April 6, 2011

Dawn of the Dead

Right now, my life consists entirely of cocktail parties with dead white men.

Before you make the inevitable “I see dead people” joke, have a looksy at these sage words of wisdom from Mister Stephen Greenblatt:

"I began with the desire to speak with the dead.

“This desire is a familiar, if unvoiced, motive in literary studies, a motive organized, professionalized, buried beneath thick layers of bureaucratic decorum: literature professors are salaried, middle-class shamans.”

Well.  I’m gettin’ my hooba-joob on.

In this last stretch of my MA, I have holed myself up in my tower and barricaded the door with library books.  I have been using my machete of focus to forge through the dense textual jungle of Henry James and Gothic and Shakespeare to put together the research that will quickly turn into the last three papers of my Master’s.  I have been questing for the grail.  I am tired and battle-sore, my arms are stiff from fighting (and typing!), and the burden of the scholarship weighs heavily on my over-tense traps.  I can see the finish, it’s right there, and it shines ever-promisingly in my near future as I reach towards it.  There’s a meadow with the sun of success shining down on comfortable beds of sweet grass where I can dip my feet in the cool pool of well-deserved summer laziness while the laurels of my degree make a nice comfy pillow.

I wish I could say that the process to getting there is glorious, but these dead guys are contentious!  Henry James and I are barely on speaking terms, Kenneth Branaugh keeps rearing his not-so-ugly head and challenging me to arm-wrestling matches, and my man Will looks benevolently and mysteriously over the wholes scene as if to say “you’re almost there, but not quite”.  Will’s Mona Lisa smile pretty much drives my existence as a scholar, and I love him for it, but for once I just wish he’d be clear and direct with what he’s telling me.

As a paladin of The Bard, I never expect him to give me real answers (at least not right away).  Searching for them strengthens my ties to my deity.  If the Red-Cross Knight had everything he needed from the start, he never would have gone questing.  In fighting with Will and the other scholars who interpret him, I’m coming to my own understanding of him.  It’s like finding Nirvana; even though it’s inevitably unachievable you have to keep working if you ever want to even vaguely understand it.

In addition, it’s the good fight that makes the hero in the end.  Dorothy had to walk the yellow brick road.  Alice had to fall down the rabbit hole.  It’s about growing, becoming stronger as a person, becoming more certain of your connection to whatever it is that drives you, learning yourself, you know, all that jazz.

But my god is wonderland tough and Oz isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  To make matters worse, I’m stuck in a general Bartleby-esque malaise and continually left wondering “how much work do I really have to do to get through this?”  I have a place in a program, I have funding, what would it really take for me to lose that?  With the coming of bright, sunshining weather and the promise of the impending move, I have so many things that I would much rather be doing than stuck in the ivory tower day after day.

Do you think a ouija board would help me write these papers?  Maybe I can convince the dead to speak for themselves… I wonder where one gets goats prepped for ritualistic sacrifice in New Jersey these days…..

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