Friday, November 11, 2011


by J J Cohen

I've never felt so pressured to write.

There are days I dream of not finishing my book, of maybe taking up another project and forgetting this Stories of Stone craziness. I dismiss my current endeavor as something that is impossible, or something I'm bored of, or something I simply don't want to have albatrossing round my neck. I know this ambivalence arises because of anxiety. I feel like expectations for the book (mine, those of imagined future readers) are high, there are so many looming commitments to make good on, the year is going by so swiftly, insufficient progress has been made ... well it's just like dissertation days all over again.

So, I was happy to have been invited out of my routine by the Medieval Studies Program at UVA, from which I've just returned from presenting work in progress. Two events were scheduled yesterday: an intense lunchtime seminar on posthumanism with 18 graduate students, followed by a public lecture with some of the most serious, provocative, and engaging questioning the project has elicited to date. These presentations arrived at just the right time for me: I have been too close to my book, and they compelled me to gain some distance, to see the work anew in order to defend its founding principles. I'm grateful. And energized.

Also: we had excellent Chinese food afterwards together, I was able to reconnect with friends, and to make many more. My deep gratitude to Will Rhodes, Paul Broyles, Bruce Holsinger, Elizabeth Fowler, Deborah McGrady, John Parker, Claire Waters and all those who made the visit such a rich one.

I've visited many PhD programs over the past couple of years, and can usually read the vibe of a program immediately from the way graduate students treat each other. UVA is fortunate to possess a community where students and faculty take each other very seriously, possess a good sense of humor about their shared endeavors, and do not let an unproductive sense of competitiveness get in the way of humane collaboration. A good day, and a good trip.


Jeb said...

What is not to love?...

I hold you in my power
and I am neither a fierce animal,
nor less capable of loving
as you Estela are not a rock
but a mutable women..
and as much as I have stolen you away,
so have your eyes been stealing too.
In the case that your brother the count,
not consider me an equal
to your tyrant spouse,
it is because they make false comparison,
of a noble to a villain.
I am Duke of this land
that while it is not everywhere
inhabited by rich vassals,
is the home of those for whom the plow is the sword
And the fertile field their battlefield
There are no cities, there are mountains.... there is no punishment.

An ape speaking to his spouse.
Los torneos de Aragon, Act 1

Jeb said...

That won't make sense as the metaphors are obscure.

I stop dead when anxiety regarding the vastness of the subject looms like a tyrant. As the same emotions are playing out in most of the texts I look at. Too much for my small monkey mind. But without such experiences the subject would make little sense to anything other than the dead past of a science or philosophy.