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.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

chapter 2

The second chapter is meant to be a study of the language of both novels on the lexical and syntactic levels. I've already done a bit on Anne, and it's OK. I've been going over what I wrote last summer on Djuna and it's not OK. I wrote an entire chapter on the psychoanalytical make-up of all the main characters in _Nightwood_, which means that the whole thing is extremely theme based. I have nothing to base a language-formalist-close-reading type analysis on! So I went through all my notes, those of the theory articles I read pertaining to Djuna and my reading notes of the book, and nothing!

I would really like to try to get this chapter done by Friday, when I'm to meet with Lianne and Andrew. Which reminds me that I must send my intro & first chapter to Andrew. I hope he'll have time to read it.

I'm debating whether I should read _Nightwood_ again, for the umpteenth time. Or just look for examples in the book? There are some critics who compare the style of the novel to previous centuries, or past styles, etc etc. I wish I had that (very cannonical) literary background so that I could say "Well yes, the first chapter does recall a certain rococo style found in lyrical poetry of the 16th century with strong Saxon influences, but the remainder of the novel is much more Edwardian with a hint of Puritain melody. As for the last chapter, it is obviously influenced by late-19th century German Naturalism." Unfortunately, I know these terms for having heard them somewhere and have always been very bad at understanding how they apply to an author's style or literary concerns. I have been horrible at remembering which movements came when, even if I've been going over it all since cégep, and could never possibly analyze a novel that way. I prefer close-readings. There's just something that feels so much more tangible about them. But I do wish I could master the snooty jargon... 'cause then you just sound so much cooler...

So yeah, _Nightwood_. I'll start with simply finding passages that exemplify the rococo, and that can stand for the style in the overall (group of) paragraph(s). Plus read the Late Modernism text that Andrew suggested last summer and that I hadn't come around to reading yet. Maybe that'll help.

Friday, July 22, 2005

to ben

The weather has cooled at last. I've been working in the kitchen all day on my abjection chapter, trying to bring the whole thing together. It's raining out and Virus and George are watching it at the window sill. And music is playing. Amélie. You hate this soundtrack so I'm listening to it while you're gone. And I am lusciously alone. I might drink a bit of wine tonight if you bring some home, and keep working. And I realize how very lucky I am to be doing this. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

sound advice

I mentioned to Lianne today that I'm trying to watch my carbs intake.
She then suggested that I consider putting off any form of dieting until my thesis is done, seeing that my body will need the nourishment.

Now isn't that great advice?


I got a call at 5:30 this morning. Stéphane was informing us that Maïa had lost her waters and that her contractions had begun. I haven't heard from them since and hope everything is OK.

As Maïa labours to deliver her baby, I spend my first evening (so after Ben comes home from work) on my iBook, writing away. I'm working on my first chapter and it's going well. Following is an excerpt of what I'm doing, the dialogues going on in my brain:

“If it be true that the abject simultaneously beseeches and pulverizes the subject, one can understand that it is experienced at the peak of its strength when that subject, weary of fruitless attempts to identify with something on the outside, finds the impossible within; when it finds that the impossible constitutes its very being, that it is none other than abject. The abjection of self would be the culminating form of that experience of the subject to which it is revealed that all its objects are based merely on the inaugural loss that laid the foundations of its own being. There is nothing of the abjection of the self to show that all abjection is in fact recognition of the want on which any being, meaning, language, or desire if founded” (Kristeva, 5).

==> In the English version of Kristeva’s text, the word ‘want’ is translated from the French ‘manque.’ As a French speaker, I find this translation to be questionable. ‘Manque’ can be interpreted as ‘want,’ but a closer definition to the noun would be ‘lack.’ I prefer this term not only because I find it a more natural translation, but also because the word ‘want’ signifies the action of desiring. If the subject’s objects are based on the inaugural loss, I believe the recognition of the basis of its being, of meaning, language and desire should not be infused such an active word, so closely related to desire. If all objects are based on loss, then all means of expressing and knowing these objects are based in the result of loss: lack.

==> In the process of reading these stories, hence of re-creating them for themselves, the reader is placed in a position of identifying with the text. The novels are no longer external medium but internalized situations, stories, places of being. It is by internalizing the abject story that the subject (reader) finds this “impossible within,” that this “impossible constitutes its very being.” The process of reading an abject novel causes the reader, through the internalization of the abject novel, to experience abjection of self. It is this experience, this expulsion of self expressed through the act of rejecting (yet after coming back to) the writing that constitutes the experience of reading the abject, or, in other words, abjection reading.

==> The act of rejecting the writing referred to here can be interpreted quite literally. As discussed in the Contemporary Montreal Women Writers class, the physical act of rejecting a piece of writing such as Nightwood, Hush or Scott’s My Paris has been done by either choosing not to read the book, changing one’s reading pattern by sporadically reading different chapters, reading the novel from end to beginning or by alternating reading it from the beginning and from the end until the centre is reached, or by simply throwing the book against a wall or the floor. I myself once reverted to the last option while reading Stein’s Tender Buttons.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

one down, five to go

I've just finished my intro. Now I must start working on my abjection chapter. Mostly rearranging some of what I wrote last summer, and expanding some. I'll be seeing Lianne tomorrow and she's to tell me what she thinks of what I've written so far. I have a meeting with her and Andrew next Friday. I *should* have three more chapters done by then. I really really hope this is not wishful thinking.

The heat wave persists. At least today there's a breeze. I tried buying an A/C yesterday. When we unpackaged it we saw that it was damaged. Corbeil Électroménagers can't even bring me a new one before Thursday, unless I want to pay an extra $35 for a rush delivery today. Why is it that I must pay extra when they're the ones that sell me damaged goods? When I told the Corbeil guy that I was very disappointed by their service, I was honoured with a speech about what great service they offer!

Today is definitely a day to swear profusely and eat a whole lot of chocolate. I'm holding myself back from doing both. That's why this blog ends here.

Friday, July 15, 2005

i am ready to be in a spy movie!

Seems that in every spy movie I've seen there's a journalist chick who's doing research on microfilm in a darkened back room of some library. Well after having spent part of the day doing just that (albeit in broad day light in an open space at the National Library of Quebec), I'm ready for the scripts! Bring'em on!

Anne had mentioned a (not-so-positive) Globe and Mail review of her book dating back 1999. For some reason, the Globe and Mail doesn't offer their archives online, which is why I had to spend some time at the library with a friendly librarian explaining to me how the whole process of viewing and then printing works. But I found what I was looking for. Any quote I can find pertaining to Anne can help me weight my argument. The Globe and Mail quote is to underline the eerie effect the book has. I'll be using it in my intro.

Speaking of which, I haven't worked on it yet. I'm a bit nervous. Now that I know where I'm going, and with such detail too, I'm feeling a bit nervous. Like I'm on the edge of the high board and I'm suppose to plunge (not just jump, or worse: bomb!) into the deep end. But then again, I must finish 4 chapters including my intro in the two next weeks, so I'm sure the stress of getting it done will have me diving off the board in a graceful swan-like fashion in a very short while...

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

it's coming along

I met with Lianne today. I like meeting with her, our meetings are always so productive. I showed her what I've been working on and she thinks I'm on the right track. We've established an outline for my thesis that I think will work very well. I have a good sense of where I'm going and what needs to be done. By this week-end I must finish my the first draft of my intro and send that to Lianne. In two weeks time I should have completed my first three chapters and send that to both Lianne and Andrew. I must write to Andrew within the next few days to show him my outline & al. By mid-Aug. I should have my final chapter and my conclusion done. Then allow a bit of time for Lianne and Andrew to read and critique and I to rework whatever needs to be modified. By the end of August I'll submit :-)

(I sometimes daydream about how wonderful it would be if I could finish this work sooner than later, and then I could take a bit of time to write other stuff than essay work...)

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

I am hot! hot! hot!

That title is meant to be truthful and sarcastic. Truthful because it is still very hot today. I think I'll be heading on to the library this afternoon so that I don't end up in whatever-the-state-I-was-in-last-evening this evening. Notice how yesterday I swore for the first time in my blog? :) Yes, it was done in French just because the religious aspect of Québécois-French swearing just makes it feel all the more sacred.

Onwards. Sarcastically because as I write my exercise for Lianne (that's really rather starting to look like the skeleton of my thesis), I realize the somewhat pretension of mine to write on an author who's yet to be explored by a bunch of other people who already have their PhDs. Man oh man! With Barnes I can just pluck quotations and "serious" names just like that, out of serious journals. I can write 'so-and-so thinks..." and "this-and-that mentions" and "so it can be concluded that..." But no, not with Stone. I must make everything up all by myself. And you cynical ones out there might be thinking, "Duh, isn't that what writing an MA's all about?" But I tell you "No! It isn't!" Actually, I'll confess something... I am a real good student. Always have been. A nerd, if you will. Well, I admit that the very first time I ever presented a book to class without having read it first was during my MA. And I got an A in the class! After this fake presentation I went down to the pub to have a beer and was explaining this to a few fellow students, feeling rather sucky and guilty. Then this one guy looks at me surprised and says, "It was the first time? I never read whole books! What's the use? You just scan over the titles, read a few interesting bits, maybe the beginning and end of a few paragraphs and that's all. Seriously, do you think anybody could finish grad school if we were all reading the entirety of all the books we're supposed to read? No way!" So there you go. There are techniques to writing a grad essay that you pick up along the way and I being the "I'm so hot I will write on writterly novels one of which I'll be the first to explore" have just realized that I've stabbed my foot with a fork. It's a beautiful novel, it really is. But my job is all the more difficult for it. And, seriously, which grad student (and prof for that matter) actually has the luxury to take time to actually think...

Monday, July 11, 2005


It's really hot again. Blinds stay down / pulled and the fan is a constant companion, pushing warm air my way with the hopes that it'll relieve me from this heat. My mind starts wandering, again, to places I might go where I might be more comfortable. My thighs stick to my chair. My skin is a new brand of adhesive.

And now my thoughts have run out and I don't even have the feeling that I've worked enough, or well enough. Trying to decide how to work out the abject-ness of narrative, in comparison to sentences and themes. Lianne once told me that I should take full advantage of my time, that I should see this as an opportunity to enter into discussion with two books I much admire. To see writing this thesis like allowing myself to partake of another world. All this I try to remind myself when I sit down and write. The "need" to get it done gets in the way. So does frustration with words. Why does it sometimes take so long for thought to materialize into words, to be put down on paper and that's that? Barthes saying that what is not written in pleasure cannot be read with pleasure. Bleeuurrggg to Barthes!

ostie qui fait chaud.

Friday, July 08, 2005

What is abjection and how can a novel be considered abject?

Abjection is a state of insecurity. More precisely, it is the affect of the state of insecurity.

Kristeva uses examples such as vomit, refuse, corpses, and the repulsion of milk to explain the physicality of abjection. It would be a part of you that you cannot accept as you. What you always and forever violently reject from yourself. This rejection is repeated every time this non-object is encountered.

As far as literature is concerned, Kristeva considers horror & terror to be the manifestation of abjection. Yet then she says that we should not rely solely on a book’s thematics. Her elaborations about abject authors and why they are so are puzzling.

I am interested in how abjection is expressed in the Word, the way a story is communicated.

Abjection is a border. An ambiguity. Ambiguity meaning that which has double (or more) meanings. A language that can multiply meanings in the mind of its readers. This multiplicity engages more than just themes, it is at the very core of the story(ies), of the narrative(s). Also, these meanings do not imply simply seeing things one way or another; they imply a meaning that attracts and fascinates yet due to its potential horror/terror it also repulses. The reader wonders “Is this what the author means?” and then answers herself “No, it can’t be! … Can it?” That doubt attracts. It keeps the reader reading, even if she is reading on the verge of repulsion.

A way of creating such ambiguity is to have meaning articulate itself in the gaps of the narrative, in its silences. The “not said” tells of the “possibly said.” Different writing techniques are used to express silences, or to conceal them. Barnes does this with an excess use of words. This excess, this too much, this “trop c’est comme pas assez” brings the reader full circle to a land void of a straightforward meaning. She does this not only in O’Connor’s dia/monologues, which are well renowned for their excesses, but also in her descriptions of places and characters. This fanfare of words dizzies the reader, or confounds them. Caught in a thick jungle of words, the reader searches for meaning while haunted by a sneaky suspicion that it lurks in the trees above, behind the next frond, staring back at her. At the same time, her characters drop words of a story that are just enough to keep the reader guessing, so to keep them strangely interested in this text.

Stone uses an entirely different technique. She interrupts meaning at the sentence level, which then works its way up, so to speak. Her sentences are fragmented. They sometimes stop where they shouldn’t and at other times they begin where they should be continuing another one. These fragments serve to change meaning through a type of repetition, by placing emphasis and by re-wording. A sense, a meaning is there. The reader feels it, but doesn’t (and sometimes cannot) precisely know it. This technique has the reader continually plunging into voids trying to grasp meaning, like plunging into a sea and then coming up for air and wondering if she saw correctly under the surface. With the next plunge and the next resurfacing, the reader tries to make sense of the meaning grasped, tries to plug the meanings into a coherent narrative that can be understood.

Of course, the abject of these authors goes beyond words and sentences, but I’ll think about that tomorrow…

The silences of both books hint at an underlining violence, or, to put it in more romantic terms, a seeping and unmentionable darkness. Here is where the abjection of a novel comes to be seen as abject on a psychoanalytical level. It recalls in the reader a primary knowledge that can be felt or glimpsed at but is always and forever forgotten. Already, the impression of having forgotten what was known makes the reader insecure.

I’ll need to revise Kristeva’s psychoanalytical bit before applying it to these novels. That I will also do tomorrow...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

the pee is done

I've just finished it. It took me two weeks and a day. Grant it, there were 2 national holidays in there, but it still took me way too long.
Result = 38 pages of notes.
Now I eat, shower, print out these pages. When that's done I start working on Lianne's exercise. I'm hoping to work Saturday as well. I'm getting a gum graft tomorrow so I'm not too sure how prone to work I will be. Pain is usually a inefficient incentive. I'll keep my fingers crossed.
When I was working and studying I was a machine. I impressed myself with my discipline. Now, I'm much more of a slacker. It's annoying. And my production isn't what it was. Maybe the way I used to work was insane, but it's hard to believe that that's a bad thing considering how productive I was.
Anyway, 'nough said.

Monday, July 04, 2005

is it horrible to say that I like her rape scene?

I'm at the rape scene in _Hush_ and must decide what to make of it. Today is also the date of Karla Homolka's release from prison and her moving into a neighborhood that's a bus ride away from my place. What with my work, newspaper headlines and my own curiosity (or web-surfing procrastination, as you wish), my head is now filled with rape.

The first time I read the rape scene in _Hush_ I was... confused? It seemed to happen so un-expectantly. Out of nowhere. And I couldn't make it out. Who? Where exactly? Why? Just 'cause they're a bunch of hicks? That and her words that pop out of the text, incomprehensible though they seem to be hiding some special meaning: macadam, jimmies, slough. So English-English and incomprehensible to eyes accustomed to a watered-down version of plain English. But it's more than just the words.

walking after midnight, searching for you

Time caught in a song. The words of it dragged out in the drops of rain. Not seeing straight because of it, and maybe not hearing straight. Violence - voler/violer - forced on your body while the mind tries to make sense of it.

Lianne mentioned in class that Roses stages her own rape, and so confuses normative narrative causality. Yet reading this passage over again, I'm not so sure of that. She wishes she had her skinned-rabbit dress on so that she may shame them once gone, but wouldn't that simply be to make something useful, even educational, of the violence inflicted on her body? Like an after-thought of it. Roses knows she could've avoided the rape. Those 'jimmies' could've turned on the lineman if she would've played her silence well. But she couldn't swallow her anger. At least, she couldn't swallow it on time. That's what led them on. Like fire feeding fire.

Recounting another narrative to Ben of Karla's crimes, he interrupts me to say that he really doesn't care about her and that he doesn't understand it/them/that anyways.
"And with Patsy singing so loud she can only see their lips moving, can't hear what they say. No, she is deaf. There is her, and Patsy singing, and she'd be moving her lips to the song, maybe, but for the pull at the roots of her hair, his fist coiled in her hair and pulling her at him, like that. But that's okay, she says. She's just wishing she'd worn the dress she'd worn for Junior, the one that skins her open that way, so that she could shame them gone" (Stone, 132-33).
It's that "but that's OK" that struck me when I first read this passage, precisely because I understood the it, them and that, and the "but that's okay" said (maybe even repeated) to convince, to render banal.

Steve is working on prison writing. Working like a madman to get his Phd thesis finished this summer. And now I understand how mad he might be becoming, because I really wouldn't want to stay in this place for months on end. Her rape scene is frightfully precise, which makes for beautiful writing, but I wouldn't want to stay in it for months.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

an excerpt from _Hush_


I've decided to share this passage with you, with Anne's permission, because I find this passage in her book breathtakingly beautiful. I hope you enjoy it as well.


Roses pictured Loralie lying on the bed, wrapping herself in rope-white sheets when sleep came on her, seeping into the skin like warm water. Her lips full, swollen. August, dowsing her with his tongue, the lapsing shape of her hips, until he positions them, just so. And the words, suddenly Roses knows the words, as she pictures Loralie.

Loralie, legs parted in a V, eyes slit open, whispers softly, pulling at one, two, of August's fingers, sliding them inside of her and softly, so softly: "How am I shaped here?" But it was impossible to measure this pleating swell, so what could he say? That her sex was incomprehensible. That it wasn’t square or round or oblong. That the passage passed nowhere and everywhere at once, depending on how you looked at it. That to tell her the shape of her sex would be telling her the shape his mind took when he passed into her, and how choke-cherries were tart, and how a cut was when you drew off the blood. It'd be telling her about every other place he'd ever been but that one. What could he tell her but, “Loralie, darling, you can’t think like that, you can’t spend your time thinking like that.”

Spent time. No, that’s the way she can’t think. She can’t think about spent time at all. Not that way. And she’d turned to him, picturing this bed and the next, picturing how men got themselves spent and how it ruined the sheets or them or both, or so they said, and about how money got spent, but not so much on her, and about all the beds she’d already laid in and all the beds she would be laid in and all that time, and Loralie said, shaking her head against it, “Let's just say time spends me that way.”

from _Hush_ by Anne Stone (47-48)