My Dog." Political Theory 32.3 (2004): 373-395.

    Jacobs, Johan. "Writing Reconciliation: South African Fiction After Apartheid." Cross Cultures 71 (2004): 177-196.

    Norris, Margot. "The Human Animal in Fiction." Parallax 12.1 (2006): 4-20.

    Poyner, Jane. "Truth and Reconciliation in JM Coetzee's Disgrace." scrutiny2 5.1 (2000): 68-77.

    Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

    Permanent Link
    © Sobriquet Magazine

    Share: StumbleUpon Toolbar del.icio.us Add to Mixx! Digg!


    ____________________________________________

    Literature

    William Gaddis
    The Modern Word
    Kurt Vonnegut
    Chuck Palahniuk
    Free Audiobooks

    Blogs

    Ben Weasel
    Ed Kemp
    The Irascible Professor
    Jeremy Hance
    Ielle Palmer
    MinxyLand
    Literary Chica
    Rex Parker
    Tiffany Roufs
    Pop Sensation
    Lime Plate

    Diversions

    South Park Studios
    Garfield Minus Garfield
    The Onion
    Urban Legends
    NNDB
    Daily Rotten
    Rotten Library
    Six Sentences
    Freerice.com
    Eric Mattina's Film Reviews

    Ideas

    Arts & Letters Daily
    Stirrings Still
    Logos

    Magazines

    The Atlantic
    CounterPunch
    Foreign Affairs
    Harper's
    National Geographic
    Skeptic

    Politics

    National Initiative
    Mike Gravel '08
    Ralph Nader '08

    Academic,  Learning & Educational Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory

    Add to Technorati Favorites

    Add to Google

    Site Visits:
    This site was built by modifying a template designed by Maystar Designs. All text, unless otherwise noted, is copyright 2001-2009 by Sobriquet Magazine (ISSN 1930-1820). © 2009 Sobriquet Magazine. All rights reserved. Sobriquet Magazine and the Sobriquet Magazine logo are registered trademarks of Sobriquet Magazine.