Wednesday, November 23, 2005

dissertation journal

They say it's good to have a dissertation journal - so you can keep track of good ideas and keep track of quotes and all that good stuff. I am not sure I am ready for the administrative aspect of a dissertation yet, I can do the thinking and sometimes the writing, just not the mechanical processing. This is what I have to learn.

Now, I think that is partly what the proposal stage is for - to get you deep enough into the material to have something to work WITH when you try to figure out the rest of the process. So I will use this to learn about the proposal and then work on something searchable to do the actual book part thingy (so scary to keep talking about dissertation, it is easier to think about a thingy ...).

So, what I need to do next:

Write a paragraph about my project - scary.

Read some of the books I have brought home with the idea of looking at how the women present themselves.

Reread Greenblatt's Renaissance Self-Fashioning and figure out if I want to use his model or make my own.

Rewrite the paragraph about my project and include a very brief outline of the chapters - eeek.

1. There should be an introduction, of course, with a discussion of what my project is, who I picked and why and what methods I am using.
2. Then a something about the legal status of women in the period, the development of the public sphere and the argument about separate spheres.
3. Then a chapter on how scholars have attempted to look at the interaction between the individual and the structure, or gender roles, point to the contradiction between what women were supposed to do and what a number of them actually did, and the differences between different groups of women - depending on class, geography, religion etc (determine what all those factors are).
4. Then argue for a model that accounts for the individual and structural differences - greenblatt & bourdieu mix. Try not to get too fancy here but this might be a two step process, first seeing what they do - how these women construct themselves a public persona and then going back to bourdieu to determine what semi autonomous fields they are leaning on (ask about currency exchanges - using capital from one field to buy stuff in another) ... this could get awfully complicated.
5. Introduce the women, who they are, why I picked them and what they did. A short bio of each of them as well as a discussion of previous scholarly work done on their contributions.
6-7-8. One chapter each on how they presented themselves - close analysis of texts here, from letters and published works, showing how they wanted to be read and how they engaged in the debate (what KINDS of arguments are they using and who are their implied opponents AND implied readers).
9. Reactions - what did people write about them - supporters and opponents. How were their arguments accepted and were responses directed at their writings or tangential? (Do I need to know more about discourse analysis???) If Macaulay says "we need to by blue cars", do people say "no, we need to buy red cars or green apples" or do they say "she shouldn't tell us what to buy because she married the wrong person" ... this would necessitate an overview of the respondents comments about OTHER people - does Hume comment on Rousseau's skirt maker as well as Macaulay's hair color or does he comment differently?? I.e. If I want to draw conclusions about how women are discussed I need to know how men are discussed - I need a norm.
8. Counter attacks - do I want to look at how the women countered? What kind of arguments THEY used to silence opposition - how do I do that???
9. The bigger picture - not only writers did this, but all women who were wanting things the could not have - and Conclusions - Public Women needed to be thoughtful about presentation - we have seen what strategies they used and how succesful (or unsuccesful) they were. We also see something about the relationship between any individual and the surrounding structure and I believe we would find that ANY individual behavior is really this kind of negotiation between different roles. Sometimes the strategies are aimed at creating a new autonomous field, and sometimes just at converting currency between existing fields, but the behavior works on all levels.

Phew - I guess that is, in a terribly garbled form, what I am going for. Enough for one fit.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Almost ABD!

Yesterday I passed my qualifying exams - the orals were grueling and scary and I did not do as well as I would have liked to do, but I passed - and I will be extatic as soon as I get over the drop. I hope I never have to do something like that again.

Now I need to - rest, grade 90 papers, grade my rhet students presentations, read up on the stuff I couldn't answer at the exam, start reading for my dissertation proposal and talk to my advisor about what I am doing and who should be on my committee, make sure I catch up on everything to do with the GSA and go see my newest grandchild who was born today.

So far I have - talked to Rachel (she is so awesomely wonderful), played solitaire, started reading three different leasure books, played solitaire ... that's it.

Can I go home now?

Friday, October 28, 2005

3 down - 1 to go

So I wrote three papers in 72 hours and am now so numb I can hardly even be terrified by the prospect that I have an oral examination in 6 days. I am not happy when I think about it, but I am more tired than nervous right now. That, I know, will change.

I remember glimpses of what I wrote and I think to myself how stupid it all was - how trivial and uninteresting and badly organised my thoughts.

The important thing, I think, in the next few days, will be to read the texts I said I would review and then to reread my papers and see if there are any obvious gaps and idiocies that I can do something about.

THEN it would be great if I could set up the beginnings of a dissertation proposal. I need to see one first of course and hope to get to that shortly.

Oh well, back to grading.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Two exams down - one to go

I have done two of my doctoral qualifying exams now - one to go. I still have no idea what I wrote, whether it is all trivial or if I actually said something. I AM glad that I wrote stuff, if nothing else it shows that I read something and remember something about what I read, even if my arguments are halting and inconsistent.

I am learning lots of things and want to put together a how to thing, with the things I wish I had had when I started.

I want to put in things like:

- Thinking about your fields. How to define your fields and how to add subcategories of issues.

- Think about how to put together the reading lists - start reading early, at least the first chapter or introduction, and get the names they refer to and the debates they argue about. If there are any short survey texts with a bibliography, get those early and get the lay of the land and the main texts.

- Taking notes - do a 1-2 page summary of the main points of the argument (what is the thesis, what other writers do they position themselves against, do they say anything particularly clever or stupid). If you have your books organised into subcategories you can add a section on what they say about or how they relate to your subcategory.

As you get near - review your notes, make up questions and pieces of answers. Make up a template for your answers and put each respective reading list at the end of its respective document.

- Make sure you have the texts available. Make sure you have comfort food and drink and candy or whatever else available. Make sure you have a backup computer. Print out a copy of the reading list so you can mark off the texts as you use them.

- When you get the questions, look at both for a while and think about which one you want to answer. Consider what you would say and what books you would use to answer the questions.
When you have decided on the question and the books, unless you know what your argument is going to be, look at your notes for those texts (or underlines if you never made notes). Write down what comes to you, then see if you have a tentative outline.

- Write like a demon. Stop every now and then to check grammar and spelling and to remind yourself where you are. Stop for food and sleep and some other short breaks. You NEED to get up, even if just to stretch.

That is all I can think of right now. We will find out Tuesday and finally on November 3 if it worked. I sure hope so.

Another good blogger for grads

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Saturday I went a wassailing

well, actually I guess I did not - just looked up the word and it means to "go door-to-door singing Christmas carols and requesting in return wassail or some other form of refreshment. In modern times it is most commonly known through reference in various traditional Christmas carols (e.g., "Here we come a-wassailing / among the leaves so green").

But then I looked up wassail and it is:
1. A salutation or toast given in drinking someone's health or as an expression of good will at a festivity.
2. The drink used in such toasting, commonly ale or wine spiced with roasted apples and sugar.
3. A festivity characterized by much drinking.

so Wassailing should be able to contain the meaning of saluting or toasting ... In short, I want to wassail.

Something clearly needs to be done - waiting for Rita. She hit land at Galveston early this morning and is moving closer to the metroplex area by the hour (or at least, it looks like she is going to pass by parallell to the metroplex area and perhaps only give us some gusts of rain and a little wind.) It is so hard to know whether you should be worried (and get extra food and a radio and batteries and stuff) and hunker down or if you should just focus on the stuff on your list and get on with it. I got some extra food and a radio and gas for the car and the grill and now I am getting on with it ... never be decisive when you can find a way to stay on the fence.

What I should be doing is read - Revising Women ... on fiction in the 18th c and the gender issue and how they intersect - if they do, which I hope since I plan to write about it.

What I will be doing is grade essays, all on campus events. But first of all - mow the yard.

(a)musings of a grad student

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

and so you get older

and you realise that it is a relief to be part of a world that is bigger than you, that will be there when you are gone and doesn't care how you did on the details.

Driving home from school I was listening to some Swedish ballads and felt part of the universe and that my petty fears about my comprehensive exams are really not the center of the universe. I don't have to to the whole thing. I still want to leave something behind - I would like someone to remember me when I am gone, to have pictures of me and point to them and say nice things about the person that was me in their lives. But I don't have to change the world or have a street named after me (well ... hmmm), I can just be part of all of this and in my obituary no one is going to say - look, she didn't finish her ph.d. - what a useless person.

Just now, as I am writing this, I watch the cats on the bed, entangled, cleaning each other and - again - I marvel at their closeness and casual intimacy. They are absolutely together and absolutely themselves. Cats may not be herd or pack animals, but the lone ranger thing is clearly misleading.

My step daughter told me today that doctors are injecting mice and rats with stemcells and watch their hearts regenerate ... that is just so mindboggling - overwhelmingly awesome. But of course we're not doing much of that sort of thing here in the US, coz stem cell research is unethical - I admire people who have the courage of their convictions, but I wish I could sincerely believe that the American public and the politicians who are so against stem cell research really have educated themselves on the topic and that their convictions are anything other than pettiness.

Oh well. On that note it is late and time for a little something -- then off to plan for class tomorrow - I really need to make them do something with the naked roommate. We'll see what we get to.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Spammers will be deleted

So, I am not sure if you are reading - if I want you to read - if I should send this URL to people so we can keep up. And I get these comments, and think someone did read, and cared, and then I realise that it's only people using my space to put advertising for shit they are selling.

If you are selling something, pay for your own space - here, you will be deleted.

Four Years Ago

We were out walking, when a neighbor, obviously in chock, yelled at us -
"Haven't you heard, don't you know, New York, the Trade Center, they flew into it. go home".
I am not sure what he was trying to accomplish, except to share his pain and confusion.

I remember watching a lot of tv in the next few days, trying to understand, trying to figure out what to do, and I remember that I went to school that very day and we were there, in our little class on the aesthetics of Kant, feeling brave and fearful, trying not to be deflected from our plans and goals, but being desperately aware that anything could happen at any moment.

I remembered, suddenly, that I had been in the towers, only three years earlier, with my godson. We stood for a long time in the line to the elevators, changed elevators on the 78th (?) floor and were both amazed at the sights when we finally got up to the windows. Afterwards we had lunch at a TGIF and then we took the train home. It was a nice excursion. I was told later that my godson remembered this day and was very concerned that he had been in the towers and now they were gone. I felt it too, some weird sense that we were closer to the destruction because we had some memory of what the building looked like on the inside, because we had not been let in to the restaurant (I think you had to have a tie, or had to eat a very expensive meal to get a seat - something).

... Last night I fell asleep and dreamt about death. I was walking with someone and I think it was my father who died fifteen years ago. It was dark and hard to see the road and we had to get back to people and he couldn't quite. I woke up and I knew he was with me and somehow had found me across the Atlantic and there was something he still needed to do. Or maybe it felt like someone else was going to die. I knew anyway, that I was walking with death and I woke up understanding how horribly lonely old age might be and how death could become one of your closest companions. One day, at some point, my life will be over, and I don't really want that. I want to be here, do things, make my mark, I like it here and I will not go gently into that dark night.

Saturday, September 10, 2005


I had this long post about white bread and my new laptop and guilt and going to the hungersite - but my computer lost it ... oh well, I guess I will have enough guilt about my life being so privileged without that particular rant.

The hungersite is the thing to remember - click on the button at the hungersite.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Eye Of The Storm

Eye Of The Storm

Eye of the storm

Just so I remember what it was called - the blog by two Sun Herald reporters who cannot write enough. Technology sometimes makes available things that are too hard to bear, and I get caught in this obsessive idea that if they lived through it, I have to read it, and feel the pain and not stop reading until I have read it all because they could not turn off their computer and make it stop. Probably not a healthy reaction, but I think it is one of the reasons I am in graduate school and one of the things that motivate me to move forward so I guess I don't want to be cured quite yet.

Would I leave my home if I couldn't take my cats. No. Simple as that. I would not, could not, abandon them and live with myself.

Do I get frustrated when I read about the people who are still staying. Yes. Maybe they have cats. Maybe they have no other place to go. Maybe they have no selves if they don't have their home.

Another repeat

My mind is more and more becoming an echo chamber, where half forgotten ideas and stories whisper their ghostlike existence just beyond my reach. There was this story, a woman wearing only a fishnet, who confronted a king ... I can't remember her name or the story or even what mythologogical universe she was a part of.

Did I do any reading - I went to Stein Mart's sale. It is so much fun to shop for clothes when you can try on sizes that would have been silly to even contemplate just two months ago - three ... whoa, times goes fast, runs fast, speeds past me and you and everyone else. Bye bye. Anyway, this, the blog, and the weight loss, are both part of my very complex scheme of avoidance. It would probably be much easier to just read some books than to organise a whole new me, a new and improved presence on the web and a whole website with support for Teaching Assistants so I can post a link to my sit when I write the Dean to schmaltz him into giving us some representation on at least some of the many committees that will plan our future. I suspect that when I get to the writing a dissertation part I will write a novel just to not have to do what is on my schedule ... maybe I should go to law school, that might get me reading history books.

me me me me


I am thinking and hoping I can make this the picture for my profile. Another piece of the learning process. Why do I keep finding new things to learn? I am already avoiding a number of learning opportunities that are on my to-do list. Bleah.


I am thinking I will have something really relevant to say at some point. Probably though, I need to eat first; I believe my bloodsugar is somewhere out sight low since I cannot seem to make up my mind about what comes next - going to the store or getting a shower or eating or, perhaps, reading.

The 21st century - finally

So I did it - got myself a blog. Was doing my excercises (the gazelle - thanks Tony Little) and thinking about how the 3.1 miles a day has become an almost religious ritual - a magic rain dance to prove to myself that I am ok, that I will be fine, that I am taking care of myself and I can do what I decide I have to do so I can and will do my reading. More about reading for my exams later, for now the point is that I wanted a place to lay down my ponderings, somewhere to speak out, to wail and wonder ... this, it seems, is it.

Oy vey.