readingredhead: (Reading)
Currently quite frustrated that conclusion will not just up and write itself. Finding conclusion very inconsiderate in this way. Am contemplating pretending that conclusion does not matter, but do not think this would be terribly effective. Am also contemplating a conclusion that involves the assertion of every Austen reader's desire to hang out with Austen and be awesome. Professor has encouraged this conclusion strategy, though in more scholarly terms. Have possibly consumed too much caffeine to think straight because oh that's right English Breakfast tea has caffeine and so does coffee and maybe lunch would be a good idea around now.

(Do not pet the thesis-writer. May bite.)
readingredhead: (Reading)
Well, I'm back for my final semester at Berkeley (and still freaking out a little about that fact). Within a little more than three months, I'll have written my 40-60 pg. honors thesis, completed my last classes as an undergraduate, and possibly put an end to my career as a student at Berkeley (there's a small chance I could come back for grad school, but that's rather doubtful). Or, you know, I could have a mental breakdown and fail out of everything. But frankly, if that was going to happen to me, it would have happened last semester, and it didn't, so I think I'm doing fairly well so far. The plan is to do awesome things this semester, and hopefully check some things off of my Bay Area Bucket List, which I have now posted as a separate entry on this journal so I can keep track of what I've done.

I haven't been doing much since coming back, aside from re-reading Emma (which does not actually improve very much after seven-and-a-half years' absence, unfortunately), hanging out with friends, and finally updating my personal blog and the book blog I share with some friends. I seem to have aliens on the mind at the moment; in the past few days I've written one post about the book containing my favorite alien narrator (and possibly favorite alien character) of all time and another about why the 456 from Torchwood: Children of Earth are so damn terrifying. Now I just need to read some new science fiction and I'll be set.

My plans for the evening involve reading some of Castle Waiting (which [ profile] cosmic_llin recommended and which my local public library happens to own), eating dinner and watching more of the Sarah Jane Adventures, and then settling down to spend a few hours attempting to read The Rules of Art by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu before returning to SJA before bedtime. Frankly, this sounds like a good evening.

EDIT: So, I haven't had any SJA or Bourdieu fun yet, but I did just finish Castle Waiting and am sad there is not more of it!
readingredhead: (Write)
Because they're almost over. And I hate them. And I want to die, and I'm never reading Jane Eyre again. (At least not for two years, and maybe not until I decide to use it as the set text for the coda to my PhD dissertation, which, yes, is taking shape in my mind at the moment and does need to end with a half-chapter on Jane Eyre in its current nebulous form. Yes, this means I am already thinking about the topic of my PhD dissertation/first published academic work. I'm a dork like that.)

ANYWAY, my actual point in this entry is to tell you about a really nifty online writing tool that someone else recommended to me and that I like thoroughly. It's called and it pretty much is what it sounds like: a site where you can go to write 750 words each day, every day. What they're about is totally up to you, but you're encouraged to write them on a daily basis. What you write is itself entirely private, although the site does have some cool features that analyze what you write in an attempt to determine your mood, your prevailing concerns, etc. and you can decide to share that information with the public if you like. I really rarely recommend techy stuff, or writerly stuff, but I really like this.

Mostly, I like it because I can write 750 words of more-or-less stream-of-consciousness venting in 10 minutes, and doing this every day for the past 10 days has been something to look forward to. In the future I want to challenge myself to use this site in new ways -- pick a month and select a different theme for every day, or spend one month writing an ongoing story in 750-word daily increments, or even try to write in French one day a week (though trying to add the accents would probably be hellish) -- but even without these specific challenges, it's been really neat as a tool.

Also, I just really like the site design. Very simple writing interface, which I am currently in love with (instead of your words working down the page, the page scrolls up as you a typewriter!), sleek design overall, and -- because no way would we be doing this without rewards of some kind -- there are BADGES! You get new badges depending upon how many days in a row you've managed to write, and for how many total words you've written once you get to a certain point. One of my friends and fellow interns at the Office of Letters and Light did a short blog post about it that gives you a preview of the nifty graphics (though, sadly, not very many badges -- she and I started at about the same time).
readingredhead: (Reading)
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As usual, this is a question that demands multiple answers, because it's me we're talking about, and I rarely read one good book per year. But this past year, I've done a lot of re-reading (both in school and out), so my new books intake has severely dropped. Thankfully, that's what next year is for...?

I feel that in order to appropriately answer this question, I have to give three answers. Maybe four. So stick with me.

When I first saw this question, the answer that immediately sprang to mind was Possession by A. S. Byatt, in which two modern academics discover the lost letters of two (fictional) Victorian poets, and follow the literary clues therein on a detective hunt through Great Britain and parts of France. Oh, and did I mention that they may or may not have something like a love story of their own throughout? I purchased Possession from a small used-and-new independent bookstore down the street from the hotel my grandmother stayed at in London this spring (right by the British Museum, where one of the characters actually works). I began reading it on the Eurostar train from London to Paris, and finished it in a small hotel room overlooking a tiny street between the Louvre and the Opera Garnier; I read with the kind of energy that a book hadn't evoked from me in far too long. Possession felt a little bit like the story of my life-as-it-could-be told back to me as a fiction: a collection of various texts (the novel includes third-person omniscient narration, snippets of poetry and academic prose, the discovered love letters, and various other ephemera) meandering over a wider ground than entirely necessary (it's been compared to a Victorian novel), questioning and testing but ultimately affirming the relationship between literature and love.

The other important books of this year (for very different reasons!) are ones I've talked about elsewhere: Stone Butch Blues by Leslie Feinberg and A Wizard of Mars by Diane Duane.

The rest of the texts I'm going to mention are very, very literary. But they're also very important. I think that Northanger Abbey, Pride and Prejudice, and Persuasion all belong on this list because the time I've spent with them, starting this summer with my SURF research, has really launched me into the thesis of a lifetime. Although Northanger Abbey is the only one out of these that I actually read for the first time this year, I've become increasingly close with the others, to the point where I have a bordering-on-brilliant fifteen-page Pride and Prejudice paper ready to be sent out to various graduate schools as we speak. My experience as a reader of Austen has changed so much since I was a freshman in high school disdainful of Emma, and I couldn't be happier about it. More and more, I feel like I've chosen (or been chosen by) the topic and the time period that are just right for me.
readingredhead: (Write)
My Professor: Wait -- would it be totally impossible for you to have a draft of this essay by 3pm Friday? (pause) Actually, never mind, obviously it's an unreasonable goal --

Me (thinking of NaNo): I thrive on unreasonable goals. Challenge accepted!

And thus, I'll be spending most of my free time between now and Friday at 3pm working on my 20-page senior-thesis-precursor essay about Pride and Prejudice instead of writing my novel, but that's okay, because 50k is not that much, I'm fully capable of pulling off a 12k day (and have done so for two days in a row once, and could possibly repeat the feat if necessary), and my paper idea is just about as awesome as my novel idea, so no hard feelings.

Also, this means the only time I'll be online between now and then is for work-related stuff, and communications of absolute necessity. (Yes, this counts as one of those.)
readingredhead: (Reading)
In case you tuned in late, here's the recap:

1) Marshall Scholarship application submitted sans one letter of recommendation that apparently got eaten by the online system and does not display as having been submitted despite the insistence of recommender that it was. Said letter will be resubmitted by recommender in nine days once she returns from holiday in Australia. There is nothing more to be done on this front.

2) Official presentation of thesis research thus far occurs in one week. Mock presentation for practice purposes occurs in one hour. Let's just say I need more than one hour to finish condensing the research that took a whole summer into a fifteen-minute presentation to people who don't have any background in my field.

3) Fulbright Scholarship application is almost complete, and will likely be submitted (ahead of time!) sometime this week.

4) Training for my tutoring job runs all day tomorrow through Friday. I intend to use this as an opportunity not to think about Jane Austen at all.

5) Classes start in a week and two days, and that isn't soon enough. I need for there to be people in Berkeley again and I need to see my old professors again because seeing Professor Langan, even just for an hour and a half, completely rejuvenated my interest in my thesis topic, and having my thesis class with Professor Picciotto will be indescribably amazing.

6) I am beginning to amass a playlist called "Yelling at my thesis." As the title suggests, most of it is vaguely angry music, except for the few tracks that are mellow and fatalistic. Today I discovered that it's very useful for helping thesis-writers get out of bed and get to work at 7am (and is even more effective when paired with tea).

7) The other day, my father introduced me to a quote that I think will sum up my response to this upcoming year:

"If you're going through hell, keep going." --Sir Winston Churchill
readingredhead: (Professor)
After a good deal of thinking, and the combination of just the right encouragement and motivation, I've decided to set up a separate blog where I can write in a moderately professional, moderately serious matter about the (often irreverent or "non-literary") topics that I find interesting as a student of English literature.

So, if you're as interested as I am in the intersection of classroom literature and popular literature, follow me over at Austen and Aliens. The blog's inaugural post -- about what I learned about Jane Eyre by reading a modern science-fiction adaptation of Bronte's famous novel -- is probably a decent indicator of the tone and subject matter I plan to take up in the following posts. I'm already making long lists of future topics to tackle (answering questions such as "What do Austen's Persuasion and Beyonce's 'Single Ladies' have in common?" and "Why is it academically acceptable for me to read 18th-century pornographic literature in the classroom, but not modern romance novels outside of the classroom?") and will likely use it as a fertile outlet for intelligent discussion and wild procrastination as I pursue the course of my thesis in following months.

Ultimately, though, I expect it'll help me develop a confident and conversational though still professional and analytical voice in which to discuss literature -- and who knows, maybe it'll actually help me win those arguments about the significance of genre fiction that I've been having with my father for all these years.
readingredhead: (Geek)
For a second, I misread a line in the facsimile of Clara Reeve's The Progress of Romance (published 1785) and thought that a character was complaining that something might tire her hearts. Immediately I wondered what a female Time Lord was doing in an eighteenth century treatise about the history of the genre of the romance and the novel. Then I realized it said "hearers." Dear Ms. Reeve: this particular "hearer" would be much less tired by your assertions if they involved more Time Lords.

Obviously this is a sign that a) I have watched too much Doctor Who, b) I should watch more Doctor Who, c) I have done too much work on this thesis, d) I should really do more work on this thesis, or e) all of the above.
readingredhead: (Reading)
There is something about reading Austen that I can't describe. I hate it sometimes that I'm doing my senior thesis on Austen and that I can't increase my English geek cred by writing about some obscure someone-or-other that no one but me has ever heard of and therefore no one but me will ever even think themselves capable of understanding -- but then I sit down with nothing but me and Northanger Abbey and stop feeling like I need to write on something obscure. I will still get a little annoyed occasionally when people who know nothing of English as an academic discipline think they understand what I'm writing simply because they've seen a few BBC miniseries, or when professors or fellow students indulge in momentary condescension because I couldn't think of anything more creative to write about, but when this happens, I will take a few deep breaths and remind myself of two important facts.

1. I am having so much fun with this. I honestly love Austen, and not just because of that one guy Colin Firth plays in some movie. I fell in love with her way with words the first time I met them and this summer I get to immerse myself in them. AND GET PAID FOR IT.

2. What I'm thinking and writing about Austen will be creative and different and new. It'll make people see her in a whole new way (she says modestly). At the very least, it'll make me see her in a whole new way, and that way will be mine.

And did I mention I'm having fun with this? I don't even know what it is about Austen that makes me feel like this, and it's difficult to describe, because it's not terribly showy. Compared to many of my other favorite authors her prose and subject matter seem very quiet. But then someone will make a snarky comment and I'll burst out laughing and realize that maybe she's not so quiet after all. She's wily without being disingenuous, always ready for a good laugh, and behind that reserved facade there's both an observing wisewoman and a giggling teenager, working in tandem to write some of the most fantastic and understated prose I keep coming back to.
readingredhead: (Talk)
All things considered, life is going well.

I only have three more classes before finals. Only one of those is an actual lecture. One is my last decal workshop, and the last one involves going down to my printing professor's studio to bind books and hang out and generally party with my fellow printing classmates. So not a bad deal, all things considered. I literally have four things due before the end of the semester (finals not included): three critiques for my decal due Monday, and my final Milton paper due Thursday.

Ah, the Milton paper. Where to begin? It captivated me when I should have been writing my paper for the Romantics. I began working on it and thinking through its terms at least a month ago. It helps that I almost obsessively attend Professor Picciotto's office hours, because I love talking with her about literature. So anyway, I knew what I was writing about for this paper long before I knew what I was writing about for my Romantics paper (which was of course due this Monday, and which was not nearly as pleasant as the Milton paper is being).

I had to struggle to make the Romantics paper long enough while still maintaining coherence. The Milton paper is the exact opposite. When I finally sat down and compiled all my notes and analyses, just writing, I ended up with a 16-page handwritten first draft. This translated to about 13 double-spaced pages in MLA format. The essay was supposed to be 6-8 pages long. But when I talked to Picciotto in office hours today -- for what I cannot believe was the last time until after I get back from the UK! -- and she told me that she doesn't want me to butcher this, she'd rather read a 15-page paper that covers all my points than an 8-page paper that cramps my observations. Am I crazy for being excited that I'm allowed to write a longer paper? I don't care. Seriously, hearing from her that I just have to keep it to 15 pages made my life a whole lot easier.

Since early on in the process of working over this topic with her, she's been suggesting that this is thesis material. Now, in the process of actually writing out everything that was in my head, I suspect she may be right. I keep finding more and more things I can say, more and more ways to expand into different passages in Paradise Lost, or into Milton's other works, or into new avenues of criticism. I have a suspicion that this Milton thesis might actually get written -- the inducement of working closely with Picciotto on an intellectual process is pretty strong.

The problem with this is the small voice in my head that wonders why in the world I'd write a thesis on Milton if he's not who I want to study in grad school. But then that same small voice admits that Milton's fun to work with, and although I'd get sick of no strong female characters and the inability to read novelistically after a while, in concentrated bursts there are things MUCH worse than Milton. And Milton and the Romantics are so integrally connected that maybe it isn't entire nonsense to write about Milton's poetry even if I decide that what I really want to focus on is romanticism and the novel.

(The craziest voice in my head thinks that I should write TWO theses -- this Milton one as an independent study with Picciotto during my first semester, along with one on the Romantics during the traditional English honors year-long course. You can understand why I have called this voice in my head the craziest one. I am endeavoring to ignore it for the sake of my personal health and sanity but it does not desire to be resisted.)

But anyways, in the aspects of my life which are not Milton, everything else is going well. I saw Star Trek last night with Natasha and her people and it was AWESOME. Seriously. How did I not understand the awesomeness that is Star Trek before this? But as a result of this I did not go to sleep last night until something around the order of 2am, and woke up (like usual) at about 8am...six hours of sleep is probably NOT the best plan. I'm just at that point of tiredness now where I don't want to do even the meager homework that I ought to do; I just want to lounge around for a little while more before sleeping. I figure I deserve it. I wrote more of my paper today, had my last day as an Office of Letters and Light intern until after I get back from the UK (*tears up*) and finished editing my notes on Romanticism. All in all, pretty good stuff.

Guys, I'm happy. I know what I want to do with my life, and the people that matter all believe that I'm going to get there. My cheek muscles hurt with smiling. Life is just so worth it.


readingredhead: (Default)

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