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, August 30, 2005

3 hours of printing!

Can you believe it took me 3 hours to print and assemble my 4 copies of my 100-page thesis!

I was hoping of handing it in today but seeing how long it took to print, not to mention that the department's secretary closes at 4 and it takes 30 to 60 minutes to get to school; I'll bring them in first thing tomorrow morning. Plus all my other errands, like bringing my library books back. I feel like I've revised this thing to death! And Anne and Gail Scott have been very useful with some last minute info. So fun to have writers alive around you with internet connection! :-)

My meeting with Andrew and Lianne went well. They had some things to point out and Lianne had corrected my intro and conclusion. Lianne sent me an extremely flattering email last night in which she says that I should feel good about my thesis because it is very good. That brought tears to my eyes. It's funny because such a compliment will affect me, and then I'll kind of go numb. I haven't yet realized that I'm finished, I suppose.

I chatted a long while with Andrew, a lot about US Universities I might want to apply to for my PhD. He was bringing up, other than U of Chicago and Duke, Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Stanford, and North Western. Those types, the ones you hear about in movies but would never actually ever have the pretension of thinking that you might be a student there. So I asked him if he really thought I stood a chance applying to these top-notch schools and he answered yes. If I have well enough grades and good GRE scores (he seemed confident of my thesis & my letters of reference, which is good because he'll de asked to write one!), it might be easy for me to get in. Plus, administration might play on my team. Since 9/11, the US has been very strict in giving out student visas, especially to Arab countries. Meanwhile, Universities have international student quotas to fill. As a Canadian, I would be a good "safe" international student candidate. Plus my French name sounds foreign. So my ugly French Québécois name and US (over-)protectionism might just play in my favor. Sucks for Arabs though, and goes to show how the rich stay rich and the poor stay poor. Anyway, all that to say that this blog may never end because it might very well become the never-ending doctoral thesis! :-)

Now, I'm tired again. And I'm hoping that Anik will be able to give me another acupuncture treatment because my right arm has started hurting a bit again.

Monday, August 29, 2005

one last meeting

I'm wroking on my bibliography. Yesterday I finished my preliminary pages: title, jury, dedication, acknowledgements, etc.
From 12:30 to 3, I am meeting with Lianne and Andrew. I haven't heard from Andrew since the beginning of the summer and I have no idea if he thinks my thesis is crap or OK. So I'm a bit nervous. I would like to hand it in tomorrow... So I'm really hoping he doesn't ask me to rewrite several paragraphs... I don't have much energy left and I'm looking forward to handing it in. What an exhilirating feeling that will be!! :-) I can hardly believe I'm so close to the end.....

Last Wednesday, Ben took me out for supper to celebrate the completion of my writing. We went to Les Saveurs on Laurier. It's a French bring-your-own-wine (a wonderful Quebec restaurant concept!). It was lovely.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


I just wanted everybody to know that I just finished writing my conclusion, which means that the writing of my thesis is now done!


I got an email from Anne last night. She's working on her third novel and mentioned that maybe she should have a blog of her own: theneverendingnovel.
Cute :-)
And an interesting idea...

conclusion writing

I’m writing the conclusion and I’m feeling rather dry. I’m a bit afraid of writing something that contradicts my premises.
I’ve always hated conclusion. As I’ve always hated titles. Luckily, the title came to me a while ago and I’m sticking to it! It is:
What Language is This?
A Study of Abjection in Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood and Anne Stone’s Hush
Maïté wrote me encouraging email at the beginning of the week saying that it took her a week to write a 4 page conclusion.
Even Pierre wrote me an email: “A conclusion? Do we need one of those?”

Conclusions are meant to wrap up, so a short overview of what you’ve written. So that would include for me a wrap up on what is abjection, how do we find it in texts and how do Barnes’s and Stone’s texts express it.
Then, an opening into further research on the matter. Where I’m planning on addressing the questions Andrew has already asked me at our last meeting.

Which reminds me, our last meeting is Monday. I’ll deposit sometime early next week. Hopefully there won’t be any major changes. I’m already running very low on steam.

Anik gave me an acupuncture session last night to realign the energy in my right arm (since I’ve been abusing of it of late). It feels really weird now, like it belongs to someone else.

And I’m listening to Jack Johnson. I can’t concentrate at writing so well when music is playing, but he’s being very relaxing to my mind right now. Whatever works!

It’s almost finished…

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Roses & rabbits

The most disturbing analogy of Roses and rabbits is the terrible sensuality she sees in their skinning, her skinning, as if it were a game of seduction. This is made manifest when August recounts, after she asks him to, how he would skin her. As he describes the steps he would take, Roses, disheveled with drink and desire, holds herself to avoid falling into “some empty space just under the sky” (Stone 31). She enjoys this “fairy tale telling” (Stone 31). Meanwhile, it strikes the reader as an incestuous ritual of his consumption of her. This scene is disturbing for two reasons, the first being its incestuous overtone. J. Hillis Miller writes that, “Since the taboo against incest is absolutely universal, in the sense that there are no human cultures without it, it is natural to the human species, not cultural. On the other hand, it is a distinguishing feature of human, as against animal, societies, so it must be defined as cultural” (73). This means that though the taboo of incest is disturbing, it is essentially indefinable. Also, August is a father-figure, but not her father, therefore on what grounds do we call incest? At the same time, Roses is the one who expresses desire, and not so much August. In Hush, the definition of incest and its performers exist as unfocused conceptions, which causes for the reader unsettling ambiguity. Second, their game of seduction is expressed through the retelling of a violent and gruesome act, to skin alive, that only the most sadistic could possibly enjoy. It joins the morbidity of death (and killing) to the sensuality of the body (and pleasure): the corpse to desire. Theirs is a repugnant rapport where the body becomes a wound, and where the very act of being lacerated becomes an expression of desire. Their rapport is confronting to the reader not only because it conveys many levels of ambiguity, but also because desire is expressed as suffering, as a crying-out from deep under the skin; it is desire soused in abjection.

on the road again

I worked 12 hours straight yesterday and I'm still not done. But I only have 1 or 2 paragraphs to write and then my conclusion to chapter 4. And then my conclusion. Plus revision work for Maïté and Lianne, and then I must write my abstracts in English and in French. And then revise the chapters Lianne commented and get everything to Andrew ASAP. And, I'd really like to try to make it out for Dom's baby shower...

Saturday, August 20, 2005

something mentioned in Hush

Is it true that when a woman hangs herself, her vagina falls out of her body and hangs between her legs?

I'm really curious to know.
And have no idea how to proceed with a google search on that one.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

vomit, shit and corpses

Seems like these are recurring themes throughout my MA.

As I was saying...

Kristeva cites vomit, refuse and corpses as physical examples of abjection, and though she does not relate these precisely to abject literature, it is interesting to note their existence in these novels. For example, Roses vomits when she cannot remember the dream she had the night before. Her body physically and violently expulses the abject-object. Her dream brings her close to it, her awakening pushes it away and her body rejects it through the act of vomiting. This reflex is also triggered when she is being raped. Like anger, what Roses cannot swallow, she throws up. Whitley finds a relation between excrement and the construction of self and history in Nightwood. She states that the process of rejecting the excremental, rendering it external and Other to ourselves, and which is essentially a vital part of life, exemplifies the being’s process of construction through the inclusion of some matter and the exclusion of other. Likewise, the formation of identity is based on what we include and what we exclude, what we decide we are and are not. According to her, Barnes would be using excremental elements in her text to show that identity may include what is considered exterior and strange (Whitley 93). And while Jane Marcus claims that Nightwood is filled with references to bird droppings (especially in relation to Jenny, I would add), the most prevalent physical example of abjection in both novels is the corpse.

and onwards....

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

working on 4

I just finished the first part, on love, loss and holes, of my 4th chapter. Next: violence and death. Hopefully I can finish that today and then I'll just have animal versus human to do tomorrow. And then I'm done!!! Well, almost done. I still need to get feedback from Lianne and Andrew (and give them some time to read it), get it proof-read by Victor, write the conclusion, spiff up some parts, bibliography, etc etc etc.

The nerve in my right arm is starting to hurt. Not fun. I think I'll ask Anik to do a few acupuncture séances on me to reestablish my energies. I sense that at the end of all this, my energies (or yin, however you want to call it) will be completely out of whack!

Sunday, August 14, 2005

3 down, 1 to go!

It's been hard work, but I finally finished my third chapter. And no wonder it was so excruciating, the thing's 34 pages long! All that amassed in 3-4 days! (OK, OK, also with at least a week and a half of hard work done last summer.)

I have assembled the whole thing and it counts 75 pages, which means I have 20 pages to allot to my last chapter - not so bad - and 5 pages to my conclusion. So that's the work I have to do this week. And I am meeting Lianne on Wednesday. I haven't heard much from her in a while and not a word from Andrew, so I'm a bit insecure seeing that I don't know yet if I'm going in a direction that's all wrong or not. I work with the fear that one of them will come up to me and say, 5 days before I hand it in because I'm so late now, that this is not good, and this needs to be reworked, and where's the abjection?? I work with this fear and do my best to feign it off while I try to concentrate on what's left to do. I also have to start thinking about looking for a job. Ben would say not to think about that now, only concentrate on my MA.

Last Thursday night I went to Cyrille's place for a 5 à 7 (ending at 11) with some friends. Was it ever nice to see people and think about something other than my thesis! When all this is done, I am having an absolutely HUGE party.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

feeling down

I'm collaging. Using what I wrote last summer. Tedious work that can be quick if it weren't so tedious.
There are times when I feel like I should just stop writing. Stop it all.
And I often wonder if all the "great stuff" I'm writing is actually great or just a whole lot of b.s.
When I feel like this the only reasons why I continue are: sheer stubborness, Lianne, who's given me so much of her time, and Ben, who at times believes in me more than I do.

Time for some stubborness to quick in.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

to write a chapter in 3 days is a total joke!

Especially when the mind needs a bit of rest from the chapter it just finished.

Chapter 3 is narrative. Not the same as chapter 2. Abjection is not expressed similarly in syntax as in the various narrative elements. So a revision and a re-positioning was necessary. Necessary but costly as far as time is concerned. I'm trying not to think about time too much because then I'll just be too stressed. My dépôt is on the 23rd. I have 14 days left.

I've been ploughing through narrative: plot, character and the end. I'm at character now and must figure out a way to condense in 3 or 4 paragraphs what I wrote in 40 pages last summer. Then on to Anne. I'll do that after supper. Now I'll be taking a little break...

Friday, August 05, 2005

can't sleep

I rented and watched "Bring it on," a movie highly recommended by my U of M Eng. Lit crew: Foxy Roxy, Bad Boy Pete, Super Steve (AKA The Machine, AKA SS) and Daddy'O Burrd'O. It was OK. I was expecting a bit more. I had always wanted to be a cheerleader, but my mother forbade it because according to her it was a sport of prostitution. I've yet to meet a cheerleader who became a prostitute, but I'm sure there's one somewhere. Anyhow, I digress. The next movies on my to-watch list: Tomb Raiders, Dirty Dancing 2 - Havana Nights and Legally Blonde 2. Aahhh... the movies that rest our tired old brains...

I finished my second chapter tonight. Missed out on a meeting with Jérôme. Luckily for me, my friends are very understanding and forgiving when I call them an hour before our rendez-vous to cancel. But my second chapter is done! Half down, half to go. I wonder if I'll be able to finish chapter 3 in three days. That would be great. I also hope I'll be able to spend a bit of quality time with Ben this weekend. He's been leaving earlier to go to his new job. It's been a week and I feel I hardly see him.

Victor has agreed to proofread my thesis. I'm debating sending it to him when it's all done or sending the half that's done now. I finally understand why the "acknowledgements" page in scholarly books tend to be so long: it takes so many more people than just the "author" to pull something like this off.

The weather is getting hot and humid again. I love my A/C! :-D It was well worth the debt it has caused me on my credit card.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

those who travel 100 miles believe that 90 miles is only halfway

A Japanese saying.
Right now, out of 100 I'm at about 60 and feel like I'm at 20.
Anyhow, the Japanese are insightful when it comes to work...

I have finished my Djuna section of my second chapter. My close-reading is, of course, longer than I first expected. I was afraid at first that I wouldn't have enough written. Knowing myself as I should by now, I should know that my problem will most likely be a thesis that will end up being 30 pages longer than it should be and then I'll have to truncate and edit away for an extra 2 weeks. Knock on wood. I have 6 pages on Djuna and, rough draft, only 3 on Anne. My work for today is to revise Anne, spiff up the intro to her section, add abjection everywhere to focus my argument and show how every paragraph relates to abjection and write a conclusion to the chapter. Then start chapter 3.

I told Ben that I wanted 2, 3 and 4 to be done by the end of next week. He replied that if I succeed, I'm really good.

My head hurts again. And my right wrist is starting to hurt like it did when I finished my CD-Rom project at the end of my undergrad. The pains of school! :)

As I was working on Djuna yesterday, I kept hearing Lianne's voice in my head saying, "How does this relate to abjection? Where is your thesis in each paragraph? Relate this to your thesis. How does this paragraph focus on abjection?" I think she has succeeded in haunting me, but in a good way, of course. I realize as I write that even if my sentences sound more and more English, my early education has me structure texts in a very French way. In French, you are not expected to re-write your thesis in every paragraph. An argument implies your thesis. And where you put that thesis-sentence is also rather specific. If it's at the end of the paragraph it's like it's appended, so not an integral part of the argument. So many little things... So as Andrew helps me with the English language, enlightening me to the fact that "such as" is rather French and that "as is" is more English ("Dam 'tel que'! How did that get in there?"), Lianne is helping me with the English narrative of essay writing. I always felt lucky to have two directors that complement each other so well, and as I go I keep learning how well they complement each other.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

still on chapter 2

I met with Lianne and Andrew on Friday. Andrew seems to like what I have so far. He's corrected a few mistakes - I think he can't resist doing so. Of course, I appreciate any corrections. I still have some mods and fine-tuning to do to chapter 1, but I'll get back to that. I must pursue chapter two. I've selected a section from Djuna's first chapter to "close-read." I also want to do the same with a bit of dialogue from the second-to-last chapter. The "words" I think I'll be examining are "bow down" from N and "turn the wrong end of the gun" from H. I also brought up to Lianne and Andrew that I might be interested in doing a PhD, but only if I get a scholarship. I'm not interested in working & studying part-time again as I did throughout my MA. They said it would be possible, especially if I go to the States. Plus, my bilingualism and my "foreign" Canadian status could help me get into comparative Lit departments. I've started looking at universities situated in or near cities where Ben can be transferred. I have found two of interest. We'll see... First things first, and first comes a strong MA thesis. Unfortunately, I really don't feel like working today. I know what's to so, but today I rather just crawl back to bed. One day, some day, this self-discipline will pay off...

BTW, Ben started his new job yesterday and it seems to suit him quite well. I'm happy for him. He's been dressing up, looking very fine :)