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A few things...

-My students and I need to have a conversation about what "5-7 pages" means. Over half of my class seems to think that it means 4.5 pages. They are mistaken.

-I am very nervous about the election. I keep reading very positive polls, but I am still nervous. I am glad that I am going to a friend's house after class to watch election results.

-I bought my plane tickets to fly home for Thanksgiving break. I really wish the university gave us more time off. I fly to Spokane Tuesday evening, and I fly back Sunday night.

-I really want to get over this cold.

-I hope everyone is doing well.

-If you haven't already done it, VOTE tomorrow!!!


Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. -Albert Camus

I am especially fond of fall. I was thinking about this as I was driving home from a lovely coffee date with my good friend Brandi . Besides the incredible beauty of the season, fall brings with it hot cider and other warm beverages, delicious food, the return of some of my favorite TV shows, and a reassuring cold that reminds me that I am alive. Unlike a lot of people, I do not miss the warm days and bright sunshine, both of which seem more oppressive than enlivening. For me, it is in the fall when I feel most awake and most alive.

Fall is also an incredibly liminal period, and more so than spring, fall announces its liminality. The various shades of leaves, the ups and downs of temperatures, and the return of the rain all signal a the transition from summer to winter. This particular fall, I definitely feel like I am in a liminal state, too. I am new to graduate school, and I am breaking into the world of academia. I am constantly moving between identities. I feel like half the time I am a student and half the time I am a teacher. I go from sitting in class to teaching a class to sitting in staff meetings. The transitioning from being a member of the department and a student in the department can feel sort of exhausting sometimes, but it is also really exciting. I like both positions for different reasons.

The season also brings the election, and this election has such potential to create change. As it approaches, I am more and more anxious. It is scary. I want to sit here in this in between moment because I am not sure what Tuesday will bring. Everything will be different. I hope for the best.

I meant to say more in this post, but it has all disappeared. I cant seem to focus tonight. Tomorrow I will receive a huge stack of 101 papers, and that has me a little frightened. I am doing well...tired, though. I hope that all of you are doing well.

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Happy Birthday, My Friend

The sharing of joy, whether physical, emotional, psychic, or intellectual, forms a bridge between the sharers which can be the basis for understanding much of what is not shared between them, and lessens the threat of their difference.

-Audre Lorde

Today is the birthday of one of my dearest friends. Miranda, your beauty, intelligence, humor, and incredible depth (both critical and emotional) continually amaze me. I am so lucky to know you, and I hope that you have a lovely birthday. I wish that I could be there. I would make cupcakes, and we could watch wonderful TV.

I am sent a little something out for you yesterday.
I love my students. I didn't think that I would, but there is something about them. My more experienced collegues keep telling me that it will all change once I have to grade their first essay. Maybe it will. Right now, though, they just seem so on top of things. I love that they like each other and that they are willing to engage in discussion. I ran into this one lovely student in the Viking Union this afternoon, and she introduced me to her friend as her "English professor." It was all that I could do to keep from dying.

I have really enjoyed teaching so far. I think that my students like me, and they seem to respond to most of my jokes. I am still so surprised how confident I feel in front of them. I am always so anxious presenting in front of peers, but teaching is different. It feels so performative. I am sure that the power differential helps a great deal, too. I hope I am doing a good job. It is such a scary profession. Today didn't go as well as the two days last week. Today, I felt like I just didn't have enough time. I had cut things from my lesson plan before going to class, but I still didn't have near enough time. I also didn't want to cut discussion short. I was sort of flustered, and I ended up really rushing through the discussion of ethos and pathos and quickly blurting out the assignment for next time right before the students left. I dont think it was quite as bad as I think that it was, but it still just wasn't what I wanted it to be. I think that a lot of it is because I am not feeling that well, and it has been a really hard few days.

I have to say that I absolutely love being in graduate school. More than anything, I love the sense of community that comes with it. I know everyone in my classes, and it is great to be able to talk about the readings and about academic interests with other serious students. I also absolutely love to get to read so much theory. I spent all yesterday at the cafe upstairs in Village Books reading and thinking. So energizing.

*sigh* I feel like I dont know what to write on here lately. My life seems so incredibly quiet. I keep thinking that I need to post, but I am never sure what to post about. I miss the days when I would post two or three times a day.

Break up stuff that no one wants to readCollapse )

I love movies.

Yay! I finally got to see the trailer for Doubt. I love Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman so much!

I also really like the trailer for Milk.

The fall/winter movie season makes me so happy!

A real post to come soon!

The Grotesque, The Abject, The Body.

Homo sum, humani nil a me alienum puto

Nothing human disgusts me...unless its unkind, violent.
-Hannah Jelkes in Tennessee Williams's Night at the Blue Iguana.

It is curious that our culture is so obsessed with excess in the world outside of ourselves. Big food, big cars, big houses....more money, more space, more things. There is always something new, something bigger, something more. Change and progress and advancement are master narratives that we readily accept and consume, even with our postmodern skepticism. What is curious about this, though, is that the exact opposite seems true about our personal bodies. When it comes to the body, we fear excess. With a few exceptions, one doesn't want to be more "bodily," and natural evolutions of the physical body are often feared and fought against. I was thinking about this earlier today at the Farmers' Market. Stopping after making the walk downtown, I was incredibly repulsed and embarrassed by the fact that I was sweating. There was a slightly damp spot on my side. In this moment, I felt entirely too much. Everything about the excesses of my body come to the surface. Too fat, too hairy, too many pores, too much! Though excess is loved in the outside world, in our bodies, excess is thought of as grotesque.

Bakhtin is probably the most famous theorist associated with the grotesque. Bakhtin argues that the grotesque is "that which protrudes from the body" and is "all that seeks to go beyond the body's confines" (92). For Bakhtin, "the grotesque body...is a body in the act of becoming...it is never finished, never completed" (92). Here, Bakhtin exposes the element of change in the grotesque; the grotesque body is continually changing, and, in this way, the grotesque is, of course, the living body. Life is the process of becoming. What Baktin calls the grotesque's "bodily drama," the eating, drinking, defecation, sweating, reproduction etc, are what keep the body alive. But, these things also remind us about death. The grotesque becomes the place where evidence of life and death meet. Kristeva has an excellent discussion of this in her "Essay on Abjection," too.

Our fears and attempts to erase the grotesque and the abject are interesting. We try to solve our bodys' excessive flaws by going to the place where we normally seek excess--our consumption culture. Weight loss programs, pore refiners, "prescription strength" antiperspirants, nose jobs, and other products seek to make body less grotesque and to hide abjection, to minimize the signs of life and decay. We also just erase a lot of the abjection and the processes of the grotesque body, pretending they dont exist. Tampon and pad commercials are always such a great example of this. The mysterious blue liquid that is almost always used in them prevents viewers from being shocked by seeing menstrual blood. On a related note, Alan Ball had to defend his decision to show a bloody tampon in his new film Towelhead. The fact that people are easily upset by media that displays abjection seems telling about our culture.

I think that our fears of the grotesque and the abject are especially strong because they are essential about our fears of private space meeting public space. The body is so incredibly private, and the attributes that make it grotesque and the body’s abjection make it noticeable. Were I sweating at home, I wouldn't likely think anything about it. It was the fact that other people would see it, that I was revealing things about my body to them, and reminding them of their own. The grotesque and the abject move the private body into the public space. There is a sort of border crossing that goes on that is both physical and social.

Before the geese fly over.

Today was a difficult day. I attended my great aunt Tick's (Cecilia Agnes's) funeral. I had lived with Tick for several months when I was going to school at NIC. She was always sort of the wild one out of my grandfather's brothers and sisters. She had a loud laugh, loved to drink and go out, and after her husband died, she had a male companion that she would go out with all the time. I remember her sloppy kisses and bright red lipstick and her jokes.

Towards the end, dementia had started to set in, and she had accused me of stealing and had told my other great aunt and uncles and my grandparents that I had. It was an absolute disaster. I hate that I was so mad at her, when it really wasn't her fault. I don’t think that any of them actually believed her because most saw that she was slipping away and becoming confused. She buried both of her daughters in the last two years, one of her daughters had pretty much bankrupted her, and I think that it was just really too much for her to handle.

I hate to attend a funeral mass. It is almost too much for me. The homily was decent, but the ceremonial crap involved made me want to scream. I hadn’t been to mass in so long, and it all sounded even more robotic and emotionless than I had remembered.

Seeing my other great aunts and uncles was really nice. They are all amazing. They are all in their 80s but are all in such great shape and full of energy. My Aunt Mary is always so excited to hear that I am going to graduate school and that I want to teach. She taught for like a million years and thinks that it is like the most amazing career choice ever. She is so cute. Apparently, her children contacted the DMV and told them that she shouldn't be driving. So she went down there and had a physical and took and eye exam, a written test, and a driving test, and they gave her license back. hehe. She hardly drives anyway. I think that she walks everywhere. She is the woman that did Bloomsday 6 months after having open heart surgery at the age of 80. It is so great.

There are only 4 of the 10 siblings left in my grandfather's family. Going to the funerals is always so shocking because there are so many people. My mom has 50 cousins just on that side. Those crazy catholic families.

And the wave crashes over me.

"Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life...You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love."

-Neil Gaiman

I dont know what else to say. I am emotional and scared and so unsure of everything right now. I feel rediculous.
I haven't talked too much about the English 101 class that I am teaching this fall. Because the summer has been so awful, I have been sort of putting it out of my mind. Now that it is just around the corner, though, I probably should be dedicating more thought to it. Dr. Qualley, the Director of Composition, sent out an insanely long e-mail (complete with a 109 page annotated syllabus) about the course and the week long crash-course on teaching 101 called "Comp Camp."

"Comp Camp" basically is an intense seminar that will go from 8am-5pm the week of the 15th (my bday) through the 19th. Yes, I will be in class 9 hours a day for 5 whole days. I may be dead by the end of it. Also, I have to come up with an "artifact" to bring on the first day to share with the group. It is supposed to have "personal and/or cultural significance" to me. I have been madly trying to figure out something to bring. I hate activities like this. I obsess so much about what my choice might say about me. I do the same thing when people ask me what my favorite book or movie is. I worry about all of the subtext that might be hiding underneath my answer. Very scary.

If I survive "Comp Camp," the 101 class should be okay. Composition classes can be so boring sometimes, and I hate almost all of the textbooks that I have read. They are all dense, vague, and not very helpful at all.

For the class, I am using Joseph Harris's textbook Rewriting: How to Do Things with Texts. It is a very small, simple book. In the text, he, like almost all authors of composition textbooks, uses the metaphor of a conversation at a party to describe academic writing. There is a conversation when you arrive. You contribute to that conversation--maybe challenging or countering some of the thoughts already voiced, and the conversation continues after you leave. Harris argues that all academic writing is a form of "rewriting" and that it works by "drawing from, commenting on, [and] adding to the work of others" (2). In his text, Harris explores several rhetorical moves that writers make to accomplish this "rewriting." He names these moves "coming to terms," "forwarding," "countering," "taking an approach," and "revising" and has a chapter on each of these moves. I actually really enjoyed reading his book. Like I said, it is very short (only about 130 pages), and he is very conversational and provides good (but pretty simple) examples of these moves.

In addition to that textbook, I am also using the reader portion of From Inquiry to Academic Writing. As a class, we are going to examine 4 academic essays to see how the authors make use of the rhetorical moves Harris speaks of and how the authors are participating in ongoing discussions. These essays make up the bulk of the assigned reading for the class. I really like the essays that we are using. Some readers for composition studies use essays on composition studies, and there is nothing more dreadfully boring than that. This reader is pretty interdisciplinary, and I really like that. It also has a lot of essays that are written for those outside of the academy, and I think that is important to see that the rhetorical moves that we are examining exist and are used by writers outside of the academy. I think that the essays I am using work well together. They are all sort of about consumerism and popular culture. The essays I am using are below.

-Mark Edmundson, “On the Uses of a Liberal Education”
-Robert Scholes, “On Reading a Video Text”
-Steven Johnson, a selection from “Everything Bad is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter”

and I am still going back and forth about the last one, but it is between:

-Henry A Giroux, “Children’s Culture and Disney’s Animated Films”
-Ann DuCille, “Dyes and Dolls: Multicultural Barbie and the Merchandising of Difference.”

I am sort of leaning towards Disney, but that is probably because I want to teach a class on Disney’s animated films.

The assigned writing is designed to allow the students to work with the moves Harris describes and to interact with the assigned readings. In addition to those writing exercises, students also examine a cultural phenomenon/activity that is not discussed directly in the course and write about it. All of these assignments are drafted and responded to by other students, and I conference with students several times throughout the quarter. As the quarter progresses, students will work to put together a portfolio of their work at various stages of the revision process. They will also have to produce an abstract and cover letter to go with their final essay, and these items will also be in the portfolio. I really like the idea of having them write an abstract. They can be so hard to write and really force a writer to “come to terms” with his/her own writing.

I am pretty excited about the class. It should be fun. We are watching a lot of youtube videos to see commercials and things like that, and I think that students might like that. Still, I am realistic. I know that English 101 is not the class that everyone wants to take. It will be an adventure. I will have to keep everyone updated.

Rest in Peace, My Friend.

DEATH be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

-John Donne

Ernest died last night. I had known that it was coming. He had been losing weight again, and we hadn't been able to manage his diabetes this last month. I just seemed that nothing really worked. I dont think that he was in any pain. He didn't seem to be. He crawled into bed last night and just sort of went to sleep while I stroked his fur.

He was a beautiful, graceful, and incredibly affectionate cat. I have been an emotional basketcase ever since it happened. I cried myself to sleep last night and have broke down a couple times today. It is so hard because he had this amazing ability to always know when I was upset. Whenever I would cry or be really stressed, he would find me. It was strange not to have that this time. It has been a really hard summer on me. I feel really tired and mentally and emotionally exhausted.

I have been reading a lot of poetry about death the last couple days. I always come back to Donne's "Death be not proud" sonnet. I have written about the poem several times and about its use in other texts. I love Margaret Edson's play _Wit_ and the way she uses the poem in the play. One of the things that I like about the poem is that I think that it is not only about considering death (and one's own death); it is, of course, also a poem about life...about transitioning from the thought of death...about moving on...about waking up after death....about the people who survive waking up again. It is a poem that I seem to turn to when I experience the death of someone else.

I dont know if that makes any sense. I cant really think or communicate anything effectively. It is just what I am thinking.

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