Serendipity

I don’t usually blog about my actual experiences in grad school. There are two main reasons for this. The first is that I assume (correct me if I’m wrong) that the vast majority of you aren’t interesting in a close reading of Proust (who, I should mention, is not as bad as I had been warned he was. Maybe it’s because of the new translation I’m reading, which reads really nicely. Then again, maybe it’s because I only had to read 200 pages or so out of 1.5 million words and I would hate him if I ever had to finish “In Search of Lost Time”. I could test this hypothesis, but I really have better things to do). Or, to put it another way, if you wanted to experience academia, you would.

The other reason is I have this nagging feeling, when I sit down to write about what I’m doing, that I shouldn’t be writing it in the form of a blog post, but in the form of my final papers which, rumor has it, are due soon.

So, this is me not working on said final paper because I’ve reached the point where I have to go and read another book before I can continue talking about it.

This is also not really about class either, but about how, sometimes, one does truly get lucky. For those of you who haven’t gotten the spiel, I specialize (well, WILL specialize) in the intersection of the 19th Century Novel, Psychology of Literature and Digital Humanities. Or, translated into layman’s terms (and by layman I mean anyone not practicing directly in either of those two latter fields), I’m interested in what makes the great 19th century novels great, what it is we enjoy about reading them and how a computer might be helpful in exploring those two ideas. This is by no means exhaustive. I’m interested in a lot of things, but the above is what I came here to do.

One of the nice things about UCSB (apart from the weather, the beach and the bike paths) is that there seems to be someone DOING all these other things that I’m interested in. For example, one of my pet peeves during college was the prevalence of Freudian analysis in literature, to the exclusion of everything else. It seemed as though literary interpretation was frozen at the beginning of the 20th century and completely ignored everything since then in psychology (which, okay, is not entirely literature’s fault, because the dominant paradign until about 30 years ago was behavioralism (the belief that we can only know about actions and not about motivations), which is a) useless for literature and b) completely wrong).

At UCSB, however, you run into people looking at literature and the mind in all sorts of interesting ways: you have people who understand that analysis has moved on since Freud and incorporate things like attachment theory and developmental studies into their essays, you have doctors who now work in literature and who look at neurological understandings of what’s going on in the imagination, you have trained analysts who can use Lacan (my second least favorite man named Jacques. Points if you know my least favorite) and make him make sense.

This is relevant because I was at a talk this evening along the lines of the second example, about the Brontes and the imaginative mind, and I found myself marveling at just how cool it was that people were reading up on the most recent research in science and using it to inform their reading. This is the kind of research I could get behind, this is cool, this is a really great method of thinking about literature.

As Douglas Adams wrote, “I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.”

Anyway, I just had to share that. Now, back to that paper…

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About

I'm a doctoral student in English Literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. My interests lie in the field known very broadly as the Digital Humanities and I focus on reading digital books (what happens to books as they become not merely digitized, but digital) and reading books digitally (how can we use computers to learn new things about literature). In what spare time I have, I read speculative fiction, transform long strings of yarn into apparel and decor and play with my friends' dogs while eagerly awaiting the day when we move to an apartment complex that will allow us to have one.

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4 comments on “Serendipity
  1. Yael Shayne says:

    What? Who said Post-Freudian theory? Sacrilege!!!
    Just kidding. You can probably based a good deal of analysis of the 19th Century novel on insecure (ambivilent/avoident) attachments. All those nannies and nursery rooms with no one to interact with but the governess ….. Makes for odd relationships.

  2. Josh says:

    “my second least favorite man named Jacques. Points if you know my least favorite”

    It’s a shame his name wasn’t king: ‘King Richard? King Louis? Larry King?’

    The answer is, of course, Jacques Derrida.

  3. Abba says:

    Phew! I couldn’t figure out what you had against Jacques Cousteau.

    • Josh says:

      My first reaction to “Jacques” is Cousteau as well, but after that initial confusion, I realized who she was talking about.

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