graduate school lends itself to nights like this: nights when you’re poring over 60 pages of heidegger and deciding to read only 20 pages because what does it really matter? you don’t understand much of it anyway. at least you suspect you don’t. nights when you’re struggling with an assignment to read an article written by an archaeologist who is extremely enthusiastic about the diameter of pipe stems in colonial america. nights when mtv’s “sweet sixteen” is looking a hell of a lot more tempting than your coursework.
i had a moment like this tonight as i was slogging through my material constructions reading, which is not nearly as interesting as i thought it would be. and then i came across this perfect passage, which is part of an article i actually did enjoy by gaston bachelard, from his book the poetics of space:
If we give objects the friendship they should have, we do not open a wardrobe without a slight start. Beneath its russet wood, a wardrobe is a very white almond. To open it is to experience an event of whiteness.
and i felt a little uplifted after reading this passage. because who doesn’t feel good after reading a sentence that compares a wardrobe to an almond? and suddenly i was swept up in a surge of creativity and purpose.* this surge lasted approximately five minutes. BUT. in this surge i had two revelations.
revelation #1: i think i already know, at least vaguely, the topic of my material constructions seminar paper. this is a decision i’m certainly supposed to be making this early in the semester (but yet it is a decision i rarely make before, say, mid-october). i want to write about the circulation of family heirlooms in the nineteenth century, and perhaps most pointedly heirlooms that outwardly attempt to embody family history (e.g. hair jewelry). i know nothing about this topic and therefore may be talking like i’ve been taking crazy pills, but it’s worth looking into. thank you, dr. bachelard.
revelation #2: i’ve been considering my concentration within the victorian period as maternity/childbirth/family, despite the fact that my academic advisor warned me against “defining myself as the OBGyn student” early in my years at rice. but now i’m thinking of shifting it — or broadening it, depending on your point of view — to all-female communities in the nineteenth century. it’s pretty broad, but i can probably narrow it down a little, and it seems more dissertation-friendly. almost every paper i’ve written in grad school somehow lends itself to this topic, so in a way it was my concentration already and i just didn’t realize it.
i had a third revelation that has nothing to do with grad school and everything to do with wedding cakes. but that is for another post.
*excuse the nautical metaphors. too much mrs. dalloway.