Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Writing a Dissertation = Economy of Suffering

My gracious, it's been a hot minute. I'm still here! I've been busy, teaching full time and also trying to find random bits of time to write this dissertation. Lest you ever think otherwise, let me tell you now: Writing your dissertation is HARD. No way around it, turns out.

But, on the other hand, there is some belief that the typical "culture of suffering" that permeates graduate work doesn't really work all that well. And I quote:
The dissertation will not be better because you suffered through it. If you have been suffering, it’s time to explore some different ways of relating to the dissertation, because something is wrong when there is a whole lot of pain.
I think that there may be an "economy of suffering." How much suffering is enough? Well, you want to suffer just enough to be uncomfortable whenever anyone asks you "How's your dissertation coming?," but not so much so that you actually act on the malicious thoughts that immediately pop into your head.

When asked "How much money is enough?" Rockefeller famously replied, "Just a little bit more." Reading through my facebook feed proves that there is a competition among graduate students to suffer THE MOST of anyone in the world. Ever. Plus, just a little bit more. Woe is us.

Read more about the culture of suffering, and then go cry yourself to sleep.

Monday, June 28, 2010

ELO Update, Super Late

Hello Everyone,
I went to the ELO conference in Rhode Island at the beginning of June. In my session, I had a really great presentation and got to listen to a great presentation as well. What more could a girl ask for? I've uploaded my presentation PowerPoint below.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

A Thousand Words

Prepping for summer semester, I came across Jeremy Freese's IF Violet.

Of course, I've looked at it before, but for some reason it takes on a whole new meaning once you've started to write your own dissertation:
Calm down. All you have to do is write a thousand words and everything will be fine. And you have all day, except it's already noon.
[blurb from IF Comp 2008]

Monday, April 12, 2010

ISSN Conference Results

I'm back from my first trip to Ohio for my first time attending the International Society for the Study of Narrative Conference. I'm exhausted, and haven't really been able to sit down and digest all that I've heard and learned this past weekend, but I can say that the event was a resounding success, at least to me.

The Narrative Society conference in Cleveland was very nice. I got to see a ton of great panels and listen to some really interesting plenaries. Nearly every minute of the day was planned out and scheduled, which was the only way to get in all the material that people had to present on, but which also made for some very long days. I will say kudos to the event organizers, though, because they really took the time to plan out the major details and the seemingly minor ones, like how to get from one part of town to the other, which restaurants to recommend and what to do for pleasure, and how to ensure that new attendees get to meet other attendees at the start of the program. To be honest, it was one of the largest, yet most successfully executed, conferences I have been to in a while.

One thing that the conference helped me to think about was how to use narratology in a much more practical sense than I had been previously thinking about. Many of the panels were focused on a particular literary text, and used narrative devices to unpack this text or set of texts in some surprisingly meaningful ways. I say surprisingly, because it seems that mentioning my interest in narrative theory brings to mind images of boring, pedantic sermons with few real revelations that go beyond simple mapping of texts. In actuality, though, and one thing that this conference really helped me to understand and be able to talk about with others, is the usefulness of these methods in getting to greater meanings in these texts, how authors construct them, and how we respond to them based off of our inherent understandings of narrative principles. I'm really thankful that I am starting to understand some of what I perceive to be the more interesting uses of narrative theory and useful ways that they might work for my larger dissertation work. In truth, I was often overwhelmed by what other people were saying and my own relative lack of knowledge. I also got some really great foundational ideas cleared up, though, and was very happy with the way that my session turned out. My technology all worked with just a few minor hiccups, and the Q & A session was stimulating to my thinking about the topic.

Shout out to Matt’s parents, who gave me their frequent flyer miles to get me to Ohio (and back – even better!).

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Conference Season is Open

Hello Everyone! I've been busy, prepping myself for conference season and attempting to start writing that pesky little book-length work called a dissertation. The good news is that I'm presenting at three conferences this semester, and am quite excited about all of them. The bad news is that I'm presenting at three conferences this semester, and I'm not one of those "brilliant on the fly" kind of people, which means that I work hard to try to get something together that doesn't sound like pure drivel coming out.

Yesterday, I made my 2010 conference debut at the Virginia Humanities Conference. The conference was great, and it was really nice to be on a panel on Women in Poetry with my fellow MATXer Lee Bloxom. All of our presentations were quite interesting yet different, and all spoke to the issue of giving 'voice' to women often unable to speak for themselves. I talked about Barbie, one of my favorite subjects, and some of my favorite poems about one of my favorite subjects.

Next up: ISSN in Cleveland, Ohio - see a draft of the conference program.
And then?: ELO at Brown. I'll try to post updates soon!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

ISSN Conference Presentation

I’m still here! I survived my semester of exams and defending and general evaluation. Now I just need to survive the dissertation-writing process for, oh, say the next two years or so. In order to nudge me in that direction, I proposed a short paper to the International Society for the Study of Narrative conference this year, and, much to my delight and healthy sense of public-speaking terror, I was accepted. I’m planning to use this paper as a jumpstart to chapter five of my dissertation, focusing on visual, Flash-based narratives like Donna Leishman’s Deviant: The Possession of Christian Shaw.

If you will be in Cleveland April 8-11, please stop by my session and say hi. I’m nervous and excited to be presenting with all these big-name narratologists, so my palms might be a little sweaty (fair warning, I say). But that also means that I’ll be nerding out, all googly-eye star struck, and certainly ready to share a few drinks with friends afterwards.

"When you can't write your dissertation, just write."

You find yourself wandering the halls in your house, afraid the draw the blinds. The sun is shining, and, after three solid weeks of snow, it is hard to believe that you’ll be able to turn away from the day. So you don’t risk it. Instead, at eye-level, there is a small crack in the continuity of the slats, marking the place where you slide in your finger to peer out and check on the world of the living. This crack runs across the living room, into the bedroom, the kitchen. Even the bathroom window suffers this disfigurement. So goes the life of a PhD candidate, unable to write the first sentence of her book-length work.

“I’m too stupid to write a dissertation. I’m too stupid to write a ten-page conference paper. I’m even too stupid to write a coherent sentence.” These are the thoughts that will come to the front of your mind, every day, as you sit in front of the flickering white screen and try to find your brilliance. It will take a while. You won’t find your genius, not just yet. Instead, you’ll find an extra glass of wine, all the buttons that need darning in your closet, and the secret corner of your home in which a village of dust bunnies long-ago moved in, back in the year when you were living a real(ish) life, going to class and work and social events like a real(ish) person. But now you wander the halls, avoiding your computer and your dissertation advisor (Hi LH!) and your boyfriend’s well-meant but ill-received questions about how much progress you made in the day. You’ll languish in this in-between period, wondering what happened to the grand ideas you had about your prospectus-completing party and your academic motivation. Both will be specters, now.

Eventually, though, you’ll re-emerge. You’ll talk to faculty, those who have come before you, and realize that they’ve said these same things to themselves, they too were once too stupid to write (at least in their own minds), and then they recovered! They wrote! They graduated!

So you’ll return to the flickering screen, again, not quite as desolate but pretty much in the same position. You’ll realize that it might not be overnight that you find your genius, or your ability to write. But it will be okay, you think. Others tell you it will, and that is all that you have. So you have to believe them.