Monthly Archives: April 2013

Word count

Today, Tuesday, I polished 560 words and wrote 59. This took three hours. According to Trollope, it should have taken 33 minutes: 30 for revision and 3 for writing 59 words. According to Thomas, the 59 words should have taken 27 minutes. If I were to consider all the time allotted me by both Thomas and Trollope, I should have done the revision and the new writing in an hour.

Axé.

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On speaking up

Some people are learning not to speak up and in academia, this is typically how one is coached: do not say anything, all you will do is ruin your credibility as a reasonable person.

I disagree and I think people should learn that to speak up, you do not have to be outraged or impassioned. Just register a view.

Of course if you are feeling outraged and making impassioned speeches about misconceptions, then you are wasting time. Asking the legal system to be reliably just, for example, is not reasonable or realistic, and those who expect legality and justice to be the same are poorly informed.

Otherwise I am convinced that one reason inanity persists is that people consider it unwise to protest.

Axé.

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Now I understand still more about my reaction to Boice and the Boiceans

It is that one-up, one-down position. The assumption is that one does not know what one is doing at all, needs very basic instruction and is recalcitrant. Questions or attempts to refocus discussion to a more sophisticated are met with this behaviorist, “you have not gotten my point yet.”

I have already been underestimated far more than was good for me and it is precisely my unwillingness to interact with people who behave this way that made me so agoraphobic about academia so long. You have to increase your self-respect, not decrease it the way Boice and the Boiceans would have you do.

It is with more self-respect, and more faith in the validity of your views, that you get more done. These self-helpers who want to break you down and pretend you are less than competent are not useful.

I say this as I continue grading. Grading takes a long time if you take the self-helpers to heart and question your assignment and your standards more than you should. It is all the self-interrogation, and all the abdication of judgment to authority, that I find so unhelpful about self-help.

I was first exposed to Boice and the Boiceans during Reeducation, when I had a degree finished easily and on time and a page of articles, and had lost faith in myself because of … emotional and verbal abuse. The Boiceans could not write and assumed my inability to do anything at all had to be the kind of writing problem they had.

Not to say so, to say one had another problem, was “arrogance” and “denial.” I am against the Boiceans for this reason, and against Boice because he has no idea what it would be to already like writing and to already have experience doing it — and doing it over the long term, when you have many other things you also do each day.

Self-respect has to come first, j’insiste. And my apparently good work ethic is good to the extent that it does not come from grim discipline but from good self-care.

Axé.

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Outline for an opinion piece

1. A colleague who is currently chair of his department remarked [on the current structure of meetings for department chairs]

2. This interested me because I would say the same about the current structure of meetings for [my committee]

3. Both this colleague’s observation and mine bespeak the situation described in [JL’s piece], on the erosion not just of faculty rights but of the definition of faculty

4. A friend who works in business, to whom I explained [1 and 2] came to the same conclusion [3], without knowing of JL’s piece

5. It is en este sentido that, here, I comment upon some events in AY 2012-2013 on [the committee referenced in (2)] — a committee whose charge it is to voice faculty views but which is in my view being molded into an organ to echo [a certain set of views] and ultimately delegitimize professional opinion of faculty (and even discount the possibility that faculty could hold a professional opinion)

6. What happened were attempts to remove powerful faculty from certain decision making processes and also remove decision making itself as a charge of certain faculty bodies — so as to repurpose these bodies as a kind of focus group to be trained in, and then echo a particular management message

7. These are the moves and the language used; when pieces of them are floated at your institution, recognize them for what they are.

Axé.

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One more brilliant, contrarian post

One does, in fact, need large blocks of time for work. Not for the work itself — that can be done in little pieces. One needs big blocks of time because the work has to be couched in rest and recreation, in which one is not working at breakneck speed on other things, but is renewing oneself while one’s mind works on its ideas in the background.

Ideally, the things you are doing will somehow support your train of thought; you will run across examples of what you are working on, or analyses of other things that turn out to be germane to your project. This is why it is nice to be in a place that presents such things to you, or to be so situated as to be able to create the right research atmosphere for yourself.

Those were the brilliant, contrarian remarks; now I will continue to discuss the reasons I dislike having Robert Boice thrown at me. Remember: when I rail about Boice, I do not mean I disagree that research and writing must happen daily, or that they can be done in small pieces. I agree with him completely on these matters.

Once again, it is for teaching activities of the bureaucratic kind, and particularly grading, that I need the Boicean program. This is what leads me to believe this program was created to get onerous tasks done in a rational way, which would mean it is a writing program for non writers. That, in turn, would explain why I am so irritated when people recommend it to me so heartily. Do they know me at all? Did they never notice I love to write, always have done?

Boice’s program is for non writers and also for people who have not learned discipline or what some would call a work ethic (although I would call it, interestingly, a program of self-care and I should probably write a separate post explaining that). And last week I came across a discussion of me by the chair of another department, who turns out to feel I have a good work ethic.

I would not have said so since I am not the hardest worker I know, but it was interesting to see. The writer means I am not chaotic or erratic, I remember necessary details, I look at implications and I follow things through. I think these are the things Boice is trying to teach people and I am (a) shocked people have not learned those skills yet and (b) amazed that anyone who knows me would think I need basic instruction in them.

Beyond this, though, is the deeper insult in the compulsive invocation of Boice: the idea that any research problem one has is just poor discipline, or not knowing basic things about writing; that one does not deserve to discuss bibliography or ideas or project design or anything that goes into analyses and ideas; that all one needs is to muster discipline and write to a formula, since that is all one will be capable of doing.

These are the real reasons for my dislike of Boice and the Boiceans I have known: the condescension, the preachiness, and the evasion of interlocutors and thus, of conversation.

Axé.

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Cecilia Valdés y las ideas fuera de lugar

This is my idea for the IILI conference at the Colegio de México. It would build on a piece I am giving here. It would revisit Schwarz’ concept of “misplaced ideas” — which may be somewhat outdated or limited or something, such that it is worth discussing and revising.

The concept really does apply to Cecilia Valdés, in two ways: one, modernization, the bourgeois family, and so on do not fit the reality of slavery. This is what makes the secrecy about adultery necessary, which in turn causes all the trouble in the novel. So it is, in that way, a novel on idéias fora de lugar.

More importantly, the novel itself is a misplaced idea, since it is secretly set in Louisiana (as it were) and based on the plaçage myth. My paper here will not go into the Schwarzian ideas, but my paper in Mexico could. That would help to draw out the implications of these newly discovered facts, that plaçage is a myth and that the myth is an expression of Anglo-American anxieties about miscegenation.

Does this mean that Cuba, like Bahia, sees itself through foreign eyes?

Axé.

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Research never ends

Here are some things to think about.

1. Mireille’s article on appropriations of Aimé Césaire. I read it and thought of Vallejo appropriations, and I did not yet know about Jonathan’s book on Lorca appropriations. Now I find Mireille’s prose irritatingly unclear but I want to bring the piece up again since it is about the nation and since this is an issue around Vallejo that does need further discussion.

2. Here I am saying it is time to stop thinking about nation and pueblo and remember there is a state which may not be the same entity as this (public face of the) nation. But the nation-state has been ending for some time now, and the Bewilderbeast says the state itself is ending.

It is ironic that I would have just discovered the state at this point.

Axé.

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