The Sound, and the Fury Writing on it

Perhaps “fury” is a bit too strong. I’m not sending my office into a whirlwind of violence and anger. At least not yet. But writing and thinking about sound is hard. There are different theoretical approaches, which I am aware of, but I have no main go-to theorists when it comes to writing about the aural/oral autobiographies of “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography.” As I said to my one friend, “I feel like I am making shit up. But it sounds nice” (no pun intended).

It’s weird. It’s not “hard” because there are derridean leaps and bounds to be made, although I found Steve Goodman’s book on sound and affect to be quite a doozy for the head. It’s “hard” because writing about sound and how the sounds spoken can function autobiographically is really hard to articulate. There’s that quote (which I thought was attributed to Elvis Costello, but Stephen has cast a shadow of doubt on that) that’s like “writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” I certainly feel like I’m dancing, and my dance moves are flailing.

But in the “Gradual Making of The Making of Americans,” Stein writes that you can learn a lot about people by just listening to them. And she makes an interesting distinction: you learn a lot about a person by listening to the movement of their thoughts and words. The content of what is being spoken is not important to Stein; it is the movement of thoughts and words.

To me, this meant the affective articulations of one’s voice that lets other people know when you are sad, or feeling off, or really happy, or feeling very hyper. The more we know (and listen) to a person, the better we can tell by the tones and inflections of their voice what kind of mood they are in. There’s no 100% science to it, but it’s kinda true, right? When a friend says “what’s wrong?” when you’re just talking about something banal as your lunch or how nice the weather is or how good dinner is. The sound of one’s voice is telling and prompts further (to use an autobiographical term) coaxing from the listener to get more out of that person.

Of course, people listening to the radio installation, “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography,” cannot talk back to those speaking “on the air.” But one of the ways I’ve been thinking my way through this problem is to maintain that it is still dialogic. Stein felt her writing was very dialogic, that it required an active reader to engage and make meaning out of the text, and I believe she felt the same way about radio. Although we might not be able to talk to the writer or the broadcaster, we can still feel around to hear what might be being told. There is still a telling that is still coaxed by the listener.

And so I’ve kinda moved away from my initial thinking that I can use Steve Goodman. I soon found out that his book was mostly about the affect of sound and fear (and, like, I suppose some people fear Stein…). And although there is some terminology that may be useful to articulate certain moments that occur in the radio installation, I am mostly relying on relatively recent Stein studies that focus on her affect and her sound and auto/biographical studies. Scattered throughout are a couple of sound studies articles I’ve encountered.

With leaving theory aside (not necessarily behind), I have been listening to the movement of the contributors’ readings. And it is a delight! There is so much variation between different readings, even repeated phrases within one reading contain variation. And it’s all depending on the affective moment (or “intensity”) that they are in at that present moment. It is weird, but I can listen to a reading and say “that is totally this person.” And I don’t mean that I am saying that because I have identified their voice – I’m saying that in regards to how it is being said, as in “they would totally read like that.” This didn’t happen with every reading, but I still feel that I learn something more about person in how they read rather than what is said.

And so writing about tone, inflections, emphasis, vocal tics, pronunciations, and the other kinds of sound has made me feel I am writing a lot of description, flowery description. And when I make an argument, I feel like that argument is based on “well, you have to listen to it.” And yes, you have to listen to it, and my supervisor has and will listen to the recordings. But in the meantime….well, to return to what I said to my friend…I feel like I’m making shit up.

I’ll be presenting a paper on “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography” at Congress, as part of ACCUTE, next Sunday in Calgary (my first time there!). There you can hear about 18 minutes of me tackling the aural/oral auto/biographies of the radio installation. The program is here for specific times. Let’s hope everyone else doesn’t feel I am making shit up.

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Shaking the Dust Off

Is this blog dusty! As it always seems to happen to me (and I want to think that this happens to other blogs, too), I failed in updating this blog. My apologies. But it wasn’t because I had completely forgotten or I didn’t want to. Every Sunday I was like “perhaps I should blog this week.” But I didn’t.

I was kinda paralyzed into not blogging because I didn’t quite know how to blog about my dissertation research. I was too afraid that I would be tracking my dissertation progress. And then I grew super anxious not because this fear of “tracking” would be boring but rather that it might appear to my good colleagues as “bragging,” as in “look how much I wrote this week.” I don’t think I was doing that, and I know this is Overthinking with a capital O, but it still made me anxious. I am a very anxious person.

But I’ve finally decided on a way that will calm my anxiousness. On this blog, I will not discuss what was “written” but rather the kinda of ideas I encountered in my research, as well as updates on dissertation projects like “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography.” I have a dissertation writing group (twice a week) with my supervisor and two friends. And so it is that group which provides a space to discuss our writing for that day, what we are struggling with, and what we had conquered that day.

So I’m dusting this blog off because it’s important to me to share the ideas I’m tackling in my research (and blogging about these ideas will help me tackle them). It is also a space to share my research. My dissertation is going to have a lot of collaborators, and so this is a space that these collaborators and participants can pop in and see what I am up to (besides my communication with them). I don’t like leaving them in the dark.

Thus, an update or two:

I am happy to report that “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography” was a success and that the radio installation has been received with enthusiasm. The debut at the Critical Media Lab (CML) during the XDM Graduate Exhibition was good, although the big crowd drowned out the radio, much to Stephen’s and my disappointment. But the radio installation will be moving on to other places. Stephen and I are writing a blog post for the UW English blog that should be wrapped up shortly. It will contain a good quality video, so those of you outside of Southern Ontario can take a peak (alas, it won’t quite capture the materiality of the radio). It is also making an appearance at the English + Innovation event  happening this June 2 in Kitchener.

I am still amazed by how many people contributed to this project. Thank you all so, so, so much for making this project a reality. The complexity and depth of the project (as I am finding out while writing and researching it) is the result of these multiple and various contributions. And please know that Stephen and I will still accept audio submissions, if you are interested! Just email me at philip.a.miletic@gmail.com. The next step for us is to figure out a Toronto showing for next year, but more on that a little later.

I will be at Congress via ACCUTE presenting on EEA (as I like to shorthand “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography). So if you’re attending Congress and are able to attend the panel, please do. It’s on Sunday May 29, the full schedule is here.

And lastly, tomorrow, there is going to be another announcement. So stay tuned! I am nervous and a little stressed about it, but I am also very excited and looking forward to it. The fact that all the pieces of this next project coming into place is making me have all of the feels.

Alright, enough dusting. Back to doing what I do every Sunday: absolutely nothing.

Last Call for “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography” (sic)

A couple of months ago, in September, I put out an invitation to a part of my dissertation on Gertrude Stein’s Everybody’s Autobiography. I am overwhelmed by the amount of responses to this invitation I received (and that I continue to receive) and the commitment of these contributors. I am wonderfully surprised and excited by each recording, even though some of the contributors apologize for, say, mispronouncing French or saying Basket––one of Stein’s dogs––as “Bas-kay” because it immediately followed “Pepe.”I tell them that these are not “mistakes” at all, that they contribute greatly to thinking and writing about this project in my dissertation. And I am finding it great (and surprising) to hear that the majority of people respond with “that was fun,” which is not something people usually say when reading Stein, especially for a lengthy period of time.

Although I have been enjoying collecting recordings, I need to have a deadline and start moving on to the second phase of the project: programming these recordings, finding a radio, gutting it, and hooking up the radio to the laptop running the program so that the radio dials can switch from reader to reader. Thus, I have decided to put out a last call:

If you are interested in contributing to my – it should be “our” at this point – project (of which you can read more about in the link above), recordings will need to be in  by January 31, 2016. If you cannot make that deadline for some reason but still really want to contribute, please let me know. We can work something out. Please email me at philip.a.miletic@gmail.com to contact me. I can share an ePub version of the book or, if you’re local, I can lend my physical copies.

Also, there are two chapters that don’t have as many readers because they take longer to read. If you are willing to commit (and your commitment will not go unrewarded), chapters 3 and 4 are the chapters I would like most to have recordings. However, I am still open to receive recordings of any other of the chapters!

If you are in Kitchener-Waterloo, Stephen and I can hold recording sessions at the Critical Media Lab. However, the other option, especially for those who are out of town (and unfortunately, this weather makes me too anxious to travel) is to simply record on your own. Quality is not important, so you can record on your phone, on your laptop mic, or any other kind of equipment.

Here are the guidelines:

  1. You will have to read at least an entire chapter. This will allow us to better organize the files into the program we are using.
  2. Don’t worry about being “perfect” and read at your own pace. Reading Stein can be difficult. There will be times that you slip up, stumble over a word, change pace randomly, and so on. This is all fine and would not ruin your submission. You are, after all, live “on the air.” So just keep reading.
  3. Name your file like so: “Chapter#_firstandlastname”We can accept any format for sound files.
  4. Email me at philip.a.miletic@gmail.com, letting me know you are finished, along with a brief response on your experience reading Stein. I will share a dropbox folder with you for you to submit your link (email doesn’t have a lot of room). The response helps me think and write about the recordings altogether, to see if there are any familiar experiences across readers (or if there isn’t) and why that may be important.

If you have any other questions, please let me know. I’d be happy to answer them!

Lastly, thank you so much to everyone who has contributed. And thank you in advance to those who will be contributing in the coming weeks. It really is becoming everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography.

New Year, New Things To Do, A Lot Of Blank PagesTo Fill

I realize I haven’t posted in a couple of months, and I apologize. But I think I did us all a favour because not much was happening between mid-October and December. Well, stuff was happening but it was a lot of back-and-forth stuff concerning my proposal. And I wasn’t going to blog about “fixing that awkward sentence.” There was one thing I was going to write about, but I thought it best to not write about it then. So maybe I’ll write about it now. In a minute, of course. First, a reflection on 2015.

2015 was both great and terrible. Six months of it was dedicated to the last comprehensive exam, and there were a lot of factors in play that cranked up my anxiety. But I passed that exam, completing comps and finding that, after patting myself down, I still exist after all of the existential crises that I underwent along with my fellow peers. And I’m sane. Annnnd a lot of that reading actually came into play for writing my proposal, not necessarily for quotes but for ideas and for thinking through some conceptual dilemmas. Oh and there are some stuff I read that I never used, but, hey, I found a lot more useful books than useless books.

The summer was proposal (as my one colleague/friend jokes, it was a summer of proposals). The summer and writing the proposal were relaxed and chill, although I don’t remember much of the latter end of the summer. Probably because I was gearing up for teaching and getting in that final draft for my proposal (my deadline I gave myself to give my first full draft of my proposal was September, I believe. I started writing near the end of June, after Congress, DHSI, and my birthday were over). And by November, my committee all agreed that my proposal was good, that my dissertation was not a disaster, and that I should start writing. Although, I had to wait for the department grad committee to give me the green light on my proposal, which was not until mid December.

But I didn’t wait around and I started writing my dissertation anyways because why not. Even if it got a Revise and Resubmit, there would still be writing that could go towards that revision and it would keep my thoughts on the project rather than struggling for a week reacquainting myself with it. But my proposal passed, so phew: no revisions and the early writing was a good idea.

Around the same time I found out my proposal passed, I found out that I will be having a forthcoming article in African American Review on Octavia Butler’s Kindred. It’s been a long journey for this paper. It will be published this summer, two years after it has been written. It was written not last spring but the spring before, of 2014, for the “What is a Slave Narrative” course. The professor kindly returned my paper, marked, with comments as if she were a reviewer (I highly recommend those in course work to ask if the professor will do this!). I went to work on those comments, submitted it to a journal, and it got rejected with minimal comments. The minimal comments left me peeved, but they gave me enough fodder to add some more revisions. I then submitted to AAR and nearly a year later, I received a Revise and Resubmit, one of the reviewers giving me a chapbook-length of comments. Thanks to both of the reviewers, I revised it over the course of two months and resubmitted to be accepted 3 months later. Such is the arduous journey of academic publishing.

So yeah, despite my grumblings a lot of good things happened in 2015. It’s not so much grumblings but more so just struggling with bouts of loneliness and anxiety that can be sometimes crippling for me, leaving me very withdrawn and anti-social. Luckily, I have a few friends that draw me out of this slough of despond and I am extremely grateful.

What has work, is working, and (I think) will continue to work to fight this uphill battle: movie nights in small groups, (board or video) game nights, random outings, Friday afternoon drinks/coffee, and working 9-5 on Weekdays, 9ish-1 on Saturday, and not all on Sunday, and the occasional large gathering. I’m also getting more into cooking more elaborate meals out of a cook book, something I quite enjoy (I’m quickly starting up a collection of cook books).

I also don’t teach at all this term. So it’s kind of frightening. All I have to do is write. That’s my only obligation. And while that is great, it also causes this weird feeling of “Did I write enough today?” “All my writing was crap!” “Ugh I’m going nowhere.” In other words, I’m being more cynical about what I write. I’m trying to shake this off. So far, for this week, I wrote everyday and met my goal (I set a low and easy goal: 250words a day). Even if the goal was met by copy and pasting quotes and vomiting something about those quotes and how I would use them, I tell myself that is good. So, when 5pm strikes, I look at my screen, with my reflection on what I have written, and I tell myself “you have written enough. Good job!” I get happy that I copy and pasted a conference paper and rounded it out a bit so that it fit sorta not really but close enough into what I had written the day before, or that I copied a quote and wrote 250words inspired by that quote, or that I ranted on and on about how “post-postmodernism, as a term, has to go,” sentences that would never see my supervisor’s concerned eyes but at least allow me to write something sorta coherent that I can return to later and with a fresh editing mind be like “Oh, pft, the sentence should totally be something like this.” So yeah, I’m going to try and write everyday, except Saturday and Sunday. I’m getting pretty good with throwing away my phone. I still chat on iMessage on my laptop. I don’t find it that distracting. Plus, I bug my one friend who is also writing, and we assist each other. Also, ambient music. I have William Basinski’s Disintegration Loops on the most, which is kinda apt because I really do feel I am disintegrating throughout the day: the words are becoming harder to write, the sentences start becoming fragments, and the staring into the wall becomes more frequent and for longer periods of time.

Okay, so I’m about to wrap this post up but here’s what I plan to do maaaaybe weekly, maybe monthly. I’m going to write out my writing challenges for the day: the topics I need to tackle and hurdle around in my mind and overcome by the end of the week, as well as the leftover problems that lingered from the previous week. Here’s where I am:

I’ve decided to write my chapter 4, wherein I situate Wallace’s rhetoric and writing about community and democracy and the state of American postmodern culture with the writing of some cyberenthusiasts. No, Wallace was not a cyberenthusiast. But their rhetoric is similar, trust me. And I’ve got my favourite mantra from Allucquére Rosanne Stone: No Causes, No Effects, Mutual Emergence. I find this mutual emergence of their rhetoric to be really interesting! Writing this so far has been going smoothly, especially since I presented a conference paper on this subject and it was well-received (phew). But I am finding that after this chapter, I will have to do my introduction, which is where I lay out all of the theory. I’m finding myself being “eeeh, should I explain this now or will this be in my introduction?” So I think I will go to my introduction next.

But right now, the hurdles for this week: I have to finish up my section on Wallace’s “E Unibus Pluram.” Although it is largely about TV, I’m arguing that TV is just a talking point for Wallace to discuss postmodernism as a whole. And when compared to Linda Hutcheon’s say on postmodernism, both of them share a lot in common. So I’m glad that it’s not just TV and literature, but rather extends into culture and politics. So I need to wrap that up, articulate the politics side a little more, and then connect it to some cyberenthusiasts of the EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) like Barlow, the WELL like Howard Rheingold, and then leap into Rheingold’s The Virtual CommunityI feel like I’m a little scarce on material for discussing the politics of these early cyberenthusiasts, but what gives me some consolation is that I’m tying all of this under post-postmodernism. I’m not hundred precent sure on the politics of post-postmodernism (a term I hate), but I am pinpointing a couple of terms like this revival in democracy, active participation, community, and affect.

Anyways, my brain is dead and I want to get back to not doing anything! Looks like I didn’t write about my proposal. Ah well. Until next week’s post, which hopefully be more coherent.

The Proposal Submitted and Back Again

Is it September already? Wait, it’s the middle of September!?

Orientation week, the flurry and storm that it is, flew by. It was exciting (yay, meeting new people!) and exhausting (it was three days, three!). And tomorrow begins me instructing ENGL 109: Intro to Academic Writing (gulp!).

I’m also getting ready to hand in my second draft of my proposal to my supervisor.

The last time I posted, I was just about to hand in the proposal – I was nervous, a bit unconfident despite friends reassuring me I had a good draft of a proposal to hand in to my supervisor, and I was excited to get the thing out of my hands because at that moment I was sick of looking at it and needed my supervisor’s eyes.

The proposal was submitted, and about two weeks ago I received feedback. And the feedback was good, exciting, reassuring, and a relief (aka, omg something I’m proposing is not ridiculous and unrealistic and can be done, woo!). Also, as my previous post makes clear, I’ve already been given the green light to start doing some dissertation work. As my supervisor said, it’s unlikely that my project will be flat-out rejected. And worst case scenario, the Stein project can still make an appearance in my dissertation down the road or can produce a paper (along with that installation). The proposal, really, as we are told, is simply just to show you can conceive and map out a project in mind. Yes, this is weird and sometimes frustrating because how do you know what, say, your introduction will contain or what your conclusion will do. But dissertations proposals – at least from what I can gather from my supervisor and others who have submitted their proposal recently or long ago – aren’t solid contracts. Dissertations change after the proposal has been accepted, and that is fine (and will probably happen). Which, I guess, leads me to my feedback.

When reading over the feedback, I was relieved and surprised that there were no major changes. That is, there were no comments that were like “this chapter outline is bollocks!” Or “you’re using THAT theorist. ughughughugh.” Not that I was expecting these comments, but I was paranoid and wary of what a chapter outline would look like – at times, I doubted myself or felt “I am not exactly sure what I want to do with this chapter, but I’ll write this anyways.”

But nope, the comments were mostly organization, word choice, sentence length (I had like 8 line sentences, it was quite funny and embarrassing), and being a little specific on a few notes (such as “early virtual communities” – like, what’s early? 2003? 1993? the 80s?). Believe it or not, the most difficult are the word choices. I’m still dwelling over whether or not I should be using “each”, which was “similar” before.

The other problem was my methodology paragraph, which was really two different paragraphs in one. Initially, I had no idea where my methodology would go and I had placed it at the end of my overview. But my supervisor made a good point: my methodology, which is both participant ethnographic and literary analysis, is integral to my thesis, to how I will be arguing my thesis and retrieving my research. Since it is so integral, it should come directly after I state my project and its thesis. Looking over my edits thus far, it does look and feel better now that my methodology is my second paragraph. After that, comes the more broad-strokes, detailed overview of my project.

The other big thing that just appeared once, but I thought I should bring it up, was a sentence that read “now that I’ve given this context….I can argue X”. This appeared in my third chapter, which is supposed to be a more detailed analysis of the literary-radio community of Everybody’s Autobiography and my project. The previous chapter was situating Stein within the radio imaginary of the 1920s, aligning her Making of Americans and Geography and Plays to the radio imaginary in American culture and in Modernist writing. The second chapter is clearly making an argument, and yet I – the unconfident grad student – figured it in such a way that I was just “giving context.” So it’s a small thing, but seriously downplayed my arguments. It also really made me remember that each chapter presents a solid argument. It sounds kind of obvious, but there is this tendency to think that you are just building up to your main thesis and you forget that each chapter is an argument that supports your thesis. No, they are not stand-alone arguments, but sometimes it helps in organizing the chapter breakdowns to think this way so you have an assertive, focused, and argumentative chapter outline. Connecting the dots can come afterwards.

So yeah, as you can tell, the edits I’ve had to make (and am continuing to make) are not ones that significantly change my ideas about my project. Rather, the edits made are ones that present those ideas more clearly and convincingly (like, this project matters and is totally possible). I still don’t know exactly how I came about my finished draft, nor can I say “this is how you write a proposal and this is how you organize it.” But the best thing, I found, is just to share and edit proposals with someone or a few people. It’ll boost confidence and reassure you that your ideas are awesome and matter. I think the hardest part, the biggest struggle, is convincing yourself that your ideas matter and are awesome and putting them on paper. And then SHOWING them to your supervisor. Once I got over that hurdle, revisiting the proposal hasn’t been so bad – I feel better about my ideas, and the things I’m worrying about more, now, is “do I have an 8-line sentence in this paragraph!?” and if “each” is the right word.

“now everybody will do theirs”: An Invitation

Dear Everybody,

(Picasso’s portrait of Gertrude Stein)

I kindly invite you to participate in and contribute to a section of my dissertation that I am calling “Everybody’s Everybody’s Autobiography.” For this project, I am collecting audio recordings of individuals reading from Gertrude Stein’s Everybody’s Autobiography. With the help of Stephen Trothen, I am taking these recordings to create an installation wherein the recorded readings of Everybody’s Autobiography play from an old 1930s radio and can be tuned from one voice to the next.

The idea comes from reading about when Stein was introduced to radio during her 1934 tour of America and was astounded “not by what you knew but by what you felt, that everybody was listening…I was so filled with it” (“I Came and Here I am” 72;). Shortly after her tour, Stein began writing Everybody’s Autobiography. Part of my project focuses on how Stein incorporates the aural/oral quality of radio into practices of listening and speaking in her own writing of Everybody’s Autobiography. The opening line to Everybody’s Autobiography is “Alice B Toklas did hers and now everybody will do theirs” (3). This opening is an invitation for voices of readers to fill the text and continually shift meaning, as it is being spoken, from reader to reader. My project aims to do just that: to illuminate the presence of readers reading Stein, the affect of listening to Stein being read, and the remediation of radio in Everybody’s Autobiography.

There are two ways I am going to collect recordings:

1) recording sessions in Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto (of which you can find out about by following me on Twitter @philmiletic)

2) accepting submissions via dropbox from those who are unable to make the recording sessions. If you are interested in submitting a recording, please email me at philip.a.miletic(at)gmail(dot)com and we can discuss how you can get your hands on a copy of Everybody’s Autobiography (if you don’t have a copy of your own). I’ll also give you the link to the dropbox when you email me.

When recording, please follow these guidelines:

  1. You will have to read at least an entire chapter. This will allow us to better organize the files into the program we are using.
  2. Don’t worry about being “perfect” and read at your own pace. Reading Stein can be difficult. There will be times that you slip up, stumble over a word, change pace randomly, and so on. This is all fine and would not ruin your submission. You are, after all, live “on the air.” So just keep reading.
  3. Name your file like so: “Chapter#_firstandlastname”We can accept any format for sound files.

I want to thank you all in advance who will be contributing or even just spreading the word to friends and colleagues who you think may be interested to contribute. Everyone who lends their voice to the ether will receive credit at the installation and in my dissertation. If you are unable to come to the installation once it is ready (we are aiming for early 2016), Stephen and I will be working hard on an online version afterwards.

I am looking forward to working with all of you, and I can’t wait to hear the voices of “everybody” populating Stein’s text. As Stein writes near the end of EA, “I like anything that a word can do. And words do do all they do and then they can do what they never do do. This made listening to what I had done and what they were doing most exciting” (EA 317-318).

with great gratitude and excitement,
philip miletic

Drafting the Dissertation Proposal

It’s been a month and a bit since my last post (keeping this blog monthly), and most of that time has been spent working on a draft of my dissertation proposal. As of last week, I completed a full draft, but it’s the kind of draft that is for my own eyes only because it is filled with garbage sentences and long-winding rants that sorta cohere but could be better written. Basically, it’s a draft I would be embarrassed to give to my supervisor. Today I receive edits from a friend, who is also working on their proposal. We swapped over the weekend and have been swapping proposals at different stages throughout the month.

But writing a proposal is strange. I’m still not sure how I feel about it. I won’t be sure of it until my supervisor gives me feedback. Proposals are strange because you have to foresee your project, and even write what your introduction will cover (which puzzles me because I always save introductions until last because, as one prof put it to me, ‘you don’t write your introduction first because you don’t know what you’re introducing.’ So this introduction is you being like “I am foreseeing my introduction to introduce the following chapters that are yet to be written – but trust me, those chapter will be something like *this.*’).

Then there’s working in the summer, which can be hard. Then there’s working in the summer just after you finish your year of comps, which is even harder. Because ALL OF THE THINGS YOU WISHED YOU COULD’VE DONE DURING COMPS CAN NOW BE DONE: books (that I kept on buying, wanting to read them instead of comps books), games, comics, TV shows, movies, and normal socialization (not the “get together and cry about comps” kind of socialization that is meant to keep you from going insane). So, yeah, there’s that big desire to shut down and not do anything. So I created a work schedule.

I guess this schedule is like the comps schedule, but it’s more flexible, open to interruptions, and is not as intense. It’s a basic 9-5 M-F, Saturdays 9-1, and Funday-no-work-Sunday. In the mornings, when I’m still struggling to get out of bed, I practice my French, and I take French breaks throughout the day or practice French while eating lunch. The morning is dedicated to writing. At first I started just outlining: what I wanted in my overview (approx. 1000words), what I wanted in each of my chapter breakdowns (approx. 1500words in total). I started ranting with “write about this and that and blah blah blah” and then I actually tried to free-write it, or I placed quotes here and there that I might use and wrote how I would use those quotes. And then some cleaning up, but not much because I would be too consumed by it and wouldn’t move on. Afternoons are for reading/research, jotting down quotes, jotting down thoughts about those quotes, and so on. Writing trickled into the afternoons when I was on a roll or didn’t have to read everything.

Because at a certain point, you have to realize you can’t read everything that’s on your list (although you may read most of that down the road). At a certain point, I had to stop writing quotes down because I got the gist of the book, and I can just careen (or “bullshit”) the rest of my way through the proposal. After all, a proposal is supposed to demonstrate that you can “foresee” a project and put this in writing. A proposal is NOT a contract that you have to stick to. As I was told, once the proposal has been accepted, throw it out. Once I got into this mindset, I was able to not worry about reading this book and that book and that book and that book – those books go into the bibliography. Instead, I just focused on getting something onto paper, and if it wasn’t EXACTLY how I envision my project to be or how it will be in a year or six months…that’s okay. The proposal is not the end all and be all.

Once 5 hit on the weekdays (or 1 on Saturdays), laptop was closed, books thrown across the room in joy, and I either picked up a book I was reading for pleasure, turned on my PS1 to log another couple of hours into Final Fantasy IX, binge X-Files (which I sometimes watched during my lunch break), or do whatever else came my way. Sundays were times to tidy up the house, sleep in, do whatever the whole day. And this system is working. Not only do I feel more productive, but I feel less stressed and happier. I’ve had a few stressful moments and sleepless nights, but I’m remedying that: less coffee, more tea (especially sleepy tea), and less screens before bed. I still have a tendency to be withdrawn and hermity, but I’ve been better than the previous couple of months.

And now I have a draft, and should have a draft ready for my supervisor by the end of this week. It’s earlier than normal, according to my supervisor, but I just couldn’t not work on it. I had a nice June off. But once July hit, I was starting to get anxious about it. And working on it has been enjoyable and exciting. I’m sure I’ll get headaches over some university bureaucracy in the next couple of months (I’ve heard horror stories), but it’s still nice to start working on this diss and getting excited about the things I want to do and write about.

As for my proposal and how it’s coming along, I feel okay with it. [Warning: I’m going to start writing more specifically about my proposal and project. This part is more for me, but you can read on if you’re interested). I guess I’m struggling with the length right now. It can only be 3000 words, and I’m just slightly over. It doesn’t help that the friend I’m swapping proposals with doesn’t have a word limit because I’m like “ugh, I want all of that space to write in.” But I guess that constraint has it’s pros: such as answering the big question “is my proposal too big? Can you convey a full outline of it in less than 3000 words?” I feel I can – it’s just going to take some editing and rearranging.

The big breakthrough, I suppose, is another link I can make with Wallace and Stein. The link was that they both share similar agendas in bringing together the affective and the political, that those two are mutually dependent on each other. And this, in turn, requires a “passionate collaboration” from the readers, which so happens to produce autobiographical writing. I stumbled upon Karin Cope’s book on Stein, Passionate Collaborations, and that really helped me in approaching Stein the way I wanted to approach her: to understand the affective, the participatory nature of her work, involving the reader (rather than, as A LOT of people find her work, alienating the reader). Simplified, Cope’s book (so far of what I’ve read) argues that when reading Stein you’re being-with Stein. As she argues about The Making of Americans, the reading process is so slowed down that the reader reads at the pace of Stein’s writing. So, in a way, readers are writing with Stein. This was huge for me because I’m trying to understand how “everybody” in Everybody’s Autobiography is writing, and link this with the affective experience with radio. My go-to was that Stein felt that as she was filling the airwaves, she in turn was filled by listening; in other words, her listeners were speaking with her and listening with her.

So Cope’s book not only allowed me to bridge Stein’s affective experience of radio and the writing of Everybody’s Autobiography, but the book sorta validates the Stein-centered participatory section of my dissertation: getting people to read from EA, so that the affective radio experience is brought to the fore, that the book is filled with listening and being-with the text.

This experience, in many ways, matches up with how Infinite Summer interacted with Infinite Jest. Although, Infinite Jest is a work of fiction, the readers are still being-with Wallace, just specifically through the crafted lens of the novel. And although the novel is not autobiography, the novel is not quite my focus but rather the readers’ autobiographical responses. And  suppose, if pressed into a corner, I can point out that there are biographical elements to the novel, and the themes and issues covered in the novel are obviously important to Wallace. So although Stein is more self-conscious of her text as an autobiography (and that reading produces autobiography), I still find Stein’s and Wallace’s readers’s responses to these texts, whether the authors were self-conscious of this response or not, as similar and illuminating in their comparison.

So what I’ve written in the proposal on Infinite Jest and Infinite Summer I’ve been okay with. For a while, though, I’ve struggled with the chapter breakdowns of Stein. The main difficulty is that there’s really nothing on Stein and Radio (scholarly or documentary). There’s only one essay that I know of. Even in the most recent book on Modernism and Radio, Broadcasting in the Modernist Era, only mentions Stein ONCE, and that mention is in relation to that one essay I know (which is over ten years old). Further, this latest book is very scarce on American radio and American writers’ responses to radio. But the collection is good in its diversity, and I can’t get mad about it not being American-centric. I just wish there were more essays on American Modernists and radio. Perhaps I have to return to Broadcasting Modernism. But other than that, there’s only books on American radio (not related to writers’ engagements with radio) that I have to draw from. In a way, this makes my chapter on Radio and Stein important. At the same time, however, it is daunting. But, hey, I guess more radio research for me, which I can’t complain about – most of the texts have been really interesting and not dull.

The other big hurdle is making sure I present this project as “do-able.” As much as my supervisor is totally behind the two participatory projects I have planned for my dissertation, I have to present it in a way that it will be accepted by the GSO (Grad Student Office), who have been, as of late, quite picky (which doesn’t make sense to me: they’re rejecting proposals that have been accepted by students’ committees. You think if the committee accepted it as “do-able” the GSO would, too. Nope.). So I’m a bit worried, hence why I’ve started early and am getting in a draft early. As of now, I find myself wanting to write a little more of the participatory projects. At the same time, the way I’ve written them into the proposal presents them as a “small side” rather than these massive projects (which they’re not) in addition to the dissertation writing. We’ll see where it goes.

Until next month.