Wednesday, 19 October 2005

Sir, I Need You to Keep Your Hands Away from Chapter, Sir, Away From the Chapter When I earned a summer dissertation fellowship last May, I felt as if a burden had been lifted. I would have the time to finish "This Damnable London Chapter: Radical Frustration and the Dissertating Subject" by the end of September and spend the Fall Quarter hard at work on evolutionary romance. I had reason for optimism: 36 pages of distilled prose from 129 pages of notes and an entire summer in which to refine it further. Only no refining happened. Instead I decided to dig deeper into the historical record in order to verify (according to what I now realize may have been an enthusiastically embraced but utterly unreal standard) the claims that I had made. First excised from the original 36 pages: an essential but highly selective account of Haeckel's influence on London. I hadn't read enough Haeckel—I hadn't even read all the Haeckel London presumably had—so the strength of those claims could be considered suspect. Note the infected language: "enough," "presumably," "could be considered," "suspect." So I read more Haeckel and more American reaction to Haeckel. I accumulated another 76 pages of notes. The tally? May 1, 2005: 36 pages polished, 129 pages of notes June 1, 2005: 32 pages polished, 205 pages of notes So I put aside the chapter for a week and focused on reading Theory's Empire and producing an account of the early years of Critical Inquiry. Exactly the healthy distraction I required to refocus on writing. Reading the rigorous but a- or anti-historicist accounts of literarture liberated me to chance tangents I wouldn't have in May. I expanded material I'd thought polished a month previous and finished June with 48 pages of polished prose and barely three more pages of notes. June 1, 2005: 32 pages polished, 205 pages of notes July 1, 2005: 48 pages polished, 208 pages of notes I put it down again and focused on reading for pleasure. Spent a day with China Mieville, another with John Clute; one week re-reading Octavia Butler and another the articles and books I'd be teaching in the Fall. I returned to my chapter refreshed but unprepared to encounter this steaming pile of unsubstantiated leaps of a logic unrecognizable to Man or Beast. (Not all Beast, mind you: a literate house-cat island-hopping shelves in a campus bookstore would recognize the "interdisciplinary" nature of my disaster.) I could hardly stomach my own complacency. I had though this deserving of reward? After seven solid hours of prodigious hyperventilation I managed to lift the pencil and make the first incision. Four days later, the patient was alive but paralyzed from the governing logic down. An intralineal drip nourished it, but as I looked at it in that bed I knew that unless it could someday manufacture evidence of its own, it wouldn't matter what I placed between its lines. I knew I could rebuild it. Better. Faster. (a rehabilitation montage—complete with uplifting '80s quasi-hair metal anthem, frantic but purposive-seemingly displays of vigor, and a fade out,...
Problems With Faulkner? I'll Show You Problems With Faulkner The following questions (presented without comment) were addressed to the Faulkner listserv by the brave soul in the process of translating Faulkner's Wild Palms into Chinese. If someone could translate a generous "Your guess is as good as mine!" into Chinese I might could even respond: P.21. L5-7: How to understand the sentence: "I'll plead my ass like they used to plead their bellies and nobody ever knows just where the truth is about a whore to convict any body." Please explain it. P.39. L7: What is the meaning of "marshmallows with horseradish"? P.55. L9: "…thinking how it is not the heart at all…but our capacity…" What is the grammatical structure? What does "it" stand for? What is the subject and predicate verb of "our capacity"? P.97. L5-7: "…Even the Armours haven’t got forty-eight dollars to much….ye armourous sons. Keep up with the dog." Q: What are "the Armours" and "armourous sons"? P.100. Last Three Lines: "For sweet Jesus Schopenhauer,"…"What the bloody hell kind of ninth-rate Teasdale is this?..." Q: Why say "Jesus Schopenhauer" (referring to the German philosopher)? What is meant by "ninth-rate Teasdale"? P.102. L2-3: "'To remind us of our lost civilization when our hair begins to spread,' she said." Q: Is this a kind of prayer before meal? What has "our lost civilization" to do with "our hair begins to spread"? What style is it like to have one’s hair spread? P.122. L6-8: "…waiting for the smell and echo of his last batch of moron’s pap to breathe out of him." This baffles me a lot. Please explain it. P.123. L3-4: "…his latest primerbald moronic fable, his sexual gumdrop". Q: What is the meaning of "primerbald moronic fable" and "his sexual gumdrop"? P.158. L14: "...with which their eunuch race was cursed." Q: What is "their eunuch race" meant? Why? P.179. L9: "It's a perfect whore's name, isn't it?" Q: It seems the word "whore" is used in an unusual way, it is used by Wilbourne, and by Sharlotte, even refering to herself, willingly. Why? P.182. L16-17: "...or the experience of taking human life." Q: What is the implication of "taking human life"? P.255. L1-2: "...from the same dim hill-bred Abraham." Q: Who is the "Abraham" here? Why was he "hill-bred"? P.260. L7: " has but one language." Q: What does this short sentence mean? P.324. Last Four Lines: "...when she became not then half of memory became not and if I..." Q: What does "became not" mean? ("cease to be"?)

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