Category Archives: Banes

Anxiety and voice

I have greater problems with anxiety, and also with lack of voice, than I knew–and these problems are related. Here in California, with the mountains, redwoods, seas, I have perspective and do not experience these problems, but in the swamps of Louisiana, I do.

Tomorrow I have to work on: poetry selections for the new publication, the contact lens order, the notary.

Axé.

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On having time to yourself

THIS is why the people with their alarm clocks and hourglasses, upping their so-called productivity, seem so antithetical to the life of the mind.

“The world of labor and wealth is armed against the idleness and utopia that it sometimes promises. Thinking and dreaming require unregulated time; intellectuals lingering over coffee and drink threaten solid citizens by the effort—or the appearance—of escaping the bondage of money and drudgery. Guardians of order have denigrated, almost for centuries, critics and rebels as mere ‘coffee house intellectuals.’ In the catalog of bourgeois sins bohemian intellectuals earn a double entry, thinking too much and doing too little.”

—Russell Jacoby in The Last Intellectuals: American Culture in the Age of Academe (Basic Books, 1987): 29.

I must read that book. I remember the reviews, but now I actually get it.

Axé.

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On primitivism and aristocracy

I do not agree with everything in this Appiah article on primitivism but there are some very interesting references in it.

⇔⇔⇔⇔⇔

I have been in Utrecht for a week and it has changed me greatly. I want to live here. I looked at some notes I made the first day and I know so much more about the town now, and the Netherlands are so much more familiar now.

I have learned something important: the idea that was imposed upon me, that one should finish the Ph.D. in a field like letters, and then decide what to do with one’s life, is an aristocratic one, was what aristocrats actually did. It is not an odd neurosis of mine that one must first prove personhood via the Ph.D. and ideally tenure in a top place in a humanities field before going on with one’s life, finding ones true field and vocation — it is an aristocratic ideal that was actually communicated to me as a requirement.

This is very interesting. Parents who want children out of the nest, on the one hand, but want to tie them to it hand and foot, on the other. I had some other psychoanalytic insights as well, about early infancy.

Axé.

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Writing is the act of saying I

Joan Didion, again. “Writing is an aggressive, hostile act.” Trysh Travis:

[In] graduate teaching, this means helping students figure out what they are arguing about complex and multifaceted topics with which they tend to have, in clinical mental health terms, deeply codependent relationships. . . .

. . . bell hooks calls the process “coming to voice”. . . . Confidence in their own authority allows them to say both “this is my argument” and “that could be my argument, but it is not.”

Making such claims is scary; they entail a lot of responsibility. Traditional feminist pedagogy — indebted to the ethics of care — provides an easy jumping-off point for discussing the responsibility an author has to sources and audience. . . .

But we lack a feminist discourse that grapples with the fact that, as Didion explains, writing is “. . . an invasion, an imposition of the writer’s sensibility on the reader’s most private space.” To be clear, that aggression inheres . . . in the act of clearing space (in one’s head, on the page, in the scholarly conversation) for one’s own vision and voice.

Writing in standard academic English, “the act of saying ‘I’” always already occurs over and against the voices of others. Writers dialogue with some of those voices, but to most of the others, they must say, “That could be my argument, but it is not.”

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On procrastination and block

Jonathan has a theory on procrastination which applies rather well but I have more ideas on it. My thoughts are not yet well formed but one is that there is a great difference between procrastination and block. I have been greatly frustrated by trying to use techniques designed to fight procrastination on block. I think at this point that Jonathan’s theory straddles the two. That is why it is tantalizing: it gets at something, but not quite.

Here are some of my fragmentary thoughts: procrastination can be tackled rationally, with techniques like Tanya’s, but block comes from the unconscious and has to be dealt with at more or less a psychoanalytic level. When I was blocked on that infamous manuscript and thought I was procrastinating, I kept having dreams that, if I had been willing to read them, meant that the project had to be dropped so that I could live.

The idea that is nipping at my heels, and that parallels both Jonathan’s theory and mine, has to do with addiction: I’ve heard that one is addicted not to “feel good” but to limit oneself: first through intoxication and yet more importantly, through hangover or withdrawal and the search for more drugs. Desired is the hangover and the limits it imposes. Why does one want limits? So as not to see beyond the horizon. Beyond the horizon are vistas you cannot yet tolerate, or that some introjected authority does not wish you to see.

You do not want to start because you do not believe you deserve to finish, suggests Jonathan (he calls this procrastination, although I would say this kind of procrastination is tinged with block). You both want and do not want the project, and are not aware of the full dimensions of this conflict, say I (this is outright block). In both cases, you are hanging onto limits.

The antidotes for askesis and acedia, as I found out by reading the early church fathers and Aquinas, are charity and love. This fits Jonathan’s theory (and I should unearth and share the piece of creative nonfiction I published on that). Charity and love, when lacking, are hard to find or build, but it is they and not discipline or strategy that stop procrastination. What stops block is deeper work, that involves seeing things you would rather not.

Axé.

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Disappointing statements

“You are not in graduate school any more, so your job is not to do research any more. To do research would be arrogant.”

“The research you do does not bring large grants into the university and for this reason, it is not research.”

“The courses that make the most money for us are the basic ones that fulfill the general education requirement, so it is in those you should take interest.”

Precursor:

Jorge Schwartz: “Ai, minha filha, o que você faz aqui?”

That last one has a context I could explain, but do not have time to do now. I think it bears thinking about, as it has to do with that book. Everything related to that book has to have a psychoanalytic lens shone upon it, the refusal to write that came from the unconscious.

I will one day look down the other side of this mountain, and be free.

Axé.

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“I’m allowed to feel disappointed”

This is worth thinking about. Something I have procrastinated about is leaving academia. In a way, I feel I was pushed out when I started my first job, which had nothing to do with the kind of job, or life I was interested in. So my career change already happened to me, and when I think of career changes it is to begin doing something that more closely resembles the kind of work I was interested in and thought I could find in academia. I have been reticent about asking certain questions, but something I did discuss with friends and family was leaving. They were all horrified and convinced me not to, and I stayed because I was told I owed it to them, they would suffer too terribly if I left (that is another reason I feel trapped and do not work well). This, actually, shows why I do not ask enough questions–I am not accustomed to receiving non-destructive answers.

Axé.

The Precariat & The Professor

Talking with Jill yesterday about disappointment and the post-ac hustle, I was reminded of Kate Ragon’s chapter for The Precariat & The Professor, “Pleasure & Paradoxes of Organizing in the Corporate University.” We come to academia for a variety of reasons, but so many of us arrived here because we are idealists, we are dreamers– we believed the university was the contemporary City on a Hill, the last remaining one, in fact. Swallowing the bitter pill of the university’s reality is only the beginning of disappointment, which compounds, whether you get on the tenure track, work contingently, or leave for other, better things: Kate Ragon, like Erik Strobl, writes of the frustration of attempting to organize academics who think union labor is somehow below them. Jill, on the other hand, writes of being disappointed that she’s disappointed in herself for willfully walking away from a university who exploited her knowledge…

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