Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Academic Life, Yet Again

Every now and then my ability to pay attention to anything I ought to be doing completely deserts me. It began to do this over the weekend (although I did get some work done at my neighborhood cafe) and I was utterly hopeless by Monday. The worst moment came when I attempted to look through Lacan's Ecrits before returning the book (which had been recalled for another patron. A year or so ago, I had been well enough able to understand what he was getting at in one essay that I thought I should re-examine it. Re-examination suggested that in the meantime I had lost too many brain cells to even dream about Lacan. I was tempted to throw the book across the room, but nicely returned it to the library figuring that if I later can't live without it, I can always recall it myself.
The nice thing about these fits, like most of Ms. Spots' ailments, is that they pass quickly. Just as the Spotted Wonder was ready to be extra cuddly by Saturday evening, her human was refreshed and pretty much ready to work again by Tuesday morning. This was a good thing, as today I have to overnight the latest postdoc application, all SIX COPIES of it. I think I have gotten the bugs out of the writing sample, which is a different one than I used for the last few, although I wouldn't say that any single writing sample gives an accurate picture of my (diverse) methodological concerns. We will just hope that the writing sample is suitable; my advisor thought that in this case it might be best to pick one that bears some relation to the research I am proposing doing, and my other potential samples were less closely related.
I was also able to make progress on my impending conference paper. Sometimes one writes these from scratch and other times one pulls together paragraphs from various old stuff and then by some sort of mysterious process comes up with something new (rather like Frankenstein) from these scraps. This one is the Frankenstein variety, but I think that by the time it is done, it should not too closely resemble any of its original parts, which come from something like three separate dissertation chapters and one or two other papers. After all, in tying these things together, one does change the wording considerably and of course they all have to be made to pull together to support whatever the paper's theme might be. It is a curious process, but after writing so many funding applications and a fair number of conference papers, I am finding that my ability to rework material for new purposes is definitely increasing. Whenever I start, I feel certain that the result will only be some sort of warmed-over mess, but it always seems to end up as something I am rather pleased with. With the conference papers, I always do end up saying something that I haven't quite articulated before, which does advance my thinking.
Meanwhile, one of my colleagues is defending her dissertation today. This exciting event occurs in the afternoon, and I am certain she will do an impressive job of it. We have another defense in my department next week, but I'm afraid I will have to present those congratulations before and after the fact since I'll be out of town.

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