Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Location: United States

Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Starting over (again)

Happy Halloween, everyone!

There aren't any parties for me to go to this year, so my "celebration" is going to be pretty passive, although this is one of my favorite holidays. Putting together a costume I wouldn't mind wearing takes more planning, money, and effort than I have to give if I have nowhere to wear it, so I just let myself eat a little more candy than usual.

I also let myself get eight hours of sleep last night and dropped my French class. I desperately need to learn French, but that course was a huge time-sink. In fact, I've been pleased today by how much I've been able to get done simply because I didn't have French class to go to or hours' worth of homework to do. I felt a bit guilty at the beginning of the day, but I think I've gotten over it. Morgan and I are planning to take a more stripped-down, less time-consuming French course together next quarter, anyway.

I have been dealing with several issues which are pretty much unbloggable during the past couple of weeks and which have been making me a bit of a head-case: hence the sparsity of posts. It's been a bumpy ride, and I think one of the best reasons for opting out of the class was simply to give myself a more time and less stress to contend with, as well as allowing me to take care of old business and start hacking my way into this dissertation thing I have to write.

Since the class began early in the morning, this gives me a chance to try the principle of allotting time right at the beginning of the day to my most important project. My new plan is to keep getting up at about the same time, taking about 20 minutes to do a little yoga before leaving the house and then starting right in on something dissertation-related for at least 30 minutes as soon as I get to campus. On Friday mornings, I'll read at home before beginning work at the dojang, and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and weekends, I'll be able to give longer stretches of time to working on administrative tasks, fellowship applications, article submissions, and the dissertation. So maybe that will help.

One of my plans for tomorrow is to draw up a new weekly schedule that accounts for my time in blocks: I have to figure out a way to make this all happen. This is, after all, the only year when I know I'll have a fellowship to work on this stuff. And this is the stuff that will get me a degree and a job.

Today, I've actually managed to finish some niggly little administrative tasks that were left over from old teaching assignments, clean some stuff off one of my desks, get rid of several dozen irrelevant emails, and begin doing a little research for the dissertation. I still do not feel as though I've accomplished enough, but it's more than I was getting done before, and I think I may be able to sleep reasonably well tonight.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Poetry Friday: Pre-Halloween Special

From Selections from the Carmina Burana: A New Verse Translation by David Parlett, 1986.

Carmina Burana 54, "Incantation"

Omne genus demoniorum,
cecorum, claudorum,
sive confusorum . . .

Every kind of demon being--
Come hobbling,
come squabbling,
sightless or unseeing --
mark well my words, my invocation,
my command, my incantation.

Creatures all of phantom company
who populate the principality
of that vile dragon creeping
with venom seeping --
whose high and mighty fundament
sweeps full one third the stars' extent --
Gordan, Ingordin, and Ingordan:
by the Seal of Solomon,
magi the Pharaohs call upon,
I now exorcise you
and substantialize you:
by sages three: Caspar,
Melchior and Balthazar:
by David's playing
for the allaying
of Saul's dismaying
and your gainsaying.

I adjure you
and conjure you
by the mandate of the Lord:
be unkind not,
hurt mankind not,
manifest misericord:
show but once your faces
and retract your traces
with forsaken races
to hell's hiding places.

I adjure
I conjure
by that awesome
by that fearsome
that gruesome Judgement Day,
when unending punishment
and horror and dismay
and unbounded banishment
shall drive demonkind
into damnation
but shrive humankind
unto salvation.

By that same unnamed, unsaid,
that unutterably dread
tetragrammaton of God:
fall to fear and trembling
as to disassembling
I now exorcise
spectres: demons: ghosts: hobgoblins:
satyrs: sirens: hamadryads:
nightmares: incubi and
shades of the departed --
flee to ruination,
chaos and damnation,
lest your foul conflation
rend Christ's congregation.

From all our enemies, good Lord, deliver us

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


If I just went to bed for the next week, pulled the covers up over my head, and refused to either leave or speak to anyone, would that really be all that bad? Really?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Suggested reading

Heo did it again. This time, it's a hilarious and brilliant treatment of why a she blogs under a pseudonym. Go on and have a gander at it here.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Hodie mihi, cras tibi

After a decade of service; three prior collapses; and some months of listing, groaning, and creaking, the Cheap Futon Couch of Impending Doom has finally become matchwood.

Boy Roomie and I were watching this when it happened. The ensuing knee-slapping and gales of laughter just proved too much for poor ol' Cheapo.

Anybody wanna make 'Smores?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Poetry Sunday: Jorge Luis Borges

Yep, missed Poetry Friday again. The past week was a blur of paper wrangling; feeling puny and not getting nearly enough sleep; being impatient with the excruciatingly slow pace of my efforts to get things under control; performing what I suspect is a kind of informational and professional "nesting" as I prepare to write the dissertation; studying for French midterms and not doing as well as I wanted on them; studying for a tip test at the dojang and doing rather miserably on it; buying about a month's worth of groceries; battling our apartment's continued ant infestation; and taking poor Mouse to the vet, where he had to have three bad teeth extracted as part of a vigorous dental cleaning. (Apparently, ginger cats are particularly prone to dental issues, and Mouse's formative years on the street didn't do him any favors in that regard.)

There was a very pleasant bit of drinking and socializing with two potential dojang training partners on Thursday night, as well as a very pleasant bit of drinking, socializing, and grilled meat at Morgan and Bellwether's on Friday night. So that was good.

I have some ideas for somewhat more substantial posts and might actually get around to writing them eventually, but right now I'm pouring lots of energy into trying to get organized and clean up the messes of the past few years.

Meanwhile, here's a belated poem, this one by Jorge Luis Borges. Borges' work always haunts me; this one haunts me more than most.

Composición escrita en un ejemplar de la gesta de Beowulf

A veces me pregunto qué razones
Me mueven a estudiar sin esperanza
De precisión, mientras mi noche avanza,
La lengua de los ásperos sajones.
Gastada por los años la memoria
Deja caer la en vano repetida
Palabra y es así como mi vida
Teje y desteje su cansada historia.
Será (me digo entonces) que de un modo
Secreto y suficiente el alma sabe
Que es immortal y que su vasto y grave
Circulo abarca todo y puede todo.
Más allá de este afán y de este verso
Me aguarda inagotable el universo.

Poem Written in a Copy of Beowulf

At various times I have asked myself what reasons
moved me to study while my night came down,
without particular hope of satisfaction,
the language of the blunt-tongued Anglo-Saxons.
Used up by the years my memory
loses its grip on words that I have vainly
repeated and repeated. My life in the same way
weaves and unweaves its weary history.
Then I tell myself: it must be that the soul
has some secret sufficient way of knowing
that it is immortal, that its vast encompassing
circle can take in all, accomplish all.
Beyond my anxiety and beyond this writing
the universe waits, inexhaustible, inviting.

--translation by Alastair Reid

Monday, October 16, 2006

Imitatio Christi, but without all that pesky suffering

"Comfortable and easy to wear."

The irony renders me nearly speechless, though I suspect there's a marvelous cultural studies essay lurking behind this ad.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Forgot one

Following up on that last post, though I'm not entirely sure whether to classify this one as a "fear" or a "hope":

I will spend a substantial portion of my life working on this thing, and I will be one of approximately two people who actually reads it.

From the dissertation journal: Fear and Trembling

So, I've started writing a dissertation journal (again). Essentially, I'm trying to take the advice I give to my students about freewriting as a good way to get started, particularly with projects we don't know how to make heads or tails of.

My plan (as per the "ideal schedule" I mentioned in the last post and which I have very little chance of actually achieving in this space-time continuum, but which nonetheless helps me get at least a few things done every day) is to spend about an hour on Tuesdays and Wednesdays writing something-or-other related to some kind of project which will actually help me to finish my degree. That's not nearly enough writing time, in general, but given that I'm just getting started and really need to do a lot of reading before I can write anything even reasonably well informed, it ain't bad. It's also a whole lot more writing than I usually do this early in the game, since I have a tendency to "research" projects to death before I put a single word down on paper. I do plan to increase the amount of time I spend writing as I go along.

Today, I spent some time writing about why I'm so afraid of this damn thing, hoping that being honest about my fears might help me get started. In a best-case scenario, I thought my fears might even look so foolish once I got them typed out on the screen that they'd be dispelled. Well, no luck there, because they pretty much all still look like legitimate fears to me at this point. Here's a slightly edited version of what I wrote:

What am I afraid of about this dissertation?
--writing a book-length project, particularly when I haven’t yet managed to get a shorter project ready for publication
--that the precept that the dissertation will be radically different from the proposal won’t actually come true. And that the diss will, therefore, be pretty damn boring, won’t cover much new ground, and won’t have anything particularly fresh to say. The prospectus was fine for a prospectus, but an expanded version of it would not make for a good dissertation. I’m praying that I’m going to start finding some new angles on this material—and perhaps even some new material—pronto. Otherwise, I’m afraid I’ll be so demoralized that I won’t be able to make any kind of progress at all.
--that I won’t be able to churn out pages fast enough and that, if I do, they’ll be of very poor quality.
--that my adviser and I won’t see eye-to-eye on how to tackle the topic.
--that it will drag on for more than two years and I won’t be able to finish.
--that it’ll be a poorly executed mix of theoryspeak and the worst kind of deadly boring traditional scholarship, that both portions of the mixture will be wiltingly pretentious and vacuous, that the seams will show, that I’ll be exposed as a fraud and a fool by my own prose.
--that I’ll betray the Middle Ages by somehow reifying mistaken popular conceptions of them.
--that I’m not really a Medievalist (with a capital "m"), anyway, and that everyone (including me) will know that for certain well before I get to the end of this project.
--that I’m really just an intellectual dilettante/butterfly who likes to know little bitty things about a lot of stuff; one who doesn’t really have either the chops or the inclination to spend years on one project.
--that I’m not smart enough to pull this off.
--that I’m not disciplined enough to pull this off.

I'm trying to set some small goals, mapping out a couple of potential ways into this dreadful thing and associating a book or two with each. I'm going to start reading a little bit this week: that might at least give me something a bit more concrete to react to in my next dissertation journal entry.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Stuff I recommend

Lawrence LeShan's How to Meditate

Lord Breaulove Swells Whimsy's Affected Provincial's Companion

H. G. Wells' The First Men in the Moon

Lingonberry preserves

Autumnal weather, in general

Listening to music again, especially this recording of Elgar's Cello Concerto in E Minor and Sea Pictures

Sleeping--especially underneath one of these and with one very sweet-tempered orange cat nearby.

This, especially since you can engrave pretentious Latin mottos on it if you buy it direct.

This show. The Shat in all his campy glory! Love. Him. And Boy Roomie has fixed things so that our crappy TV reception only causes the screen to roll three or four times per episode.


Finally starting to organize your files so you might have half a chance of finding things when you need them.

Setting an ideal weekly schedule for the first time in five years--and having the time to actually do that.

Not really keeping that ideal schedule, but being mostly okay with that because you're still getting more done than you would otherwise.

I don't recommend a two-day migraine, but hey--ya can't win 'em all.