Saturday, March 19, 2011


Nothing much happened today in the dissertation department. I spent most of the day grading and taking care of Miss E. However, I didn't beat myself up too much because yesterday I had a whole 3 hours--3 hours!--to work. And I did. I wrote 4 and a half glorious pages.

I've become so accustomed to producing little bits day by day, that I had forgotten what it felt like to sit down and write for a lengthy period of time. As JD says in Scrubs: "It. Was. Awesome." The feeling of following a line of thought, freewriting, thumbing through an article and not have to worry about the clock (sort of) was liberating. I believe it liberated me to think and to write. Now, I think I will change my schedule around a bit and spend more afternoons just sitting down and writing.

Switching things around scares me a bit though. My big New Year's Resolution was to make my dissertation a priority, and the way I enabled that was by working every day at the same time. So far it has worked, although sometimes it puts a crinkle in my days off from school. I like working in the morning. Yesterday Radioguy and I were talking about the importance of having a routine to develop your craft and getting your creativity jumpstarted. He thinks it's better to make a point of writing at some point in the day, whereas I think a schedule works better, at least for me. Both strategies are good, but I feel like I need a more structured approach (did I mention I am a professional procrastinator?). Dissertating in the afternoon the days I teach would allow me the two or three unfettered hours for writing and thinking when I used to grade or lesson plan. However, this is also the moment of the day when I start to feel myself unwinding and yawning. A lot. That's part of the reason why I worry about switching things: I know myself. I will find excuses to stop at Target instead of driving straight to a cafe. I will go to the grocery store. All because I am tired but can't drive home yet.

So this is food for thought. I won't be able to put my new plan in action until Radioguy comes back (the babysitting schedule has changed with him being away in AZ), but until then I'll hold on to the feeling of accomplishment: Four and a half pages.

What did I write about? Well, I focused on Bremer. I have decided to include a lengthy discussion of Sidney Bremer's essay "Home in Harlem, New York: Lessons from the Harlem Renaissance Writers." When I first read this essay, I panicked. All this time I had been wondering "how do I define 'home'? how do these authors define 'home'?" Bremer had it there, between pages 47 and 48. But instead of thinking "I have to rewrite my whole dissertation!" I decided to focus on how I am expanding and complicating her definition of home. I thought this discussion might be better off in the introduction, but I really can't bring myself to talk about Hughes, Perdomo, and Harlem as a homespace without introducing Bremer. I guess later on I can fix that, once I am working on the introduction.

What I like about Bremer's work in general is that Bremer is challenging the universality of the image of urban alienation as inherent to the experience in city spaces. These three dimensions that she points out (her words: “Harlem as home—place, community, aspiration”) that I shall be conversing with in my discussion of Perdomo and Hughes. I am expanding, adding to her argument by including the Puerto Rican writers, and putting them in conversation with African-American writers and their views on home. In that sense I am using her conceptualization of home, but I hope to also add depth to it. I'm trying to be very careful to delineate her ideas and distinguish them from mine.

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