Friday, March 30, 2007

And what did I do today, you ask?

Well! Since you asked.

Because it was a beautiful day, and I had dutifully spent the morning practicing my defense (I'm down to 24 minutes of fast-talking--got to cut that down) and cleaning my apartment (boyfriend is coming to visit this weekend), I decided to dust off the old bicycle--literally; the basement's pretty filthy--and go for a ride.

My poor bicycle. I still think of it as new, but I realized that it's coming up on 9 years old. The front derailleur doesn't work, but otherwise it's still in pretty good form. I lubed the chain, filled the tires, adjusted the seat, and went on my merry way.

There's a fantastic bike path really near me, and I almost never use it, because it's scary to get on it: you have to pass a highway exit, go up a long ramp with a lot of 180-degree turns, and then make your way down a narrow, terrifying concrete corridor. But all of this only takes about 5 minutes, and then there's the path proper. It's beautiful: it runs through a lot of foresty areas, alongside the water, and there are plenty of lighthouses and quaint little towns along the way. I did the whole circuit--30 miles roundtrip--in about 2 hours. I am horrifically sore, by the way.

I used to be a pretty serious biker, for about 10 months back in 1999. Now, however, my bike gathers dust. So I'm frankly pleased that I managed to sustain a 15 mph average for the whole trip.

This excursion has convinced me that I need to bike more. My life is better when I bike. And the feeling that bicycling gives me is incomparable. Maybe it's all the spandex (I still have my "serious biker clothes" from '99), but I always feel like a superhero when I'm biking. And then when I get back, it's like I've been on this crazy adventure, and it's hard for me to fit the bike trip, conceptually, into the rest of my life. For two hours I was out there with the wind and my breath and my muscles, with the bare trees and the birds and everything whipping past, and then all of a sudden I'm back home. It's a strange, sudden transition.

There's a great description in Proust of Albertine, the bicycling fanatic, "bent and bowed over the mystic wheel of her bicycle." I love that line. The mystic wheel. I don't know what he means and yet I do, which is the secret of a great image, isn't it?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Deadly Boring

Yes, that's what I'm thinking about my dissertation right now.

(I know that I shouldn't complain: it's almost over. But indulge me for a moment, if you will.)

In a mere 92 hours, I will present a tedious and yet whirlwind 20-minute summary of my dissertation to my committee, my significant other, and whatever grad students/faculty from my department bother to show up. I'm trying to prepare for this event by working up a coherent outline from which to speak, but I am so tired of talking about my argument. And how am I supposed to sum up 8 chapters in 20 minutes? I ask you.

I guess I'm kind of anxious, too. It's a little nerve-wracking to think of my committee--who have been my allies through this whole process; really, they're a spectacularly kind and supportive committee--turning on me on Monday. They're going to ask me all these questions. In front of people. And they won't tell me the answers if I falter.

(Well, actually, given my committee, they might.)

I know it'll be fine, and I'm almost done preparing, and I'm kind of excited to be finishing up. But it's weird to be, at age 30, on the brink of what feels like some kind of pubescent rite of passage: time to have the final showdown with the parents, and then start fending for myself. It'll be good to be on my own, intellectually speaking. But you know, it'll be kind of sad, too. I like my committee. Grad school, for all of its irritations, has been an incredibly cushy gig (for these last two years, at any rate; fellowships have blotted out all memory of adjuncting, seminars, office hours, and so forth). I anticipate being very slightly depressed next week.

Mitigating the depression, however, will be the realization that I won't have to summarize my dissertation anymore (especially if I manage to get myself a job). And that, my friends, means one thing: elation.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Sadness at Staying

The title of this post references a book that my friend Restless Architect gave me a few years ago, when I was on my way to Paris: Sadness at Leaving, it's called, by Erje Ayden. It's a strange little book. Anyway, I think of the title a lot, since it's obviously a pretty easily invoked sentiment, but somehow oddly phrased. And then I think of Restless Arch, and what a cool person he is.

But anyway. The reason for the sadness is actually rather banal, and my "sadness" is proportionately minor. All this recent talk of Kalamazoo meet-ups makes me wish that I was going to K'z this year! I had to skip it in favor of another conference (coming up in just a couple of weeks, and, frankly, in a much more exciting place), but I skipped it last year, too, and I miss it! I wish that I were going to be there to meet some of you in person.

--Which has got me thinking about this funny little blog-world. I basically started up my blog because I had the idea for a name for a blog and I wanted to use it. But what's so nice about the endeavor is the community of people who are interested in hearing about each other's teaching/writing/researching lives (as well as their non-scholarly lives, which for some reason I always think of as their "secular" lives; not sure why I've given it this particular label in my head, but it seems oddly appropriate). And it's nice to hear that other people get totally stuck, slack off, and dread (some of) their classes, sometimes, too. Not that I didn't imagine that to be the case. But it's good to have it in writing.

Anyway, the point is, although I'm pretty new to the blog thing and very little-known here, I'm glad that I started up my blog and I look forward to bitching to you people for years to come.

On a related note, I'm considering changing my blogging ID. I chose this one before I ever thought I'd have a blog, actually, and it's a little too thin a veil. Besides, it annoys me that, given the opportunity to choose an ID, I chose something so mundane. Watch This Space for more developments.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Not Working

Since my interview is over, and I've relapsed into my policy of slack, I decided to take the day off.

(Never mind that I worked for approximately 25 minutes yesterday. See, the problem is, I'm trying to prepare my dissertation defense [8 days until it's over!], and I just don't really know what to do. I have made up a Handout, and prepared an Elaborate Outline, but basically I could run through my argument in my sleep. And I fear that, frankly, it's just going to be boring. I know that that shouldn't be a worry [and it obviously isn't much of one, since I'm taking no steps whatsoever to prevent it], but I've given versions of this spiel SO MANY TIMES that I can HARDLY BEAR to go over it anymore.)

So, today, I went to a museum and saw a neat exhibit of fiber arts (e.g. unwearable knit and crocheted things). One artist had knit dozens of biologically correct snake skins (out of yarn); they were beautiful and surprisingly lifelike. Then I got a falafel and went to the park, where I saw daffodils, crocuses, ducks, swans, a heron (or a crane? I don't know), a guy playing a flute, and a turtle.

A Google image search reveals that what I probably saw was a heron. It looked like this:


In a little while, I'll go to yoga. And then I'll likely be exhausted and lounge around for a bit.

I used to be so industrious.... I do not, however, feel particularly bad about this prolonged slump. I mean, who cares, really.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Well, That's Over

Just had my interview. I think it went...okay. I'm not sure. I was able to answer all of their questions (even though they weren't exactly the questions that I had anticipated, in some cases). I felt like I was babbling sometimes and being vague, and then I would try to be concrete, and just repeat myself.

(See? Vague.)

Whatever. It's done. What's kind of funny is how I felt a little smidgen of betrayal when they mentioned that they were interviewing Other People. Other people? You mean I'm not self-evidently the best? I want to be the only one!!!!

Has it occurred to anyone else that the job search is in every way exactly like trying to date when you're 13 years old? You know, the wracking anxiety, the simultaneous desire for and terror of the phone's ringing, the conviction that you're just ugly and awkward and no one will ever want you, ever. When the fact of the matter is that you're just too young.

Of couse, this analogy only works in one direction; presumably the search committees are a little more with-it than the 13-year-old objects of my totally ambivalent desire.

(And yes, the ambivalence is part of the parallel, too. Because sometimes I'm not sure that I want a job. Of course I do, in the larger sense, but the fact of being A Real Live Professor is actually kind of terrifying, at this point.)

The more I think about it, the more I am absolutely convinced that this is the perfect analogy for the job search. Yep.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

The worst interview ever

When I was in high school, I once had a (live) interview for an honors program at one of the colleges that had accepted me. And I had a terrible combination of interviewers:

1) a man with laryngitis who did a lot of talking;
2) a woman with an impenetrable Germanic accent; and
3) a perfectly silent man.

The only question that I remember them asking me is the following:

"Why are you interested in the story of Rapunzel, and what do you think the major themes of the story are?"

My mind went blank. What on earth were they talking about? Rapunzel? When in my life had I expressed any interest in Rapunzel? What kind of idiotic essay had I written for this school? Good lord. Rapunzel??

I managed to come up with some kind of answer about confinement and femininity or something. God knows. Later I realized that I had mentioned, somewhere in my application, having to perform a monologue about Rapunzel in an English class in the tenth grade, but their question reflected such a profound misunderstanding of that incident that I didn't even recognize it in their query.

I got into the program, though. (And I turned it down. It had nothing to do with the interview, of course; there was just another school that I liked a lot better.)

All Is Not Lost

So I have an interview for a one-year tomorrow morning--a phone interview, which makes me nervous. I don't think that I do very well on the phone. Incapable of deploying those indispensible visual clues like nodding, smiling, looking interested, etc., I'm kind of at a loss. I end up saying "uh-huh" and "oh" and laughing inappropriately instead. The good thing, I guess, is that I'm going to be the one doing most of the talking (presumably, right?).

Maybe it's just my neediness talking, but the more I think about this job, the more I want it. It's in a part of the country that I've never felt any desire to visit, but now that there's a remote possibility of going there, I'm excited--it'd just be one year! it'd be like visiting a foreign country! it's far enough away that I could throw all my stuff into storage and just rent a furnished room! etc. And the courses that I would be teaching would be really good for me--the kind of stuff that I'd probably have to teach early in my career anyway, and so getting a little practice in a non-tenure-track situation would be a great help.

I've noticed, though, that anytime I receive the slightest expression of interest from an employer, I get all googly and carried away and convinced that whatever job they've got WOULD BE THE BEST THING EVER. I'm like one of those pathetic people who fall madly in love with any wo/man who flirts briefly with them at a bar. The upside of this kind of totally shallow emotional investment is that the let-down, when the jobs fall through, isn't all that bad.

Anyway. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Link

Adam Kotsko at The Weblog just posted this bit on the pro-life movement. Specifically, on how being against abortion does not, in fact, logically lead to being against the death penalty, but rather to an ever-greater (in his words) "instrumentaliz[ation of] the female body."

I don't really have anything to add to this at the moment (I've been trying, but am having trouble completing my sentences). It's an interesting post. I'll just leave it at that.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hey! I'm working!

Wow! Look at that! Things Accomplished!

Yep, I've done three things today. Here's what they are:

1) Read over a friend's conference paper and gave her some feedback on it.
2) Read the paper for tomorrow's seminar. I even made some Notes and might have a Question for the speaker.
3) Caught up on my emailing.

Here's what I'll do for the rest of the day:

1) My last-ever teaching consultation! Hooray!
2) Finish reading an article from this really excellent collection I'm working through, in sort of a piecemeal fashion.
3) Go to yoga, most likely.
4) Print out the paper for tomorrow's seminar.
5) Look over the job announcements I've been collecting on my desktop, and decide which ones I'll actually apply for. Prioritize and possibly begin working on those applications.
6) Ummm...make some spaghetti, I think.

Ahh, yes. Productivity.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

How much money fits...


...in the very ugly pig?

Answer: $96.24.

That's: 1,564 pennies; 373 nickels; 552 dimes; 3 quarters; 1 Sacajawea dollar; 3 one-dollar bills; and 1 two-dollar bill. Also 5 Canadian quarters, 1 Mexican coin, 1 Spanish coin, and 1 Turkish Lirasi.

(Isn't the pig ugly, though? My brother gave it to me years and years ago, because it was so ugly. And strange. It's a pig that's painted like a shoe that's painted like a pig. I can't explian it.)

By the way, do you like the environment that I created for the pig's photo shoot? The pig is very scholarly. Given its looks, it decided that cultivating brains would be a good bet.

Speaking of brains--one of these days it's possible that I'll actually use mine and start behaving in some kind of scholarly fashion again. It's been a really slow month.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Cuca la Praline and other Choses Bizarres

In my effort to cheer up and stop worrying this afternoon, I came across some poems that I wrote in the fourth grade. I went to a French school, so they're in French, which makes them funnier, I think. Below, I give you a bilingual edition of some choice excerpts edition (spelling and grammar are uncorrected):

Les choses bizzares
Sont dans mon placard,
Dans le noir
Mais le probleme vient
Quand ils doivent boire.
Ils boivent mes vetements,
Ils ne sont pas du tout lent,
Mais fortunatement,
Ils ne mangent pas.

(Weird things live in my pantry, in the dark, but the problem comes when they have to drink. They drink my clothes, they aren't at all slow, but fortunately, they don't eat.)

Le cerveau
est tres beau
et pres de Noel
c'est tres belle.

(The brain is very handsome, and, around Christmas, it's very beautiful.)

Perhaps my favorite thing, though, is an enigmatic reference to someone (or something) called "Cuca la Praline."

I am now wishing that that were my blogger identity. Man. How sweet would that be?

Worried.

After having a terrible time getting to sleep for the last four nights, I have to admit that I'm worried. Anxious, even.

I think I have some good reasons.

1. The job market. I can't say that I'm not sad, as well as worried, about my impending unemployment. I know that there's still time, etc etc, and I won't hear about the job that I interviewed for last week until early April, but as the end of the term gets closer and my phone remains stubbornly silent I can't help but feel a general, crushing weight of worry. And some sadness. I need some validation, here.

2. Money. This worry is intimately related to worry no. 1, but I feel that it deserves its own listing. I have exactly 5 more paychecks coming in, and my insurance policy expires in August. In the very very worst case, I know that I can probably teach comp as an adjunct somewhere, and probably scrape by with minimal credit card debt, provided I'm allowed to defer my student loan repayment until I get a real job. But that's not exactly an empowering thought.

3. There's a cat missing in my neighborhood. I know this cat--he's a really sweet and friendly little guy, and I've hung out with him a couple of times on my way home from campus. He's been missing for more than two weeks, which is not at all promising. This is not my cat; I don't even know the cat's owners; but I can't help but feel that everything will be better on the day when they take down all the flyers and I can hope that he's found his way home.

4. I recently bought some much-needed, very delightful new shoes, but the leather around the ankles is so stiff that wearing them is like wearing knives on my feet. I actually lay awake on Monday night in deep despair over these shoes. Which should break in eventually, I expect. But still.

Okay. That about covers it. Note that I'm not worried about my dissertation defense, or the upcoming conference. I suppose that my calm on those fronts is a good sign, since everything that I'm worried about at the moment is to some degree out of my control, while the things that are fully under my control are just fine.

I need something nice to do this afternoon.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Unaccountable Fatigue

There is no reason for me to be so tired. I can't even blame daylight savings: I slept from midnight until about 9:15. But there you go.

What I really want to do is go out and buy some beer, and then drink some of said beer. I'm resisting. So far. Because it's really awfully early.

Although I suppose I'm doing okay on the work front. I didn't put in an impressive number of hours today, but my conference paper is coming along pretty well. I'm trying to "write" it with only the absolute minimum of writing: i.e., I'm taking it from a dissertation chapter, and extracting as much as possible from my existing text. Even though it would probably be easier and faster for me to write new transitions, etc., as needed, I'm combing the chapter for recyclable sentences. At some point I will need to write a new conclusion, since the conference paper has rather a different focus from the chapter (it's amazing how the same prose can be used to make a different point), but that can wait.

I also did some reading today, and I should do some more of that, I guess. Because by "some," here, I mean like 6 pages. And that's pretty lame, I know. I know....

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Today I Saw a Bluebird

I'm exhausted. I'm not teaching, so I can't complain; and I'm not actually complaining, but it was a long day. I had lots of teaching consultations (I observe grad students teaching and then give them feedback; yeah, I'm a qualified professional of some kind, apparently), a seminar in which a visiting Esteemed Faculty Member presented a highly theoretical paper full of terms I'd never actually heard before, and a long dinner with a bunch of friends and their young children.

Not a bad day, in the balance. But long. I'm glad to be bedward bound.

But mostly the weather has just been splendid, and I've seen a few crocuses (a little bedraggled, admittedly, but brave and hearty nonetheless). And a bluebird. And during the seminar, I sat with my back to a window, so I got to feel the sun warming me even when I was indoors.

Virtually every blog I read has had some kind of comment on the glory of the new springy weather, which has me thinking about how strongly it must affect everyone, and it's nice to think of people all over the country suddenly opening up to the sunshine and just generally feeling better.

Monday, March 12, 2007

A Big Scare!

So I was in yoga tonight. At first, I wasn't really feeling it. I was kind of annoyed with a friend of mine who unfairly takes advantage of another friend of mine. I was distracted and, thus, irritable.

My mat was towards the back of the room, near a wall. About 6 inches from the end of my mat was a big stack of cushions.

Early in the class--in the first downward dog, maybe--I noticed what looked like a bit of fluff sticking to one of the cushions. It looked kind of like the tip of a dustball. I was surprised that there would be dustballs in there--it's a carpeted room, after all--but whatever.

Class proceeded. We began the sun salutations.

And then, in maybe the third downward dog, I looked at the fluff. And: It had moved. It was protruding further from between the mats. It no longer looked like fluff. It looked like it had long, bunchy legs, all sticking out. It looked like: A Really Big Bug.

Okay, I thougt. It could be a spider. Spiders are all right. Or it could be (and this made me shudder--not outwardly; the room was at 95 degrees--but still) one of those awful huge leggy centipede things that live around here.

I hate those huge leggy centipede things.

They freak me out.

Once, there was one in my room, and I wanted to get rid of it but couldn't stand killing it. So I put a cup over it and left it for two days. When I picked up the cup, there was nothing there but a little pile of dust.

Aaaaagh.

My eyes were riveted on this thing. In every downward dog, it was my sole focus, my drishti. The sweat on my ankles felt like creepy little giant centipede legs. Even in poses where I wasn't supposed to look in that direction, like reverse triangle, I somehow found a reason to glance back there.

What would happen, I wondered, when we got to shavasana? When I had to lie there, all passive and vulnerable, just inches away from the disgusting centipede thing? What if it got into someone's shoe?

Oh, it was terrible.

And then we did something that brought us to the ends of our mats. I looked down at my wee nemesis. And...um...okay, it was a little tuft of stitching sticking out of the side of a cushion.

Annnyway. On the upside, I was so relieved that I actually turned my attention back to class. And I'd completely forgotten about my aggravating friend.

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Some Big Changes 'Round These Parts

Ahh, March. The temperature has gone up more than 30 degrees since yesterday, and, in the spirit of the new season (right? right??? winter's not coming back, is it?????), I've decided to make some Changes.

First off: No more cable. I had it disconnected last night. It was about time, really; I've been stealing wireless from somewhere (presumably the boys downstairs) since October, and my TV service gave me no extra channels--meaning that I was effectively paying $50 for network TV. $50 a month for a handful of Will and Grace reruns is an expense that I can no longer justify. Particularly as the end of the year--and my last foreseeable paycheck--draws near.

I do have an antenna, and I'll probably give that a try later on. But would a life sans television be so bad? Although it would be terrible to miss out on the rest of America's Next Top Model, a deeply problematic show to which I am nonetheless addicted.

Second: I sorted through the stacks and scraps of papers adorning my desk area. That's not especially exciting, I know, but it was satisfying all the same.

Third: I went back to yoga. After a week and a half of no real exercise, my body was feeling thick and sluggish. I normally attend at least two--often three--classes a week, and missing it for so long reminded me of how much I love it. I might write about yoga some more later. It's corny, I know, but yoga really is such a tremendously important and beneficial part of my life. Today's class felt great. My usual teacher wasn't there, but the sub was a guy I've had before and whom I like a lot. He's a small, kind man whose goatee and bright little eyes give him a benignly simian aspect. Although I tried to go easy today, moving my body felt so good that I, well, didn't. But to no ill effect, so I think that I made the right choice.

And finally: I will go to the bank, on Monday, to finally close my stupid savings account with the 0.000001% interest rate and transfer the money to my vastly superior savings account (4.5% interest rate). And to get some of those coin sleeve thingies. I need to roll some coins.

With these resolutions under my belt, perhaps I can get back to work. Perhaps, some day soon, I'll finish one of the books I started in more optimistic times.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

The Body Stronger, but the Mind a Fog

Okay, I'm basically healthy now. Still have the unpleasant residual cold effects (the peeling nose is the worst), but I'm okay. And I've been taking cold medicine before bed, which means that I've been having FABULOUS dreams;* at some point I suppose I'll have to give that up.

But I can't get anything done. It's not a matter of the will. Well, maybe it is. I don't know. I'm reading a hugely entertaining novel these days, and I have two more episodes of Father Ted to watch, but I'm starting to get a little bit frustrated with myself.

In the last couple of weeks, I've started a rather large number of books. If you were to read all my posts carefully,** you might think that I'm a prodigious reader of extracurricular medieval lit, but in fact I'm just not finishing anything. I have bookmarks bristling all over the place. It's annoying. I want to finish these things, damn it, so I can stick them back onto my shelves or into the big stack on my subwoofer or wherever.

But, instead, I pick something up, I read three paragraphs, I think of something I desperately need to check online, I go to my computer, I forget what I was going to check....

Oh well. It happens, right? Tomorrow. Tomorrow is the day I start to seriously get myself together. Tomorrow is the day I drink extra coffee, if need be. Yep. Right-o.

*One thing I notice with the cold medicine is that when I wake up in the middle of the night--which I do, often--I can just sort of lie there and it's as if I'm still sleeping. I'm not, and I know it, but I'm still having these wild and vivid dreams. And then sometimes I think I'm just lying there awake but in fact I am asleep, as I discover when I look at the clock and two hours have gone by. It's a disturbingly pleasant state to linger in, this in-betweenness.

**A practice that I do not recommend.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

I have taken to my bed

That was pretty much implied in my last post, I guess. But I wanted to write it anyway.

After six hours, I'm kind of staving off boredom. I finished the back issues of Bust magazine my friend gave me, and just purchased an album by El Perro del Mar with an itunes gift certificate. (The album is fabulous and strange--the ethereal vocals and sock-hop melodies remind me a little bit of the soundtracks to various David Lynch movies.) I'm listening to it off my laptop with my big-ass nerd headphones while I read the Letters of Direction section of Abelard & Heloise. (Maybe that's accountable for some of the boredom?) I've also rented a Jane Austen movie and the first season of Father Ted. Father Ted is heralded, on the back of the box, as "the best program about three Catholic priests stuck on a very small island." Good times ahead.

Luckily I have enough food to get me through lunch tomorrow. The wind is screaming and shaking my house and DAMN but it's cold out there. There's something pleasant about being holed up--for the first day, anyway.... Actually, it's probably a good thing that it's so cold; otherwise I might be tempted to go out and spread my germs.

Sick Sicky Sick Sick

Yes, I'm SICK. A strange stomach-ache has morphed into a head cold. I've never heard of that happening, but there you go.

It's quite awfully cold out, and windy as a bitch, but soon I'll need leave the house for tissues and videos. Other than that, though, I think I'll spend the better part of the day in bed. In fact, I'm writing this from bed. Vive la laptop!

In other news, I had an interview yesterday and I think it went pretty well. (The cold was just in the stomach-ache phase at that point, thank goodness.) They asked me harder questions about my dissertation than my committee ever has, but I was able to answer them to my satisfaction, at least. The job is non-tenure-track, but renewable, and somewhat prestigious if low-paying. It also has the advantage of being a commutable distance away--meaning that I could keep my apartment and not buy a car. So I'd be pretty excited if it panned out. I won't hear for another month, though.

Hm...am I ready to brave the cold and the wind? I'm not sure that I am. But I can't stand to go on blowing my nose with my scratchy old recycled-content toilet paper. It's brutal, it is. Maybe I'll go in 15 minutes. Yeah, 15 minutes seems about right.

And then what will I do? I don't know! There are worky-type things I could tinker around with, but I'm not sure that I want to. (Uh, okay. What I mean is, I'm sure that I don't want to.) I've been re-reading the novel that I wrote in the darkest days of my job search anxiety, and am actually enjoying it, which is pleasant. Maybe I'll do some more of that. Or maybe I'll, I dunno, look through some of my old papers and books and things. Relics of bygone selves. For some good old self-indulgent fun.

If it weren't for the kleenex situation--which will soon be remedied, I swear--being sick isn't half bad, sometimes.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

An Unexpected Convergence

Regarding my last post: I just read, unrelatedly, a paper on reading practices in classical antiquity. Specifically, on active reading practices whereby readers wrote critical commentary and questions in the margins of their texts--along (almost) exactly the lines of my erstwhile Abelard critic. Hmm.

I'm actaully really interested in questions of readers' interactions with texts, specifically as they relate to authorial attempts at controlling interpretation in the Middle Ages. I can think of transparent instances of such attempts in some theological literature, but I'm starting to bat around ideas about how it might manifest in secular lit, too. Nothing much to say about it, at this point, except that when my pleasure reading combines with my required reading to highlight exactly the issue I've been half-thinking about, it seems like it's time to stop half-thinking and start weighing the issue in earnest....

Friday, March 2, 2007

Marginalia

For kicks (and because I figure it's time I get around to it), I've been reading the letters of Abelard and Heloise this week. I have a cheap used translation ($0.99 from the campus book store), and the previous owner evidently took issue with Abelard's, um, ego.

"He doesn't address the problems in order!" s/he writes fervently in the margin of page 145. A few pages later: "He thinks he's so perfect now. 'Was' guilty," and, "he cares for her out of duty from previousness [sic] not love. he says he suffered for them both to be forgiven, as if she has gotten a free ride."

Now the commentary is flying thick and fast. Page 150 finds criticism of his style ("He goes on too much about one point"), his self-representation and hypocrisy ("he overdoes stuff! (exaggerated his humility, after condemning that)"), and attitude towards family ("doesn't he love his son, shouldn't having a kid change his view").

By page 154, our intrepid reader has had enough. Time to address Abelard directly:

"Yes, dummy," s/he fumes, "but she still suffers from desire! It's easy to say cuz you can't feel it anymore."

There ought to be some kind of clever joke to be made about monastic reading practices and/or Biblical exegesis, but it's beyond me at the moment. All I can say is, I'm enjoying the vicarious experience of one reader's impassioned lectio--and yes, Abelard is a bit full of himself, sure. But isn't that just a part of his charm?