Once upon a time there was a Victorianist with a dream and that dream was to selectively blog her way through The Oxford Book of Victorian Verse, rescuing the obscure and occasionally poking fun at the canonical on a more or less weekly basis.

So, um…hi, blog. Sorry that I’ve been so quiet. The sad fact of the matter is that I’ve been busy, but busy mostly with being things other than a Victorianist (dream-inspired or otherwise). But I mean, it’s not like I have an MLA paper on Robert Browning to give in two months or anything….

Oh, wait. Yeah. Browning. Sigh.

I circumlocute. Among the things I’ve had the opportunity to learn about myself so far this semester is the rather dismal fact that my attention span is about 12 minutes. On a good day.

What you’re going to get from me in this post is something between an accounting of what it is I’ve been doing lately and a kind cri de coeur from the land of ABD (hence the News from a non-utopian Nowhere). All joking aside, I’m in a punishingly hard semester in terms of teaching and other work obligations — 8 a.m. classes and 12-hour days, with weeks punctuated by meetings that take me an hour to get to. Though I’m not really complaining — a lot of what I’m doing is at least intermittently satisfying, I’ve managed to take the advice my adviser gave me (in slightly stronger language) a couple of department parties ago with regards to not messing up my personal life, and I think I’ve actually managed to change some of my working and general life habits to match the reality of my work and life rather than hoping that reality will somehow bend to accommodate me. In a weird (and probably quasi-Victorian) way, I’m almost happy. And all of this is, I think, going to make me much better off in the long run, both in material terms (if nothing else, this is the first year I’ll make more  money than I did seven years ago as the office manager of a small nonprofit that shall remain nameless in Chicago) and in the lasting changes to my work habits, mindfulness, and focus.

In the meantime, though, I’ve also come to feel a definite narrowing in my intellectual life. It feels too much like my writing is being pushed to the margins, that I’m working twelve hour days on teaching and other stuff so that I can maybe sit down with my computer for two or three hours. Which is sort of a manifestation or symptom of what might be a kind of identity crisis for me — part of why I’ve been struggling lately is that I always seem to be losing my grip on my “scholarly” identity and finding myself scrambling to reassemble it. My scholarship and my teaching don’t overlap very much right now — though I am teaching a mini-unit on De Profundis, it’s still a composition course and even the way I teach Wilde is a bit of a relic from an earlier version of my scholarly self (circa 2007-08 or so) — and the same goes for my other job, which is a gig in Writing Across the Curriculum where I’m partnering with people far out of my field.

On any given day, then, my Victorianist / Long Nineteenth Century / Poetics and Theory persona isn’t the one that’s first in my mind — and if it is, I’m likely also nervous and stressed out about the tangle I’ve gotten myself into with Browning’s “An Epistle Containing the Strange Medical Experience of Karshish, the Arab Physician,” the subject of my upcoming MLA paper and my third dissertation chapter, but OMG can I really write an entire dissertation chapter on one single relatively short Browning poem that most normal people read once to appreciate the faith / skepticism tension and nod because we know that Jesus is the answer and then move onto something really important like The Ring and the Book and does this just make me look like I’m too dumb to work on actual Browning? &c. — the italicized portions being somewhat like the last time I talked to my aforementioned adviser who, after listening to me spend 20 minutes trying to articulate the thesis of my chapter commented that my problem was that my mind was too subtle. I’m pretty sure that was a compliment and, to be fair, I did leave that meeting feeling slightly more confident that this will all, eventually, come together and also with a better sense of where I was wasting my energy.

And it’s really since that meeting that I’ve begun to be able to explore the sources of my dissatisfaction with whatever progress I am or am not making. And I’m coming to realize that when I say (as I have been since late July), “I feel like I’ve been writing and rewriting the same twelve pages on ‘An Epistle’ since June,” the part that stresses me out the most is the part where I’ve been writing about one freaking poem. I mean, again, “An Epistle” ain’t The Ring and the Book and it doesn’t take a Browning Society to see that Jesus is the answer. I do think that ultimately it is a poem worth the effort I’ve put into it, but I’ve also begun to see that there’s a danger in this being the only poem I’m ever reading ever — and it’s beginning to feel that way. I realized with a start last weekend that I simply miss reading — I spent some lovely hours with Jean-Francois Lyotard this week that felt like 2005 all over again.

And it’s these kinds of sentiments (well, and Mia’s gentle prodding) that have brought me back, humbly, to the blog. I need to find the thread again. I need to be sharing my ideas with people who aren’t college freshmen, as delightful as they are. I need to talk about my dissertation in a way that’s a bit deeper than “oh, so what are you writing about?” — I need to find my way through the field again. I hope I haven’t painted too bleak a picture in the foregoing paragraphs — I’m not unhappy about anything so much as I want to make things better, to make room in my life for the thing that brought me here in the first place, with the ideas that got me into MLA and Victorian Poetry.

So let’s see how this goes. I would like to think of my return to blogging here from ABDland as something that could be complementary to Mia’s work on her orals lists, a way of both trying out ideas and inspirations and of reflecting on the process and the life as a whole. If I’m feeling frisky I might just get crazy and pull out the OBVV again.

In the meantime, this is officially the longest post ever, so I will thank you all for indulging a post more personal than scholarly. I also think I might go reread Derrida’s “Psyche: Inventions of the Other”…or maybe some Browning that is not about Lazarus or the Bible or resurrection as troping as referential uncertainty. Just another Saturday in Paradise, yo.

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