martedì, gennaio 09, 2007

Road not taken, volume one

I can blow through a crappy Martin Amis novel or most fiction for that matter (including early Victorian sentence-marathoners) in shocking time, but when faced with non-fiction I huff and puff. I enjoy it, don't get me wrong, enough to take advanced degrees in international relations and military strategy. But sometimes I wonder if it would have made more academic sense for me to have continued in literature studies, like, say, EVERYONE thought I would and some people wanted me to.

But then - then what? In the final year of my undergrad, when I was getting all excited about comp. lit., something snapped at the end. The body of work on comp. lit., even my own work, seemed to be all about exploring the context in which literature was produced. And lord knows I love context. Nothing better . . . but that was also the problem.

Since all I produced was a 40 page paper about how John Donne had more in common with Thomas Wyatt and Petrarch than people think (so there!) - I never felt like I obfuscated or over-complicated. That in fact, what I looked at was a way to limit obfuscations and over-complications. But how long could that have lasted? If I had invested my time in a comp. lit. masters or doctorate . . . how long before I would have been trying desperately to prove some post-post-modernist bullshit to propound my emotional beliefs about the context of a writer's work?

It's hard to say what I mean, but I'll try summing up numerically:

1. I'm 28 and I'm already feeling defensive about the academic choices I made

2. I still believe continuing in academic literature studies would have meant the end of me as a writer, although I can't yet produce evidence for any sort of literary career resulting from me going into international relations instead

3. I think there was an element of cowardice in me not continuing with lit. studies because I was never quite sure I was good enough to not end up teaching highschool English

4. Even so, comp. lit. involves poisonous argumentation in a rarefied atmosphere which can't escape irrelevance considering how seldom it adds to that literature in comparison to how often it unconsciously but fatally reflects the emotional state of the individual academic - and I love literature too much to do that to it

5. Whatever my profs thought, at the end of my undergrad I would have been totes unprepared for a career in exploring literary context since by any objective standard I was a retard. I'd be better at it now, but now I care about money more

And finally . . .

6. I haven't found a new fucking job yet and still don't know if I can get pogey while I nanny, so this sort of thing is driving me NUTS today.

6 commenti:

Lady ha detto...

meh - there's more to life than what other people wrote. at least the road you chose lets you explore what this world's society is doing and has done. you're too smart to confine yourself to lit studies.

Melbine ha detto...

I do understand what you mean. As much as I would have loved to continue on with academic studies, I have too much practical blood in my body to justify the time and money it would have taken from me. Plus, I also had an element of cowardice - based on some of the brilliant things that people came up with during discussion groups that my brain hadn't bothered to think about.

Gotta go and get a pap smear. Will post this afternoon...not the pap smear, but an entry on my blog. :)

Sugarplum ha detto...

I did my masters in Lit and let me tell you one thing. The deeper I got into it, the less important it seemed to be. I mean, do I want to be a critic? No. I love reading fiction and thinking about it and I think that it is important for people to read works of fiction and to analyze its effect on them. Context is important but there is nothing like reading something and having an overblown reaction to it and then sitting down and learning something interesting and important about yourself and your society based on your reaction to that piece of work. The deeper you get into literary studies the less it becomes about that and the more it becomes about proving some stupid agenda or using some theorists thoughts on what in the whatever.

The more theorists I read the less I cared what they thought.

What it all came down to for me was - what does it matter? No one is even finding any enjoyment reading that stuff so the whole point of slaving over it is so that some equally boring people scratch their chins and say, "Interesting." What a waste of time and effort. There are too many problems in this world and too many morons making moronic decisions for intelligent and talented people to get too caught up in their own minds.

I don't mean to make it sound like I regret my masters. I don't I just observed during that time people who were like me - able to enjoy our studies and explore new ways of thought - and people who always had to bring everything they read back to the same theorist who had some boring theory on Literature that may or may not have applied but I wouldn't know because it was too boring to read. Those people were working towards their PhDs and were becoming completely impossible to listen to.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

"Context is important but there is nothing like reading something and having an overblown reaction to it and then sitting down and learning something interesting and important about yourself and your society based on your reaction to that piece of work."

To me, that IS context. We were lucky in our undergrad and the tiny, tiny amount of actual theory we read compared to other people. I didn't appreciate how rare that was in an arts curriculum. We were SO lucky they flogged primary sources the way they did and react to it and be guided through it by mostly really good professors who knew lots of stuff about other stuff too.

I had an inkling of how lucky we were and that's part of the reason I couldn't continue with any sort of lit degree I'd thought about - too many secondary sources - and then, one august day (and this is assuming the absolute best) turning into a secondary source myself. As far as an absolute best goes, no fucking thank you. And I DO want to be a critic.

Jiri ha detto...

I think you're totally right on your second point. If you ever want to write something, go for it. Just make sure that it's really, really good. I guess that the same goes into an awesome book as goes into an awesome painting: lots of work, lots of background education, and then all the other stuff like an idea and what not. Anyway, I think that putting a lot of work into a book or a painting is something that cannot be substituted by talent or brilliance and that all good books and paintings were worked on meticulously. And without years and years of background education you won't know what you're doing.

People settle to become secondary sources because they cannot work on something long enough, deeply enough, or independently enough to have a chance to make their work art.

Mistress La Spliffe ha detto...

I think you have a good point, Jiri.