Posts Tagged ‘School’

When people ask me how I’m doing, I’ve lately been saying that I live in a constant state of low grade panic. Once they stop laughing at me, they usually ask why. It’s because I’m looking for a job, and finishing my dissertation. And it’s really hard to do both at once. It’s not a question of difficult work. It’s psychologically difficult. I keep forgetting to work on my dissertation because I’m focusing so hard on writing cover letters for jobs across the country.

I bring this up because today I went and looked at my dissertation draft, currently clocking in at 120 pages, and found a note I had written there, a note that was an idea for a book. Actually, it was just an idea for a title. But the title is pretty self-suggesting. (more…)

I’ve been working pretty hard lately, and the pages are starting to add up. Sometime over the next week or so, I’ll hit a third digit. I’m in the home stretch, as they say. Which is terrifying in and of itself. But while I’m here, I thought I’d look around and write down the observations I have in the form of advice. So think of this as advice from me to someone who is just getting started with their dissertation.

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When I was young, my dad once told me a joke:

A wolf comes across a rabbit typing away with abandon. The wolf, curious, asks the rabbit what it is typing. “My dissertation,” the rabbit says. “It’s about how rabbits kill wolves.”

“Rabbits don’t kill wolves,” the wolf says. “Wolves eat rabbits.”

“No, rabbits kill wolves. Come in to my den, I’ll show you.”

So they go into the den, the wolf sure he’s about to have a very easy meal.

Inside the den, a lion waits. He kills the wolf and starts eating him. While he’s eating, the rabbit goes back outside and continues work on the dissertation.

The moral of the story: it doesn’t matter what your dissertation is about; all that matters is who your adviser is.

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The process of getting a PhD is pretty straight forward. You get a bachelor’s degree. Then a Master’s degree. Then you take however much coursework your program requires. Next come exams. Then a prospectus. Then a dissertation. Then a defense. Then, hopefully, a job.

That’s the way it’s supposed to be. But that’s not how it always happens. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my life, is that ‘the way it’s supposed to be’ is almost always different from the way it is. (more…)

I’ve discovered recently that the used book store is one of my primary places to find sources for my dissertation. I keep finding incredibly good books there. I’m guessing students who take classes on feminist theory or queer theory sell their books there, and then I can scoop them up. Works well for me. I’d like to talk today about parts of one of those sources. The book is called Genderqueer: voices from beyond the sexual binary, and it’s edited by Joan Nestle, Clare Howell, and Riki Wilchins. They open the book by each giving their own introduction, and Wilchins’ is where I’d like to start.

There will probably be more on this book at a later date, but for now, I’m just looking at Riki Wilchins’ contributions. (more…)

Today’s post is about the first two parts of Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality: An Introduction Volume one. I found this work to be very interesting, saying things about sexuality that at first seemed completely backwards, but were eventually explained in such a way that they made perfect sense. It seems like if you replace the word “sexuality” with whatever content he is writing about, that sentence makes a really good explanation of everything Foucault wrote.

One of the things Foucault suggested was that sex has become more repressed, not less, over the past few hundred years. He tells us that the Victorian age confined sexuality to the home, absorbed it into the function of reproduction, and silenced it (3). That is, it became the norm not to talk about that sort of thing. Talking about sex was no longer acceptable, and sex became something that happens behind closed doors; specifically, behind the closed doors of a married couple intending to reproduce. In doing so, sex was no longer something that could be talked about. (more…)

As promised, I have more research to share. Today I will be discussing Judith Butler’s article “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” For those who don’t know, Butler is one of the most important voices in feminist theory, and one of the most cited authors in the humanities (almost more than Marx and Nietzsche put together).

One of the things I like best about this article is how it talks about gender as a performance, as something in flux. Butler tells us early on that “gender is in no way a stable identity or locus of agency from which various acts proceede [sic]; rather, it is an identity tenuously constituted in time – an identity instituted through a stylized repetition of acts. Further, gender is instituted through the stylization of the body and, hence, must be understood as the mundane way in which bodily gestures, movements, and enactments of various kinds constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self” (519, emphasis in original). She is saying that the way we act informs our gender identity. That is, we have to act a certain way in order to have a gender. Theoretically, if we acted a different way, if we did not repeat the acts , the gestures, movements, and other enactments, we would lose or change that gender identity. (more…)