1) Reading: A couple of monographs, some articles, finishing up a double-decker.
2) Writing: 700+ words of chapter two.
3) Miscellaneous: A whole lot of miscellaneous, which is why nothing much has been happening here. I had to finish up the revised version of an article for a workshop next week, read some proofs, start working on next semester's courses (eek), and begin contemplating a letter of rec. I also agreed to write another article that will be due towards the end of 2016. That's another reason why Book 3 1/2 will have to pause temporarily, or at least slow down a bit, once the sabbatical is over: I have three articles of varying lengths to write, plus at least one conference paper.
1) Writing: 1207 + words on chapter two, which is the pre-existing draft that I've now turned into separate chapters. I'd like to add about ten pages or so total to what's currently here. May or may not do chapter three this semester--I really would like to rough out chapter one first.
2) Reading: some tracts; working on a double-decker; Michael Prince's book on enlightenment dialogues. I'm also dealing with some frustrations in re: books that look relevant, but deal so exclusively with canonical figures that they're entirely unhelpful. (It's not that the books are unhelpful when dealing with high Romantic poets, but they don't help me analyze minor religious novelists, whose priorities have very little in common with Wordsworth's, let alone Shelley's.)
3) Miscellaneous: first read-through of an article I'm refereeing.
There hasn't been much to report in the way of writing, as I've been reading again.
1) Reading: Two loooong novels, some articles, and finishing up Jon Mee's monograph. One of the difficulties in any research project is that no matter how much you've read going in, you discover during the writing phase that...you've missed something. Inconveniently enough, it tends to be something large. In this case, I know a fair amount about the topic ("politeness" and conversation in the British Enlightenment), but I haven't had to actually pursue any research about it since working on Book One. Over a decade ago. Ergo, I'm now catching up with the scholarship. (Scholarship! Stand still, would you?!)
2) Writing: Started fiddling around with one of the earlier chapters, mostly marking spaces where more needs to be done.
3) Miscellaneous: Worked on Conference Paper Proposal #3. However, as Conference Paper Proposal #1 was accepted, I'm not doing any more with #3 until I hear about Conference Paper Proposal #2. My funding is the opposite of unlimited, after all; while Conference #1 is actually paying for everything except about half my airplane ticket (yay!), it's still the case that between registration, planes, hotels, cabs/shuttles, and eating something other than McD's for every meal, most conferences will wind up costing around $1K. Conference #2 is taking place during the fiscal year, which is important, as I can request some additional grant money to fund the trip. (The "life of the mind," far from taking place in pure ivory towers, has a habit of coming equipped with dollar signs, pragmatic considerations, and trade-offs.)
Meanwhile, I have to come up with my course descriptions for next semester's classes.
Bram Stoker, "The Judge's House": A student finds something interfering with his study habits. Probably a response to "Aungier Street," above.
---, "The Dualitists: Or, the Death Doom of the Double Born": Two young boys devoted to "hacking" (fighting with knives, not the computer variety) proceed to combat with plates, animals, and young children, wreaking death and destruction as they go. A dark parody of didactic fiction (the boys are "Harry Merford" and "Tommy Santon," an allusion to Thomas Day's The History of Sandford and Merton).
John Harding's One Big Damn Puzzler and Florence and Giles are both bookish novels, intrigued by literacy and their own acts of literary appropriation. The former, a satire of postcolonial liberal do-goodism, gives pride of place to Hamlet, which one of the indigenous protagonists is attempting to translate into his own language; the latter relocates The Turn of the Screw to late-Victorian New York, and turns James' ambiguously innocent Flora into the dubiously sane (and murderous) Florence. In both cases, a literary work associated with Englishness--one of the most famous tragedies by England's arguably most famous author; a novel set in England by an American who domiciled himself there--moves to a new context and finds itself warped in the passage. The Girl Who Couldn't Read, Harding's sequel to Florence and Giles, is even more overtly about what literary appropriation can and can't do. (I should note that the novel is perfectly intelligible without having read Florence and Giles, although those who have read it will have an advantage.) Like most neo-Victorian novels about insane asylums, it inherits nineteenth-century concerns about abusive and predatory treatments--in addition to Nellie Bly's famous investigation, Wilkie Collins, J. S. Le Fanu, and Charles Reade, among many others, all wrote novels about characters undergoing confinement and torture--while using the setting to raise questions about authority, social norms, and power.
The plot of The Girl Who Couldn't Read is simple enough: the narrator, a man who has switched identities with one Dr. John Shepherd (that's not a spoiler) in the wake of a terrible train accident, shows up at an isolated, Gothic insane asylum. Attempting to take Dr. Shepherd's place, our narrator manages, sort of, to rub along with the tyrannical Dr. Morgan and the sadistic head nurse, O'Reilly, but truly comes into his own only when he discovers "Jane Dove," a teenager (perhaps) suffering from amnesia, illiteracy, and a strange form of wordplay in which she constantly turns nouns into verbs. "Shepherd," intending to prove that kindness is a better form of psychotherapy than the torturous physical treatments on offer at the asylum (hydrotherapy, restraints, etc.), takes Jane as his experimental subject. Unfortunately, events soon transpire that drive "Shepherd" to contemplate a rapid escape...
There's no way to discuss the novel in any detail without giving away some major plot points, so I'll hide the rest below the fold.
Even on a three-three load, it is perfectly possible to do a fair amount of writing during the school year. But. That writing tends not to happen on teaching days, when the cumulative effect of performing in front of students reduces my intellectual aspirations to the level of playing Nethack, or maybe watching the now-departed CSI. And it generally happens between other things: prepping for classes; office hours; attending faculty senate, department meetings, committee meetings, &c.; household chores; etc. etc. etc. (Anyone with additional family responsibilities has another layer of obligations.) The flip side of having a semester off from teaching, ironically enough, is that it becomes much more necessary to think actively about scheduling. Next semester, when I have non-book-related writing obligations, my writing plans will all be made for me, as it were: I can write on the days I'm not teaching, after I've completed my course prep, grading, and other responsibilities. The sabbatical, by contrast, requires self-starting.
Fortunately, I seem to have started myself: I've completed the first of the two chapters I promised to write when I applied for the sabbatical, and don't see any issues with finishing the second before the semester is finished. (Insert knocking on wood here.) At this point, I'm slightly ahead of schedule, which gives me time to do some additional reading before I begin writing again, sometime around the middle of this month. This chapter solved a structural problem about a chapter that I'd already been working on--namely, that it needs to be two chapters. (Having identified where the chapter needs to split, I'll probably do some more revisions there before I move on to the new chapter.) The drafted chapter also helped me work through some of the themes for the overall project, which is a Big Book (a Really Big Book) but not one organized by denomination, as has been the traditional approach. (We've got those already; nobody needs me to do another one.) In any event, in terms of the book's general progress, my work on it this semester will probably be it for the school year, as I have two articles to write (one due in the summer, one in the fall) and, possibly, a conference paper or two. Depending on how the second article progresses, I should get back to the book during the summer. Last but not least, I've got another article kicking around with Major Structural Problems, some of which I've fixed, but not all; I've committed myself to an upcoming workshop this month, so I may schlep it there to get some more feedback.
Just about at the end of the month...and the chapter. I'll try to write something more substantive about the process tomorrow.
1) Reading: Finished Hall, read some articles, continued with Thornton Abbey (which might have been more interesting if it were Downton Abbey, I suppose), started reading Teresa Michals' Books for Children, Books for Adults.
2) Writing: 600+ words, in addition to footnotes. Most of this was in the middle, as I realized that one of my Big Points needed context in order to make sense (amazing how that happens). Life would be so much easier if everyone learned about the intricacies of Protestant infighting in the post-Reformation period! I mean, for me.
3) Miscellaneous: Schlepped off conference paper proposal #2 (which I managed to send to the correct conference); agreed to present something at the upstate NY Victorianists' reading group later this month; contemplated an invitation to write something (which I'll accept, although I can't do it now).
(Whoa! Coming up on the end of the first month here.)
1) Writing: Yup, still footnoting. However, in the process I figured out a better way of ending the chapter, which is all to the good--right now, it sort of comes to the end, then stops, which is fine in Alice in Wonderland but not so useful in academic prose.
2) Reading: More of the Lived Religion collection, plus a good chunk of Thornton Abbey, a quotation from which I think will supply the title of the first chapter.
3) Miscellaneous: Pondering internal grant proposals.
1) Reading: Essays from the collection Lived Religion and some assorted novels. I'm interested in the "lived religion" approach as a way of thinking about how religious fiction formed part of religion-as-practice, as opposed to thinking about religious fiction as a diminution or over-simplification or what-have-you of official (orthodox, established, institutional, etc.) religion.
2) Writing: More footnoting.
3) Miscellaneous: Revising conference paper proposal #2.