News!

Watteau's Embarkation to the Isle of Cythaera

I'm in the middle of graduate school applications at the moment, trying to coordinate the last few details before I finish uploading documents, checking boxes, and clicking the big "SUBMIT" button. While contacting the individuals who have been so kind as to write letters of recommendation for me, I received a staggering offer which I'm happy to share with you.

I've been invited to apply for a visiting tutor position at St. John's College, something that makes me feel so fortunate and excited and bewildered. Since graduating from the college last May, I have intended to get myself a PhD and then get back to the campus, hopefully as a member of their wonderful faculty. I thought that this process would take, at best, seven years. Now I find myself scrambling to compose the position application materials as well as my graduate school materials, and have to keep wondering how this happened.

I've just finished drafting the statement that's required, something I found to be quite formidable: A statement that presents in detail the current state of your intellectual life, telling us what questions most interest you (these may or may not be related to your scholarly research); the statement should tell us also how your intellectual interests might intersect with the St. John's Program, what you might contribute, and what you might gain, as well as what kind of teaching suits you, and what kind of learning you plan to undertake.

So now that I've written this out can go back to being superstitious and wondering how my fortune is going to change. I have this newly discovered problem of believeing way too much in luck. My string of dull, impoverished months were attributed to bad luck; a fortuitous job offer is mere fortune; my ability to get into grad school is going to also be at the whim of luck. If I find myself stuck behind a school bus on the way to work: bad luck; the book I just checked for on the library website has been rented in the last hour: bad luck.
It's getting ridiculous! Especially since I seem to lean to the pessimistic side of superstitiousness, expecting something bad to happen merely because I seem to have had something nice happen.

I suppose I think of Villette and Lucy Snowe's comment about Graham and Paulina:

Some real lives do--for some certain days or years--actually anticipate the happiness of Heaven; and, I believe, if such perfect happiness is once felt by good people (to the wicked it never comes), its sweet effect is never wholly lost. Whatever trials follow, whatever pains of sickness or shades of death, the glory precedent still shines through, cheering the keen anguish, and tinging the deep cloud.

I do believe there are some human beings so born, so reared, so guided from a soft cradle to a calm and late grave, that no excessive suffering penetrates their lot, and no tempestuous blackness overcasts their journey. And often, these are not pampered, selfish beings, but Nature's elect, harmonious and benign; men and women mild with charity, kind agents of God's kind attributes.

And I identify myself more with her other example:

But it is not so for all. What then? His will be done, as done it surely will be, whether we humble ourselves to resignation or not. The impulse of creation forwards it; the strength of powers, seen and unseen, has its fulfilment in charge. Proof of a life to come must be given. In fire and in blood, if needful, must that proof be written. In fire and in blood do we trace the record throughout nature. In fire and in blood does it cross our own experience. Sufferer, faint not through terror of this burning evidence. Tired wayfarer, gird up thy loins; look upward, march onward. Pilgrims and brother mourners, join in friendly company. Dark through the wilderness of this world stretches the way for most of us: equal and steady be our tread; be our cross our banner.

I just feel like those "fortunate souls" probably don't go around thinking about their own fortune...that they must somehow remain oblivious to the gilded nature of their lives, and that my own hyper-conciousness must ruin any chance at unadulterated good fortune.

Either way, I cannot wait to re-read Villette once the weather turns cold. I'm in dire need of tempestuous emotion and suppressed passion.

News!

Watteau's Embarkation to the Isle of Cythaera

I'm in the middle of graduate school applications at the moment, trying to coordinate the last few details before I finish uploading documents, checking boxes, and clicking the big "SUBMIT" button. While contacting the individuals who have been so kind as to write letters of recommendation for me, I received a staggering offer which I'm happy to share with you.

I've been invited to apply for a visiting tutor position at St. John's College, something that makes me feel so fortunate and excited and bewildered. Since graduating from the college last May, I have intended to get myself a PhD and then get back to the campus, hopefully as a member of their wonderful faculty. I thought that this process would take, at best, seven years. Now I find myself scrambling to compose the position application materials as well as my graduate school materials, and have to keep wondering how this happened.

I've just finished drafting the statement that's required, something I found to be quite formidable: A statement that presents in detail the current state of your intellectual life, telling us what questions most interest you (these may or may not be related to your scholarly research); the statement should tell us also how your intellectual interests might intersect with the St. John's Program, what you might contribute, and what you might gain, as well as what kind of teaching suits you, and what kind of learning you plan to undertake.

So now that I've written this out can go back to being superstitious and wondering how my fortune is going to change. I have this newly discovered problem of believeing way too much in luck. My string of dull, impoverished months were attributed to bad luck; a fortuitous job offer is mere fortune; my ability to get into grad school is going to also be at the whim of luck. If I find myself stuck behind a school bus on the way to work: bad luck; the book I just checked for on the library website has been rented in the last hour: bad luck.
It's getting ridiculous! Especially since I seem to lean to the pessimistic side of superstitiousness, expecting something bad to happen merely because I seem to have had something nice happen.

I suppose I think of Villette and Lucy Snowe's comment about Graham and Paulina:

Some real lives do--for some certain days or years--actually anticipate the happiness of Heaven; and, I believe, if such perfect happiness is once felt by good people (to the wicked it never comes), its sweet effect is never wholly lost. Whatever trials follow, whatever pains of sickness or shades of death, the glory precedent still shines through, cheering the keen anguish, and tinging the deep cloud.

I do believe there are some human beings so born, so reared, so guided from a soft cradle to a calm and late grave, that no excessive suffering penetrates their lot, and no tempestuous blackness overcasts their journey. And often, these are not pampered, selfish beings, but Nature's elect, harmonious and benign; men and women mild with charity, kind agents of God's kind attributes.

And I identify myself more with her other example:

But it is not so for all. What then? His will be done, as done it surely will be, whether we humble ourselves to resignation or not. The impulse of creation forwards it; the strength of powers, seen and unseen, has its fulfilment in charge. Proof of a life to come must be given. In fire and in blood, if needful, must that proof be written. In fire and in blood do we trace the record throughout nature. In fire and in blood does it cross our own experience. Sufferer, faint not through terror of this burning evidence. Tired wayfarer, gird up thy loins; look upward, march onward. Pilgrims and brother mourners, join in friendly company. Dark through the wilderness of this world stretches the way for most of us: equal and steady be our tread; be our cross our banner.

I just feel like those "fortunate souls" probably don't go around thinking about their own fortune...that they must somehow remain oblivious to the gilded nature of their lives, and that my own hyper-conciousness must ruin any chance at unadulterated good fortune.

Either way, I cannot wait to re-read Villette once the weather turns cold. I'm in dire need of tempestuous emotion and suppressed passion.

Dark Terrain

[here]

She could feel that each year took something away from her and added something to her and that she was slowly changing with them; yet none of them stood out distinct from the others. Her sense of self was now vague and fluid, and when she probed her own being all she could discover was the shifting of veiled, indefinite forms, as if she were touching something that stirred under a blanket, without being able to identify it. Gradually it became more and more as though she were living under a woolen blanket herself, or under a bell-shaped cover made of thin horn which was becoming more and more opaque.

That’s from Musil’s story “The Temptation of Quiet Veronica,” another lush, intricate and very secretive story that I’m working on unraveling. Both this story and “The Perfecting of a Love” are so entirely internal that I find myself sinking into the rhythmic tick-tock of someone else’s mind and thoughts, and unable to keep the “reader-like” distance needed to understand what’s being said and why.

She dreaded him as obscurely as she dreaded all things alien to her, an aversion without the sharp edge of hatred, merely as if he were a distant country beyond the frontier where one’s own land merges softly and mournfully with the sky. But since that time she had realized that all happiness had gone out of her life because something made her feel abhorrence of all that was not herself; and whereas formerly she had felt like someone who does not know the inner meaning of her own actions, now it seemed to her that she had merely forgotten that meaning and might perhaps begin to remember it.
When I stop and let the little things that have accumulated in my life just fall away, I often feel this incredible surge of unknown, as if there are oceans of darkness within, some sort of vast emotional terrain that is a cross between labyrinth and maelstrom. These stories tap into that; Musil articulates those folds of impenetrable darkness that lurk within everyone. His women are ponderous and complicated.

I’ve been thinking for some time now that I’d like to re-work one of these two stories into a more dramatic format, either film or stage. I don’t know how it would work yet, but I think it would be a very interesting exercise. I’m planning on re-reading Strindberg’s play Miss Julie because I think it would be a good model for the dramatization of internal conflict and development.

Dark Terrain

[here]

She could feel that each year took something away from her and added something to her and that she was slowly changing with them; yet none of them stood out distinct from the others. Her sense of self was now vague and fluid, and when she probed her own being all she could discover was the shifting of veiled, indefinite forms, as if she were touching something that stirred under a blanket, without being able to identify it. Gradually it became more and more as though she were living under a woolen blanket herself, or under a bell-shaped cover made of thin horn which was becoming more and more opaque.

That’s from Musil’s story “The Temptation of Quiet Veronica,” another lush, intricate and very secretive story that I’m working on unraveling. Both this story and “The Perfecting of a Love” are so entirely internal that I find myself sinking into the rhythmic tick-tock of someone else’s mind and thoughts, and unable to keep the “reader-like” distance needed to understand what’s being said and why.

She dreaded him as obscurely as she dreaded all things alien to her, an aversion without the sharp edge of hatred, merely as if he were a distant country beyond the frontier where one’s own land merges softly and mournfully with the sky. But since that time she had realized that all happiness had gone out of her life because something made her feel abhorrence of all that was not herself; and whereas formerly she had felt like someone who does not know the inner meaning of her own actions, now it seemed to her that she had merely forgotten that meaning and might perhaps begin to remember it.
When I stop and let the little things that have accumulated in my life just fall away, I often feel this incredible surge of unknown, as if there are oceans of darkness within, some sort of vast emotional terrain that is a cross between labyrinth and maelstrom. These stories tap into that; Musil articulates those folds of impenetrable darkness that lurk within everyone. His women are ponderous and complicated.

I’ve been thinking for some time now that I’d like to re-work one of these two stories into a more dramatic format, either film or stage. I don’t know how it would work yet, but I think it would be a very interesting exercise. I’m planning on re-reading Strindberg’s play Miss Julie because I think it would be a good model for the dramatization of internal conflict and development.

The Deluge

(editorial image from jedroot.com)



Maybe.

I wrote a post below and it felt rusty, so now I'm going to write more. I may even stop thinking so much about how it's received or whether or not I make sense, and just start writing to get some thoughts out of my head for once.

For example!

I want to write about Robert Musil's story "The Perfecting of a Love" and about the image of the house and those two paragraphs at the very beginning which I read 3 times, marvelling each time at the beauty of the image and the words.

I want to write about what it feels like to have a head stuffed full of wool, and what it's like to be frightened of losing something you never really had for certain.

I want to write about the green grass on the other side of that damned fence.

I want to write about the void that's left behind when enthusiasm vanishes. What it's like for life to go from sparkling and rich and engaging to flat and dull and sort of like a waiting room.
I read over some of my posts and sit stunned at how well I articulated those problems that are still in my head, but currently all gummed up and obscure. I also yearn for days like
this one:
And I suppose the only way to get back there is to start pushing myself forward.

The Deluge

(editorial image from jedroot.com)



Maybe.

I wrote a post below and it felt rusty, so now I'm going to write more. I may even stop thinking so much about how it's received or whether or not I make sense, and just start writing to get some thoughts out of my head for once.

For example!

I want to write about Robert Musil's story "The Perfecting of a Love" and about the image of the house and those two paragraphs at the very beginning which I read 3 times, marvelling each time at the beauty of the image and the words.

I want to write about what it feels like to have a head stuffed full of wool, and what it's like to be frightened of losing something you never really had for certain.

I want to write about the green grass on the other side of that damned fence.

I want to write about the void that's left behind when enthusiasm vanishes. What it's like for life to go from sparkling and rich and engaging to flat and dull and sort of like a waiting room.
I read over some of my posts and sit stunned at how well I articulated those problems that are still in my head, but currently all gummed up and obscure. I also yearn for days like
this one:
And I suppose the only way to get back there is to start pushing myself forward.

Voyeurism

[Redon (from Moma website)]

It was quite some time ago that I scribbled down the notes which became what will follow, but it is only recently that I've felt any inclination to do the process and work of thinking through a thought, expanding it and letting it bloom. These past few months have been filled with nothing and with everything, and it's hard to tell what will come next.

At the end of Fellini's La Dolce Vita, Marcello and the crazy party trip out onto the beach and find a sea monster. It's a giant ray which has washed up on the shore, its belly pale and fading. Two "eyes" stare up from death and Marcello states "It insists on looking."

The entire movie is a mess of voyeurism: the miracle children who are exploited and exploit the fanaticism of and rabid curiosity of the people who come to see them speak to the Virgin Mary; the paparazzi squealing around on their vespas; Marcello tossing feathers on some poor girl while a crowd of disenchanted somebodies watch.

It's an obsession with experience, and moreso with having an audience while we're experiencing something. We want someone to watch while we live. Beauty, talent, charm, and intelligence have no worth without their audience, and so we see Anita Ekberg dancing, laughing, submerged in a fountain and beautiful. We see Maddalenna and another man together while she listens to Marcello proclaim his love for her from behind a wall. For every action there is an audience, and the audience is integral in the action's existence. The film is about people acting for an audience, and about that audience dictating what is acted.

Steiner, Marcello's intellectual friend, says at one point:

We need to live in a state of suspended animation like a work of art, in a state of enchantment. We have to succeed in loving so greatly that we live outside of time, detached....detached.

He also kills his two small children and then commits suicide while his wife is away. When she returns, she is of course met by the paparazzi as they climb over one another in the attempt to capture her reaction on film.

What is the heart of the problem here? Are we watching and watched so often and so continuously that we forget what it feels like to be inside a moment? Have we forgotten what it feels like to wholly occupy a moment of time?

Fellini seems to present us with two options: Steiner's ideal which is impossible and inhuman, or Marcello's reality which is hollow, cheaply varnished, and existentially crushing.

Voyeurism

[Redon (from Moma website)]

It was quite some time ago that I scribbled down the notes which became what will follow, but it is only recently that I've felt any inclination to do the process and work of thinking through a thought, expanding it and letting it bloom. These past few months have been filled with nothing and with everything, and it's hard to tell what will come next.

At the end of Fellini's La Dolce Vita, Marcello and the crazy party trip out onto the beach and find a sea monster. It's a giant ray which has washed up on the shore, its belly pale and fading. Two "eyes" stare up from death and Marcello states "It insists on looking."

The entire movie is a mess of voyeurism: the miracle children who are exploited and exploit the fanaticism of and rabid curiosity of the people who come to see them speak to the Virgin Mary; the paparazzi squealing around on their vespas; Marcello tossing feathers on some poor girl while a crowd of disenchanted somebodies watch.

It's an obsession with experience, and moreso with having an audience while we're experiencing something. We want someone to watch while we live. Beauty, talent, charm, and intelligence have no worth without their audience, and so we see Anita Ekberg dancing, laughing, submerged in a fountain and beautiful. We see Maddalenna and another man together while she listens to Marcello proclaim his love for her from behind a wall. For every action there is an audience, and the audience is integral in the action's existence. The film is about people acting for an audience, and about that audience dictating what is acted.

Steiner, Marcello's intellectual friend, says at one point:

We need to live in a state of suspended animation like a work of art, in a state of enchantment. We have to succeed in loving so greatly that we live outside of time, detached....detached.

He also kills his two small children and then commits suicide while his wife is away. When she returns, she is of course met by the paparazzi as they climb over one another in the attempt to capture her reaction on film.

What is the heart of the problem here? Are we watching and watched so often and so continuously that we forget what it feels like to be inside a moment? Have we forgotten what it feels like to wholly occupy a moment of time?

Fellini seems to present us with two options: Steiner's ideal which is impossible and inhuman, or Marcello's reality which is hollow, cheaply varnished, and existentially crushing.