Wednesday, October 20, 2010


If you notice a lackluster tone in this particular blog post's title, you have accurately perceived my current mental state.

Blerg. Blerg, blerg, blerg.

Maybe the constant heat's beginning to wear on me. (One 100 degree day last week, and currently high 80s are passing for "cool.")

Maybe it's the fact that my immune system is taking it's regular mid-semester hit, complete with stomach ache, sniffles, sore throat, and a general malaise that makes me all-around apathetic.

At any rate, "blerg" has been the word of the last two weeks around here.

I think a large part of the "blerg" is the effect of the natural equalization that takes place when you join a new circle of colleagues. Coming in as a beginning PhD student from a smaller school into a program such as this makes me realize just how far I still have to go. My current Shakespeare class is very theory-heavy with all the big-hitters: Lacan, Zizek, Marx, Derrida, etc. I've had the most perfunctory exposure to these theorists. I know the big ideas, but they're buried under the haze of the remainder of my MA since the only theory class I took was during my first semester in grad school. I always feel like I'm one step behind everyone else. A recent beer outing with some of the more advanced PhD students in the same class revealed that they feel the same way, but I'm dubious. The class dynamics are different, and I'm still negotiating how to make comments and ask questions. It seems that the strongest students here are the ones who speak infrequently, but make more compelling statements when they do.

Furthermore, it seems my theoretical background in New Historicism is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. It's no longer "sexy," I've been informed. (I always laugh when this adjective is used in conjunction with humanities studies.) I didn't think I'd have to struggle with relevance so soon, but there you go.

Blerg. Blerg, blerg, blerg.

I'm anxiously awaiting the clean slate of the spring semester. I feel tired and a little demoralized right now. I find myself suffering from an acute case of "country bumpkin" syndrome. Joe assures me that everyone probably starts out this way at the beginning of their PhD, and that eventually I'll be one of the class leaders, and everything will be sunshine and puppy dogs. I'll figure out an angle of research that matches my interests and the needs of the job market. I'll start feeling smart and academically adequate again.

Here's hoping.


  1. I'm not sure whether any of us who say we practice "New Historicism" are actually New Historicists. I think we may instead be a different breed, namely the New New Historicists. As far as I know — and my knowledge of the theoretical movements is vaguer than Vague Jack McVague, the winner of last year's Mr. Vagueman Competition — one of the chief criticisms leveled at New Historicism is its tendency to totalize everything as part of the cultural hegemony at the time enforcing its will. (That's why Dr. Ryner said it was telling the same story over and over again.) The thing is, most of us up and coming New Historicists aren't so much interested in that as much as in the ways that historical/cultural context impacts the way texts are generated. (Plus the good doctor is a committed Marxist. He's got an agenda.) If any kind of criticism will be able to stay the course, it's criticism that focuses on what was going on back then, not what's trendy nowadays.

    P.S.: Didn't think I was reading your blog, did ya?

  2. I guess that makes sense. I had a moment of "everything I've worked for until this point is worthless" panic during that discussion, and then had a nightmarish vision of being tied to a chair with my eyes propped open being forced to read Marxist theory until I stepped along in line.


    P.S. I didn't think you read my blog at all. What a pleasant surprise!