Tuesday, March 24, 2009

That damned book again.

This week, I'm set to participate in a workshop for a few faculty at my institution, led by a scholar of some large stature and reputation and voluminous publication history, with the goal of helping us move toward the publication of some in-progress book projects. It's a very nice idea, and I have to admire my institution for setting it up--my chair, rather, who does a lot to encourage and support those who want to be productive scholars.

I'm actually pretty happy with the chapter we'll be workshopping from my project. It's a good solid chapter, perhaps my only fully realized and complete one, with no lingering loose ends. But I have a knot in my stomach about the workshop nevertheless, and I'm just realizing that I may have a problem with this book that no amount of workshopping with whatever famous scholars want to drop by might help.

I've just recently understood that I haven't really managed to do any real work on this book since my ex and I divided up property. I was going great guns on it while my marriage was faltering (obviously: scholarly work a place to get AWAY from real life), and wrote with fabulous energy a couple of good chapters and a book proposal during the long separation. But I haven't really been able to do anything on it since our split became more formalized.

My fear is that this book has become inexorably linked in my mind with a really painful period in my life, and that I am loath to revisit that mental space. "Loath to"? Maybe (cue the nausea) "unable": I'm supposed to present a paper on Herbert at a conference NEXT WEEK, and not only have I NOT started the paper, I don't even know what it's going to be on. No idea. Not even a poem or issue in my head. I feel paralyzed every time I think about starting it. I'm hoping I can surmount that paralysis on the airplane on the way to the conference and bang SOMETHING out.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Faerie Queene Book 4

Okay. I've hit a little bump in my happy revisit of FQ. Book 4 is, I'm afraid, just unspeakably dull to me. Yes, there's the humor of the tournement/ beauty pageant, and the satisfaction of Britomart's conquest of Arthegall (though it disturbs me greatly that she becomes a mewling stereotype of womanhood at the end of canto 6, after all her deeds of derring-do). But there's just not all that much BEYOND plot going on in Book 4, and there's so very much of the plot.... I just can't find much to sink my teeth into. I can say, "Ah! The text's two most vital friendships are those between Spenser and Chaucer (who ride linked in lovely wise) and Spenser and the reader (who need to learn to be)." But I fear it's just not all that interesting, and I'm frankly glad to be back in troubled-allegory territory with Book 5.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Old red-eyes is back.

(Five bucks if you can name the band who recorded that song by the end of this post.)

Since long-distance relationships have been the subject of some blog-conversation, I thought I'd mention that I have to leave tomorrow night/Wednesday morning at one a.m. to go "present" at a "symposium" at Neruda's college on Wednesday afternoon. (Translation: what can we scheme up to get our institutions to cover our travel costs to see one another?)

It sucks being across the country, but I have to say that it sucks more how I have to work like mad BETWEEN our visits, to make up for all the stuff (grading, prep-reading, writing a conference paper that I have to present in 3 weeks) I don't do when we're blissfully together and devoting all our mooney eyes to one another.

Does anyone have love-time-efficiency advice? Does anyone think it's pathetic that such a question must be asked?

(The Beautiful South, from 0898 Beautiful South, 1992).

(And did you know that Fatboy Slim used to be in the Housemartins, with PD Heaton, who went on to form the Beautiful South?)

(I've just moved into the "F"s, in my endless upload-the-CDs-to-iTunes project.)

Friday, March 6, 2009

Shrinking violet.

That'd be me. Some who know me might be surprised at that admission, because I have--shall we say--quite a large personality. I may have mentioned in some previous post that I couldn't play guitar well enough to be a rock star so I became a professor instead. I am tall, loud, aggressive, assertive, and (I'm told) project confidence in all my interactions.

Why is it, then, that when a lovely friend invites me to get involved in the scholarly organization with which she does a lot of work, my first response is to quail, inwardly, and feel the chill of terror, and wonder whether anyone would want me there besides the lovely friend?

Why is it that I feel so awkward introducing myself to other scholars in my field, and often become a graceless babbler when I should be mustering up my most impressive behavior?

Why, with some decent publications and a good degree, do I think I am completely without worth in my field--an imposter, an interloper, a presumptuous fraud?...and will that feeling go away if I ever (and I think this is the root of it right here) can write that rat-fracking-sonuvabitchen book?

(On one hand, I hope it goes away if I by some miracle get my shit together and publish that book. On the other hand, it'd be nice if it'd just go away...you know, as if I had some value independent of my cv.)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The key to Spenser.

Perhaps not THE key, but MY key. I remember reading The Faerie Queene twice during gradaute school, and while I enjoyed Books 1 and 3, the rest of it got a little tedious. Around the middest of the race, maybe a couple of cantos into Book 4, I'd think, "My lordy, when will this sucker END?!!" And, as time went on, the constant grad-school early British survey teaching rotation of Books 1 and 3 flattened those out a little bit for me as well.

So it was with some curiosity, not to say trepidation, that I proposed my current All-FQ-All-the-Time grad course. Would I grow bored halfway through? Would I run out of energy, and resent having to read all those inevitable papers on Redcrosse's flaws or Britomart's gender negotiations?

I'm happy to report that I'm enjoying the text very much this time around, and I think it's because I've decided to ignore the plot, to stop waiting for the resolution of this or that subnarrative, to stop caring whether Florimell is rescued from Proteus or whether Timias ends up with Belphoebe. (For the record: it's been enough years that I don't really remember the answer to those questions.)

Instead, I'm reading it as a text about poetry, and I have to say, I'm enthralled. I am in the Bower of Bliss, this space of artistic production which reflects on the nature of both nature and art. I am Grylle, and I like being a pig. And I think the text wants me to feel that way, which is why it's constantly subverting its allegories. I'm thinking the text doesn't care about its allegories as much as it cares about poetic pleasure. And I can do THAT, baby.