February 20, 2011

English papers

Spent the whole day on research and figuring out what to write for my English 131 paper. I feel so overwhelmed- like Stein is so beyond me because her words are so impenetrable. I read the same few lines over and over again and try to formulate a cohesive argument that combines all my reading and thinking and pseudo understanding, but at the same time I am just struck by how much I do not know ENOUGH of. It's not that there isn't enough information, but an excess of information, a glut that completely inundates the reader until the actual physical meaning of the word is completely eradicated.

"It does not mean that there are tears, it does not mean that exudation is cumbersome, it means no more than a memory, a choice and a reestablishment, it means more than any escape from a surrounding extra. All the time that there is use there is use and any time there is a surface there is a surface, and every time there is an exception there is an exception and every time there is a division there is a dividing."

is my favourite part from Roastbeef... but so many questions. Example: why is there a comma at some parts of the last line but not others (arbitrary division??)? Why go from "all" to "any" to "every"? Is there a difference between "all" and "every"?? I love what she says about memory being a choice and a reestablishment, a shifting of perception into one's new frame of reference when looking back into the past, but at the same time, why follow that with lines and lines of tautology, and then a turning IN of that tautology with "there is a division there is a dividing"- from noun to verb?

This is just one tiny part of Roastbeef (and an even tinier part of the entire Tender Buttons), btdubs.

I've actually been pretty amazed by how social media has permeated the world of academia. As part of my grade this semester, I have to blog once every two weeks, use Twitter, comment on blog posts, etc. (If you're interested, this is the Didactic Modernism class blog- guess my username! Haha) My professor also has a Twitter account, and she blogs as well.

As a second year college student, I've learnt to take papers so much more seriously. I always feel like I'm just a lowly undergrad, who probably won't go on to do a PhD in English and so what use and of what worth do my papers have on the academic world?? I think some of this mentality is derived from the regurgitative quality of Lit essays in JC, where I wasn't contributing anything new or innovative to Shakespeare; I was just memorising lines that I liked (from Iago) and recategorising stuff that my teachers fed me. But being here as an English major has challenged me to think of new theses and interpret evidence in new ways- and as I'm looking at the sprawling, gargantuan project of deciphering Stein's secret code and how she redefines time in relation to language and representation, I'm so overwhelmed and scared to start. BUT excited and ready to take it on because I know that even if I don't have the vocabulary to explain it all, my professor does... thank God for office hours. Plus I have come to realise how every paper that is written contributes to a greater pool of knowledge associated with a particular author, be it a lousy or a good paper, and that we as writers of those papers have a responsibility not just to the authors, but also to the community that might be influenced by the papers we write (professors, GSIs, classmates). This sounds a little pretentious (like, I am so important!!!! Shakespeare totes cares about what I think about him!!!!) but I really don't mean it in that way, but rather as a reminder for myself to take my papers seriously and not view them as mere assignments that I have to plough through.

Sorry that this is a pretty geeky post, but this silly essay (and my Shakespeare essay, which I haven't even begun thinking about) will be consuming me until Thursday so this is a good snapshot into my college student mind now.

Last words from Gertrude Stein:
"I write for myself and for strangers."

Isn't that a perfect encapsulation of blogging??


  1. good luck with your papers!

    re your last line: for me I write for myself and for friends instead... I guess that's why my entries are locked on lj while yours are public. I just can't get over the feeling of having strangers read about my personal life!

  2. yf: hmm I don't know- I think it has come to a point where everyone is a stranger to me, and so even "friendslocking" is locking my posts to a group of people whom I'm not even sure are people I want to share deep thoughts with. --> there is so much more freedom when you're writing to an anonymous audience.

    yiqin: thanks (: Stein's pretty awesome. I love your blog btw! And I think I met have met you once at a Woods & Woods fashion show (: