Sunday, July 26, 2009

Thoughts on academic intros

I have a question I thought I'd ask - what do you think makes a good academic introduction? Obviously clarity, ability to convey what the book is about, etc., but I'm wondering what intros any of you thought particularly worked well. Short and sweet? A little meatier? To anecdote or not to anecdote? I've been reading around a lot in intros of books I particularly like (not necessarily in my topic, but just well-written) and I've begun to formulate a sense of what I like in an intro. And given the fact that most people will just be reading the intro to my book (or glancing through it to see if what I'm saying will be helpful to them) and maybe a chapter or two I've written on a text that interests them, I think this is a critical, though woefully unsung, part of the project. It also might be the section that the readers end up giving me the most help on...

For example, I tend to be a fan of the short anecdote or illustrative example at the beginning of books. I've reviewed books - one in particular - that drew the reader in with a very salient, interesting reading of a specific historical example/phenomenon and then opened it up from there. I found this to be very effective. I'm thinking of beginning with two textual examples from completely unrelated sources (and centuries for that matter) because they illustrate different facets of my argument - juxtaposing them seems to do an interesting kind of work and I think it will provide a nice entree into the book proper. What are your thoughts on this?

By the way, somehow I've ended up with two pristine copies of Helen Cooper's "The English Romance in Time" (Oxford UP 2004) - if anyone wants it, I'm happy to give you my extra copy! Just shoot me an email...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Allow me to introduce myself...

Okay. That's a cheesy opener - but that's what I'm doing. Writing my Introduction. This is a challenging sub-genre of academic writing - the book introduction. I have a draft from way back when, but it's not that compelling. So, I'm re-reading notes, reading other intros to extract interesting structures, etc. But I'm resisting the notion that I need to read everything ever written about my subject and reference it in my intro. So, once in a while I scream out - "Stay away from the lit review!" in the same voice that wee little Tangina Barrons screamed at a disembodied Carol Anne Freeling: "Stay away from the light!"

And now I've lost the will to discuss my Introduction or my writing process at the moment. See how easy it is to distract me? Okay, so we'll close this stimulating post with a few Random Bits of Fluff:

1) I don't like recycled toilet paper. I'm trying to but I'm not liking it. I don't want to destroy baby forests, but I'm really not liking it and I remain unconvinced that it'll just take "getting used to" as TD says.

2) 3 weeks ago I went off some medication and I've had the most horrible withdrawal symptoms - really really bad. So bad that if I'd known what was in store for me I never would have gone on the medicine (form of SSRI). And after reading some people's stories on the web, I've realized that I've actually gotten lucky with this - my symptoms are waning and I'm feeling close to myself again. For some people it's so bad that they can't take the withdrawal and go back on the meds.

3) TD and I are fleeing to the beach this weekend in a semi-impromptu getaway. Very nice.

4) My grad class for next semester is almost completely planned, including readings scanned and posted on Blackboard.

5) Next week I will go to my best friend's wedding and I need to get some pantyhose.

6) Ohmygodmylifeissoboring.

Signing off...

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Summer Burn Out

Oh man, am I feeling it. I've almost completed 3 chapter revisions so far and I'm overdue on this one by 3 days. Curses! I'm having a tough time keeping up this pace, but I need to get it done this summer! Too much other shit must happen in the fall. I can't believe I'm actually looking forward to the semester starting when all I'll be doing is teaching and working on an article or two - at least for the blessed downtime before the job market begins again and I get the readers' reports back on the manuscript. But hopefully that will take a while!

Sigh - just wanted to gripe a bit. Back to it...

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Well Done, Roddick!

Mary Carillo just said it best: Roddick lost to the number one tennis player of all time, barely. It was such a good match and Roddick has played so well the entire tournament and I just want to do a little shout out to the kid - I hope he comes back and wins it next time...

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Today's 4th of July Menu

I'm going to cram in a few hours of frickin' work on this frickin' chapter before we begin making our part of this banquet, but here's what we'll be consuming today - and it's really the essence of what it means to me to be an American and independent and all that jazz...I've noted which ones I'll be making:

- Sangria (MW)
- Watermelon coolers (non-alc. fruit drink)
- Beer
- Sliders on the grill (w/carmelized onions) (MW)
- nitrate-free hotdogs
- shrimp skewers
- tomato and leek pie (MW)
- parmesan spinach dip and chips
- grapes (MW)
- strawberry shortcake

There will be six of us, but with the job market gnomes (who are digging out the tiki torches as we speak) we will be Legion. We may or may not make it to the fireworks...

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Let's Get Physical

As I meander through this latest chapter (and I do mean meander), I am also starting to think ahead to the fall and what I need to do physically to prepare for the topic of my last post. This means major detoxing, shearing off all unwanted and un-needed additives in my life.

Now, I'm a hoarder. I hoard all kinds of things (much like the dragon in Beowulf...grrr...) - I hoard Cheetos, cake, Coke Zero, pounds, Miller Lite, and medications. I like additives. A lot. But, I'm determined, so I've begun peeling off certain meds (I need to talk to my doctor in mid-August about going off my last one and I'm holding onto my Ambien until I absolutely need to give it up). And I'm also trying to shed some poundage - TD and I watched some WebMD clips that noted the need to be at a healthy body weight becoming "with sprog" and my eyes bugged out instantly until the doctor qualified it with "as close as possible to your ideal body weight" - even a moderate weight loss is beneficial. This seems more manageable given the fact that I'm also trying to finish my book at the moment - I'm in no frame of mind to go completely cold turkey on my little yummy vices at this point.

Toward this moderate goal, however, I'm going to the gym a couple of times a week, I'm eating better (bulking up on the folic acid, with food and supplements), and have recently begun yoga twice a week. Now this is my kind of workout! Why did I never do this before? I can wear lovely flowy clothes and do comfy, contortive (though often delightfully strenuous) things on a cushy mat. I can be barefoot while I exercise! So, I have jumped into this with both (bare) feet - I just purchased this yoga mat set - love the color! I know it's kinda "matchy-matchy"...

Sigh, back to work!