Hi there! It’s been a hot minute… more like a hot summer.
According to my counter, I have less than a year left–about 10 months– to submit the dissertation. However, since getting the scholarship and having a new set of requirements and occupations for the PhD, I actually added an extra year to the counter. But because I don’t want to be a perpetual student (believe it or not), I’m just shooting for half a year longer than originally intended. This puts me with a new goal of December 2019, and while this looks a little friendlier, it’s just as intimidating.
About 3/7ths of this remaining time will be spent abroad, in Cambridge. I’m confident a lot of my writing will be done then, but the next three months should actually see me do about half of the work.
Urgh… work. I’m obviously very good at figuring out logistics of what I should be writing, but as typical for a PhD student, the follow through looks much less successful. I recently saw a TED talk about procrastination (d’uh, of course while procrastinating) and the point was that most procrastinators allow impulses in their minds, named the instant-gratification monkey to take over the rational decision maker. In Freudian terms, this is the Id taking over the Ego (wonder why Tim Urban didn’t include that? Freud is out of style, I guess) and my Id is pretty strong when it comes to getting my work done. My monkey also take me down internet rabbit holes where I’m convinced what I’m reading is actually research or building contextual knowledge of contemporary politics and culture. Or I complete stalkerish online searched to see what others from my past are doing with their lives. Maybe it’s a way of telling myself “eh, they’re not doing so much either, why do I push myself so hard?”
But I know why I push myself hard. In 1 1/2 years I want to be able to say I’ve finished writing, defended, have the PhD and I can move on with finding a full-time job with a retirement plan and insurance. I want to not have these constant internal deadlines that I miss. I want to build m relationships with people. I want to be able to train for another marathon without missing the 10 hours of training it takes a week. I want to be able to read the 20+ unrelated-to-the-PhD-books I’ve procured over the last few years. I want to have a chance to figure out if I really should pursue something in political writing versus literature. But I guess all that wanting is motivation to get done. It’s only 448 more days!
On that note, I am going to get back to posting more regularly about my reading and research. I, of course, have done diddly with the notes from the last 50 blogs or so, but I did organize them and file them. When I open the appropriate section in my notes, they are there. They just remain to be integrated.
Right now for the first chapter of the dissertation, I’m working on Monica Ali’s Brick Lane . So here’s some of my thinking:
Let’s start with the structure. While the quantitative facts are the easiest about a book to gather, and also seem unimportant compared to the quality of the words, they do reveal something. Writers, after all, are planners. A plot and characters do not appear without design. And writers like their symmetry too- especially the realist novelists. Brick Lane, being a novel in the style of realism does a lot less experimentation than some of the modernist and postmodernists of the early 21st century and becomes clear when one looks at the distribution. In this book with 21 chapters, there are clear breaks between the first, second and third third. Chapter 6 ends with the death of Nazneen’s and Chanu’s firstborn, Raqib, and Nazneen’s subsequent silence. The seventh chapter consists of a series of letters from Nanzeen’s sister, Hasina, which mark the time and the major events in Nazneen’s life, albeit as a negative in the replies to the letters Nazneen must have sent. During these thirteen years, Nazneen bears two more children (both daughters) and her husband Chanu takes on a loses a few jobs, giving up his plans to repair the broken chairs he has collected.
This last chapter, however, also serves to create a strong foil for Nazneen and her life in London. Hasina is described as being the more beautiful of the two sisters, but she is also infinitely more disadvantaged. “Made to suffer” it says, several times. “Such beauty could have no earthly purpose but trouble” (34).
I need to look up that line again.
This part of the book Nazneen is just getting to know Chanu and that they are not as different or ill-matched as she originally thought.
“He was looking for the same essential things. But he thought he could grab it from outside and hold it against his chest like a shield. The degrees, the promotion, the Dhaka house, the library, the chair-restoring business, the import-export plans, the interminable reading. They were his self-fashioned tools. With them he tried to chisel out a special place, where he could have peace of mind” (94).
She is also getting to know herself, her hopes and desires, and it is these I need to look at more closely in the next days.
To consider are:
- The description of machines. Their anthropomorphism but also their exoticization
- The role of the television in the apartment complex, in their house, and the house of Dr. Azad
- The description of ice-skating from a feminist perspective
- The description of ice-skating from a Bangladeshi villager’s perspective
- The 1984 Olympic, Dean and Torvill, and the role of ice skating in Nazneen’s life
- Nazneen’s desire to learn English
- Nazneen’s desire to work
- and finally, sounds, voices, and the way people talk
Work Cited: Monica Ali’s Brick Lane. Scribner 2004 paperback edition
I didn’t get to do as much today as I wanted to, but I did finish reading the first seven chapters. Tomorrow, I will try to finish addressing these thoughts as well as complete another, unrelated task on stand-by. If I can start reading the second-third, that would be great, but we will see.
Short-term goals for the rest of the semester break are the organization of a workshop in November or December, the completion of Chapter One of the dissertation, an article submission, a paper draft for a writing contest, and an abstract or two for two conferences to attend over the next year.