Welcome (back!)

If you’re new to Writing Haywood, welcome!  There’s an about button at the top of this page for more on who I am/what I do.  I haven’t posted here since October, so clearly I have some catching up to do, but I was recently inspired by a couple of things to start posting again:

A) my ever-lovely dissertation partner, Alison Dean, recently vamped up her own professional site for a conference, and it’s gorgeous! You can swoon over it here.

B) I’ve been revising an article for The Journal of Early Modern Cultural Studies, and it has been an interesting (and hard! and rewarding!) experience, and one that I want to write a longer post on soon, so what better way than to write a mini post before I even write the post? [I have been a PhD student too long.]

C) I also fiddled around with the template for this site (the banner rotates when you refresh the page–fancy!), and I wanted to tell you about a review I have out in Aphra Behn Online.  It’s a review of an edited edition of Haywood’s The Rash Resolve and Life’s Progress, edited by Carol Stewart.  It was so great to see a scholarly, edited version out for the first time, and I enjoyed reviewing it.  You can read it here.  While you’re at it, check out the awesome project that is Aphra Behn Online!  With a focus on women’s writing in the long 18th century, ABO encourages open-access scholarship and other cool, thinking-outside-the-academic-box type things like articles on pedagogy and reviews of websites and art installations.

I guess that’s it for my welcome back, especially since I should be working on my revision [whomp whomp].  Thanks for stopping by, and more soon on applying to/editing/revising your first publication.  Comment below if you want to hear anything specific about the process (I’m looking at you, graduate students) or give any advice about the process (I’m looking at you, seasoned publishers).

Playing School: Case Studies in Academic (Dis)Enchantment

A few days ago, I watched my four-year-old niece sharpen each of her #2 pencils and then choose brightly colored eraser tops for them. The sharpener crunched and brought back that familiar tension as I waited for her to turn it one time too far and break the point, but she didn’t.  She quickly caught on to the joy that is the perfect pencil point and the eraser top, much to my delight.  Then, she opened her puppy-themed notebook and began to print her name. I held my breath in excitement and waited to be asked for help.  A plea never came, and I watched in rapture as she continued to draw and write all sorts of things…her name, a mermaid, a list for the grocery store.  The afternoon stood still as I watched her big, bright eyes wait for a task.  She tackled drawing shapes, coloring little pictures I drew for her, and tracing her name over and over.  The whole thing felt kind of magical, like I was reliving a part of my own childhood and watching something unfold in her, too.

The fun of playing “school” continued the next day–the last day of summer.  In order to get ready for school, my niece practiced reciting her lunch number, her address, her birthday.  Prodded by my mom’s love for teaching (my mom is her pre-k teacher, and an amazing one at that) my niece made all of us (we each had different school roles: principal, teacher, lunch lady, janitor) play along. She sharpened. She completed tasks. She recited her lunch number for the lunch lady (her mom) and received crackers for her efforts. She beamed when we ooohed and ahhhed over her “work.” In that moment, it occurred to me that we were her audience in her own little drama; the people who would pass judgement on her drawings and writings (albeit never negatively…the kid’s awesome!).

My niece’s joie de vivre–even about things unrelated to school supplies–is catching.  But watching her light up over something as simple as sharpeners, #2 pencils, and new notebooks made me feel so nostalgic for those back-to-school shopping trips, for the Lisa Frank trapper-keepers (children of the 90’s say “yeahhhh”), and for all the positive feelings that attended a new school year.  But besides just being so in love with her and her intelligence and zest for life, I remembered that it must be so nice to only be accustomed to positive feedback.

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The other day, we were my niece’s fan club. Every square she drew correctly, we rejoiced. Every time she “punched in” her lunch code, we cheered.  What a thrill to know that you have a fan club, I thought.  If she wasn’t so durn cute, I’d probably envy her.  And I don’t wish her a lifetime of only having a cheering section, either.  When it comes down to it, I hope she gains positive and constructive feedback all along her academic journey–but only the kind that builds her up and makes her better, smarter, stronger.  I want her to be criticized out of love and out of a sense of betterment for her own sake–not because of a future teacher’s ego or position of power.  I hope each grade and each school and each college course builds on its predecessor and shapes and forms her into the kind of thoughtful, intelligent young woman she’ll grow to be.

I wish all of these things for her because I love her and because the experience of watching her play school these past couple of days has really touched on something I’ve been thinking about so much recently: the question of academic audience.  I have been struggling with the format of the dissertation for quite a while now: the hoops, the endless revision, the feedback, the hoops, the endless revision, the feedback (repeat).  I feel like I’m stuck in a washing machine that won’t finish a cycle.  Part of me knows this is par for the course, and several valued friends who are on the other side of the degree have told me to hold on and buckle down.  But at what expense?

All of this is really about my voice.  When I watched my niece so favorably received by her fan club (us) the other day, it occurred to me that she was actively articulating a new experience for a group of people who enjoyed listening.  I’m not saying that anyone who reads my dissertation must have a pleasurable experience (far from it, probably), but I am saying that it makes sense for me to want to please those who read it.  And when I take out my own voice for the sake of argument, or academic prose style, I lose something.  Some part of me is erased from the draft and replaced by a well-turned academic phrase or a dry reference to another source.  And so I wonder, is a dissertation really not a narrative of the years spent making it?  If I can’t put my own spin on it, if it really must be this hoop-jumping beast of THING, what does it actually do and whom does it benefit?

The first part of this blog, about my niece’s experiences with school, seems germane enough for a blog post at the end of August, but it was also an experiment with writing a tad more creatively about an academic subject (loss of voice/self in dissertation writing…in case that hasn’t come across).  And it was hard.  I labored over most of it.  I wondered if I was being clear, if the whole thing had a point.  I worried about offending the people who calmly and collectedly read every.single.draft I turn it.  But then I remembered that those people probably aren’t reading this, and I remembered that this is a blog, and here I have a voice.  This is about finding a way to make my experience better and more productive, and I know everyone involved in this process wants that for me.  So if I have to blog about finding ways to make this whole thing run more smoothly, then that seems fair enough.

So I’m trying to come up with ways to re-insert my own voice into my writing.  If that means journaling for a bit before I start writing every morning, that seems okay.  If it means that I ask other people to read chapters for a more positive experience with my audience, then that seems fair.  What do you think?  Are there any other ways to put myself back into my writing, to light up like a four year old the night before school starts?  I really want to know.

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PhD lifestyle guilt

I think this goes along nicely with my post about people asking me when I’ll graduate. For me, the PhD IS my job, and while there are times I dislike it, I mostly love it! I wish the guilt over “when I’ll get out” didn’t exist.

The Thesis Whisperer

This post was written by Paula Hanaszwho is currently writing a thesis on the geopolitics of water security in South Asia at The ANU. She is enrolled at the Australia National University but currently spends more time on her couch than in her office or the library.

I’m going to take a moment out of my busy study schedule to interrupt yours by telling you about my experiences with PhD Lifestyle Guilt. This is, as the name might suggest, the perennial guilt about having the sort of life where ‘work’ involves sitting around on the couch reading interesting stuff, and getting grants to go to international conferences.

easy chairOf course the PhD Lifestyle is not like that for everybody. I’m fortunate enough that, in Australia at least, writing a thesis in the humanities means no coursework. And no coursework means very little reason to be on campus. Ever…

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Catch-up, catch-all

Hello!  I’ve been a pretty delinquent blogger.  In fact, I don’t think I’ve posted at all this summer.  Apologies to anyone out there who cares.  May was a mad dash to finish a chapter, and June and July have been a mad dash to research and read for another chapter.  The circle is, unfortunately, unbroken.  But the good news is that I find this chapter moving along much more quickly after the slog that was the last.  I’m not sure my committee was entirely happy with the finished-for-now draft of the last chapter, but hey, it’s tabled for now (thank you, PhD gods!).  And the main thing I’ve learned from dissertating is that there will always be revisions.  My friend Ali calls the process “revisercising.”  And good lord is revisercising difficult.  It’s like  a small taste of Prometheus’s plight.  Except minus the liver being pecked out part.  Anyway, you, my target audience, probably already know all about this, so I’ll stop regaling you with tales of revisionary woe.  Instead, I’ll tell you about my recent trip to Vancouver.

As you may know, I dissertate from afar, so trips back to the motherland (Simon Fraser University) are precious gems in which I get to see all my advisors, close friends, and basically gain wind in my sails on which to float back to my isolated academic existence in Atlanta (it’s really not so bad, but it wasn’t very fun to be a little fledgling at first).  Anyway, I had a lovely time in Vancouver.  I had two meetings with my primary advisor, one with my second reader, one with my third, and two meetings with librarians.  I also had plenty of (in person!) State of the Union-esque talks with my dissertation partner, and lots of life talks with people who support me in this degree.  It’s amazing what a little sunshine (in rainy Vancouver!) and good talks will do for morale.  So here are some life and work pictures to bring my blog up to speed:

ImageChapter two is on Visual Representations of Haywood, and so I’ve been scouring various miscellanies from about 1700-1730ish to find uses of printers ornaments in texts that directly correlate to ideas of authorship (just thought I’d catch you up on what I’ve been up to before I launch into more narrative about being back at school).  This one is from Anne Finch’s Miscellany Poems, On Several Occasions (1713). These cherubs are quite obviously female, but my advisor pointed out (this is why we have advisors!) that they look like amazons–each has a smaller or deformed right breast.  This got me thinking about the correlations between Anne Finch’s proclaimed resistance to publication (“Did I, my lines for public view/ How many censures would their faults pursue…”) and the obvious authoritative nature of a printer’s ornament with two amazon cherubs clutching laurels.  There seems to be some sort of effort on the part of printers to use printer’s ornaments as narrative devices, and this next chapter will look at these ornaments and try to make such a claim.  I’m also co-presenting a paper with my colleague, Alison Dean, about printer’s ornaments and portraiture and the ways in which visual culture shapes our understanding of 18th century female authorship.  It’s so fun to use Ali’s expertise in photography (she’s a modernist who’s working on photography) to critically read these ornaments and portraits.  At some point, I’d like to write a post on collaborating as a PhD student, but I’ll put that one aside for now until we have some more experience under our collective belt.  Anyone with any tips on academic collaboration should feel free to leave us some advice in the comments!

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Here’s another example of the cross-over between representations of female authorship in text and in printer’s ornament.  This is a banner in Miscellaneous Works in Prose and Verse of Mrs. Elizabeth Rowe.  Doesn’t that profile of the woman in the banner just exude authority?  Framed by cherubs and scroll, this woman sits at the center of the banner and announces the beginning of a new text in the Miscellany.  On a pedestal and ensconced within her own frame, we can read the woman as both separate from the reader (the Author) and as intimate to us (the frame is indicative of a broach, an intimate little portrait to be worn at the neck).  Certainly, she demands our attention.  It’s been fun to look at these ornaments in works by/about Haywood and to expand this to ornaments in the works of Finch, Rowe, Pope, and Richardson.  I look forward to seeing where both this chapter and my collaboration with Ali take this idea of narrative and visual symbiosis.  But back to Vancouver:

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School flags at the downtown business campus

The connections between the visual and the textual seem to bleed off the pages of eighteenth-century texts and into my life.  Something about just getting to see things like SFU’s flags made me feel more hopeful about my existence in Atlanta and my dissertation in general.  Of course, this was bolstered by a lot of good support from friends and committee members, but sometimes you just need to be in a place, you know?  And speaking of being in a place:

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Ali took this one (^) of me in my office.  I still have an office because I’m a tutor marker for an online course, but it’s the same office I had when I was around, so it feels kind of like an office home.  And the weather was so sunny and perfect outside my window–not unlike another gift from the PhD gods.  Here’s me, the Vancouver Skyline, and a perfectly wonderful sunset:

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All in all, this was a perfectly bolstering trip.  Next up, the British Library in the Fall!