30 October 2009

Notes: Imagined Communities

Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Verson, 2006.


I’ve let a little too much time go by to write a really cohesive summary of Anderson’s text, so I’ll settle for a list of main points which I find particularly intriguing for my line of research.


According to Anderson, there are three basic paradoxes to the idea of the nation: 1. that nations are objectively new, but nationalists claim (subjectively, though they wouldn’t acknowledge that) antiquity; 2. that there is a universality to the idea of nationality in that everyone has a nationality, just as everyone has a gender; however, each nationality is itself sui generis; and 3. nationalism has great political power even though it has philosophical paucity.
o I’m particularly interested in the supposed antiquity of nation states and how that might translate to the origins of other kinds of communities and social classes.  Are all communities or social classes built on some sense of their own antiquity?  Particularly newly developed communities/classes?  I’m reminded of Mormonism and its claim to Biblical origins in order to authenticate itself.  


Andersons’ definition of nation: “it is an imagined political community – and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign.  It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion” (6).
o I’m curious how this idea of members of a community never meeting could be translated to members of a community never actually knowing other community members.  In other words, a member of a community could be acquainted with other community members, but not actually known by them.  To what extent must a community be premised on knowledge deeper than superficial acquaintance?  Anderson clearly argues that members of a community need not even have an acquaintance (he says that the difference between communities is not a matter of “falsity/genuineness” but rather the “style” in which they are imagined), but in some communities (think religious congregation, local members of a particular social class, etc.) there will be that acquaintance.  How does the presence of acquaintance but the absence of knowledge affect Anderson’s theory?


In explaining the community of Christendom, Anderson asserts that the “juxtaposition of cosmic-universal and the mundane-particular” meant that, no matter how far-spread the community was, it presented itself variously but also as a replication of the self.  In other words, even as various pockets of Christianity had their own particular character, they perceived of themselves as representative of their larger community—they conceived of other pockets of Christianity as being “replications of themselves” (23).
o I’m curious about this idea of a subsection of a community perceiving other subsections as replications of the self.  Does this apply at an individual level also?  Does one individual perceive other individual members of their community as reflections or replications of herself?  And if so, what happens when that replication/reflection is proven false?  (compare this idea to what Anderson has to say about Creoles originating the nationalist movements of America)


Anderson pays a lot of attention to the role print-capitalism and print-languages play in the rise of nationalism.  He argues that without print-languages, nationalism would not have developed as it did.  Specifically print-languages had three major effects: 1. they created a language of exchange that existed between Latin (the official language of church and state) and vernaculars; 2. it fixed language, which helped establish the perceived antiquity of that language (and antiquity was a vital element of nationalism); and 3. it privileged certain languages, creating new languages of power granting certain classes more authority than others.  Anderson also places a lot of emphasis on the fatality of language—in the assumed inevitability of a given language as a language of power.  And, more importantly, the fatality of “human language diversity”; because there is a necessary diversity of human languages (while certain languages may die or transform, it’s impossible for all of humanity to share one language), there is a coexisting necessary diversity of human communities.  If language becomes the organizing principle of human communities (and Anderson argues it does), and languages are necessarily diverse, then there must be a corresponding diversity of communities.  


Where previously states had been organized vertically based on a divine head (either God or divinely sanctioned ruler), nations were horizontally organized based on shared language, specifically print-language.  The upper classes, especially heads of state, had forged bonds through marriage; the new bourgeoisie (which Anderson argues was the first imagined community) forged bonds through shared print materials.  This new community formation through print-language radically altered the way national communities were understood, since there were now defined boundaries (under the old vertical organization, Anderson argues that boundaries were porous and relatively unimportant as marital alliances regularly shifted those boundaries).  As Anderson puts it, “one can sleep with anyone, but one can only read some people’s words” (77).


Anderson argues that it was Creole populations (Creole meaning people of European descent who shared cultural and linguistic characteristics with those in the metropole) that fomented successful national rebellions in the Americas, not native populations.  Where the Europeans were able to control native populations through disease, education, arms, government, religious novelty, etc., the Creoles had all of these things in common with the Europeans.  As such, they were situated to successfully challenge the Europeans.  
o I’m curious how this relates to the above idea about reflection/replication.  What moves someone who is arguably of the same community (shared language, education, religion, government, etc.) to make such a radical break?  In some way, it is the sameness within a community but between different factions of the community that threatens it, where utter difference could not.  


Anderson asserts that when a state adopts a vernacular as its official language, doing so suggests a connection of kinship between the ruler of the state and his subjects.  Accordingly, it becomes possible for the subjects of the state to perceive of their ruler as a representative of themselves and therefore as capable of becoming a traitor of his fellow citizens.


“Or, l’essence d’une nation est que tous les individus aient beaucoup de choses en commun et aussi que tous aient oublie bien des choses. . . . Tout citoyen francais doit avoir oublie  la Saint-Barthelemy, les massacres du Midi au XIIIe si├Ęcle” (199, quoting Renan).  
o my translation: “the essence of a nation is that all the individuals have many things in common and also that all have forgotten many things. . . . All French citizens must have forgotten St. Barthelemy, the massacures of midnight in the 13th century.”
o What is it that members of a community must forget?  According to Anderson’s interpretation of Renan, they must forget the difference that exists in their past in order to embrace past atrocities as reassuringly “fratricidal”—as family disputes, rather than as wars waged between radically different people.  There has to be a patina of sameness—of a priori nationality and nation-ness—in order for a nation to continue to exist.  Accordingly, members of a nation must forget that at the heart of their allegedly shared existence (because they must remember the past atrocities; they must simply forget the difference inherent in them) there is impurity.

29 October 2009

Notes: Between Women

Marcus, Sharon. Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 2007.

Summary:
I’ve just finished reading Sharon Marcus’s book Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England.  It’s a fascinating analysis of the relationships between women in Victorian England.  Marcus begins by examining female friendships in their various forms, whether simple friendship, religious friendship, or unrequited love.  She argues that these friendships, rather than being opposed to heterosexual relationships, facilitate relationships between men and women (at least according to the Victorians) by training women to love sympathetically and compassionately.  She also points out that women were expected to demonstrate a certain capacity for passionate feeling (at least in novels) and friendship gave them a proper outlet for such feeling that did not threaten their standing as women.  According to Marcus, friendships between women allowed for gender play in that women could, in the realm of female friendship, act with the openness and aggressiveness usually reserved for men when it came to expressing affection.  She argues that Victorian gender constructs were elastic (not plastic; plastic implies a permanency to the changes worked in a system, whereas elasticity implies the potential for play and shifting without that play permanently altering the structure of the system).  Essentially, Marcus asserts that female friendship is part of normative femininity, contributing to women’s roles as wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters.  Friendship further demonstrated a woman’s class status by illustrating that she had the leisure time to maintain relationships with people who did not directly affect her material interests.

Marcus moves from discussing female friendship in general to developing her theory of “the plot of female amity.”  In essence she claims that in the Victorian novel female friendships (or at the very least moments of female friendship) facilitate the marriage plot.  While female friendships are not themselves dynamic, according to this theory they generate a great deal of energy which helps propel the courtship plot.  In some instances, the female friend of the heroine actually grants permission for the marriage to occur or gives a suitor to the heroine.  I’m not sure exactly how I feel about this theory as many of the Victorian novels I know well don’t actually focus on female friendships, but Marcus advances interesting readings of several novels in order to support her theory.

After discussing female friendship in depth, Marcus moves on to discuss the homoeroticism of Victorian femininity by discussing fashion, corporal punishment, pornography, and dolls.  According to Marcus, female homoeroticism was neither policed nor discouraged by Victorians because they had no concrete concept of lesbianism.  She asserts that because the Victorians saw lesbian sex nowhere, they allowed homoeroticism, female friendship, and female marriage to flourish.  In fact, Marcus insists that homoeroticism was not condemned as antithetical to normative femininity precisely because it was one of the conventions of normative Victorian femininity.  According to Marcus, pornography is not the “underbelly” of culture; instead culture and pornography “share an erotic repertoire.”  By erotic, Marcus does not mean something explicitly sexual; instead she uses the word to refer to a certain affect or emotional response to a person, thing or text—a response related to domination, submission, humiliation, etc—a response distinct from the typically neutral responses to other people and things.  (In defining the erotic, she references Barthes’ text Sade/Fourier/Loyola in which he associates the erotic with classifying, ritualization, and image-making.  I’m interested in this idea, and should probably track down Barthes’ text and at least check into what he has to say about the relationship between classification and the erotic.)  

Marcus’s discussion of female homoeroticism details the way that fashion, women’s domestic magazines, and dolls parallel pornography in their tactics.  She demonstrates that while women certainly were intended to identify with the images/dolls they encountered (which is how theory has typically explained women viewers of such images), they were also fully intended to desire those images as well.  She calls attention to the distinction between identity and identification, insisting that the simple fact that women identified with the images did not mean that they assumed those images as their identity.  Instead identification requires a distance between the viewer and the desired object.  Ultimately Marcus argues that the Victorians did not see female homoeroticism as opposed to heterosexual norms, but rather as part of typical femininity.  

In her treatment of homoeroticism, Marcus makes an extended reading of several fashion plates.  Her discussion of fashion and fashion images introduces some interesting connections between fashion and community control.  She points to the way fashion was an interface between members of a large community and the fact that it depended on a rapidly transmissible press which could spread a current fashion and announce its demise.  She also argues that fashion was for women an exercise in liberal democracy, since it both required conformity to a set of group established rules and the exercise of individual autonomy within those standards.  All of this seems a potentially fruitful avenue for my research.

Marcus concludes her book with a survey of female marriage.  She demonstrates that female marriage, far from being a subculture that existed apart from mainstream society, was a socially acceptable alternative to heterosexual marriage which was frequently discussed by respectable members of society.  She presents several examples of female marriage and shows that these women were part of widespread networks.  Not only did these women participate openly as couples in these social networks, they helped shape the reform of marriage that occurred throughout the century.  Rather than being an unspoken social taboo, female marriages instead exemplified the kind of marriages that feminists and marriage reformers worked for: dissoluble contracts in which each partner was an equal and retained ownership of their own property.  

The chapter on female marriage introduces several potentially interesting ideas, including the idea that Darwin’s work in The Origin of Species led to a way of thinking about change over time in which “commonality and difference were intertwined” and that our “classifications would become genealogies.”  She also cites Maine and Simcox who posit that the family is an artificial kinship construct, rather than a natural one.  Maine especially insists on this by asserting that adoption is the key civilization—in other words, that civilization cannot exist without some mechanism for incorporating difference into a community.

Questions for further thought:
Marcus's theory of Victorian femininity posits a certain elasticity in Victorian gender norms.  To what extent does that elasticity translate to other kinds of classes (social? economic? national?)?  In other words, does a willingness to allow for play in terms of gender norms also indicate a willingness to allow for play in other social categories?

While Marcus clearly illustrates the ways in which female friendship allow for elasticity of gender norms, ultimately she argues that this elasticity serves heterosexual normativity.  Women express assertive affection in female friendships because they cannot do so in heterosexual relationships.  They experience homoerotic responses to fashion plates because they are expected to present themselves beautifully to men and so they must develop an appreciation for female beauty.  To what extent, then, is the elasticity she alleges a form of subversion and containment?  Or does that not actually matter?  Does the mere existence of such gender play, even if it serves heterosexual normativity, create a space for difference?

perhaps more later.

Victorians of interest in the book:
Frances Power Cobbe
Charlotte Cushman
George Eliot
Sarah Ellis
Mary Lloyd
Henry Maine
John Stuart Mill
Edith Simcox

Novels read in the book:
Aurora Leigh
Can You Forgive Her
David Copperfield
Far from the Madding Crowd
Great Expectations
Middlemarch
Mill on the Floss
Shirley
Vanity Fair
Villette
Wuthering Heights

26 October 2009

Goals for this Week

To Read:

Between Women: Friendship, Desire, and Marriage in Victorian England  by Sharon Marcus.  As of right now I'm only about 50 pages from finishing, so I hope to finish it before bed tonight.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.  I'm about 250 pages into it and having a bit of a hard time pressing forward.  I need to just push myself and get it done.  I also need to be better about summarizing and taking notes.

The Community of Those Who Have Nothing in Common  by Alphonso Lingis.  A book I should have read years ago for a seminar but which I didn't.  Looking forward to it.

The poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins, which I love.


To Write:

Notes on Between Women.

Headnotes for at least two of my lists.

Finalize my theory list.

Emails to my committee members.

02 October 2009

The Novel.

So my project has taken a bit of a change of direction.  Instead of focusing on transatlantic 19th century lit, I'll be looking at the Victorian period, the novel as genre, and theories of community and classification.  The change is a move away from American lit to focusing on the novel.  There are a few reasons for this shift.  One is simple preference.  I love novels and have always been fascinated by their history.  Another reason has to do with Victorian litereature, which is novel-heavy (literally and figuratively, with all those triple-deckers).  I think a solid background in the origin of novels and how they evolved after the Victorian period would help me better understand and teach Victorian literature.  And finally I think there's something about the novel that captures the shifting nature of community and class systems during the 19th century.  So the novel it is.

I've compiled a list, which I need to run past my committee members (of which there are finally four-yay!), but I'd love suggestions.  I'm specifically looking for suggestions regarding precursors or origins of the novel.  I've been pointed in the direction of Lucian, a second-century Assyrian rhetorician and satirist.  And of course I am reading Don Quixote (it's what I'm reading now, in fact).  Are there other suggestions?  I'm also looking for suggestions regarding theory and criticism that focuses on the novel.  I know the usual suspects, but I'd like suggestions of more recent work than that of McKeon and Watt, et al.  So do share if you have any ideas.

17 September 2009

Capable.

So this year, I'm on my own.  Where school is concerned, that is.  I'm out of funding until I pass my exams (which I should have passed ages ago).  So I'm paying my own way this year.  Which means I'm dependent on financial aid.  Can't pay tuition without a loan.  And yesterday--yesterday I got this horrible message form the financial aid office telling me I wasn't eligible for financial aid due to insufficient academic progress.  Mind you, this is one day after I put nearly $4,000 in tuition on my credit card, depending on my loan to come through to pay it off.

So I panicked.  For about 45 minutes.  Just sat on my bed with thoughts of failure and not being able to finish my program whirling through my head.  It was miserable.

And then I snapped myself out of it and got to work.  Prepped a brief lesson for my classes.  Got to school to teach.  Let my students out a bit early each hour so I could make phone calls while campus offices were open.  I made an appointment with the ombudsman to begin the appeals process.  I emailed a faculty mentor to get her advice.  I emailed the chair of graduate studies to alert him to the situation and ask if we could meet to discuss it.  I called the office that helped me procure a leave of absence last year to see if they could help advocate for me.  I did everything I could think of to set an appeal in motion and get my ducks in a row.

Everything except talk to the financial aid office, that is.  Because they never answered their phone, there was no voicemail option (even though their phone said there was), and no email option (even though their website said there was).  It was very frustrating.

So first thing this morning I went to campus to visit the financial aid office.  Where I discovered there had been a clerical error.  Their computer had not registered that I was on academic leave last year and so had disqualified me.  Three minutes and it was fixed.  I should get my financial aid award tomorrow.

And I am proud of myself.  A year ago I would have had a massive panic attack had this happened.  And then just given up.  Six months ago, I would have melted into a puddle of tears.  But yesterday I did what needed to be done.  Calmly and rationally assessing the situation and finding alternatives.  Nary a tear.  It felt lovely.  It's so good, after years of depression, to feel like myself.  To be capable and productive.

So here I go.  Back into the breach, prepping for exams which I will take in may or june.  And next year I will write two chapters of my dissertation, with a third during the summer, so that fall of 2011 I can go on the job market.  And June of 2012 will see me robed to receive my third degree.  Just watch and see.

11 June 2008

Another long day in the library. I've been on campus since 7:30 this morning and have been hard at work ever since, with a quick lunch break around 2:30. And I'll stick to it for at least another 45 minutes. Nothing like a long day on a hard chair (curse the library reading room which poses the choice between a chair with a cushioned seat but which screws my back up or a chair with no cushioning but which supports my back).

I haven't done much work towards my exams today. What I have done is explore and begin using a couple of new time management devices. And I'm really excited about them. One of my biggest challenges has always been keeping myself on task. I tend to think about my projects as wholes, rather than as processes with many discrete steps that can be taken individually. The result of that kind of thinking is that I'm daunted by the sheer size of my projects and I have a really hard time moving. So I'm excited about new tools that will help with time management and efficiency.
  • A few months ago, J(wh) suggested I read David Allen's Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. I started it and actually made it through about 2/3 of the book. But it was sacrificed to my proclivity to thinking whole. It seemed like the only way to implement the book's plan was to do everything right away and I couldn't see my way to doing that. So when J(wh) shared the Thinking Rock software based on Allen's book, I took a look. Today I downloaded it and have been entering projects and tasks. And I'm really impressed. It let's you not only create a list of tasks, it prompts you to define where a task must be accomplished, link tasks in projects, brainstorm what needs to be done, etc. I think it will be really useful.
  • When I commented to J(wh) (yes, he is my source of most tech tips) that I wished Google calendar had a task list, he told me about Remember the Milk, an online task manager that offers an interface with Google calendar. I'd prefer to simply use Thinking Rock, as it has greater capacity for organizing projects and tasks, but it's not web-based (not yet, anyway). And I want to be able to access my daily task lists online in case I don't have my laptop with me. So I'll spend a few minutes transferring tasks to my Google calendar when I do a daily review each morning.
  • And finally a research tool: Zotero. I found this a few weeks ago (actually even longer ago than that, but it resurfaced a few weeks ago when I actually checked it out). And I have to say that this is an amazing research tool. Incredibly easy to use. Wonderful capacity as a tool. If you're looking for a way to manage your research, I think this is about the best option I've seen.
So now that I've taken steps to make myself more efficient, hopefully I'll make better strides in terms of productivity.

21 May 2008

Accomplished.

So I haven't posted in a while, and the excuse of having been out of town only covers for part of it. So here's an update of what I've accomplished in the last few weeks:
  • Appointments with two professors, one of whom I'm quite hopeful about working with.
  • Finished reading Middlemarch, which really should merit a party. It was wonderful, by the way.
  • Read Gaskell's Cranford and discussed it with my women's reading groups.
  • Roughed out my C list, which was a bit of a beast.
  • Emailed all four professors I hope to work with to make appointments to discuss C list (sent them copies of all three lists).
  • Made an appointment to meet with one of my professors this Friday, May 23.
  • Set up RefWorks folders to track my research.
  • Kept decent hours (although there are never enough hours to do all the work).
I feel pretty good about those accomplishments. My new goal: read more regularly.

07 May 2008

Anxiety

So. I suppose this blog won’t help me much if I don’t use it. Funny how that works.

Yesterday was not good. Well, at least not in the moment. On Monday I finally sent a couple of those emails I was supposed to send a week ago. But I’m not going to dwell on when I was supposed to send them, as that usually gets me down on myself. So I sent them on Monday. And one of the professors actually responded the same day, offering to meet with me on Tuesday morning. For a variety of reasons I was hesitant to talk to him—I’ve never had a class from him; he’s always struck me as a bit distant; one of my other committee members seemed to have reservations about him; and of course all of my usual self-doubt which leaves me feeling incompetent. So I procrastinated all morning, lazing around in bed surfing the web rather than reviewing my lists and prepping for the meeting.

By the time I left home, I was feeling panicky. Anxious over the quality of the project and how it would be received by someone who didn’t know me and already like me. I was actually in tears before I left, thinking the worst of myself and my abilities, sure that what I can do just isn’t good enough. I knew I couldn’t walk into a professor’s office in tears. Fortunately I also know that J(wh) can usually talk me through my anxiety. So I called him and we talked as I drove. He made me articulate what I hoped to achieve with this meeting. I talked through the theoretical points of my project and avenues I’m trying to explore to enhance those theoretical interests. And I took the time to get control of my breathing. By the time I got to the professor’s office I was much calmer.

Which is a very good thing. Because after I summed up my project and explained what I needed help with, the professor’s first order of business was to understand my background in the program. And when he heard I was approaching the end of my fourth year enrolled, his immediate response was to tell me I would run out of teaching support if I didn’t pass my exams by the end of my 12th quarter. Which surprised me. And threw me into a new panic because funding is one of my perpetual sources of anxiety and stress. If J(wh) hadn’t helped me talk through my previous anxiety, I think I would have broken down into tears on the spot. Fortunately I kept it together, though not well enough to realize I’ve only had ten quarters of teaching support so I’m actually still on track for the schedule I’d set for myself (completing exams before the end of Winter 2009).

The meeting ended up being primarily useful in terms of very practical advice about timing and committee formation and meetings, etc. And a promise to review my lists and make suggestions. After I calmed myself down a bit, I realized that I still had enough time to get my exams done while funded. And I called J(wh) and he talked me through my second bout of anxiety for the morning. All of which made me realize how very important it is that instead of fearing what I don’t know and so avoiding knowing it, I need to just find out what the reality is. Even if the reality is bad, at least I’ll know it rather than fearing the unknown. And I can only solve known problems. I know that sounds simple—like something I should just understand. But sometimes the simple things are the hardest to deal with.

27 April 2008

Projected:

Pages to read: 100. Eliot's Middlemarch. Rosamond and Lydgate are engaged, blithely ignoring the financial realities they'll face. Fred has just discovered he'll inherit nothing, while the stranger Joshua Riggs inherits all. And Will Ladislaw has returned to Middlemarch, much to Dorothea and Mr. Causubon's (who I always think of as Mr. Causubon, not Edward) surprise.

To accomplish: Email potential committee members to make appointments. Rough out C list.



26 April 2008

Why this blog?

A little over a year ago, I decided not to return to grad school. Not for the first time. I'd taken a quarter off (also not for the first time) for various reasons, one of which was that I had not finished an incomplete in time to receive funding for the fall quarter. But not finishing that paper was simply a symptom of much larger problems--problems to do with deeply rooted insecurities and depression. So I'd taken the quarter off and as my deadline loomed to finish the work and as I felt more and more stressed in the face of not having completed it, I decided that I'd had it with the strain of earning a PhD. I notified my department and started taking steps to pursue other options.

I knew I still wanted to teach, so I looked at available jobs in local community colleges. And I started filling out an application for a private school head-hunting firm. Applying for jobs requires letters of recommendation, so I contacted my supervisor for teaching and my academic adviser to ask for letters. And I called an old professor, J, from my years as an undergrad. He was the closest thing to a mentor I'd had. And we stayed good friends after I graduated and went on my way. He wasn't in when I called, so I left a message: I'm dropping out. I'm looking for a job. Would you write me a letter?

A couple of days later, J called me back. I wasn't looking forward to this call. I knew it would be difficult. He's always encouraged me to pursue my PhD and to teach at a university. And I was right--the conversation was not an easy one. But it was an incredibly rewarding one. In that hour spent talking while I sat in the shade on a friend's driveway, J recounted his own grad school experience to me. The hours spent shooting trashcan hoops instead of working. The guilt of knowing that his wife was supporting him while he made no progress. The self-doubt that constantly nagged at him. The power games his dissertation chair played with him. All in an effort to make me understand that I'm not alone in my discouragement and frustrations with grad school.

At some point in that conversation, J passed on advice someone had given him. "It's like being lost in the wilderness. Whatever you do--no matter how unsure you are about which way to go--you have to keep moving. Because if you sit down, you'll never get out of the wilderness. You just have to keep moving." That advice resonated with me. I knew I simply had to do what needed to be done--that nothing else could better prevent the negative, self-destructive thought cycles I caught myself in. And in the year since J shared that advice, I've heard it from several others--from Seymour, who started this program with me nearly 5 years ago; from 'The Dean' (JP) and 'The Doctor' (RAF), who Seymour introduced me to and who have been an amazing source of support; even from new acquaintances I don't know all that well. I intend this blog to help in my effort to keep moving.

And how will it do that? I anticipate it helping me keep moving in two key ways:

Obligation: If I know that others know what I'm supposed to be doing and how well I'm fulfilling those obligations, I'm much more likely to act. In other words, I don't always do so well when only accountable to myself. By making my progress public and easily accessible to those who may care, I'm applying a bit of pressure. I've particularly got The Dean and The Doctor in mind, as they have effective pointy figurative boots with which to give me a kick. But if any of the rest of you want to join in the prod-Amy-to-finish exercise, please feel free.

Recognition: One of the destructive thought cycles I find myself in is thinking I've accomplished nothing. This often happens because I think on a large scale about my projects, rather than thinking in terms of the small daily steps that must be taken. I find that when I have some means of recording what I actually accomplish each day--no matter how small it is--I'm able to break that cycle and continue moving. So this blog will not only communicate to others what I'm doing, it will also force me to recognize my own accomplishment. Something I need any help I can get with, as I'm my own worst critic (who isn't, really?).

I'm not entirely sure exactly how this will end up working. It's just an idea that occurred to me this afternoon as I was working in my office (yes--I spent most of my Saturday working in my 8x10 office; yay me!). I have a few ideas about what I can do here that will help others help me and that will help me recognize what I need to do and what I have done. A few things you'll see here:
  • Goals for daily reading. I'm prepping for my qualifying exams, which translates to a lot of reading. I'm going to try to set a goal each day and report on whether I met it.
  • A weekly (maybe daily?) task list of things I'd like to accomplish. This may show up on the side bar. Or it may show up in an entry. I haven't decided yet.
  • Reading notes. I really need to start keeping track of what I'm reading for my lists in a more organized fashion. I doubt these will be of interest to many people other than me, but hey--if you really want to know what I think about surveillance in Villette or preconception in Middlemarch, feel free to peruse.
  • Reviews of useful works of criticism.
  • Lists of useful web resources.
If you have suggestions for how I can make this blog a useful tool, I'd love to hear them. And if you have suggestions for useful research management devices, I'd love to hear those, too.

Wish me well as I renew my commitment to this venture. It's time for me to start moving out of the wilderness.