Tuesday, February 20, 2007

How Many?

I've been having size anxiety regarding my dissertation. I suppose the question I want to be asking is "how long is too long?" I'm tortured, however, by the question, how long is long enough?

I don't like being thought of as one of those namby-pamby people who want to do the bare-ass minimum, so let me make myself clear--I'm not trying to get out of writing a thorough dissertation. I just don't want to find myself padding it to make it hit some arbitrary page count. I want it to have what it needs to have in it to make it a viable, interesting, contributory document.

In other words, I seem to think that I'm writing a document that people will want to read, instead of just accepting the fact that I'm writing a document that a few people have to read in order to say that I've completed the requirements for my degree. If it's interesting and capable of sustaining further inquiry, I suppose that's a pleasant side bonus.

Vexed, I am, but soldiering on.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Academics Will Study Anything

Society for the Study of Lost

I can now indulge in television with no guilt at all. This is contentment.

Race Obscures?

James Sherley has ended his hunger strike, with the hopes that MIT will continue to review his failed bid for tenure. I find it interesting that Dr. Sherley is an adult stem cell researcher who, according the article about the end of his strike, opposes embryonic research. This seems to me to be a much more provocative point of speculation about his tenure denial. I wonder whether it was his work, and not his race, that proved to be his downfall, and if so, what about it was untenurable?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Writing Spaces

Today I saw the writing promised land. To gain admittance I'll have to shed my PC citizenship and join the Mac world. One $35 piece of software has been enough to make me crave a Mac.

Scrivener is a writer's dream. When I looked at the first screenshot I was seduced. Here, in one window, was the writing desktop. A space for ideas. A place for notetaking. A birdseye view of the entire project. A place to actually write, surrounded by the visual cues that link you to the rest of your work. I wanted to weep.

I found some PC equivalents, but none that really made my heart sing like this one. I think it was the corkboard that really did it for me.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Mental Exhaustion

I just had an interesting, rambling discussion with a colleague regarding the future of English departments/studies. When we arrived at the inevitable and primary question, "What do we teach?," the divide between us was clearly outlined: I believe we teach "-ing's" and he believes we teach "-ion's." The conversation stalled at that point, and has left me in a very melancholy mood.

And then there was the disagreement about "-ic's," which I can only summarize as being closely related to the "-ing's" and "-ion's."

My brain hurts and I want ice cream.

Friday, February 02, 2007

A Little Bit of ?

It's not even that unspeakable; I speak it all the time, but only in select circles and only in certain moments. Since this little blog outpost is so remote, I think it will do.

Nothing reinforces my stupidity like writing this dissertation. Nothing produces more anxiety than letting other people see my work. Nothing makes me doubt myself more than awaiting feedback on my thinking and my writing.

I recognize that a dissertation is an exercise, that it is meant to demonstrate your readiness for the work of the life of the mind. It is a soul-sucking-baring-leveling activity that strips away all artifice. At the end of the day, all you are left with are your words on a page and the thoughts those words represent.

Sigh. I feel tiny today, but emboldened just a bit by typing. I don't want to be a self-idulgent little whiner. I just need, sometimes, to acknowledge that this is a tough process.