Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dissertation: DONE

I turned in my dissertation yesterday.

Not the final-final version, but the pre-defense version; nonetheless, I got to print out a beautiful title page with "submitted in partial requirement of the degree of doctor of philosophy" and a table of contents and all that stuff. Sooo pretty!

The finalizing process was brutal, though. I was still waiting for my advisor's comments on the most recent version that she had (a two-month-old draft), and at about 2 pm I got an email that basically said, "I can live with it." Not the wild applause that I was hoping for, but, okay. (And there were a fair number of typos and weirdo sentences in that draft, to be honest. Which have been eradicated through three days of backbending labor.)

Then there was the photocopying. Oh, dear god, the photocopying.

Then I carried 1500 pages of text around campus, leaving 300 pages in the boxes of each of my 4 committee members. No two of whom have offices (or mailboxes) in the same building.

Then I went home, with my own 300 pages.

And felt really, really tired.

And today I turned on my computer and started screwing around, as usual, and felt this little I-should-get-to-work pang, and then I thought: Hey! No I shouldn't!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Okay, here's a funny thing:

At one point in my introduction--on page 2, in fact, so it's right up front--I specify that the audience for a particular set of texts was, indeed, human.

?????

Just to make sure we're all on the same page, I guess. I wouldn't want anyone thinking that this was a dissertation about medieval literature on, I don't know, Jupiter.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Four things that make me happy today

I love the fact that I own neither a microwave nor a car, and, despite the occasional inconvenience, desire neither of these things.

I love Julian of Norwich's image of the soul's being knitted to God. Especially now that I know how to knit.

I love it that my landlords recently carpeted the stairs going up to my apartment, thereby muffling the trampings of the fratboys beneath.

I love warm milk in my coffee.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Obnoxious characters

I totally want to start talking like Will (of Piers Plowman). He's so snippy. "This is a long lesson, and little am I the wiser!" I can think of at least six situations right off the bat where that would be a great line.

(And the fact that the sentence reveals Will's impatience and ignorance, rather than anything wrong with his interlocutor, just makes it all the better!)

The joys of revision

One thing that's been keeping me somewhat entertained through this gruelling--and hopefully final--round of revisions is identifying my more bizarre writing tics, and finally eliminating those awkward phrases that have been eating at me for months but that I hadn't, for some reason, been able to do anything about. Here are a couple of examples; all but the first are from today's work:

1. Over the past several months of revision, I have discovered that I once had an inordinate love for the word "tripartite." It came up no fewer than five times in my dissertation. I no longer love this word. Its incidence has been reduced to a single use, which I've kept in just for kicks.

2. In talking about medieval faculties psychology, I keep referring to "the human faculties." What other kind of mental faculties would I be talking about? Panda faculties? Some kind of mystical, divine faculties? Academic faculties?

3. The word "profound" has been deleted everywhere that I've been able to locate it. In most cases, I didn't even need to replace it with anything--it was totally extraneous. Nothing ever needs to be called "profound."

4. I have an occasional propensity towards wordiness--writing things like "failing to possess" instead of, simply, "lacking."

5. I have decided that I am not comfortable capitalizing the words "heaven" or "hell."

6. The phrase "the usurpation of the linguistic" is simply unacceptable.

I'm sure that there are a number of other outrageosities in this (and every other) chapter. Now that I've started a list, I'm tempted to keep an eye out for more--lists do make things more fun, don't they? A couple of years ago, I started a list of my students' amusing misunderstandings of cliches; I can't remember most of them, but I do know that "to put [someone] on a pastel"* appeared at least twice. Looking for them made grading a lot more fun. The same principle applies to my own writing, apparently!

*instead of a pedestal, in case it's not obvious.

ETA: Two more student errors I've remembered:
-"breath-talking"
-"slapping her resolve" (this one came up twice, if you can believe it. What must they think the phrase means?).

Thursday, February 22, 2007

My Eyeballs Are Falling Out

Well, okay. That's a bit melodramatic. But you know the feeling, right?

I'm in yet another round of dissertation revisions, and have read, I think, 93 pages of my diss in the last two hours. No, wait. I will have read 93 pages when I finish rereading the chapter I just started--I was getting ahead of myself. After that...oh, who knows. Another 150 pages, I think.

Ohhh. I can't stand it. And I know I'll have to reread it again next week, before I turn it in, just to put my mind at ease.

MSWord sure does get annoying when you're dealing with Middle English, too. It keeps changing my condetions and propertes to conditions and properties, and, what's worse, "forbede" became "forbade"--a totally different tense. Of course, it still isn't worth it to turn off my spell-check, so this is something I'll just have to continue putting up with. (Hence all the rereading, see.) And EndNote, which has some usefulness, is getting under my skin with all its underlining and straight quotes. One project for the next few days is to retype ALL of my citations, the thought of which is, perhaps, contributing to my malaise.

Other than that, I'm spending a lot of time thinking about how I need some new shoes. Badly. I mean it. The situation is dire.

Okay: I absolutely must get through this chapter before I go home for the day, or my schedule (such as it is) will be thrown totally out of whack. Off I go....

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Morrissey Is My Best Friend

In fact, Morrissey is everyone's best friend. Of course he is. He sings with such great sincerety. And he sings things like,

Close your eyes and think of someone that you physically admire, and let me kiss you,

and

Monday: humiliation. Tuesday: suffocation. Wednesday: condescension. Thursday is pathetic. By Friday, life has killed me.*
What's not to love? He's been with me through thick and thin, that guy.

I'm thinking about this because I realized today that this year is the year in which I am twice as old as I was when I first began loving Morrissey. Which means that, from now on, I will always have loved Morrissey for longer than I haven't loved Morrissey.

And I was thinking about that, I believe, because today I am contemplating a return to Doc Marten's, which makes me all kinds of nostalgic.

(*Quotes are from "Let Me Kiss You" and "I Have Forgiven Jesus," respectively. Both songs are from the 2004 album "You are the Quarry." It is a fantastic album. Yes it is.)

Monday, February 19, 2007

Sweet resignation

I was working on some cover letters today--actually, I'm still technically "working" on them; this is supposed to be a break--when I noticed just how much less tense and anxious I am these days.

Now that I no longer actually expect to get a job this year, and am just hoping that some not-horrible one-year comes my way, I feel a kind of peace. No longer do I wait anxiously for the phone to ring. Checking my email has gone back to being a way of procrastinating, rather than the heart-stopping life-or-death distraction it had become. I don't much care about the job market wiki. Really, it's much calmer here than it's been in a long time.

I'm still putting together applications, of course. But I don't expect this batch to come to anything, either. Applying for jobs is just something I do now. It's somehow totally separate from the actual question of employment. This is similar to a feeling I've had for big chunks of my grad-student days, when I've vaguely sensed that my purpose was simply to carry large stacks of books from one place to another. I didn't read the books; I just transported them. It's all about the process.

So, now, I apply for jobs. I don't get jobs. I realize that this sounds facetious, but I don't mean it that way. I think what's happened is that I've gotten enough rejections to quit hanging my hopes on any particular application, or any particular job, and really, I do feel better.

It's oddly okay.

(At least, that's how I feel today. I make no predictions regarding the rest of the week.)

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Chinese New Year Extravaganza

Had a very fun, very LATE night yesterday at a Chinese New Year's party. Saw some people I hadn't seen in a long time. Drank a lot of kumquat martinis and played an exciting dice-rolling game that involved a great deal of shouting. Won enough cash to pay most of the cab fare home. It was a good night.

--Followed, however, by an exceptionally slow day. It's, what, 3:30? I have done nothing. And I'm looking forward to its being nighttime so that I can go back to bed. Late nights just destroy me, kumquat martinis or no.

Oh well; these weekends don't come along very often. Besides, aren't there people out there who actually take the weekends off? I'll make some kind of half-hearted effort at revising a chapter, and call it a day, I think.

Friday, February 16, 2007

A slow week

Thanks to those who answered my journal-query earlier this week! I'm hoping to get my article out in the next couple of weeks, and your answers gave me some good leads. I appreciate it.

Remarkably little going on over here. Let's see:

-For some reason, I agreed to read over and comment on someone's novel manuscript. So I've been working on that a little bit. It's not terrible--the story idea is kind of interesting, and the writing has some good moments--but it needs work. Which would be fine, if it weren't for my editing reflex. I can't just let awkward sentences go and then give the author a general comment like, "Watch out for awkward sentences." No, no. I have to flag every single one of them, usually indicating why I think they're awkward and/or adding a suggestion or two for rephrasing. Luckily, this is not a person that I know; I don't have to worry about any personal relationship getting in the way of my comments (or my comments getting in the way of any personal relationship). But don't ask me why I undertook this project. I don't know. I don't know! Too late to get out of it, though.

-I've been watching Season 3 of "24" lately. That's good fun. My dreams, however, are turned extremely violent, and I won't deny the possibility of a connection.

-As I type this, I am defragmenting my computer. I find the shifting bars of red, green, and blue to be very soothing.

-Ummmm...right. I do occasionally accomplish some legitimate work, too.

I will conclude with a comic from the site Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, to which I have recently been introduced.


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

In which I anatomize various tedious general-audience films.

I spend a lot of time on buses, owing to the fact that my partner lives about 4 hours away. Two years of generous fellowships from my university have allowed me to be the primary commuter, going to visit him twice a month for almost a week at a time. It's a great arrangement, with the only major drawback being the 16 hours a month that I must therefore spend on the bus.

On this particular bus circuit, they usually show a movie. Now, while I'm well aware of my further good fortune in having built-in entertainment (I can't read on buses or in cars without feeling sick), after a year and a half of these journeys I feel that I've earned the right to complain, at length, about the selection of movies to which I have been exposed. I certainly understand that the bus companies have to select films that will be appropriate for younger viewers, although I've never actually seen a child on any of these bus trips--which is odd, now that I think of it. But really, these movies are, by and large, SO BAD. Perhaps most child-acceptable movies are just terrible. I don't know.

Anyway, on my most recent journey, I was subjected to a film about soccer enthusiasts in the early twentieth century. I have no idea what actually happened in this movie, since the sound at my seat was mercifully broken, but it got me thinking about how most of the bus movies I've seen fall into one of several, rather limited, categories. The categories, with approximate distribution percentages, are as follows:

1) romantic comedies (10%)
2) movies about an intense affective bond between a human and
an animal (10%)
3) miscellaneous--e.g. "Akeelah and the Bee," "Big Fish" (10%)

The remaning 70% are about evenly split between the following:

4) cartoons about baby animals seeking the approval of their fathers
(35%)
5) tales of Impassioned Athletes of Yore (35%).

Category 4, which constitutes a recurrent theme in animated children's movies, is pretty weird. For one thing, the baby animals' mothers are almost always absent (and usually unmentioned), in order for the baby-father relationship to be as uncluttered as possible, I guess. "Chicken Little" and "Wild" (which I've now seen twice) are the most recent contributions to this category.

The fifth category--Impassioned Athletes of Yore--is the one into which the soccer movie falls. These are far and away the most tedious films to which I've ever submitted. They all seem to have essentially the same cast of characters: old men who dispense wisdom, young men who seek to excell at X boring sport despite the totally uninteresting odds that are apparently stacked against them, middle-aged men who scratch their chins and scrutinize the young hopefuls on the field. Because this is Yore, there are no female athletes,* but there's usually a Woman To Be Won who is, for whatever reason, out of the Impassioned Athlete's league and who spends a lot of time cheering discreetly on the sidelines. And, of course, there's always a Supportive Mother to balance out the inevitable Discouraging Father (whose approval, incidentally, Impassioned Athlete craves).

The worst of these of movies--which I have seen three times, although I only turned on the sound at essay no. 3--was an atrocious two-and-a-half-hour golf flick set in early-20th-century Boston. The young golf enthusiast has a cantankerous working-class Discouraging Father with an outrageous French accent, and a rapturous Supportive Mother with an outrageous Irish accent. "Oh, Francis," she would swoon, clasping her hands together at her bosom, "that was glawrious, Francis, glawrious!"

The sheer badness of these movies wouldn't be so distressing if it weren't for the fact that I feel strangely compelled to watch them (unless, as was the case last time, the sound doesn't work at my seat. Despite my strategically positioning myself to have a good view of one of the monitors, I'm always somewhat relieved when that happens). On the other hand, at this point, disliking these movies and categorizing the reasons for my dislike have become a sort of hobby. Some good comes out of everything, right?

*I rather enjoyed "Bend It Like Beckham," so this isn't an anti-sport prejudice on my part pure and simple.

Monday, February 12, 2007

A Question and Some Non-Griping

Okay--first, the question, for the medievalists and/or lit folk among you:

Does anyone know whether there's any kind of tally of the response time for various literary journals, particularly those with a medieval focus?

I have an article I'd like to send out; in an ideal world, I'd like to have it accepted somewhere before next year's job market showdown begins. (An astonishing dream, I know.) I'm afraid of shooting too high, as it were, and getting rejected in oh, say, September, when it would be too late for me to hear back from a less worthy journal before sending out my apps. On the other hand, I don't want to play it too safe, and wind up publishing somewhere relatively unimpressive without even having tried for a bigger journal. Any suggestions on this front would be hugely appreciated; I plan on asking my advisor, too, but the more opinions the better.

Now for the Non-Griping. I've noticed that my default blog tone seems to be one of either complaint or self-deprecation, and, while these things have their place, I figured I should try to put a more positive spin on at least some of the things that I say here. So here goes:

I met with my advisor today, and it was pretty productive, I think. We ended up mainly talking about the introduction to my diss. There are a few points that I need to work out; I have this whole crazy bit where I'm trying to draw connections between volitionist action theory, Franciscan visual meditation, and the role of the intellectus, and I'm not sure I've got that settled yet. So I still have some work to do, but nothing too onerous: there were several great moments in the meeting where she said things like, "When you revise this for publication as a book, you'll want to think about X, but as far as the dissertation goes, you don't need to worry about that yet." It reminded me of the meetings I had with a (different) committee member back at the stage of my prelim project, where he would say that I should really read, for example, Augustine, "but not yet--that's for the dissertation." Hearing basically the same phrase echoed today, but with the dissertation in the past tense--well, it was very gratifying.

All right; I think that counts, doesn't it? I'm so eager to be done with the diss, at this point. And lucky enough to have the end in sight. Making those last revisions will be a unique challenge in their own right (it's always most tempting to stop working right when you're almost at the end, isn't it?), but in two months' time I'll be FINISHED. I already have my private day-after-defense celebration planned out. (Nothing racy, I swear. In fact, it might even qualify as tame, but that's okay; I'm looking forward to it.)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

I am a yoga bitch

So I went to a yoga class on Thursday night, and I just wasn't feeling especially...agreeable. There was no particular reason for my bad mood; maybe it was the cold, or the fact that I hadn't been very productive that day, or something. I don't know: I was grouchy. Often, I find that yoga is great for getting me over bad moods, and by the end of Thursday's class I did feel much better. But during the whole setting-up period and the first twenty minutes or so of the class, my inner monologue was, well, not very nice. I actually began composing a list of things that piss me off in yoga classes:

1. Really crowded studios.
2. People who deliberately position their mats to take up more than one space. (We'd all like extra room, but the rest of us know how to behave. Come on. Be civilized.)
3. People who won't stagger their mats, even when they have the opportunity, so you're whacking your arms against theirs all night.
4. People who do stagger their mats, but then for some inexplicable reason don't stand at the top of the mat, but rather position themselves so that they're right up next to you anyway.
5. People who moan, loudly, often, for no reason. Sometimes, okay, you're straining, and a moan just happens. No problem. But try to keep it under control. Seriously. It's distracting.
6. Laughing, and laughing, and laughing, at every moderately amusing thing the instructor says.
7. Having my mat stepped on by people who are not me.
8. People who gather up lots of extra pillows, and straps, and blocks, and then pile them up next to their mats in such a way that they inhibit their neighbor's (i.e., my) movement.

(Okay, I enjoyed that.)

It's funny, though, how all my petty, territorial reactions come so much to the fore during yoga--precisely the activity that's supposed to get you beyond all of that. Sometimes I feel ashamed of myself, actually: can't I get over myself, for once? Can't I be nice?

But here's the more favorable way of looking at it that I'm trying to sell myself on. I can't just stop myself from being petty and territorial and an occasional raging bitch. What I can do is notice when I'm caught up in these absurd thoughts. I mean, really. None of the stuff mentioned above affects me in any signifcant way: if the room is crowded, you adjust the postures slightly to accomodate the people around you. That's it. I hope that, by just being aware of my inner rants, I can gradually quit reacting to them emotionally.

In any event, the whole sordid scenario distracts me entirely from the job market, the conference paper I need to write, the book review I'm revising, etc. And that is definitely a good thing.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Ich beore golt-hord! Ich beore golt-hord!

A windy, cold, and rather boring day. No news of any kind, on any front. No interesting mail. No interesting emails. I'm not particularly interested in what I'm reading. Even the coffee shop where I was reading it wasn't interesting.

--Hence, for the sake of contrast, the absurdly enthusiastic post title. It's a direct quote from Ancrene Wisse Book 3, line 453 (EETS no. 325, p. 59). The repetition is in the original, as are the exclamation points (which I strongly suspect are an editorial edition).

(Okay. Obviously I know they're an editorial edition.)

When was the exclamation point invented, anyway? It's a funny sort of thing, when you think about it. I can see the usefulness of punctuation that signifies the end of a statement, or a question, or even a pause--but excitement? I suppose they're useful for indicating emphasis, too. Perhaps my puzzlement comes from a general dislike of the exclamation point, although I admit to using it in the occasional email. Oh yeah, and in yesterday's post title.

I do not, however, employ emoticons.

But (I hasten to add) several people whom I esteem very highly, and who are very good writers, do. So even my snobbery re. such shorthand inflection must be mitigated.



What is the purpose of this blog, anyway? Sooner or later I'll have to figure that out.

EL101: Sex and Violence in the Movies!

I was having lunch with a friend today, and we got onto the topic of course development. We're both applying for jobs and fellowships, and have therefore had to craft several course proposals over the last few months. The most interesting courses we could come up with were, naturally, the ones with the sexiest subject matter. From what we've been able to gather--and this shouldn't come as a shock--sex, violence, and movies seem to be what draw students in the biggest droves. Since my friend works on topics including (but not limited to) queer theory and porn, and his period is the twentieth century, he's got at least two of those bases easily covered. The Middle Ages, however, can arguably span all three (if one includes some of the atrocious but endlessly entertaining King Arthur movies in one's syllabi).

But thinking about What Kinds Of Classes Will Undergraduates Like reminds me a little too much of the Student Affairs scholarship I had to read a few years ago for a former campus job. Many of the articles I read contained disconcertingly unapologetic references to students as "consumers," and noted an increasing trend in higher education towards thinking of students as potential customers. The standard line on this was, "We may not like it, but this is the way it is--so we need to start thinking of ways to attract and retain students, who have access to a wide variety of products [i.e. universities/colleges], and are free to abandon our products for more appealing ones." This line was used in defense of, for example, building newer and better student centers and athletic facilities, encouraging student input into major requirements, and grading. While improving student facilities is certainly a good thing, this kind of discourse is deeply disturbing--for obvious reasons, I think. Universities shouldn't be based on a consumer-product model. Students aren't "buying" degrees (at least, I hope not) (and even if, in some sense, they are, shouldn't we be a little less...obvious about it?).

I should note that this consumerist discourse was not uncontested. Some scholars argued against it, and even the defenses of it were presented in a "we all know this sucks, but what are you going to do" sort of way. Nonetheless, it's troubling, and while I'm all for coming up with courses that are academically rigorous AND sound interesting, I haven't quite worked out for myself the line between encouraging students and tailoring my proposals to match their pre-formed interests. Because one thing that can happen in a good class--which has happened to me, more than once, in the courses that I remember most fondly--is that you become interested in something that didn't excite you previously.

Now, I'm probably more concerned about this issue than I need to be, since a quick glance at just about any university department's course listing reveals plenty of classes that contain no mention of sex, violence, or movies. My friend and I are grad students with limited course proposal experience. When we've proposed courses, they've been for summer-studies programs and other elective venues, which means that we're competing with a large number of other exciting-sounding classes in all sorts of disciplines. In that kind of a situation, you need to do something to make your class stand out; and, well, there are some pretty cheap and obvious ways of doing that.

(They don't always work, though. I've had several classes cancelled due to under-enrollment, and, in at least one case, "film" was in the title. Still, I wonder what would have happened if I'd thrown in an off-hand reference to sexuality or sword-fighting? Couldn't have hurt....)

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Half-Assed Post


I love this. I like crafts and I like public art, so knit graffiti is a very pleasing idea. Unfortunately, the site doesn't seem to be working very well, and you can't see the gallery pictures, but it's worth checking out regardless.

Okay: It's cold, and I keep falling asleep for some reason. So that's it for today.


Monday, February 5, 2007

Job Market Checklist

1. Apply for every job in your field.
2. Check email every fifteen minutes or so for a period of about 12 weeks.
3. Check Chronicle job wiki at least three times a day. Attempt to calculate odds of various unlikely events (e.g., no one that X University interviewed at the MLA turns out to be viable; your application happens to get a favorable second look; XU doesn't want to go through the hassle of more interviews; out of the blue, you get an offer. Reject this daydream as absurd. Repeat.)
4. Lose all interest in own scholarly work. Write a novel instead.
5. Finish said novel. Recommence fretting.
6. Start a blog.
7. Resign yourself to going on the market again next year. Become excited about next year's job market. Begin calculating odds of various Ideal Institutions hiring in your field in the near future.
8. Remember that you need to pay rent next year, too. Apply for some more jobs.
9. Spend half a day trying to determine why your blog isn't showing up on Google searches.
10. Realize that scholarly work is vastly more enjoyable than writing cover letters. Enjoy renewed interest in academic projects.
11. Work.
12. Recal that you don't have a job yet. Check job listings. Become enraged that there are no new jobs in your field. Wonder why you didn't just go into comp, or something.
13. Be glad you didn't go into comp. Remember: Everyone gets a job. EVERYONE GETS A JOB. Right? Right??

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Hooray for technology

This Ancrene Wisse glossary is proving so useful to me today that I must post a link to it.

Using the "find" function in online glossaries has forced me to change my stance against electronic texts. Seriously. Life is so good.

(All right, so the site doesn't seem to know how to handle yoghs very well; nonetheless, it's a vast improvement over the skads of dictionaries that I would normally require.)

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Anchorites in peril

In an effort to be a good scholar and fill in some of the gaps in my learning, I've been reading Ancrene Wisse. The language is a bit difficult--I normally work in later Middle English, e.g. Chaucer and the Pearl-ms and the like--but it's good practice. And there are some great words in there. Some of them are the obvious precursors to modern words, such as "cnawleachunge", and then there are the Germanic words we've lost, like "smecchen." I also have a real fondness for the i- constructions, or whatever they're technically called--you know, "iwis," ismecchet," "iheren." The sound of the language keeps me going even when I'm less interested in the content.

But there is some good stuff in there, content-wise. Last night I was reading the section in Part 2 where the author warns the anchorites against hearing ungodly speech, particularly the speech of men who come around to, you know, chat. Watch out, it warns, for guys who answer your rebuffs with speeches like the following:

"Ich nalde forte tholie death thenche fulthe toward te" (ant swereth deope athes), "ah that Ich hefde isworen hit, luvien Ich mot te. Hwa is wurse then me? Moni slep hit binimeth me. Nu me is wa thet tu hit wast; ah foryef me nu thet Ich habbe hit itald te. Tha Ich schule wurthe wod, ne schalt tu neauer mare witen hu me stonde."

I'm not going to translate that, because my ME is clunky, but essentially the gist is this: the would-be visitor accuses himself of baseness (who is worse than me?), swears solemn oaths attesting to his suffering, and beseeches the anchorite for forgiveness. Of course--the text goes on--should she grant this forgiveness, she will starting down a treacherous path. We all know how the story goes.

It's funny to be reading a work that's so foreign, in essential respects--an anchoritic guide from the thirteenth century, in this case--and to feel a flash of recognition. Not that I'm personally acquainted with this particular ploy, but it's easy enough, isn't it, to imagine a modern-day suitor using exactly this speech.

In retrospect, I think I have encountered this kind of speechifying in the past. It's annoyingly effective. What it does, obviously, is try to make the seductee (the woman, in this case) feel responsible for the seducer's anguish. And, being a nice person, she'll automatically seek to relieve that anguish. There was this time in Paris, some years ago, when I was walking around by myself at a big outdoor festival, and this guy started talking to me. I told him that I had a boyfriend, and he insisted (repeatedly) that he had no designs, just wanted to spend some time together, maybe have dinner, etc etc. I was increasingly uncomfortable, and said, finally, that I just wanted to be alone, and no thank you, you haven't offended me, but I don't want to have dinner. This was very hard for me to say. Harder still when I saw the blank anger in his eyes. With a huge effort I didn't take it back, and he went away. And I felt guilty. Which made me mad, of course.

So, while I don't think I'll be following most of Ancrene Wisse's advice, I can get behind this particular recommendation. Right on, leoue sustren. Just say no, and don't listen to the excuses.

In Conclusion

One thing that relationships and papers have in common is this: Ending them is much harder than beginning them.

No, I'm not going to talk about the elation and pleasure of starting to write a really good paper. (The analogy breaks down pretty quickly, see.) I'm going to write about conclusions.

In the beginning, the paper can go any old where--especially if, like me, you tend to come up with your "real" arguments mid-draft. But the conclusion is a whole different animal. Wrapping things up in some definitive and comprehensive way requires a kind of certainty that I seldom possess at the draft stage--a problem that may be personal, intellectual, or (the preferred option) rhetorical.

Yes, sometimes I do make gradiose and totalizing claims in my conclusions, and sometimes they sound really good. But sometimes they're just, well, false.

So anyway, I'm thinking about this because I'm trying to finish up (yes, that's right) the conclusion to my dissertation. It is a ghastly process. I refuse to reiterate the details of my individual chapters' arguments. I refuse. So I'm trying to do the whole implications-for-future-research thing, and I think I've got that nailed, but then there's the question of the last sentence. The very last sentence is tripping me up, here. In its current form, it's an absolute monstrosity containing the words "examining," "mechanisms," "highlights," and two separate uses of the word "limitations." I hate it.

On the one hand, the last sentence is what the reader will take away from the whole project--it generates the feel of the work, right, and it's whole after-effect and all that business. The glow.

But, on the other had, who the hell cares.

Okay, that settles it.

Which means that--hey! My dissertation is done.*

(*barring edits. Of course.)