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Remembering Why I've Made The Choice I've Made - De File
Does Collecting Make You Feel Dirty?
cbertsch
cbertsch
Remembering Why I've Made The Choice I've Made
I'm standing here at the free computer in the Xoom Juice on Speedway having the latest version of my personal-is-professional crisis. I'm tired of feeling battered by people I know and people I don't know because what I do best is to write dense interpretations of dense interpretations. On the other hand, I had the very positive experience this morning of talking to one of the staff members in my department -- someone who is bright, curious, but not at all "academic" -- about the music we played for the Bean in utero and as a baby and then being able to print out a copy of my "Music For Babies" piece from Bad Subjects for her to read without having to worry that it would make me look ridiculous or perversely difficult to her. When I returned to her office thirty minutes later, she had it open on her desk. Were I to have given her my response to the theoretical tracts I'm reading right now, however, I doubt whether she would have ever begun to read it. The thing is, I really need to read difficult theory in order to have productive thoughts that I can, under the right circumstances, turn into something accessible to people outside the academy. Unfortunately, however, I usually lack the time to take that last step these days. So I'm caught up in a whirlwind of self-doubt that saps my confidence. I want out, but I don't know how to escape the centripetal force that holds me in its thrall.
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Comments
From: batdina Date: May 20th, 2005 03:57 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
the trick, as always, is to be able to explain to the people who can't follow the density, what it is that's attractive about it. I vary between being able to do that, and not myself, but I never want to downplay the pleasure I personally get from my own understanding of density.

hell, I still read Butler, Lacan, Levinas, and Derrida for fun.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 21st, 2005 01:45 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I agree with that. I've at least made it to the point where I can admit doing that sort of reading for fun. The challenge is to convince myself that it's alright to write about it for work! Thanks for the expression of solidarity in density!
masoo From: masoo Date: May 20th, 2005 04:33 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
It's never any fun to be battered, but beyond that, you should be proud of your bilingualism ... you can do both, write dense academese and "accessible" "popular" writing. You do both here on this blog, for example. Meantime, going with what you do best is rarely a bad idea, so if dense interpretation is your best skill, why not go for it?
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 21st, 2005 01:48 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Of course, feeling battered is different from actually being battered. Sometimes I wonder whether I'm not just imagining the blows to my self-esteem. . .

The friend I was staying with when I was recently in the Bay Area told me that that there are things on my blog that she has a hard time understanding because they are so dense and theoryish. I was so surprised to hear that. I forget how obscure I can get even when I'm not trying. Somehow, though, it seems more admirable to be dense when it doesn't count towards something. Professionally, though, that's not the sort of attitude I can afford to keep embracing.
commonalgebra From: commonalgebra Date: May 20th, 2005 05:16 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
I think you should start simple: be pleased with little things, like getting to use the word "thrall," or, better yet, the phrase "holds me in its thrall." I mean, often you have to be writing sort of terrible poetry to use this word, but HERE, before our very eyes, you have used it with the word "centripetal," thereby negating the normal stickiness of the word...What do I mean? Please don't ask--it’s private, or, at least meant for people with too many hands (again, don’t ask—I feel like a reindeer herder living on the polar tundra). Just remember this, thoughts like these—your discouraged and doubtful thoughts--make life seem like a centrifuge: forceful, circular, flattened, and never about the very center of the issue—just the most obvious edges.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 21st, 2005 01:49 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Wow! That's so beautiful. You made my day, even if I still feel retroactively squeamish about typing the word "thrall" while standing up in a smoothie joint! It means a lot coming from you in particular.
driscoll From: driscoll Date: May 20th, 2005 07:51 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

at least some parts of the world are small

Hi Charlie

Long ago we shared some space on the BS mailing list. I've just spent a couple of hours looking around livejournal and around various blogs, thinking about differences between "blogs" and "journals", and I found you!

I wonder... why have a "personal journal" as you call it yourself, rather than a "blog". Or do you think there's no difference, really?

As for the writing question, it's always changing. I've often been accused of doing "theory" just for the sake of intellectual point-scoring and I've just as often been accused of caring about "popular culture" just because it's saleable to students and the media. I've come to the point where I'm happy enough feeling that I do both - sometimes separately and sometimes together. But of course, the academic frame means that being published helps em justify my choces to others.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 21st, 2005 01:52 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: at least some parts of the world are small

Hi Catherine!

It's so great to hear from you. I sure miss those days before the Bad List lost its center.

I do call this a "personal blog," actually. It just depends on the context. When I'm feeling more LJ-ish, I call it a "journal."

I'm in that space of having to commit fully to the academic frame. It's painful for me. But I have to do it.

Would you mind mutual LJ befriending?
driscoll From: driscoll Date: May 22nd, 2005 04:01 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: at least some parts of the world are small

Hey Charlie

Yes, actually, I miss it too. I've never quite found that sort of cohesive space for diverse opinions online since, although livejournal has offered some interesting moments.

Oh I'm definitely committed to the academic frame, but sometimes I manage to find things outside it. Otherwise I'm sure it would be much more painful than it is.

I have no problem at all with mutual befriending. This journal has a few project specific filters, but I doubt you'd be endlessly fascinated by research groups on fanfiction in any case. As you've already seen I've decided to use it more broadly now, at least for a while.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 22nd, 2005 11:34 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: at least some parts of the world are small

Excellent! I used to just unilaterally befriend people but have since learned that the networks of nested LJ friendship are complicated enough that it's better to ask. I'm honored to have you on my list.

Specific filters are one of the great things about LJ and why a journal here is not like a straight blog.

Two of my LJ friends batdina and leela_cat are really into fan faction, but it's not something I follow directly. I appreciate it abstractly, of course, but devote my energies elsewhere, especially since my partner kdotdammit, also a Bad Subjects veteran, is pretty strongly opposed to the institution of television, which seems to be the ground for a lot of it.
driscoll From: driscoll Date: May 22nd, 2005 06:01 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: at least some parts of the world are small

I tend to friend rather arbitrarily, but then I've come to livejournal through particular communities where the conventions for friending or mutual friending or defriending are set by other dynamics than who you read and who reads you. Now I'm using it for other purposes I probably should try and discover what friending means to the rest of LJ.

Fanfiction is very often based on or at least given impetus by audiovisual genres, yes, although it's not straightforwardly television. The largest fanfiction fandoms are Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Buffy (incorporating Angel) - although that is diminishing a little now, and Harry Potter. The most famous are Star Trek and Doctor Who, I suppose, but then that's more about the history of publishing fanfiction and about fanfiction. Anyway, I don't think I know either of the friends you name from those communities, which is probably a good thing from my perspective.

One of my papers on fanfiction, although not the essay it's based on because that requires copyright protection, is on my journal under a friends filter that would now include you, if you're interested. Although I can't see why you would be.

Did I know kdotdammit?
From: thewhitaker Date: May 20th, 2005 09:51 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Before my shift at work the other day, I found a copy of LET FURY HAVE THE HOUR, and finally read your essay therein. I found it decidedly un-Bertsch, but nonetheless appealing. Just being able to tell an un-Bertsch piece from a Bertsch piece shows your versatility, and proves there is no "Bertsch" style of writing ... you have transcended classification! (Fuck me, that was a bit much.) The goal is to convey your messages to as many folks as possible, no? The best way to do that, it seems, is to be a man of many hats.
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 21st, 2005 01:54 pm (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)
Nice to hear from you again! I will befriend you forthwith. Selfishly, I want to hear why you found that piece "un-Bertsch." I'm struggling to figure out what "Bertsch" means, so a sense of its limits would be most helpful. Oh, and I have lots of strange hats in the garage. . . :-)
From: (Anonymous) Date: May 22nd, 2005 11:19 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

wow-a thread with Catherine Driscoll!

Charlie,

I think I've counselled patience before, but I'll do it again. This is definitely one-thing-at-a-time territory. You have to do what you have to do for work. There is no need to apologize, and frankly, there is no need to be accessible if you're an untenured literary critic. There is, however, a need to write and get things out. You've got a long career ahead of you, and so sometimes you just have to focus on one thing for awhile. If that's being theoretical rather than being accessible, sobeit! There are only so many hours in the day.

Best,
--J
cbertsch From: cbertsch Date: May 22nd, 2005 11:40 am (UTC) (LINK TO SPECIFIC ENTRY)

Re: wow-a thread with Catherine Driscoll!

True, true, true. I recognize the trueness of everything you say. I just need to make it over that mental barricade. If I were writing about less "popular" subjects, it wouldn't be such an issue. But I really do like to dense, intricate things with the conjunction of that material and theory. If only I could get the mocking voices out of my head.
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