Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Do We All Have Blog Ennui, or What?

Yes, it's the beginning of a new semester, and I, for one, am feeling way behind already and am super stressed. I don't know if I'm capable of thinking big thoughts, much less espousing them in the blogosphere. My last comment on a post of Karl's--something to the effect of "sometimes people eat meat just because they are hungry"--in retrospect, strikes me as "lame" with a capital "L." I can't even blame it on wine or bourbon, but could it be blog ennui? The world, including the blogosphere, is just moving too fast for me, and I sometimes frankly despair. Everytime I log on to my Apple.com start page, I realize that Apple has launched yet another amazing product that I don't have time to learn to use and which will make the lives of other people who are sleeker and quicker than me better. The Democrats in control of Congress have made a ridiculous promise to pass all sorts of legislation in under 100 hours, as if the speed of the congressional process is what supposedly matters to those of us who want change, although I imagine it might matter if part of the Antarctic ice shelf has already melted away. The President wants to escalate the war effort, so that we can speed up the process of eliminating enemies, and somewhere in Colorado a traffic engineer has actually removed all stop signs and stop lights which, believe it or not, has actually caused people to slow down. Speaking of slow, I am getting more slow as I age, and somehow, preparing the exact same syllabus for the same ENG101 course I teach every year is taking twice as long. It's taking me longer to get ready for work in the morning and to get home in the evening. My friends tell me I drive like someone's elderly grandmother, and yet, at the same time, people tell me they can't believe how much I do every week. Call me the Illusionist. Speaking of movies, I can't seem to get to them anymore. While I spend hours every evening sunk into my sleeping porch couch watching DVD after DVD of tasteless serials like Footballers' Wives and Nip/Tuck, I can't seem to make it to the theater, even though I want to see literally everything. While I have allowed myself to get about two months behind in my New Yorker reading, I am completely current with my Entertainment Weekly. I am three months behind on a book review and am already trying to make up excuses to give my department chair as to why I can't take job candidates out to dinner. I cast about in my mind for an interesting post for In The Middle, and the only thing jumping over my neuron synapses are flashes of the cast of Grey's Anatomy, Tony Soprano in a coma, and Hello Kitty. I am getting stupider and stupider. In short, I am overwhelmed, stuck in a rut, and feeling anxious, which brings me to . . .

. . . my main subject here: Ancrene Wiseass's recent post, where she indicates she will be taking a leave of absence, or perhaps a permanent hiaus, from her blog. As to why, she writes:

"The blogosphere has changed--becoming something rather more official, high-profile, and authoritative than it used to be--and while I'm pleased and inappropriately proud to see many blogs coming into their own, I'm not sure that mine either is or can be one of them."

Many people have posted comments, of course, letting A.W. know how much her blog has been appreciated and even asking her to reconsider but also understanding that, with a dissertation to complete, she has more pressing concerns. But I am concerned about A.W.'s obvious dis-ease with what she terms the blogosphere's supposedly increasingly "more official, high-profile, and authoritative" status. What might this mean, more precisely, and how might it be a problem? Thoughts, anyone?

14 comments:

Karl Steel said...

Karl Steel said...

I'm not sure about the radical change in the blogoglobe. Certainly, many blogs--particularly political blogs--have become more professional, which to my mind is a good thing. And I think as academia becomes more aware of blogging, there's going to be more "traditional" writing going on in blogs than, say, 2 or 3 years ago. I'd point you to this post by the always excellent Scott Eric Kaufman on some of these matters.

Perhaps what you're feeling is the great disturbance in the force as a result of Bérubé's (I hope temporary?) retirement from blogging?

I think one cure for that is to find other blogs, not to replace the absence of Bérubé, or Fafblog, or Billmon, for example, but to be reminded that there's still a lot of good stuff out there and there's bound to be a lot of good stuff coming down the pike (whatever that means). There's Jodi Dean's excellent blog: I mean, she writes about Zizek, and just did a few posts on Children of God. What's not to like? There's Amardeep Singh (linked in our blogroll). I know reading blogs isn't the best cure for procrastination and exhaustion: but it might just rejuvenate you.

But taking a break isn't verboten, EJ! I'd hate to see it happen, because lord knows I can't step up my pace, and I doubt the eponymous JJC could, but you should blog only so long as it's helpful.

That said, I'm working on another substantial post as a reward for cranking out a good draft of my job talk today.

N50 said...

I think it is a variation of SAD.* Go with the flow and you'll be blogging non stop in the next growing season.


*Seasonal Affective Disorder - do people have that in the US? Or is it reserved for those of us living in endless night? Now midwinter solstice is past we can only look forward to the days (and blogs) getting longer.

There is also an academic variation on SAD* - we do the lion's share of our teaching and 'service' between September and April - and still have to meet those research deadlines. Not much time/energy left for other things.

J J Cohen said...

I think AW's comment must in some small way be related to blogs like this one, that have begun to function as professional organs and publication venues in their own right. Nothing wrong with that, nor any reason to think that a blog like ITM competes with others written in a different mode ... but all blogs also have lifespans, I am sure, and if this one has a good year or two, that's great. If longer, that's great too. Personally I like that we are not a journal nor a single personality blog but an amalgam of things that can shift tones and content.

I always have tons I want to post, just not enough time to do it.

OK, that is quickly from me aboard a ship crossing an undulating Caribbean.

J J Cohen said...

PS I've not read AW's post; I have a lot of catching up to do. I've barely been on the internet in a week, and won't be back til next week.

Eileen Joy said...

Just a quick note before classes, and then more later this evening when I am ensconced at my favorite table at Erato: I did not mean to imply I am thinking of *not* blogging--far from it. I just wanted to share some thoughts, which I kind of assumed were likely mutual, about how, at this time of year--just after the holiday and with a new semester beginning--it's so difficult to get back into the groove of things and how overhwleming it all feels, especially for all of the reasons N50 cites. I also view Ancrene Wiseass's departure [if even temporary] from the blogosphere, and the reasons she lists for that departure, as a little troubling. I, myself, often feel a certain pressure to write posts that are more "professional" and less "personal," although I really believe that In The Middle is a good combination of both. Whereas, blogs like The Valve and Crooked Timber and Acephalous and Berube's blog really *do* set a certain "high" intellectual bar that would be awfully hard to maintain on a regular basis [and still be able to publish our reviews, essays, articles, and books, not to mention, finish our dissertations, and oh yeah, teach our classes and help run our departments]. At the same time, I think certain of our "mutual friend" bloggers, like JKW [Pistols in the Pulpit], Richard Nokes [Unlocked Wordhoard], Dr. Virago [Quod She], Blogenspiel, and Meg [xoom], do an excellent job of making posts on a very regular basis that are a combination of the more "light" and the more "heavy" and that are also often directly related to teaching and "being a grad. student" issues. These blogs are invaluable, as is "Old English in New York," who although she doesn't post as often as the others, when she does, it is always a beautiful mix of serious scholarly content and "this is what my life is like right now." For a blog that is almost always about teaching, world events, and early history, Muhlberger's Early History is brilliant. But for now, anyway, blogging is mainly a virtue industry, and after a while, that's bound to get some of us down. But to follow the line of thinking on Scott Eric Kaufmann's recent post, which Karl has directed us to, I think we need "academic blogging" and much as we need "academics who blog," and the best blogs do both. I would suggest, actually, that everyone who reads here definitely follow Karl's link to Scott's post, and then maybe come back here and post your thoughts on that.

N50 said...

I remained intrigued at how exclusively American the world of academic blogging seems to be. You are obviously, despite your ennui, considerably less SAD than us.

I would love it if anybody could give me examples of non US academic blogging. I haven't looked very hard - and I am hoping there is a lively blogworld out there that I have simply missed.

Karl Steel said...

There's this one.

More substantial post later.

N50 said...

Karl - merci beaucoup - exactly what I had hoped for - and a whole lot of useful blog links too.

Glaukôpis said...

Hm, Grey's Anatomy and medieval studies--there must be *some* sort of connection. ;-) This could be your next blog topic!

I have to admit, though, that I worry sometimes that people infuse my blog with too much authority, especially based on some of the links I've seen to my blog. Yes, some blogs have grown more professional and authoritative, but that's certainly not true of every blog. I'm not sure people have learned to distinguish yet.

Eileen Joy said...

Glaukôpis makes an excellent point about some people not being actually able to always distinguish between more and less authoritative blogs [and I apologize for not putting you on my list of bloggers who deftly mix the serious with the not-so-serious, as I think you do that very well!].

Gabriele C. said...

n50,
my blog is a wild mix of topics about my fiction writing, history, Mediaeval literature and some other things, but some of them are academic, and I'm in Germany. :)

The problem with academic blogs is not only the time it takes to post interesting topics on a regular basis, but also the time you have to devote to commenting on other blogs, and academic comments require more thought than chatty comments. Blogs live because of the comments (else you could as well publish in academic journals) and to keep a group of commenters you'll have to return the favour and comment on their blogs. I know that's what takes up my time. ;)

Glaukôpis said...

n50, I've seen plenty of non-US academic blogs!

http://timesonline.typepad.com/dons_life/
http://www.atrium-media.com/rogueclassicism/
http://phdiva.blogspot.com/

And non-English:
http://filologiaclasica.blogspot.com/
http://diesdededal.blogspot.com/

Oh better yet, there's a list of Classics blogs on RogueClassicism, and you can pick out the foreign language ones: http://www.atrium-media.com/rogueclassicism//Posts/00004103.html

Granted, all my examples are Classics, but that's mostly what I keep track of. ;-)

My blog is also, at the moment, UK based, but I'm not sure that counts, seeing as I'm from the US.

N50 said...

I'll try to do something about gathering all those links together - unless owlfish has already done it over at LJ.

Thanks... and keep them coming...

J J Cohen said...

Hello, everyone -- juts back and catching up on the bajillion and a half emails that accumulated while I was gone. I missed you all. As to blog ennui: I realize that my comment shipboard was too flippant. I really do care about the future of this blog, I just don't know what form the future will bestow to it. When I started the blog about a year ago, it was nothing like it is today. Thank goodness it has changed so much, and here is to unpredictable tomorrows. Personally I think ITM suffered some between terms ennui. Look back and see how Karl and I started repeated ourselves in the comments. But with the spring term revving up and the neurons beginning to snap ... well, who knows. And to return to Eileen's initial post: I was surrounded by the most stupid of enjoyments for the past week. I loved it. So did my family. Yes, I wanted to overthink everything sometimes ... but then again there were lots of times when my frontal lobes turned off and I enjoyed a rum drink or a hike or the happiness of my daughter embracing Wendy and Peter Pan when we came across them in a nook on the Disney ship. I needed this dumb time just to recharge, I think. Let the term begin!