Righteous Anger: Third and Fourth Times Are Charms?

Two more armed robberies in my building this morning. I was out today because it’s my birthday (or, the anniversary of Tank Day in my family: my birth story involving transportation by National Guard tank is here), so I missed all the hullabaloo, including one colleague throwing out the idea that librarians should start patrolling the floors with pepper spray and walkie talkies.

(NB: I would like to go on record here that THERE IS NO WAY IN HELL that I am volunteering to “patrol” any part of the library for criminal behavior. That is so very much NOT MY FREAKING JOB, and the person who is suggesting this has always had, shall we say, a rather exaggerated sense of what our responsibilities to our students are.)

Here’s the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on where things are.

This paragraph makes me want to bang my head against walls: “One factor at play may be the isolated study areas of the library, which may allow robbers to remain hidden, Mullis said.” Previous comments by the police in the student paper had also suggested that students wanting to study “alone” might be a “problem.”

IT’S A LIBRARY. IT’S OK FOR STUDENTS TO WANT TO STUDY IN QUIET SPACES. REALLY.

The local NPR story on today’s incidents makes it sound like we have crackerjack security systems in place to make sure only students get in. Not at all the case; our security actually seems pretty lax and seems also to be mostly student workers. (Not to put student workers down, just meaning more to suggest how security gets hired and paid. We probably do need more professional security staff).

Closing to the general public is probably something we should have done awhile ago, but it’s an issue because we have a certain mandate to be open to the public (I think because of our government documents?). I think it’s a good step, though.

I’ve been inclined to think metal detectors, but it’s been pointed out that they would go off constantly because of the laptop traffic. (Laptop theft is not uncommon in the library; you really, really don’t want to leave your laptop unattended. The difference now is that these are, um, attended laptops that are being stolen).

So I don’t know. I will say that it is a strange feeling to have some of your workplace’s significant problems suddenly laid bare for public viewing—in this case, the laxness of our security, but for me personally, at a deeper level, the very real communication issues we experience on a pretty regular basis. People expect me to be able to tell them what’s going on (hey, I’m supposed to be the department liaison, right?) but there’s literally nothing being told to me, so I’m as much in the dark as faculty and students are. Which is not a comfortable thing, but it’s especially uncomfortable when you feel like you’re not supposed to reveal this lack of communication… while at the same time feeling like an idiot because you look like you just aren’t very smart.

The colleague keeping the count of number of days without an armed robbery said he came in this morning and found that someone had set the number back to zero, since his start time was after this morning’s two robberies.

cover, Megan Marshall, Margaret Fuller: A New American Life

DTMFTEA!

DTMFTEA!

In other news, it was a super awesome day NOT to go in to work. I slept in, hung out at a coffee shop and did some reading, opened some presents, caught up on laundry. I’m nearing finishing Megan Marshall’s biography of Margaret Fuller, and relieved that I’ve gotten through the Transcendental section, because I kept imagining Captain Awkward‘s advice to Fuller on her relationship with Emerson, which was pretty much DTMFA. Or, rather, “Dump the MF-ing Transparent Eyeball Already” (DTMFTEA).

Righteous Anger: Another Blog Post I Can’t Write

Did the perp tell you he was an alligator, by any chance?

Did the perp tell you he was an alligator, by any chance?

Recent events at my workplace have been discussed in the student newspaper (don’t want to link). The police mention that the fact that there are students in our library who want to study alone “may be a problem.” Those crazy reckless students, studying alone in the library! We do technically have a policy that the study rooms are for group work only, but if a room is open, you can grab it even if you’re alone. The second robbery took place in one of those study rooms. That… isn’t really how we’d enforce that rule.

The robberies were also described as “strange and unique” because they’ve only happened twice. I submit that there’s a difference between “twice in a couple of years” or even “twice in a year” and “twice in less than a month, when the building was shut down altogether for two weeks in between incidents.”

And because of all the David Bowie love that’s been ambient for the last while (and I certainly have my own from-adolescence-on stories of Bowie-love [except for the 90s]—to this day, my personal mental music video for “Starman” is set in my rural college town) I couldn’t help thinking that “strange and unique” made it sound like David Bowie had broken into the library.

[CHUNG CHUNG!]

Hudson University student/Victim: “I don’t know, first he said he was an alligator, then his mama and papa were coming for me, then he said he was a space invader, then something about rock ‘n’ rolling bitches… it was really confusing. He had weird red hair, too.”

Lenny Briscoe: “Did he by any chance tell you you were squawking like a… a bird of some kind? Maybe a monkey bird?”

Victim: “Yes! A pink monkey bird! How did you know?”

Lenny Briscoe: “We’ve had our electric eye on him for awhile. Did he put any kind of ray gun to your head?”

Victim: “Yes! And then he just kind of… freaked out.”

Lenny Briscoe: (sarcastically) “I guess that’s how you know he really cared.”

Passing Tones: Happy Dance!

Happy dance!

Happy dance!

About seven-plus hours of writing today, I’ve finally finished a good, solid, showable draft of my Seventeen article, fully expanded from the SHCY conference paper.

Best moment: realizing that a quote I was already using from Eve Sedgwick would allow me to explain my rationale for not wanting to focus on the adult women the teen reviewers became. In her 1987 essay “A Poem Is Being Written,” Sedgwick opens by representing the essay as “a claim for respectful attention to the intellectual and artistic life of a nine-year-old child, Eve Kosofsky,” noting that “[that child] is allowed to speak, or I to speak of her, only here in the space of professional success and of hyperconscious virtuosity, conscious not least of the unusually narrow stylistic demands that hedge about any language that treats one’s own past.” [emphasis added]. (Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, “A Poem Is Being Written,” in Tendencies, Series Q [Durham: Duke University Press, 1993], 177).

So, I went on to write: “This article is meant also to be an example of respectful attention to the intellectual and artistic life not simply of Eve Kosofsky—though it is—but also to the intellectual lives of the other teenaged young women and men who wrote for Seventeen magazine during the 1950s and 1960s.”

I like that. Sedgwick has certainly been a kind of muse for this project.

 

Quotes: Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, A Dialogue on Love (1999)

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick

Image from nytimes.com

[Poetry] was my first vocation, first identity—from early childhood on into my thirties. (When my grandmother lost her memory and didn’t know our names or relationships, she still mouthed, pointing at me, “The poet?”) Poetry both my first love, I guess, and first self—always with the most excruciating blockages—gone now for years. Really gone for a decade. I can’t think about it; I don’t; when I used to, it would make me crazy. I don’t know if it was depression that drove this muse away or if it was the long rocky strand of her loss that made my depression.

I do know I’m incredibly fortunate in my second love. Never expected to be able to pour my self and energies into critical writing, have them so answered… (p. 65)

How are you bearing it, [her therapist Shannon] asks me later—the death that’s all around you? Isn’t the oppression of it too much for you?

But after a month or two, my image of it is different. Stan is dying. Nina has reappeared as in a Shakespearean romance. Gary is dying. But then, my poetry has returned. And returning with it, and with Shannon’s escort, is some of the long-ago life of the girl whose first passion it was. What it’s feeling like to me isn’t death, but a great, upwelling flux of mutability

as if, falling in,
you’d emerge young—old—dead—a
different person                     (p. 136)

Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, A Dialogue on Love (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999), pp. 65 and 136.

Resolutions: New Year’s, 2016

Philosopher friend knows me well, sends the right gifts, even down to getting my homesickness for the 19th century: that’s an Alice in Wonderland Moleskine notebook to go with Sadness and the colored pens.

I tend to favor one-word verbs as resolutions. This year, my resolutions need a few extra words:

  • Eat gently
  • Walk with purpose
  • Cry when necessary
  • Dance when necessary
  • Read assertively
  • Write with certainty
  • Attend to poetry
  • Call home

I’m still working out a time to talk with my advisor. But in the meantime, I’ve been letting myself answer my usual statement “I can’t go back to my dissertation” with “Wait, why not?” The reasons why not have been asserting themselves, but interestingly, I seem to have answers for them this time around. Many of those answers seem rooted in something another scholar said to me once: “You aren’t with those [people] anymore.” (Bleep!)

I did also originally think that I would go back to the nineteenth century after I used the Dinny article to work out some ideas I had. Seventeen was a direction I hadn’t imagined going in.

There were extremely valid, self-care-oriented reasons for letting go of my dissertation. There are now valid, self-care-oriented reasons for revisiting the ideas now. I hadn’t really realized how much of my sense of having completely lost my scholarly identity has been bound up in having more or less abandoned my dissertation. After I got in touch with my advisor, I read the first six pages of the introductory chapter while I was visiting my parents and sat down and wrote out eight dense pages of notes in response. I could see what had stopped me, what I’d add now (different from what I was encouraged to add then), what I’d cut (that’s a real blessing, since the chapters are too long). I feel like I’m dancing with my dissertation. Or my younger self. It’s pretty much the same thing. It’s a good thing.

Is it possible to have two distinct projects? Because I don’t know how to make these two different projects intersect. They both have meaning to me, but I’m palpably missing my “home” time period and want to spend some energy there, too. The real difficulty is trying to square multiple research projects with a nonacademic job. And the reality is, I have significant chunks of research done already from the dissertation. And the biggest collection for one of the women poets I’m mentally auditioning for an added chapter is at UVA, a day’s drive away, and I have friends in Charlottesville I’ve been wanting to see. And I just can’t seem to organize my thoughts on the postwar project in a way that approaches chapters, which feels both frustrating and stalling.

As for 2016, I’d like to it to be the way this song sounds:

 

Breaking

Post (probably) approved by Brian Eno.

Post (probably) approved by Brian Eno.

I’m leaving Twitter for awhile and also think that I need to rethink this particular blog. I’ve had a rough semester in many ways (except, of course, for the fun of teaching the dating-history class) and feel like I need to reduce my presence in the electronic world because I have too many problematic “real life” things going on that need my attention. I’ve been thinking about Flavia’s post awhile back (Writing When No One’s Reading) about finding her old journals and realizing that she couldn’t write that way now because writing a public blog was changing how she wrote about certain kinds of things.

My response to that, right now, is to reverse course. I need to be writing in those journals and I need to focus on the “real life” things going on without feeling like I need to sanitize or otherwise repress what’s happening to make it safe for an audience. Given my own particular circumstances, I may not really need another space where I’m watching what I say as closely as I have to everywhere else. I’m visiting my parents for part of my break, and there’s a palpable relief in being around people who’ve known me for, well, literally all of my life.

I don’t know where I am with my research at the moment, and I don’t want to perform that confusion in a public space right now. What I really need is a conversation with my dissertation director, which may or may not be a possibility. I am literally in need of face-to-face advising; I can just hear my grad-school boyfriend reading this mood and saying to me, “How long has it been since you talked with your advisor?” That’s where I am.

I don’t want to talk about it publicly right now because it’s difficult to do that without feeling like I have to engage the whole larger question of “is it even OK for me to want to do research?” which can make it feel very difficult to talk to people who don’t already know me. It’s a question that bogs me down and distracts me in bad ways, as does pretty much any discussion about quitlit or how scholars should eschew academic writing and just write for the public, etc. etc. etc. I feel, always, like those are not my discussions, and there is no place for my voice in those; I can’t speak as myself in those kinds of discussions. I have to occupy the yayyyy alt-ac! position, and there’s no room for me to have the concerns that I as an individual person (distinct from the roles that get assigned to me, or projected onto me) have. I am never speaking from a recognizable position, and sometimes it just gets too hard to keep contextualizing or explaining what I’m trying to say. And there are times when it feels like neither side is ever able to just listen and not rush to judgment or categorization.

And I’m deeply homesick at the moment for my dissertation, maybe not for the exact topic, but for the ideas in the writing. I’m now wanting to think a lot more about those. But I don’t see myself blogging about that. I need a particular kind of conversation. It’s very odd, years later, to find myself needing my advisor. Someone who already knows what my longer background is. It’s like wanting to re-enter a conversation that’s been in place for years.

I suspect that I should be writing poetry instead, to be honest. (Again, the dissertation reasserts itself.)

I have an Oblique Strategies generator on my laptop, and the one that just came up is “Take a break.” I think I need to take Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s advice and do that. That said, I’ve always been the kind of person who makes a Final Pronouncement and then comes right back, because the gesture of making the Final Pronouncement ends up clearing the air for me.

But I think I may write differently when I do come back.

Updated to add: am now in touch with my dissertation director and working on scheduling a phone conversation. It’s impossible for me to overstate how necessary that conversation is feeling, and how relieved I am for having overcome my sense of “I should not need this kind of help at my age” enough to ask. I have really reached a point where I need, literally, advising. I have always known exactly what I wanted to write about, and to be as unmoored and confused as I currently am is deeply unsettling. And I need to talk with someone who will understand how unusual it is for me to be feeling this unmoored. It also has a lot to do with the environment I am working in, which is one of Those Things I Can’t Talk About. Phone conversation with advisor = Christmas present I’ve really needed. Just having to articulate the problems I’m having is going to be useful.