readingredhead: (Reading)
It's a truth universally acknowledged that the best Emma AU is and will always be Clueless, but for quite a bit I've been thinking that the closest modern equivalent to "three or four families in a country village" (one of Austen's tongue-in-cheek descriptions of her own preferred subject) might in fact be the members of a university English department. This is particularly relevant to Emma, because let me tell you, professors and grad students in English departments are such huge gossips. Not always in a bad way, but information does tend to circulate... At any rate, I've been pondering this for a bit, and while I'm not sure when I would even have the time to write it (or what kind of audience it would have, outside an English department!) I'm going to spend a little bit of time thinking through the various characters and how to transpose them to this new modern setting.

Preliminary thoughts behind the cut )


More directly on the scholarly front, today I wrote up notes about one of the texts I'm going to work with in my upcoming seminar paper, Margaret Cavendish's Sociable Letters. You can check them out over at my academic journal [link].

readingredhead: (Muse)
Maybe -- MAYBE -- I will actually post these things the day I do them for this week since I am on spring break?! ONE CAN ONLY HOPE. (Also I will start commenting on other people's stuff because I realize that's part of this thing that I've been totally lame about.)

Day 14: On Thursday I delivered my first ever lecture in front of a classroom full of college undergraduates. I was given the opportunity by the prof I TA for to give a guest lecture (something that's somewhat common practice here?) and I jumped at the chance, especially because I got to lecture on the second half of Austen's Persuasion, a novel I absolutely adore and have a lot of thoughts and feelings about. I have really no problems about speaking in front of people (like, really no problems with it, never have had) and so I went into this with more excitement than anything else. I think my biggest fear was that no one would show up, since it was the last class before spring break! But the students showed up, and I gave the lecture, and even though it wasn't perfect, it was pretty damn good. My professor congratulated me afterwards with, "That was an amazing job, and you're obviously doing the thing you were born to do, so keep it up!" And that's basically how I feel about this, so it's good to have it confirmed. (Downside is that I spent a lot more time talking on Wednesday and Thursday than I usually do -- the lecture was 75 mins, I practiced it twice the day before I gave it -- and as a result my throat is still a little bit sore...)

Day 15: So, I was coming off the high of giving the lecture (and deciding that I deserved some time to rest on my laurels before jumping right back into the fray), and then I got hit by horrendous sinus pressure headache that I thankfully recovered from just in time to prepare drinks for the small group of friends who came over for the evening: blackberry gin fizzes, to be precise, from this Smitten Kitchen recipe. (If you're trying to replicate it, I sort of find straining out the blackberry seeds to be unnecessary -- I mean, you'd eat them if you were eating the berries, and it takes longer than you think it will to strain them out.) I made more of the blackberry puree than I needed, but that turned out for the best...

Day 16: ...because I saved the puree and used it as a sauce for the lemon ricotta pancakes I made this morning for breakfast. [recipe] [picture]
readingredhead: (Reading)
So I've already managed to miss a day -- and technically two days, because I feel like my Day 4 "something" is even more of a cheat than usual -- but I'm doing this just as much as part of a mental exercise and refocusing of my current activities under the category of "creation" as I am interested in producing vast quantities of new creative material.

Day 3: I spent almost all day grading student papers. I did write a bunch of responses to those student papers, but it really feels like cheating to call that work creative.

Day 4: I wrote a report that was due today for one of my classes. If it's creative, then it's only really creative in the sense in which it creatively misappropriates Habermas to my own purposes, but I did write it with my very own words (setting the bar low, I know), and I'm going to keep it on the list, because skipping two days in a row would just look sad.

Day 5: That's today! I've actually started work on two future posts for my academic dreamwidth:

1) On reading Dorothy and William Wordsworth in the context of transformative works theory: Dorothy Wordsworth's journals are indisputably the source texts of many of Wordsworth's famous poems ("I wandered lonely as a cloud" and "Resolution and Independence," to name two major ones), but Dorothy is only ever considered important to romanticism as the brother of one of its founding poets. We talked about her in my lecture class today and I found myself thinking about how different the focus would be if we saw Dorothy's journals as a "canon" work and William's poetry as transformative fan work -- immediately we'd escape a lot of the problematically gendered issues that surround the relationship between these texts. I feel like whether students taught this way of relating D & W Wordsworth understood fan culture or not, you could get something important out of the discussion: especially because I suspect that most of the students who are likely to be anti-transformative works are also the same students who would typically put Wordsworth on a pedestal and dismiss Dorothy's works as "feminine jottings," and this context would either force them to a) admit the potential power of transformative works or b) see the intellectual relationship between D & W as intellectually dishonest (and perhaps even abusive) on William's side of the equation... And I would call either of those results a good one. (Also, man, I never thought I would want to teach Wordsworth!)

2) On interiority as social medium in the works of Jane Austen: This started out with my shower epiphany that the trope of "costume theater" in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (a modernized vlog adaptation of Pride and Prejudice -- if you're not watching yet, you should be!) is the closest this adaptation comes to representing free indirect discourse.

Now, this is a hobbyhorse of mine, because I think the dominant narrative about free indirect discourse is all wrong. For many critics of the 18th-century novel, the development of free indirect discourse coincides with a new respect for and valuation of interiority in the real world and not just as represented in fiction. The novel, or so the argument goes, develops FID in order to represent the newly-complex interior states of humans in the world in which it's situated. This argument is usually invested in larger claims about the "rise of the novel" being parallel to the "rise of the individual" and the creation of something like a modern notion of individuality as originality.

But if you actually read a Jane Austen novel, it's obvious that free indirect discourse operates in a much more complicated manner. Yes, it does allow for a narrative representation of an interior space -- but that doesn't mean that interiority = individuality = originality, because more often than not, characters' heads are full of other people's words and phrases. And furthermore, this isn't always a bad thing: while there's a sense that it would be great to have a unique interior language, there's also a sense that this is impossible. Language always belongs to a collective beyond the scope of the individual character, and so the real individuation occurs when you consciously choose which bits and pieces of other people's speech you will allow to represent your own thoughts. (I make these arguments loosely here because I've already sketched them out elsewhere and at great length, mostly with regards to Persuasion, but also in Northanger Abbey and Pride and Prejudice.)

For example: no one disputes that the infamous first sentence of P&P is an example of FID. But it's not at all about the uniqueness of anyone's interior space -- if anything, it's about the crushing generality of public opinion, and Mrs. Bennet's inability to escape from this general public to become her own individuated person. (I call this type of FID "generalized," though I would sort of love a better term.) Another example: at several points in Persuasion, Anne represents her own thoughts using the language of others -- this is particularly visible when she describes the way in which Mrs. Russell persuades her to break off her engagement with Wentworth by describing her own thoughts in language reminiscent of a speech Mrs. Russell has just given. (I need a better term for this type of FID, which I have been thinking of primarily as "ventriloquy" but which is rarely that conscious.)

So, back to the idea of social media: I think that using LBD and the idea of costume theater makes it obvious that there are lots of ways that FID works in the Austen canon. They're harder to see because we've bought into the narrative that interiority = individuality = originality, but these instances often show the severe dependence of our interiority on a social sphere. This sphere is, in LBD, very literally the sphere of social media as we know it -- YouTube, Twitter, etc. -- but in Austen's novels, it's still a mediated social sphere. What the vlog is to LBD, the letter is to P&P, in some ways: audience-oriented interiority (oh dear god and this is the part where, were this a scholarly paper, I would quote Habermas, because damn him he is relevant). Bottom line, I think that LBD's social media rewriting of P&P could actually be a really great pedagogical tool for getting students to understand multiple modes of FID that Austen criticism only rarely differentiates.

ETA: And this idea of interiority as a social space is something that makes me think Austen would be totally in favor of transformative works because she understands the difference between imitation-as-plagiarism and imitation-as-transformation -- she understands that all language is borrowed, and she cares more about how you reflect your own agency in those borrowings than she does about whether you can say something that is wholly and utterly "yours."
readingredhead: (Reading)
From [ profile] lazyclaire

Pick 15 of your favorite books or series. [Since I don't have all my books with me in one place, I only have 12.]
Post the first two to three sentences of each book.
Let everyone try to guess the titles and authors of your books. (comments screened)

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. )
readingredhead: (London)
1. I am allowed to unabashedly love everything about the French: their language, their food, their strange ideas about workweeks and vacation time, and those pesky revolutions.

2. I am allowed to be irreverent with British literature. I don't have to treat Jane Austen as my maiden aunt and I don't have to worship Charles Dickens.

(Yes, this is the entire list. It's not a very long one, but I do take some comfort in it.)
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: (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: (Earth)
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I'm just gonna interpret this question as planing for when I accompany the Doctor on his zany adventures through time and space. (This will, of course, obviously happen. I am female, almost ginger, and may possibly at some point in my life return to live in London. The odds are in my favor already.)

In no particular order, and with various degrees of specificity:

1. The 1790s in England. Yes, I know this is about as far from specific as I can get, but this is probably the historical decade I find the most intriguing. This is when Jane Austen became a writer (though not a published novelist), when Blake did some of his most intense engravings, when the French Revolution took a turn towards insanity and when the world was on the brink of so many major cultural changes. I would just want to live as a part of this for a while, to get a real feel for the things that fascinate me about this decade.

2. The World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention of 1968, which was held in Berkeley. Yes, this means there was once a conflation of Berkeley, the sixties, and SFF geeks. 1968 is the year that Anne McCaffrey's short story "Weyr Search" won the Hugo Award for best short story -- and this story is the one that was later extended into Dragonflight, the first of her Dragonriders of Pern books, and the first book that really got me into science fiction.

3. The first man on the moon, 1969. I just wonder what it must have felt like for those people who had lived in a time when no images of earth from space were readily available to see those first pictures from the Apollo mission, and to have a sudden jarring understanding of themselves as such a small part of such a small corner of the universe, but a corner that undeniably mattered.

4. Anything in which I got to meet Elizabeth I. Because she's just bound to be utterly badass. Maybe I would want to go see a Shakespeare play with her.

5. The fall of the Berlin Wall, 1989. I was technically alive at the time, but had only been so for six months.

Undoubtedly as soon as I post this I will realize some incredibly significant historical event that I'm missing, but for the moment I think this is a pretty good list. I'm obviously most invested in the first three items; the others might rotate out with my mood.
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: (Default)
All I really want out of life is for a real-life romance to coincide with an academic one. Preferably we discover Austen's lost letters together, a la A. S. Byatt's Possession. Or maybe a surviving draft of First Impressions, I'm not really picky. I just want something that makes me feel love as much as I think it, and think it as much as I feel it. And I want it sooner than I'm ever likely to get it.

(Perhaps the things the conduct books have to say about imaginative engagement, romance novels, and women's delicate sensibilities are truer than I give them credit for -- it is dangerous to read them and expect them to come true.)
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: (Default)
Really really quickpost to say I am home (well, London home), alive, now in possession of keys, and with only 26 more pages of script to write today! (Yes, I said "only." Considering how little writing I did during my trip I'm actually surprised at this.) Laundry will be done shortly and I will then also possess clean clothes! I still lack food because all I did last night was get back, make dinner (noodles are the only things still left), and catch up on Doctor Who and Glee because it was painful to go two weeks without Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. Today is going to be devoted to getting back into the swing of things around here, finishing script, and celebrating with TV if I actually get script done before midnight. Then work starts tomorrow! French exam May 4, first paper (and hardest paper, dear god why) due May 11, and then OH DEAR GOD I TURN 21 ON MAY 17. And some other crazy stuff happens in between. Still no idea what I'm doing for my birthday because I have papers due May 18, 19, and 20, but probably leaving to stay with a friend in Cheltenham for a week starting the 22nd-ish, and definitely going to be at the Hay Festival of Books on May 30 to hear Jeanette Winterson talk about Oranges are Not the Only Fruit and an awesome scholarly person talking about the juvenile works of Jane Austen. So, life goes on. Now, to laundry!
readingredhead: (Default)
Day one • a song
Day two • a picture
Day three • a book
Day four • a site
Day five • a youtube clip
Day six • a quote
Day seven • whatever tickles your fancy

Conveniently, I have come across another meme that allows me to sort of answer this one by providing a whole lot of stuff about books!

1) What author do you own the most books by?
Not having my bookshelf in front of me at this moment (it being in another country and all) it's hard to say, but probably Anne McCaffrey, simply because she is so prolific. I own all of her Dragonriders of Pern books (multiple copies of some of them) plus assorted others. She takes up a jam-packed half-shelf.

2) What book do you own the most copies of?
This is probably a toss-up between Jane Eyre and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. For Jane Eyre, I have the first copy I read (a falling-apart-at-the-seams $0.25 library bookstore purchase), the first critical copy I bought (because I really liked the introduction), two copies of the one with the killer engravings (yes, two, they were only $1 a piece), and the copy that I bought in London this semester to read for my Fiction and Narrative class. As for Sorcerer's Stone, I possess it in paperback, hardback, UK paperback, special edition (leather-bound and gold-edged pages), and the Latin translation. But I am the kind of person who thinks it's awesome to have multiple copies of the same book, particularly if they possess different cover art or have some interesting distinguishing feature, so there may well be some other book that I possess five copies of.

3) Did it bother you that both those questions ended with prepositions?
Considering I just ended my last response with a preposition, I'm going to say no.

4) What fictional character are you secretly in love with?
I can't give one answer. Remus Lupin is mostly an intellectual crush. I love Mr. Darcy but more because I identify strongly with Elizabeth. Same goes for Mr. Rochester -- I like him because I am so attuned to Jane. I feel guilty loving fictional characters who are already (fictionally) attached! Also, of course, I love Nik from Julie E. Czerneda's Species Imperative trilogy and Enris from the Stratification trilogy.

5) What book have you read the most times in your life?
I feel like it's probably one of the Harry Potter books or a Young Wizards book, simply because those books were my favorites long before I read any of the other books that are currently my favorites. I feel like I've read Jane Eyre a million times but the truth is that I've just listened to my audiobook a million times; I've only read it cover-to-cover maybe three or four times.

6) What was your favorite book when you were ten years old?
Probably Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban -- I know I read it before I turned eleven because once I turned eleven I kept waiting for my owl from Hogwarts to come...

7) What is the worst book you've read in the past year?
Breaking Dawn. Enough said.

8) What is the best book you've read in the past year?
Usually the answer to this would be a Julie E. Czerneda book, hands down, but Rift in the Sky was such a traumatic experience that I'm not sure I can say I liked it that much. I probably don't have a 'best' list, but I really came to like Neil Gaiman (mostly for The Graveyard Book and Neverwhere), George R. R. Martin redefined 'epic' for me with A Game of Thrones, and most recently Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca sent chills all up and down my spine.

9) If you could force everyone you tagged to read one book, what would it be?
So You Want to Be a Wizard by Diane Duane. Her books have changed my life and I can't imagine not having them in the world.

10) Who deserves to win the next Nobel Prize for literature?
J. K. Rowling. Her books have done more to unite the world under a banner of peace, love, and understanding than any author now alive.

11) What book would you most like to see made into a movie?
Probably Diane Duane's Young Wizards books. There was actually a project to do this a while back, and Duane herself was going to write the script (before becoming a fiction writer she wrote for film and television).

12) What book would you least like to see made into a movie?
Paradise Lost. Despite the fact that at one point last year there were two projects (one studio, one independent) attempting this. I don't know why.

13) Describe your weirdest dream involving a writer, book, or literary character.
I was talking with Julie E. Czerneda and she got mad at me for not having made Rebecca read her books. Another time Diane Duane told me that I was being cocky because she overheard me tell my dad that I really wanted to be published by a particular sff imprint.

14) What is the most lowbrow book you've read as an adult?
The more expensive variety of paperback romance...actually, the Twilight books are probably worse. And I read fanfic, so do with that what you like.

15) What is the most difficult book you've ever read?
Absalom, Absalom! by Faulkner is the first that comes to mind because it's difficult to get the story, much less something of the deeper meaning. But Paradise Lost might be the book where I've had to do the most digging for insight and meaning -- and where it has been most worthwhile.

16) What is the most obscure Shakespeare play you've seen?
Probably Love's Labours Lost -- I have read more obscure Shakespeare plays than I have seen.

17) Do you prefer the French or the Russians?
Oh man, my favorite revolutionaries. It's hard to pick (the Russians have Chekov!) but in the end I have to go with the French. As long as you understand that they're rarely meant to make sense, you'll be alright.

18) Roth or Updike?
No idea who these people are.

19) David Sedaris or Dave Eggers?
Managed to never read either of them.

20) Shakespeare, Milton, or Chaucer?
Milton, hands down. See the part where that man consumed last semester at Berkeley (in a rather painfully joyous way).

21) Austen or Eliot?
Um, since when is that a question? Austen. Definitely.

22) What is the biggest or most embarrassing gap in your reading?
I have never read anything written before Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. For non-English majors this is not at all a gap, but for me it means I haven't read Homer, Virgil, or Dante, only some of the most alluded-to authors that I've never encountered.

23) What is your favorite novel?
The Wizard's Dilemma by Diane Duane

24) Play?
Twelfth Night by Shakespeare, The Last Five Years (score by Jason Robert Brown), Metamorphosis (not by Ovid!)

25) Poem?
"Let me not to the marriage of true minds" by Shakespeare; "When I consider how my light is spent" by Milton

26) Essay?
"Trickster in a Suit of Lights: Thoughts on the Modern Short Story" by Michael Chabon

27) Short story?
I don't really like short fiction -- either reading it or writing it. "Skin So Green and Fine" is an odd Beauty and the Beast retelling that makes the cut; "Attached Please Find my Novel" is a tale of intergalactic publishing escapades that's in it for the title alone.

28) Work of non-fiction?
Erm. I don't read those?

29) Graphic novel?
See above. Although I recently read Maus and thought it was fantastic.

30) Who is your favorite writer?
Aargh hatred for this question. But it's down to Diane Duane, Julie E. Czerneda, and J. K. Rowling.

31) Who is the most overrated writer alive today?
I wouldn't know, I haven't read him!

32) What is your desert island book?
Tough question, but probably A Thousand Words for Stranger or The Wizard's Dilemma. Both are narratives of hope and connection in the midst of a chaotic world. But Paradise Lost might make the list because I could use all that time I was stranded to get all my Milton ideas out of my system and onto some paper.

33) And ... what are you reading right now?
A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
readingredhead: (Default)
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Favorites, in no particular order, include:
Hermione Granger
Remus Lupin
Nita Callahan
Kit Rodriguez
Dairine Callahan
Tom Swale
Carl Romeo
Harry Dresden
Karrin Murphy
Thomas Raith
Michael Carpenter
Artemis Fowl
Holly Short
Dana Scully
Fox Mulder
Luke Skywalker
Leia Skywalker
Han Solo
Jane Eyre
Edward Rochester
Elizabeth Bennet
Fitzwilliam Darcy
Anne Shirley
Joshua Lyman
Aryl Sarc
Sira Morgan
Jason Morgan
Rael di Sarc
Enris Mendolar
Mackenzie Elizabeth Winifred Wright Connor, aka Mac
Nikolai Trojanowski

It's a rather interesting list. I have characters by J. K. Rowling (2), Jim Butcher (4), Julie E. Czerneda (7), L. M. Montgomery (1), Jane Austen (2), Charlotte Bronte (2), George Lucas (3), Chris Carter (2), Diane Duane (6), Eoin Colfer (2), and Aaron Sorkin (1).

Of course I am more in love with some of them than I am with others. I think if I had to make a top five list, I would probably die first. But since I don't have to, if I think really hard about narrowing it down, it's not so difficult. I don't just like characters for their similarities to me, or their entirely kickass abilities, or anything like that. Sometimes it's more about their depth and complexity.

For instance, take Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre. I would rather be Elizabeth, but as a character I have a deeper admiration for Jane. Elizabeth's story is fun and witty, but Jane's is soul-wrenching.

It's not surprising to me that Julie's characters make up most of the list, since the thing that I love about her writing is her characterization, but if I had to pick one I liked the best it would be a tough call...all her leading ladies have captured a different part of my heart. Aryl, Sira, and Mac would be strong contenders for a spot on my top five, though if it came to an out-and-out battle, Aryl would win.

Scully's possibly the only non-literary character who could make my top five. I love the X-Files because of the depth and complexity of these characters despite the limitations of the medium (I always feel more for books than for TV). I have felt for Scully enough that I think she might deserve a place on the list.

Harry Dresden might be the only man to make the top five, but he really deservese to be there, simply because he is so kickass. Also, his voice is beautiful. There's an example of creator and creation in a fantastic working relationship.

Hm. So I think perhaps my top five, in no particular order, comes down to Hermione, Aryl, Dresden, Jane, and Scully.

And now I'm just rambling. There are far more characters who annoy me than there are characters that I like, so I think I'll stop this entry right now before I go absolutely crazy.
readingredhead: (Stars)
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First off, take note: this is discounting characters I've written. Invariably, I can relate to them best (although Holly, Jasen, and Noelle top the list right now).

If we're going chronologically from when I encountered these characters, the first on the list is undoubtedly Hermione. I was (and am) so happy that she was a girl, and smart, and skillful and perfectly capable of running with the boys, and necessary to them. She makes being the only girl in a group of guys seem effortless. I relate to her obsessive scholasticism, but also to her vulnerability. I'm Hermione in her moments of triumph, but also in the moment when she's sitting in the girl's bathroom and crying because Ron insulted her.

Next -- specifically for one line of beautiful prose -- I'd say I'm like Mac from Julie E. Czerneda's Species Imperative series. That one line, which I'm sure you've heard me quote over and over (though never exactly) is the one about a heart with two settings: "don't care" and "forever." More and more, I think this describes me. And that's not a bad thing.

The character who's felt the most like me since Hermione is Aryl Sarc of Julie's Reap the Wild Wind, because Aryl's just on the edge of growing up, and she's scared and apprehensive and faced with things too big for her, and her entire picture of what her life was supposed to be is fractured in the space of a moment, but despite all of this she's brave and strong and spirited and doesn't give up, and though she doesn't know it yet -- neither do I, for that matter -- she's going to be rewarded for it.

And of course must come Elizabeth Bennet, who I really feel is my Austen double. Ask any girl which Austen woman she'd be and I'll bet you good money she answers Elizabeth, but I'll also bet you good money she's lying. Not to sound conceited or anything, but I'm not. All I'm waiting for is a stand-in Darcy to tell me about the beauty of my intelligent eyes and proclaim that he most ardently admires and loves me.

To round the list out, there's Jane Eyre, who really is quieter than me, but other than that is a person I can deeply sympathize with. We both have moments where we gasp for liberty; we both have moments when we do things we wish we didn't have to; and in the end, I know we both will grow and change as individuals, defining ourselves as separate from men (the book's not called Jane Rochester for a reason) and happy in our own right. What more is there to ask for?

(And this is only including literary characters I relate to. If we broaden our approach to encompass TV, movies, and musicals, I have to add Scully, Princess Leia, and Elphaba to the list.)
readingredhead: (Light)
And you thought that one month-long timed writing challenge per year was enough.

As some of you may remember, last year the wonderful folks at the Office of Letters and Light -- yes, those same awesome folks who run National Novel Writing Month for my novel-writing enjoyment every year -- started up another project. Script Frenzy ran through June and challenged everyone to write a 20,000 word screenplay or stage play in 30 days. I started (and as usual didn't finish) a play about five writers who were part of the same college workshop class. It was my first foray into the world of script writing and I was convinced after the end of last June that I wouldn't make another attempt at it again.

Of course, I began to eat my words sooner than had been expected, even for me. This year Script Frenzy's been changed up a bit. It's been moved to April and the goal is measured in pages -- 100 of them -- instead of wordcount. And the one reason that I'm doing it again this year is that in Script Frenzy, unlike in NaNoWriMo, it's acceptable (even perhaps encouraged) to work with a partner.

So without further ado, I announce to those of you who do not already know this that Rebecca and I are turning Pride and Prejudice into a musical over the course of the upcoming month.

I just got that much cooler, didn't I?

At first the plan was to write a few original melodies but then rip off popular tunes and write our own words to them. Now, it looks like we're starting completely from scratch, with nothing but Jane Austen for our guide. But as some of you know, she makes a pretty good guide.

Wish me luck, and if you're at all interested at getting in on the frenzy, you can find out more about it at It's not too late to sign up!
readingredhead: (Stars)
While in the process of procrastinating because I really don't want to write my history paper, I stumbled again across my senior thesis. Seeing as how I was procrastinating, I read it.

Honestly, I was very gratified.  It read like something professional -- like an essay of literary criticism fit to reside in any of the compilations of literary criticism that I've been reading through lately. Of course this is just my biased opinion, and obviously it's probably exaggerated, but the uniqueness of the approach still has me giggling with excitement nearly a year after its initial conception.

The craft of it impressed me as well.  Usually when I re-read things I've written in the past I tend to discredit my former style of writing as childish or immature, but that hasn't happened yet with the senior thesis!  I still feel like it's well-written and deserving of respect.  More than that, it's well-argued, referencing just enough passages that the reader would probably believe what I have to say.  I looked back at it and thought, "Gee, why can't I just whip out a history paper that looks like that?"

And then I remembered exactly how long it took me to write that marvelous masterpiece of an essay, and how engaged in the subject I was, and how many revisions it went through, and I said to myself, "That's why I can't just whip out a history paper that looks like that."

The idea is a little depressing, especially since I'm meeting with my history GSI to talk about the paper tomorrow and I don't really have much to show her, but at the same time the gratification of knowing that I'm still in love with my senior thesis is helping me to balance these things out.  Whaddaya know -- IB was good for something after all.  I know that in the future I'm certainly planning to make further inquiries into the literary criticism of dystopian literature in a historical context, because that's what moves me.  

Just like I'm reading through a couple books of Jane Austen criticism in order to write a simple paper on Pride and Prejudice.  It's so refreshing to have such a love for a subject that even the research and the work is something worth it.  The only problem I have is that at some point I'll have to pick an area of English to specialize in, and I'll be torn between the Romantics and the Dystopians!  Maybe it's Professor Goldsmith's fault, but at the moment I'm leaning to the Romantics, especially if it means I get to read more of Austen and learn about the critical tradition in her works.  Besides, I can always wrangle the Dystopians into the focus of my history major, which looks like twentieth century western history at the moment, from the Great War to the Cold War.

And then there's always the chance that four years from now I'll have graduated with a degree in Women's Studies and be starting med school -- at least, my father would remind me of this if I mentioned how set I feel I am in the paths I want to take.  After all, he went into Berkeley as a lawyer and came out as a teacher.  But somehow I don't see myself undergoing the same kind of transformation.  I know very well what I want to do with my life, and though the specifics might change, they also might not.  And that's not exactly a problem.

This has turned into an oddly retrospective entry for something that was initially intended as further procrastination, but I think I like it that way.  I've got an odd mixture of Pride and Prejudice and Fahrenheit 451 running around in my head right now...maybe I should follow it.


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