Monthly Archives: September 2014

C’est dur: anxiety and splitting, encore

…but then again not; who else has the luxury to work out these problems?

Today, besides teach and grade and go to meetings: communicate; find that paper; work on mine; print the course poster; send the course poster around; do one practical thing; go running; sleep. And create more course posters, and look at the list of appointments and errands I have.

This paper should be reorganized around the ideas I had this morning: start with the question of difficulty, subjectivity … Vallejo is not interested in certain kinds of avant-gardes and certain kinds of theory may or may not be fitting (although I liked that Deleuzian reading).

But most of all one is not to self-destroy. It amazes me how much I learned about that; in Reeducation we were required to do that. I want to talk about history of work today, and to consider this vertical split I seem to have — enormous emotional pain, carefully cordoned off.


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On some origins of self-hatred

The child would have reacted like this or something similar if enormous anxiety hadn’t paralyzed her. These children feel physically and morally helpless. There isn’t sufficient consolidation of their personalities in order to be able to protest, even if only in thought. The overwhelming authority of the adult makes them dumb and can rob them of their senses.

“The same anxiety, however, if it reaches a certain maximum, compels them to subordinate themselves like automata to the will of the aggressor, to divine each one of his desires and to gratify these; completely oblivious of themselves, they identify with the aggressor” (Ferenczi, 1933). Through identification, he disappears as a part of external reality and becomes intra instead of extra psychic. The child succeeds in maintaining the previous situation of tenderness to the [abuser] but hates herself. She now treats herself with the same sadism previously expressed by the [abuser].

When she attacks herself for not having fought harder she is demonstrating a lack of connection with her own helpless rage and is enacting a sadistic attack on herself. They behave as if they are largely id and superego and there is little ego. Modern psychoanalytic work with trauma supports Ferenczi and finds there is “little ego” during traumatic over stimulation (Davies & Frawley, 1994). Diamond (1994) elaborates on this adaptive response to trauma.


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C’est des tips volés

12 things, none of them a real solution to anything. Mostly these are about letting myself be a “good enough teacher.”


1. Cancel a class. Ideally timed to a point in the term when students are cramming my office or when I know I’ll need to catch my breath. Very hard to give oneself permission to do this. But my God it helps. (This works particularly well on the quarter system.)

2. Drop an assignment — even if this departs from the syllabus, even if you’ve already started the term with a plan, if you are spending all your time grading, there’s one way to fix this, which is by giving fewer assignments. Again, hard to give oneself permission, especially mid-course but I have NEVER regretted doing this.

3. Next best thing: Convert an assignment to pass/fail.

4. Grade only with letters or, even better, with just A/B/C/D – no pluses/minuses. Helps to draw the line more clearly between an “A” and a “B.” And man o man it speeds up grading! I end up giving more As than I would, but that’s OK.

5. It feels like a total betrayal, but, depending on assignment no comments beyond those which explain the grade.

6. Assign bibliographic research — an annotated bibliography takes less time to evaluate than does an essay. You end up teaching them a lot as most have no idea how to research anything, but this is less soul killing than reading essays. Most of your teaching is done face-to-face rather than in comments. Someone else said this, which means it is not lazy of me to do it.

7. If you have a large class and can hire a grader, hire 2 — it pays so little, most students who hire themselves out as graders are doing it for the exposure to teaching upper division classes — but if you hire 2, you can split the grading 3 ways. In a 90-person class, this means that you each handle 30. 30 is much better than 45. This kind of arithmetic is important.

8. Do not meet with students outside of office hours, move office hours once or twice during the term to make schedule conflict less likely.

9. Say no to all LOR requests for a term, unless its a PhD student on the job market. I’ve never been able to see this through but it does mean in a term like that I only write LORs for the exceptional student.

10. Make the following a matter of policy: you read but do not reply to their emails. Period. All questions about grades must be made in person, after class or during office hours, no exceptions.

11. A trick, for when you are “in the weeds” and are entering a week when prepping for class is going to be hard—make your students bring questions to class, written down. Collect at the beginning of class, and spend the whole class answering the most interesting ones. This is fun, it really works — and it requires no prep beyond doing the reading yourself. I do this even when I am not “in the weeds.” Why: because it allows me to meet the students where they are. I tend to prepare way above their level and class does not go well then.

12. (related to 11) Teach from handouts made of key quotations from that day’s reading. Also, assign a question on the reading to be answered in writing before class, and organize discussion based on the answers people bring. (Make them answer in a serious way, of course, if you want this to work.)

12. (related to 11) NEVER assign material you haven’t read within the past 2 years. Generally a good rule of thumb. I should do this. I had never thought of it since I am usually assigned to teach so far out of field. But I should do it and make it a rule of thumb: also for accepting invitations to speak and write.



Filed under Resources, What Is A Scholar?

Qu’est-ce que je peux faire pour MOI asteur?

…decide what this paper, which feels alien, has to do with my book, which does not.


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Filed under Questions, Resources, Theories, What Is A Scholar?

The next step

It is to talk about work, my history of work. Relation to self in work, relation to family in work. Education, Reeducation, work, identity, right to exist. This is a broader topic than I am covering in this post.

This post is about research. There is a way in which my entire academic problem is about research, which one was always supposed to cut short in order to rush products out the door. That has in part to do with studying on the quarter system.

It has more to do with the idea that research should be hidden and teaching and service made obvious, if you were to get along. Yes, you wanted writings out by the end of the year, but actually having these writings be good writings, more than pirouettes, was self indulgent.

It was also considered to be “procrastination.” You should not undertake research, you should just write. It is research time and research calm, not writing strategies, that are key; this is where I disagree with everyone else.


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O Trovador

Sentimentos em mim do asperamente
dos homens das primeiras eras…
As primaveras de sarcasmo
intermitentemente no meu coração arlequinal…
Outras vezes é um doente, um frio
na minha alma doente como um longo som redondo
Cantabona!  Cantabona!

Sou um tupi tangendo um alaúde!

De Paulicéia desvairada (1922)
Mário de Andrade


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On television, and on the next step

There is Amar en tiempos revueltos, and there is also Isabel la Católica. I would love to just watch all of these things on RTVE and withdraw from the world entirely. But it is a beautiful fall now, my favorite season outdoors.

What is the next step:
should I consider denial, magical thinking, evasion, avoidance, not taking responsibility — does any of this apply to me? (There are things I am hiding from, but do the words listed name the phenomenon accurately?) Is this the next step, even, or a future one?

The next step:
maintain the first. Name the things that feel problematic (e.g. “this is an imposition”) and notice the destructive things I say to myself. Rather than adhere to any kind of discipline, even “be good to yourself” (although that is still a good lemma to remember), think: integrate.

Also: the point of writing these papers is actually therapy. Even if they are not good, or original, working on them is therapeutic.


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Filed under Banes, Resources, What Is A Scholar?