Monthly Archives: April 2013

Word count

Today, Tuesday, I polished 560 words and wrote 59. This took three hours. According to Trollope, it should have taken 33 minutes: 30 for revision and 3 for writing 59 words. According to Thomas, the 59 words should have taken 27 minutes. If I were to consider all the time allotted me by both Thomas and Trollope, I should have done the revision and the new writing in an hour.

Axé.

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On speaking up

Some people are learning not to speak up and in academia, this is typically how one is coached: do not say anything, all you will do is ruin your credibility as a reasonable person.

I disagree and I think people should learn that to speak up, you do not have to be outraged or impassioned. Just register a view.

Of course if you are feeling outraged and making impassioned speeches about misconceptions, then you are wasting time. Asking the legal system to be reliably just, for example, is not reasonable or realistic, and those who expect legality and justice to be the same are poorly informed.

Otherwise I am convinced that one reason inanity persists is that people consider it unwise to protest.

Axé.

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Now I understand still more about my reaction to Boice and the Boiceans

It is that one-up, one-down position. The assumption is that one does not know what one is doing at all, needs very basic instruction and is recalcitrant. Questions or attempts to refocus discussion to a more sophisticated are met with this behaviorist, “you have not gotten my point yet.”

I have already been underestimated far more than was good for me and it is precisely my unwillingness to interact with people who behave this way that made me so agoraphobic about academia so long. You have to increase your self-respect, not decrease it the way Boice and the Boiceans would have you do.

It is with more self-respect, and more faith in the validity of your views, that you get more done. These self-helpers who want to break you down and pretend you are less than competent are not useful.

I say this as I continue grading. Grading takes a long time if you take the self-helpers to heart and question your assignment and your standards more than you should. It is all the self-interrogation, and all the abdication of judgment to authority, that I find so unhelpful about self-help.

I was first exposed to Boice and the Boiceans during Reeducation, when I had a degree finished easily and on time and a page of articles, and had lost faith in myself because of … emotional and verbal abuse. The Boiceans could not write and assumed my inability to do anything at all had to be the kind of writing problem they had.

Not to say so, to say one had another problem, was “arrogance” and “denial.” I am against the Boiceans for this reason, and against Boice because he has no idea what it would be to already like writing and to already have experience doing it — and doing it over the long term, when you have many other things you also do each day.

Self-respect has to come first, j’insiste. And my apparently good work ethic is good to the extent that it does not come from grim discipline but from good self-care.

Axé.

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Outline for an opinion piece

1. A colleague who is currently chair of his department remarked [on the current structure of meetings for department chairs]

2. This interested me because I would say the same about the current structure of meetings for [my committee]

3. Both this colleague’s observation and mine bespeak the situation described in [JL’s piece], on the erosion not just of faculty rights but of the definition of faculty

4. A friend who works in business, to whom I explained [1 and 2] came to the same conclusion [3], without knowing of JL’s piece

5. It is en este sentido that, here, I comment upon some events in AY 2012-2013 on [the committee referenced in (2)] — a committee whose charge it is to voice faculty views but which is in my view being molded into an organ to echo [a certain set of views] and ultimately delegitimize professional opinion of faculty (and even discount the possibility that faculty could hold a professional opinion)

6. What happened were attempts to remove powerful faculty from certain decision making processes and also remove decision making itself as a charge of certain faculty bodies — so as to repurpose these bodies as a kind of focus group to be trained in, and then echo a particular management message

7. These are the moves and the language used; when pieces of them are floated at your institution, recognize them for what they are.

Axé.

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One more brilliant, contrarian post

One does, in fact, need large blocks of time for work. Not for the work itself — that can be done in little pieces. One needs big blocks of time because the work has to be couched in rest and recreation, in which one is not working at breakneck speed on other things, but is renewing oneself while one’s mind works on its ideas in the background.

Ideally, the things you are doing will somehow support your train of thought; you will run across examples of what you are working on, or analyses of other things that turn out to be germane to your project. This is why it is nice to be in a place that presents such things to you, or to be so situated as to be able to create the right research atmosphere for yourself.

Those were the brilliant, contrarian remarks; now I will continue to discuss the reasons I dislike having Robert Boice thrown at me. Remember: when I rail about Boice, I do not mean I disagree that research and writing must happen daily, or that they can be done in small pieces. I agree with him completely on these matters.

Once again, it is for teaching activities of the bureaucratic kind, and particularly grading, that I need the Boicean program. This is what leads me to believe this program was created to get onerous tasks done in a rational way, which would mean it is a writing program for non writers. That, in turn, would explain why I am so irritated when people recommend it to me so heartily. Do they know me at all? Did they never notice I love to write, always have done?

Boice’s program is for non writers and also for people who have not learned discipline or what some would call a work ethic (although I would call it, interestingly, a program of self-care and I should probably write a separate post explaining that). And last week I came across a discussion of me by the chair of another department, who turns out to feel I have a good work ethic.

I would not have said so since I am not the hardest worker I know, but it was interesting to see. The writer means I am not chaotic or erratic, I remember necessary details, I look at implications and I follow things through. I think these are the things Boice is trying to teach people and I am (a) shocked people have not learned those skills yet and (b) amazed that anyone who knows me would think I need basic instruction in them.

Beyond this, though, is the deeper insult in the compulsive invocation of Boice: the idea that any research problem one has is just poor discipline, or not knowing basic things about writing; that one does not deserve to discuss bibliography or ideas or project design or anything that goes into analyses and ideas; that all one needs is to muster discipline and write to a formula, since that is all one will be capable of doing.

These are the real reasons for my dislike of Boice and the Boiceans I have known: the condescension, the preachiness, and the evasion of interlocutors and thus, of conversation.

Axé.

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Cecilia Valdés y las ideas fuera de lugar

This is my idea for the IILI conference at the Colegio de México. It would build on a piece I am giving here. It would revisit Schwarz’ concept of “misplaced ideas” — which may be somewhat outdated or limited or something, such that it is worth discussing and revising.

The concept really does apply to Cecilia Valdés, in two ways: one, modernization, the bourgeois family, and so on do not fit the reality of slavery. This is what makes the secrecy about adultery necessary, which in turn causes all the trouble in the novel. So it is, in that way, a novel on idéias fora de lugar.

More importantly, the novel itself is a misplaced idea, since it is secretly set in Louisiana (as it were) and based on the plaçage myth. My paper here will not go into the Schwarzian ideas, but my paper in Mexico could. That would help to draw out the implications of these newly discovered facts, that plaçage is a myth and that the myth is an expression of Anglo-American anxieties about miscegenation.

Does this mean that Cuba, like Bahia, sees itself through foreign eyes?

Axé.

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Research never ends

Here are some things to think about.

1. Mireille’s article on appropriations of Aimé Césaire. I read it and thought of Vallejo appropriations, and I did not yet know about Jonathan’s book on Lorca appropriations. Now I find Mireille’s prose irritatingly unclear but I want to bring the piece up again since it is about the nation and since this is an issue around Vallejo that does need further discussion.

2. Here I am saying it is time to stop thinking about nation and pueblo and remember there is a state which may not be the same entity as this (public face of the) nation. But the nation-state has been ending for some time now, and the Bewilderbeast says the state itself is ending.

It is ironic that I would have just discovered the state at this point.

Axé.

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More on my allergy to Robert Boice and the Boiceans

It is the condescending tone, the supposition that one has no experience writing, and the assumption that one does not like to write; most of all it is the insistence that all you need is discipline. Nicole and Maggie claim that if you do not need the basic advice Boice gives, you should be able to simply say you already know those things. They do not realize that if you say that the Boiceans will hit you over the head, because only Boice can know those things. They will say you are arrogant to think you could know those things, and infantile to imagine your difficulty could lie elsewhere.

This is why I so dislike Boice and the Boiceans. I see them as violent and dangerous people, and I have quite violent feelings about them in return. Were I truly Mictlantecuhtli I would hunt them down and sacrifice them on a pyramid.

What irritates me the most about the Boiceans I have known is how they dared to go on at me in this vein. I am interested in different writing problems — content, analysis, style. They are stuck on the question of whether one can start writing at all.

Being a captive audience who is preached at and condescended to, and whose actually more advanced ideas are misidentified as immature or naïve. I dislike the Boiceans the way I dislike the Reeducators and as I say, I would sacrifice them on a pyramid if I could. Being a captive audience who is preached at and condescended to, and whose actually more advanced ideas are misidentified as immature or naïve appears to be one of my root traumas.

Axé.

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Le lundi

Today I had a leisurely breakfast with my guest and took her to the station, after which I did some errands. I came home and started laundry, looked at e-mail and did some financial things, and then it was noon. I had lunch and sat down to write, taking short breaks to wrap packages, make a hotel reservation for October, and look at some possible renters to help pay for that and other things. I finished at about four and I have been wandering around the house and the Internet since. I am about to go buy canned air and packing tape, and go to the gym.

I think I wrote for about 2.5 hours — my magical amount — and I know I wrote 774 words. I had set out to work for .5 of an hour and write 100 words, so I am ahead. The reason I got so many words was that some had been written before in notes and because I did not polish them. But it is a good draft.

A Boicean, from my experience with these creatures, would not have allowed himself to relax all morning or to do any puttering while writing. He would have set an alarm clock and probably several other timers. He would have stuck to the .5 of an hour and the 100 words, and he might have polished these. He would have rushed onto the next thing, and finished all the teaching tasks that still await me this evening.

I, forsooth, would rather not do these teaching tasks this evening, but leave them for tomorrow, yet I am perfectly happy with the way I have spent the day so far and I am glad to have gotten so much writing done.

Trollope, that great novelist of the middle class, wrote three hours a day. First he would read what he had written the day before. Then he would write 2,500 words or ten pages, concentrating very well. During the summer I intend to do the same but I only expect one page of myself, or 250 words; they will be polished words. I will also read for two or three hours, for a total of five to six hours of work.

On a five-day schedule that will make for 25-30 hour weeks, very nice. Sometimes the three hours of research will be spent on class preparation, and sometimes I will work more hours.

Looking at this I do not think I will try to get a summer job beyond my hosting job — which I will try to step up. I will also try to find a way to be allowed to pay into Social Security myself. Doing this will be my summer job, as vesting in Social Security is the most intelligent thing I can do.

I will try to spend as little as possible. Everything I do not spend, gets me closer to paying for a trip to California and to the three conferences I now have — one close to home, two a plane flight away — between October and July.

Axé.

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Race and the state…

Ahora bien. Tomorrow I will start writing it in English and it will, as we have said, begin with Bolívar and then go on to Doris Sommer. Next it will talk about Goldberg and da Silva (and mention Sanjinés and Lund). The point is that mestizaje and the nation are old topics but race, modernity and the state are current. Looking at these texts without the Vasconcelos-Ortiz-Freyre-Andrade [et al.] lens, and without the swallowing Bolívar and Martí whole, we see another picture.

First: María, and the evoke-and-elide strategy. Then: Cecilia, and the newly discovered fact that this entire novel is a “misplaced idea.” Then, Azevedo and the violence.

I am going to show that these texts are not about national conciliation and I am going to show that the framework Goldberg and da Silva offer is the one we should want. This looks to be a long piece and might have to be two. That does not matter.

Axé. 

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