1/2 Chapter

Like a written note to a friend, I feel the need to open with I-have-not-written-for-a-long-time. Although my posts serve a different function than a letter, the excuses are nearly the same. It’s not that I haven’t thought about writing or wanted to write. Somehow, the stamina and ability to follow through has not been. Every idea, remembrance, observation remains too isolated from the other, the work it would take to connect them recedes as the banal yet necessary routines of every day life wash in.

A PhD entails writing–it is a prerequisite as well as a necessary outcome and yet PhD students are notorious for not writing, which leads to not turning anything in, which leads to not finishing. When I started the program, (three years ago), I thought surely I would be exempt from such an issue. I have learned many things during my PhD but somehow I have unlearned how to write. To write without thinking too much, without reading too much, without guilt that it may have no practical relation to my dissertation.

Now, after a long hiatus, a failure to remember my wordpress password, I realize how my interests have changed, that I’m no longer intrigued by the idea of utopia. That my original motivation for writing, even Benjamin’s dialectical image, seem so trite in the face of the RIGHT NOW. The state of the world has caught me like a deer in headlights. There is so much to write about, I don’t know how to bracket, where to focus. I increasingly feel like Kat, the main character in the fourth chapter of Julian Barnes’s A History of the World in 10 1/2 Chapters, who sets out to sea on a life raft believing the world to be in a state of nuclear holocaust.

I’m definitely out at sea.

I would however, like to briefly credit Francisco Goldman’s latest book, The Interior Circuit, with motivating me to revisit this site. His ability to seamlessly integrate the personal, world events, investigative reporting, and reflections on life came at the right time. What resonated the most was the sense of urgency he conveys, in terms of the actual act of writing as well as the content that emerges. Let the writing take over, get it out of your system–perhaps a form of blood letting? This thing that is a part of you but poisonous to your existence if it just stays within, maybe that’s what compels us to write?

One Response to “1/2 Chapter”
  1. Morgan, The dissertation process is indeed a lonely one. The farther adrift one feels, the more difficult it is to find one’s way back. Your immediate audience for your dissertation is your committee. No one else matters at this point. Constructing the bracket is one of the most difficult parts of the process and really where most people fail. Don’t give up on utopia quite yet. There’s a sociologist, Eric Olin Wright, who has a concept of the “real utopia” http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/~wright/RealUtopias.htm that you might find useful. Happy to hear your ideas if you think it might help. Hang in there. V

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