Monday, February 25, 2008

Scholarly Melancholy

I'm so glad it's the end of the day. It wasn't a terrible day, just one during which I felt terrible. It's not as if my work has been rejected, though I'm starting to get used to that. But I still have two proposals to submit plus two articles to finish and send off. So my meagre sense of accomplishment last week at finishing one proposal and one letter of recommendation now amounts to nothing at all.

Second, and perhaps a bit more poignantly, I've recently learned that I have lost two junior colleagues to really fine research institutions; one came in with me, the other had yet to arrive from his postdoc. I am happy for them, but I can't seem to shake this negative feeling, which is kind of like having an acrid taste in my mouth or a heaviness around my temples. I can't process what I'm feeling either: Am I sorry to lose two friends (technically, one potential friend), or am I just horrifically envious of their successes? Both seem unfounded- it's not as if I'm in either of their fields, and I'm not on the market. Yet I can't stop feeling awful this evening. I'm also exhausted because I taught three courses for 5 hours today- two one-hour sections plus a 3 hour grad seminar. I wish I didn't have such a heavy course load and could spend more time writing and less time rushing to get research and course proposals turned in, proposals that ideally ought to give me more time to write.

And maybe I feel so terrible because my birthday is around the corner and I never thought I'd be living alone in a small town in the Conservative Baptist South where I still feel so displaced, teaching 3 courses and developing gray hairs the week before my 32nd birthday.

I wish my maternal grandmother were still alive. She'd call me "Sarah Heart-Burn," tell me to stop being so morose and melodramatic and to get back to work. Then her sister (my great aunt) would start to sing "Pick Yourself up, Dust Yourself off, and Start all over again." Then suddenly we'd all be in a technicolor musical number, wearing bright red lipstick and vivid green shoes.

If this is just melancholy, then maybe Burton has a cure- I ought to make myself wetter and hotter by going for a run or something. Instead I'm sipping a Pinot and listening to Couperin. It might be exaccerbating the problem.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Fellowship Application Month

It's summer fellowship application month. Most are due at the end of this month and the beginning of next month. And I desperately need them in order to work on my book and start something new. Some are very easy to write as they are dictated by the collections of a particular archive. For others, my book proposal will suffice.

But for one of them, I find myself in the ridiculous position of applying to my institution for the same funding they awarded me last summer, essentially to go back and do more of the same research on the same book project. This is normal- it takes a long time for a manuscript to get "finished" and "publishable." I've been told mine is already "publishable" but it is by no means "finished". And though two weeks in London at the BL last summer may have made it even more "publishable," they did only a little to make it more "finished".

So I've basically got to rewrite my book proposal (which I submitted as a grant proposal last year) to say the same things but somehow make it seem like I'm actually doing different research on a slightly different book project, which is nonetheless the same project I was working on last year. This shouldn't be too difficult- in my research report from last summer I made perhaps too big a point about how little time I actually got to spend with my texts because of how expensive London is (my initial request was almost twice what I was awarded), and how I really need to spend more time with them in order to finish the book and think about my next project. So I can fairly easily make a big todo about how the research I did last summer pointed my book in a "new" direction but I need to go back and finish it up. But that is boring and no fun to write.

I could also write a completely new research proposal for my next project, but it's due this Wednesday, and I'm not sure I could do enough exploratory research to sound like an expert on the new subject. Or I could just condense my book proposal and instead add a section focusing on my other unfinished chapter, the one I wanted to work on but couldn't last summer because I only had 2 weeks in the UK. Ugh, I wish this was easier.

For those of you who have received multiple grants for the same book project over a number of summers, how did you do it? Did you reword the same research proposal? Did you focus on a different chapter each time? Did you make something up? Because let's face it, basically all I need to do is write, but I'd like to be able to write in the British Library, where I could call up all the exact material texts I'm working with.

Right now I'm sitting in my study, looking out the window at daffodil shoots on a greyish day, listening to the divine Karita Matilla sing Manon Lescaut live from the Met, doodling with my current book proposal and hoping to make up my mind this afternoon.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Who Was your Shakespeare Professor?

Today my mother forwarded me this '06 opinion piece from the New York Times, by one of my favorite writers and people, Lorrie Moore. In it, Moore explores why Shakespeare gets most of the credit for inspiring modern writing professors.

Which of course reminded me that my whole career might have been different, had I not been plucked out of my ninth grade English class where I was reading Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry for the third time since age 9, and deposited into the senior Shakespeare elective. I chose Shakespeare not exactly because I loved Shakespeare- I had recently played Ophelia in the local Kids-in-Shakespeare production -but because I had an enormous crush on the goofy boy who had played Hamlet, and I knew he was going to be in the class.

Anyway, here's Lorrie Moore's hilarious article from April 2006: The Modern Elizabethan

My thanks to Muse Maman for sending it to me this morning!