Du travail, encore

Du travail, encore. This follows a great deal of discussion on my other blog, over a period of years, and should eventually be posted there, but I am too much occupied with other writing projects to cast it in that voice. I am therefore noting it down here, in my research blog, my sweet style-less home, where I write quickly.

I have had two realizations, in part as a result of my concerted effort to stand at the center of my own things, do as I see fit, and trust my judgment — the things I relinquished in “Reeducation.” One is on teaching, and the other on writing.

Teaching: I have always said I do not like it particularly, partly because I was taught that women who said they liked it, would be seen in a certain way and not allowed to move ahead in research or administrative positions, and partly because it is true of much of the teaching I do.

Why? Because I do not like teaching required, skills based courses to recalcitrant students, and I do not like teaching out of field, by requirement, to students who are good but who themselves do not necessarily need to be in a course in that particular field, and who are not in fact as advanced as our antiquated notions of what the structure of the field is to be in that course at that level. The problem in this latter situation is that I am stretching too much myself to be comfortable, and the students are as well. In both situations nobody is really doing what they need, and everyone is doing either more or less than they should be. And all too many of my teaching assignments are like this.

I have a course now, however, which is most enjoyable precisely because it presents neither of these problems. It is in a field which is mine, and at a level where I have to stretch a little, so I learn and am engaged myself as a learner, and it is the right field and level for the students, as well. So we hum right along and enjoy ourselves, and work and make progress, but without undue stress; we leave refreshed from our work and not exhausted; this is how things should be and I would like to have the power to make everything this way, all the time, for everyone.

Writing: I have always been uncomfortable with what Robert Boice has to say about it, and not really known why because I do not disagree at all with the practices he recommends. Now I have seen it. Today I spent all day writing except when I went to class, and when I came back from class I wrote more. The class I taught was the class referenced above. So I had community, but no stress, and part of what I was writing, I was discussing online as I wrote, so again I had community but it was about the work, and not an energy drain or a distraction from it.

I thus realized why I chafe when Boice says one should write every day, slip back into one’s project in small chunks, even though I do believe in doing this. The problem is gender. To wit: normally, when I am out in the academic public, I am expected and also expect myself, by now, to perform a female gender role. You have to at most places I’ve worked, you really do, to avoid serious misunderstandings; or that, at least, has been my unfortunate and well tested experience. But performing a female gender role does mean allowing a certain amount of low level harassment: you have to be attentive in ways men do not.

This is why I need larger blocks of time in which to work: not because I can’t work in smaller pieces, but because I need time to come back to myself first, so that I can be the self who writes. Sabbaticals and such are nice but they are not the solution for me; for me the solution is being less permeable when out in the presence of others. And, as I say, I am as permeable as I am because I have been forced to it.

Of course, in my case one thing I can do about this situation is increase impermeability; I am working on that as we speak and doing rather well, and I can afford to do it at the present juncture. But my broader point is that I think Boice is speaking to people who have situations generally available only to men. I also think that a lot of his advice, fit your work into an already busy schedule, is something women already know how to do; so that his advice seems condescending because my response is, don’t you think I already know that?

So, what do you think of my theories?

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4 Responses to Du travail, encore

  1. Z says:

    A post, I should write a post but my main blog was leading up to my novel and I am only interested in writing the novel now. It’s at http://antesdenacer.wordpress.com, watch it grow.

    Anyway I feel competent now that I am writing this novel, more than I have felt so since before Reeducation; this is very interesting and it puts everything in perspective; I wonder if I can do the same about research.

    The novel is about menace and obedience, being menaced and pushed to obedience, and backing further and further into the corner.

  2. I think you’re onto something. I never thought of it in gendered terms, but doing so makes me notice things about the life I live in-the-world as opposed to in-my-head. And I need to think about the self-who-writes. I also tend not to separate that self (I have a professorial self and a private self), but I think paying a bit more attention to who-it-is-that-writes could be really helpful. Thank you.

  3. undine says:

    I love this idea because it’s so true: “This is why I need larger blocks of time in which to work: not because I can’t work in smaller pieces, but because I need time to come back to myself first, so that I can be the self who writes.”

  4. Z says:

    Well also, I’ve just remembered I posted on an anti-Boice article that was really smart and not anti-production. http://profacero.wordpress.com/2008/11/29/christina-crosby/ Boice reiterates Trollope on writing (it’s for money, do it) almost to the letter; the problem is that we’re not in Trollope’s exact situation. We have to think of our writing situation as it really is.

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