Monday, January 31, 2011

8 days and counting...

So things are progressing; after a health debacle, a subsiquent round of the blues, and numerous doctors appointments, I'm feeling better and more optimistic.  I heart back from my adviser and she recommends I stick to my original plan: thus I'm rereading Barry Lyndon. Today I made it to page 200, will finish it tomorrow, most likely at Toyota as I'm waiting for the Prius to receive her bi-annual maintenance.

The car needs to be in tip top shape because on Feb. 8 I'll be starting my cross-country journey to St. Louis where I'll indefinitely be staying at my grandmother's, contingent on Blue setting in and the two of us not making her crazy!

So bottom line, I need to rework the pages I have, but there's a plan in the works, and I'm feeling oddly optimistic...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I'm still here...

Hello to anyone who follows (if anyone follows!)
Just so you know, I haven't given up! I've actually written fresh pages, but am dealing with some health problems.  Will be more specific with my next post!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Not-so-climatic birthday...

I'm not going to lie people, not too much is going to get done today! This birthday may not be as climatic as my last one, but still... My parents are taking me to see The King's Speech and then for a beer and a bit of trivia.  Flashbacks to 1981-83 when my birthday was just me and my folks, rather excited about ti!

However, I am arranging my criticism notes and have pulled down all the books I think I should peruse or re-peruse and think I'm getting a bit overzealous... see the picture attached!

My plan of attack for papers has always been to type up ALL the passages from both fiction, letters and criticism that I might use, then just start writing, pasting in my "building blocks" as I go. Hopefully this will work equally as well for a 40-50 page Chapter.  Also, I think another lightbulb went on: going to focus on Thackeray's  personal and fictional writings about Ireland 1842-1845.  I think much sharper AND simpler than trying to pull in his whole career! What do you think?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Blue birthday beginnings...

So Craig left today... Last night we had a delicious dinner at home and played Apples to Apples with my folks--lots of smiling and laughing all around! Thus seeing him leave was doubly hard.  It both means back to the grindstone and another 2-3 weeks without my husband, which seems pretty unbearable at the moment.

He left at noon, but i saw him again at 1:30 because he'd left his wallet! Turned around and rolled into a gas station in Edinboro on fumes! My dad and Blue rode with me, we transferred the wallets and a few goodbyes, and that was that.  Next, I paid an exorbitant fee join the Erie YMCA, but it's just too divine! Full gym, TVs on every machine, full-length pool with 6 lanes, sauna, even wireless, couches and a coffee shop! I think it will help me keep physically well and form a better routine.  Plus I can give my parents a bit more space from time to time!

As work, finished typing up all my notes and passages from The Irish Sketchbook.  Plan on finishing all the excerpts from his personal letters meant for CH 1 before the night is through.  But somehow I'm not feeling it today... feel kind of melancholy and old with tomorrow's birthday approaching. Definitely not as monumental as the last one and really missing teaching.  I KNOW this is the right move; with my inability to juggle such two massive tasks coupled with my persistent back (and other random health) problems, this is the right move.  Just lonely today...

Back to typing!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Did accomplish a bit today!

I almost didn't post! But I will do my damnedest to post every day until this thing is done!

I'm currently in a rich food/wine coma! Craig took me to this excellent French restaurant in downtown Erie and I think I spent half of the afternoon daydreaming about it... I'm not sure my half-hour on the treadmill even put a dent in the calories I consumed...

However, today I continued to take notes and copy images from the Irish Sketchbook.  Plus, I found an INCREDIBLE new work of criticism coming out that closely mirrors my project and will really bring things together:  Urban Realism and the Cosmopolitan Imagination in the Nineteenth Century: Visible City, Invisible World!
However, it's currently $90! And not even available in the US until February.  We'll see if I can get it from BU or UPenn before another Victorianism snatches it up!

Finally, totally reconceptualizing things, well, maybe.  I've only been working with his letters & illustrations from 1841-1843 plus the Sketchbook and have enough to write two chapters, much less one! Where are Barry Lyndon and The Great Hoggarty Diamond to fit in?? I emailed my adviser for advice... we'll see what the next step is... until tomorrow!

New Year, New Goals

Hello readers. I have returned.

It's been a while, but I am back on track on the dissertation. Last semester was so weird and so intense for me (I was juggling a lot of balls at once), and the result was that I oftentimes pushed stuff back...or order to get through all the school work I had to do. But this semester I have resolved, like Susan, to make my dissertation a PRIORITY. So as of January 7th, I have been working on my dissertation little by little, everyday.

The thing is, as a teacher and a new mom, I am not able to take days to research, read, and write. When you're a full-time grad student with no children who's still completing coursework, you get used to all-nighters or entire weekends at the library where you could churn out a paper, peruse articles at your leisure, or walk along the stacks until you feel tired. Once you get into the real world, you can't take the time to do that. You can't afford it. (And Susan will agree with me on this: it's not easy to work full-time AND dissertate.) And so you have to come up with a new modus operandi. That was my problem for, say, the past year or so: how do I unlearn the way I am used to producing academic work? Or rather, what is another way of producing academic work? While I was figuring that out, I was frustrated, upset, and confused.

I finally realized, recently, that I can only work in spurts. I quit complaining about how I wish I had a day--JUST A DAY--to write. To research. To read. To google. It's not gonna happen. Not right now at least. In the meantime, I still have to pay tuition, still have to register for another semester, still have to wake up early and take care of my baby. So I'm trying something new, and so far it's been working for me: I work an hour a day. Yes, I know, I was doing that last semester. And it backfired. Why? Because I'd work at night. At the end of the semester that wasn't so practical anymore, because either I was exhausted from work or I would take the time to grade and plan lessons so I could get a little extra sleep in the morning. Now I have moved my "dissertation hour" to earlier in the day; I have come to realize that no matter what happens with my daily schedule, my morning usually looks the same. I procrastinate less in the morning. I may not be as productive daily, but at the end of the week I feel like I have a little bit of something to show.

So there you have it, folks: Susan and I, two dissertators, blogging about what it's like to write a dissertation. We are hoping to show you two ways of writing a dissertation. Neither is easy. Two different approaches, but both looking for the same end result--a PhD.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Craig's here!

So this entry will be short... Craig's here! He got four hours of sleep so he could start driving at 6am and get here  just after 1pm.  Poor guy took a shower then napped for a few hours, but then we cooked dinner together and just sat in front of the fireplace and talked.  Very perfect, very Victorian (except Craig helped with the cooking and cleaning up!)

As for work, I think it's finally clicking! Sally Mitchell (of Temple University, a well-known Victorian scholar especially knowledgeable of Victorian periodicals) tipped me off to a great database.  Also, typed up 30 pgs of notes from Irish Sketchbook, then realized it's taking too much time! I started finding the best excerpts, carefully rereading them, then pasting them from online.

Drank a ton of caffeine and took a break to walk the dog with my dad.  Don't think I stopped talking for a minute of it! I'm actually starting to believe that I have something to say here...

More tomorrow!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Feeling a bit low...

So I finished rereading and marking up Irish Sketchbook: 367 pages in two days.  If I working or going to school in addition that would be pretty impressive, but I think I need to take Liana's advier's advice and start getting through a book a day.  I found several amazing, relevant books at the UPenn library, but they're all checked out ... grrrr....

I know I can do write this dissertation, but standing here at the beginning of the marathon... it's looking impossible... sigh

At least Craig arrives tomorrow!

I'm about to type up my notes from Irish Sketchbook with Tina Fey cheering me up in the background!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Upon a snowy Wednesday...

Every morning I set my alarm for 6 and every morning I seem to roll out of bed about 8... Furthermore, I've found myself staring out the window at the snow that continues to fall rather than focus on the book resting in my hands.  Still, I think Thackeray would smile at all of this; I read in one of his letters that he never felt satisfied with a single days work he'd done in his life.  Like me, he'd rather be eating foods he probably shouldn't have, and like my attachment to Facebook and bad TV, he was in the habit of curling up on a couch with a bad novel rather than writing or reading material of "substance."

Still! So far, I've read all the allusions to Ireland and Catholicism in all four volumes of his letters, discovered two books I need to order and several poems he wrote about Ireland (thankfully available online, but unfortunately without noted dates!)  Also, I've been rereading Irish Sketchbook and am up to page 200 (well... 181...) but will be at 250 by the time I put it down tonight.

I keep hoping I made the right decision to step away from teaching and lose myself in this, but I don't see how it would have worked any other way.  Even with my short attention span, at least 6hrs of solid work is getting done each day, more than I could have ever managed with a job, and I think I've come to realize I can get lost in scholarship or lost in teaching, I've never learned to do both simultaneously.

On a sad note, I'm really missing Craig.  But I shall see him Friday and this weekend we'll all humor and pretend my birthday isn't happening...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Thackeray in his inn, me in my study....

It's official, I have the back of a one-hundred year old woman! Was in pain all night and woke up stiff with aches radiating down my arms.  Spent time on the treadmill, tried ice and heat and ultimately resigned myself to it.

Sitting down to the computer I wasn't quite sure where to start in writing/rewriting Chapter One (On Thackeray and Irish Catholicism).  So I reread a paper I wrote several years ago on Thackeray & Ireland, reread all of my notes from my field exam on Irish lit, and settled into reading his personal letters about Ireland.

It's hard to imagine him my age (a year or two younger) with two young daughters (4 and 1?), having already been through the loss of a third.  His wife had long surpassed postpartum depression and childlike and insane, several times trying to kill herself.  The London publishing house, Chapman  & Hall, paid him in advance to write a travelbook on Ireland, and he finally boarded the boat to Ireland with his entirely family in tow, hoping seeing her mother and sister in Ireland would help his wife, Isabella, regain some semblance of her former self.  Sadly she repeatedly tried to throw herself overboard and he finally tied a ribbon around her waist and the other around his wrist so he could sleep without worry...

With Isabella in and institution and his daughters finally living safely with his mother in Paris, Thackeray did his tour of Ireland, writing humorous tidbits in the book and sad letters about his loneliness and how much he missed his daughters.  I'm focusing on tidbits about the poverty he witnessed and his thoughts on the Irish Catholics he encountered.

It's interesting that before his journey he reprimanded his mother for her anti-Catholic sentiments, but once in Ireland he acknowledged his aversions priests, the Eucharist, convents, etc.  In specific letter he describes a dinner conversation with a group of Irish Protestants where they are telling a story about a corrupt priest.  Thackeray jumps in, lambasting the man and the Catholic faith, but then realizes the story is entirely false. It seems to be a moment of awakening for him as he questions his preconceived prejudice all over again.  Nowadays it seems bizarre that Catholics would be so ill-treated, but it was only during his college days that King George IV signed the Catholic Emancipation Bill allowing Catholics into public office...

And so I sit in my makeshift study here in Erie, watching the snow fall heavily out of the draped window, sometimes feeling like I've been having conversations with Willy T, holed up in a small room in some inn outside Cork, grateful that the rain kept him from venturing out to dinner, forcing him to finally get some writing done...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Goal met!

So today was the first day in recent memory where I set a writing goal and met it! It was to once more finalize what the project is all about, refine the 40 page prospectus that will now serve as my roadmap as I move forward.  I learned that Krishan Kumar has a wonderful article on the place of literature in understanding nineteenth century sociology and empire studies and used this as a general frame for the goal of my entire study.  Also, I clarified my approach to Thackeray's satire and think I FINALLY grasp what Bogel is saying in The Difference Satire Makes.  On to refining the train wreck that is Chapter One!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Settling in

So it's official... I've resigned from my job at Valley Forge Military College, cleared out of our house there and am settling into my parents' home to commence my 6 months of marathon writing.  We visit Craig's parents in Ohio Thursday through Saturday, Craig leaves Sunday, then it's me and my mountain of books.  A bit nervous, but excited to jump in!