Geoffrey Long
Tip of the Quill: Archives
Birthing Athena.

I'm in a very weird place with my THESIS. On Thursday night I got 3,000 words' worth of feedback from my thesis committee chair that pretty much eviscerated most of what I'd given him – or at least that's how it felt. Looking back on it now, it wasn't only not that bad, but it was also necessary. The trouble is, I'm supposed to have a draft of this thing to my entire committee tomorrow, so I've been working my ass off on it in every spare minute I can grab. The timing's not great, either – Friday and Saturday were dominated by the annual Convergence Culture Consortium conference that I was required to attend, and Sunday I got up early and jumped a plane to Ohio for a surprise birthday party for my Dad. That was totally worth it (the look on Dad's face was priceless), and a plane ride and an evening in my old room both helped me plow through massive amounts of literary theory. Monday morning I took the red-eye from Akron back to Boston and I spent all day yesterday hammering away, chugging through more literary theory and reworking Great Huge Bits of the THESIS.

It dawned on me this morning that this might be how Zeus felt, attempting to birth Athena fully-formed from his brow. My brain is killing me.

That said, I'm encouraged by a couple of things. First, over the weekend I reread parts of Marie-Laure Ryan's Narrative Across Media, a collection of essays on narrative theory and comparative media studies that the department sent all of us before we arrived on campus. Back in the summer of 2005, I hated that book. Every other sentence made a passing reference to some theory or theorist that I'd never encountered, it relied heavily on academic jargon that was all gobbledygook to me, and it was, to my mind, largely impenetrable. Fast forward two years (and most of a Master's degree) later and now, much to my delight, I can read through the text with little difficulty. The concepts make sense, the framework is in place... I speak the language. It's similar to the feeling I had when I was teaching myself how to think in HTML code for the first time – new mental processes are being forged and new wrinkles are being jackhammered into my pulpy gray matter. It hurts, sure, but it's a good kind of hurt. I'm even coming to appreciate Barthes with the help of additional references to serve as translators. I'm also looking forward to doing a closer reading of Gerard Genette somewhere down the road – his thoughts on intertextuality, especially the bits about hypertext and hypotext, are really fascinating...

A quick tip: anyone interested in doing any kind of media studies or literary theory should pick up a copy of the Penguin Dictionary of Critical Theory and just start reading anything that interests you, following the cross-references and seeing how it all fits together. That's something I wish I'd done as an undergrad, rather than trying to plow through Terry Eagleton on my own. My brain needs to have context in which to place all this stuff, which is something that a lot of professors seem to shun. I'm not entirely sure why. When and if I ever become a professor, I'm going to make these types of things required reading – any text I assign will come with context stapled to it.

I'm also developing an even greater appreciation for Umberto Eco. I knew I admired the man before, but now moreso than ever – he manages to pull off exactly the same kind of thing I want to be doing down the line, albeit perhaps a little more accessibly. Eco writes both important critical essays and important literary novels in the same vein as Borges or Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I think that's what I want to do for my next book, especially if I can't sell Bones of the Angel. BOTA was pretty 'poppy' – now I'd like to do something that applies some of the things I've been learning here. With what time, I'm not sure, but I'll have to carve some out somewhere.

Right. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm still having labor pains...

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