I have decided to blog my ongoing work on my MA thesis. As with most graduate students, I'm sure, the whole thing is taking much longer than expected.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

'shape' as signified

Shape and hole are signifiers, but if you think about it their signified is quite hard to grasp. Especially for shape. Maddie is looking for a shape that will restore her. Rudimentary shapes. But what is a shape? It isn’t a space. It can be a thing, but with the number of “things” out there we’d be hard put to find which one (which might precisely be Maddie's dilema). Or maybe many things of the same shape? Or maybe just the way something is supposed to be? A shape containing an idea and/or a structure. Something tangible that one can put one’s finger around, hold and feel.

If a crazy woman is searching for a shape to redeem her, “who’s bare insistence will restore her” (Stone, 8), how are we to think of “shape”? Something you can hold but that won’t hold you. That will cause her to be recognized, the her inside her skin. Except, to herself, or to others?

“At market, shapes sound through her fingers. (…) Measured and marked, the butcher passes the shape. The pound, just so” (Stone, 9). The weight of shape, and the shape of weight.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

holes & etc

There are three main types of holes in _Hush_. The first type encompasses many would-be holes that can be figured out if read attentively enough and/or read more than once. These holes vary in their subtlety, hence are subject to different levels of difficulty. The next type of hole consists of the nucleus of trauma that affects Roses, Loralie and Maddie, though she's not as important a character as far as holes are concerned. These holes are never said but always ever pointed at. In the life of Roses and Loralie, these holes are the fountainhead from which the other holes spew. This trauma-hole has caused, primarily, psychical scaring in Roses and physical scaring on Loralie. The next type would be Love, Roses's aborted monsterhead twin whose existence in the narrative punctures it, causing a hole in what we're reading.

I haven't looked at _Nightwood_ in a while, but my sense is that its holes are much more covered up - or rather, the violence and trauma that exist in the narrative are covered up in speech rather than hidden in the gaps of language & structure, making it more difficult to overread. Barnes hides her holes deep in the night and though she might bring it up at times, might allow Nora to speak of it, she never lets us guess at it. It dare not speak, and it dare not abstain from speech. It sits in a no-man's-land.


I met with Lianne today. Of my pee there remains 50 pages to do. After that I will do an "exercise" that Lianne has suggested: to write ten pages for each novel on what I find abject in it. It's to help me focus, and to start writing. It should be done by mid-July, so in two weeks. I'll forward it to her and Andrew, see what they think and take it from there.

I figure that there are three ways to look at abjection in a novel. The first is to do what I've already done with Barnes and that is to analyse the characters and to elaborate each of their psychoanalytical make-up, unveiling how they are, as "people," abject. The second way is to study the psychoanalytical make-up of the novel as its own identity, incorporating that of the characters in a limited way. The third way is to concentrate on themes in the novel that portray border, ambiguity and the essence of what is abject. Of these three ways, I prefer the second, leaning towards the novel's structure and syntax to explain its abjection. I would also incorporate a thematic element in order to enter into discussion with theorists who have previously examined these same themes, especially with regards to Barnes.

I realize as I go that the process of writing a long piece, be it a novel or an MA thesis, consists of writing a lot of stuff that will end up as excess, stored away with the other things you seem to think you know. A hundred page thesis involves much more writing than 100 pages, which most people don't seem to realize and which you do only when you're doing it. Up until now, I must have written down at least four times that in notes and unusable "chapters" and I'm nowhere near finishing...

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

early morning wake-up

I've been working on _Hush_ and thinking very much about holes. Holes in narratives and in people and in spaces. And Loralie saying how men are obsessed with making holes, and how they are almost as obsessed with filling them. Potholes and such, but also holes in women. And how what's best is when a man can make and fill a whole at once. These narratives have holes in them to demarcate the place of violence, of trauma. And as I work and think and live within the idea of these holes, some men start ripping up the street in front of my place. I was wondering yesterday "Why? They repaved the whole stretch of it two years ago." To which Ben answered that they're putting in gas lines, like they've been doing on Sherbrooke, leaving a gash in the street for the past month or two now. "But why gas? Isn't that really expensive?" He says natural gas isn't but for having heated with natural gas before, I don't believe him. Standing at the window gazing at the machines making these holes, amazed at them and standing there admiring. Meanwhile, naked and tangled in my own white sheets, I'm thinking of Loralie and of holes and I'm swearing over the racket. What's the idea of making so much noise at 7:30 in the morning? With this heat and now this noise that forces the windows closed, I'll have to start thinking of finding some other place to work during the day. Damn hole-makers.

Friday, June 24, 2005

st-jean, a provincial national holiday

To make my way to page 65 in a day was ambitious. I omitted giving the details of my progression because I thought that I majorly sucked!

Three days later and I'm at page 77. Which is OK. These things always take so much longer than expected.

It's the St-Jean and I haven't been outside of my apartment in 2 days. Then people ask me if I find it hard working on my thesis during summer time. My answer: I am good at living in denial. At my desk, it can be January or raining out all year long. When I was a kid I had read a book called _I never promised you a rose garden_. It's the only book I read twice as a teenager. It was about a 14 year old girl who was crazy and institutionalized. Her sickness fascinated me. In the month of July, the land in her head would be in winter and she would be freezing and shivering constantly. Well, though I have not yet attained a total contradiction in body vs outside temperatures, I can sometimes be completely oblivious to heat, sunshine and the passing of beautiful days. Like today. Like yesterday. To relax I read the second half of _War of the worlds_. I did that last night while most of our friends went out to an after-hours party. I worked today. Funny how I fight it while an underlying desire in me pushes me to finish. I don't understand it. I'm no longer master of parts of myself. Bet you never thought writing an MA thesis could do that, ey?

Tomorrow night we have supper with Maîté & Fred. She wrote me an email saying how she's of late only kept in touch with me through my blog. I had forgotten that some people, some friends, actually read this thing and am always a bit stunned when I find out that they do. She referred to me as the Bridget Jones for intellectuals. Yup! That's me! And from now on I shall keep an introductory log of the cigarettes I smoke, the alcoholic beverages I drink and the minutes spent procrastinating surfing the net. I'll leave the calories and weight to Bridget. Besides, when I moved out of my folks' place I made a point of not buying a scale.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

plan d'action

I was supposed to meet Lianne on Monday but had nothing to show her so I cancelled our appointment. That she may be disappointed in me made me feel guilty, so I arranged a comfortable place to work on my balcony (a bit windy, but what a great view of Montreal! window gazing pales in comparison) and started hard at my pee. I worked very well, which relieved stress and had the effect of my working not so well yesterday. Relying on stress and feelings as motivators is annoying because they are never constant. And an MA thesis cannot be written overnight, even if Steve wrote his over a week-end, the thought of which highly annoys me, but I digress... I am starting to wonder if I'm a bit too "methodic" in my writing. Maybe I should just "let it flow" a bit more.

Ben has suggested that I make a schedule. I've decided that this blog will help - 'cause that's why I started it to begin with! So, for today: I am at page 35 and would like to 'pee' until page 60 (ideally 65). If I finish before I must leave, I may either go running or read, though reading seems more of an reward and I really should run 'cause last week's weather forced veg-ness on me and my body. I must leave at around 3:45 to pick up the McGill book from Lianne, and then must buy salad & salmon for supper tonight. Fabz is our guest.

I just called Maïa. No answer. Can't help wondering if she's in labor. If so, I prioritize seeing the kids face over work! My God, a horrible thought... I sure hope this kid won't be born on the St-Jean, poor thing...

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Writing an MA thesis...

... is hard!

But I'm glad to share with you all that I have started my "pee" on _Hush_. For those who are unaware of the process of peeing, it was suggested to me by Chantal Nadeau during my undergrad and I have found it to be a very good method. To pee is to put on paper everything that comes to mind about a specific topic, theory, book and so on. To make sure I get everything down that might be useful for the final thesis-product, my pee process with _Nightwood_ & _Hush_ is to re-read the book, keyboard at hand. I note down everything that strikes me as interesting, page by page (or, rather, paragraph by paragraph). I also transcribe passages from the book that would be interesting quote material and, of course, elaborate on anything I wish, letting my mind wander with the hopes that some insightful thought will find its way on the page and after in my thesis. I then print out and re-read my notes and organize them by theme, that I then order into the first draft of the chapter in question. This process works well, but it is quite long when doing it in-depth, as I am, on such long and especially complicated novels.

Of late, my brain tires quickly.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Dear Lianne,

I was thinking, in order to make the term abject clearer on a literary standpoint, to see the abject as "border," and to look at the borders that cause ambiguity, hence abjection, in these two books.

I will still want to incorporate a psychoanalysis, of sorts, of the characters mainly to differentiate between outcast and abject characters.

I will want to look at the writing, as well, and show how the effect of its ambiguous order causes a feeling of abjection for the reader. It is also, I believe, the gaps that can be found at/in these border-writings that cause jouissance, and make them writerly instead of readerly texts.

By looking at the abject as border, I feel it will be easier to touch upon certain themes such as the beast (the border between animal and human) and violence (the border between love and hate, and their kinds of sensualities). I would prefer examining themes that can be found in both books.

I realize that I need to have a few definite themes in mind while looking at these novels.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Céline & his night

The novel takes place during the first world war. The main character is a soldier, one of the many who were sent to be slaughtered in the trenches. He realizes this. He hates the war. He doesn't see why he should be fighting it. The Germans never bothered him personally. He doesn't even like fighting. As a child he would avoid it. And now, for the sake of patriotism, he is sent to be slaughtered.

Luckily enough for the character, he is injured and is sent back to Paris while his health improves. He becomes a basket case, so to speak. He does his best to remain in "psychiatric" hospitals: better there than at war. His problem is fear. Doctors try to heal him of it and to inject into him a renewed patriotic fervor.

The night of this story is the bind in which the character lives: he must fight but can't, so he must avoid it while not being persecuted as a trator. A tricky predicament.

What is captivating about this novel is its sense of doom. As readers of 2005, we know that WW1 occured between 1914 and 1918. We know that it ended. This thought is comforting. Yet Céline never alludes to time, and this is the genious of his novel. We don't know what's taking place when. As a reader, it's securing to put a date to such a character's trials. If the narrative is set in 1915, we are aware that there is still so much time left to be recounted. If it is set in 1917-18, we know that the novel's doom is coming to a close. For a reader, such a sense of time is conforting. But seeing that Céline never specifies a date, the reader is stuck with the character in a time that seems like it will never end. When will the war end? We, as those who lived it at the time, don't know. This is how Céline pulls the reader into his night and keeps him/her there for as long as it must last.

mods to do on Djuna chapter

Generally, it isn't as bad as I originally feared. But there are some weak points...

- The psychoanalytical make-up of the abject will need to be explained, though not as extensively as I might have originally thought.

- I'll need to describe in the chapter's intro that I will be looking at important points/themes that have been brought up by other theorists/critics, at the theme of abjection in the novel, meaning the psychoanalytical make-up of the various characters, and the particularities of the language used (what's abject about it).

- About previous point = themes & psycho. make-up down pat, the language thing still needs some work.

- Some of my paragraphs are weirdly written. I write passages from the texts or quotations and then, in a final sentence, state my point. This creates a blotchy style and is unclear to the reader. I'll have to rewrite then. First sentence being the statement, then back-up with text & quotes. I should make the whole writing a bit more fluid, even if that means I might be a bit wordier.

- I like the way I present the whole thing as portraits of the characters. Problem is that a reader who hasn't read the book might become a bit confused. I should therefore write (in the intro?) some kind of outline to the story, even if this makes the whole story sound linear. It's needed for clarity's sake. Especially with regards to Robin's relationships (her wandering - she is the only one in the novel who wanders from person to person, in this way she is the only one who moves).

- When I look at the notes I took during my last meeting with Lianne & Andrew, they seem to encourage me to write more about what has previously been done on abjection and this text, citing other theorists. I should maybe work on having a broader-view intro... I think the purpose of this is to set my work in time, so to speak. To place it among other works that have been done on this topic and to (try to) elude to the importance/originality of my work.

- Typos and weird sentence construction (duh).

- Stop using resume in the French way & other gallicisms (duh).

- As for writing more abou the writing, a problematic element is that it is somewhat chapter specific, and I deal with the characters cross-novel. Maybe try to pin-point one character to a chapter and then elaborate on how its written? Might be the most natural way of going about it...

- Revise the theory and make sure my claims of their psych. make-up is logical. Especially O'Connor + the role of the Law.

- Rearrange the part that deals with Guido Jr. It feels a bit "put there." Make one full chapter for him? Cut him out? Disperse him throughout the text?

- Some paragraphs don't seem to end properly. Weak final sentences. Reader is expecting something more, something more complete.

- The beginning of each section should explain, generally, the psycho. make-up and/or the role of of abjection in relation to the highlighted character. This should clarify the point and give the reader a better sense of direction within the essay.