Sunday, January 18, 2009

Going home again, again

This second, longer portion of my stay in INRU-land is winding down, and I'm pleased to report that either all those previous selves are merging into something coherent--or I've created a much more agreeable self with a much more agreeable relationship to this city.

I've joked for years that my love for my alma mater is not clearly distinguishable from Stockholm Syndrome, but now that I have no obligations to and more distance from the institution, I'm free to remark on how very pretty the campus is and indulge in nostalgia without feeling vaguely complicit. I'm purely an alumna now, is perhaps what it is: I still know how to navigate the library stacks, make a fast escape from every building, and locate the nearest restroom at any given moment--but the need for fast escapes (if not always for restrooms) is less urgent than it used to be.

Another relationship that's been continuing to transform is that with my dissertation director. (This bulletin is, I know, the latest in a long and increasingly boring series--but just imagine, my dears, how boring it is to live it.) I had lunch with her earlier this month, and though I'd been so wound up the night before that I'd had a hard time sleeping, the meal itself was rather lovely: we spent most of the time chatting about our personal lives, teaching, and politics--and when the conversation eventually rolled around to my latest chapter, her comments were largely helpful.

At one point, though, as she was exhorting me to follow a particular line of argumentation, I interrupted: "See, that's what most interests me, too. . . but don't you think that's kinda--well--unscholarly?"

She flipped her hand dismissively. "Who's to say what scholarship is, anyway?"

Which is a fine attitude for the person who's published fifteen or twenty books to have, but perhaps not for the person who's published none (just to eliminate confusion: I'm the latter rather than the former). Still, she was generally encouraging about and pleased with my proposed reorientation of the project Formerly Known As My Dissertation--even though I think her remarks basically amount to "shine on, you crazy diamond." (Given that I tend to think of what I do as being stodgy, if anything, Advisor's not-infrequent application of words like "eccentric" and "unusual" to my work is somewhat concerning.)

On the whole, then, it's been a lovely several weeks. I haven't felt as isolated as I sometimes did on my fellowship this past summer, and I'm close enough to several other cities to have spent most of my weekends visiting and catching up with old friends. Next weekend I return to my actual home--and to a semester for which I am entirely unprepared--but I'm happy to have spent so much time back in this one.


Sisyphus said...

Shine on, you crazy Flavia!

miltonista said...

My dissertation directors called me a cubic zirconia.

Flavia said...

A cubic zirconia in the rough, wasn't it?

Doctor Cleveland said...

You know, FLavia, if you don't want to identify Advisor to all your readers, you really shouldn't bring up the period in the Seventies that she spent on the road with The Floyd.

Renaissance Girl said...

"Who's to say what scholarship is, anyway?" Sometimes it seems that the generation before us (or, rather, the one before them) got to maintain their wide-eyed my-how-I-LOVE-literature thing even as they produced scholarship. It's like they inhabited some saturnian age before the fall into sciencing the art of criticism. I envy it, a little. But then, I like so many readings that my contemporaries are doing, which couldn't have been done 30 or so years ago, without the intervening movements in literary theory and critical practice.

miltonista said...

I dunno, I feel like, "Who's to say what scholarship is, anyway?" is as much an urgent question as it is a bit of disingenuous late-career sprezzatura. I, at least, wonder about what [my] scholarship now that we're after the heyday of theory and then of New Historicism and the field seems to be considering returns to formalism and even authorial intention.

Or, more in the spirit in the question: who the hell will tell us what real scholarship is, anyways? The vagaries of the academic publishing market? Stanley Fish? Bueller? Bueller?

Anonymous said...

Some of us have been interested in authorial intention all along.