So from now until mid-April things are nuts. The symposium is mid-March, followed by a visit by the inimitable Bee and Brian Soja (yay!), followed by the Victorian Studies Seminar mini-conference on poetry in the age of the novel, during which I have to present a position paper in a panel composed entirely of professors. Then comes a few weeks of pure panic and self-loathing before my comprehensive exams in mid-April. Then I’m finally going on my honeymoon. But no time for thinking about that now.
The exams are having a strange effect on my mental life. I never thought I’d become one of those scholars so cooped up in academia that I completely lose touch with the “real world.” But I can feel the crazy creeping in. These days, it takes a serious effort to imagine that there is an entire city of people right out my window who are not taking comprehensive exams. These people do not spend weeks at a time trying to figure out what exactly nostalgia meant in the nineteenth century, or the precise role of the female child in Victorian social problem literature, or the place of juvenilia in the canon. If someone had told me three years ago that there would be a dark and horrible night of studying during which I would mentally break down over Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories and George Eliot’s Adam Bede, I may have reconsidered my graduate school plans. If someone had told me that such nights would be commonplace, I would have… well… there’s no use thinking of that now.
Because that, my friends, is ridiculous. No one should cry over a book that asks the reader to follow the Elephant Child to the greasy green banks of the Limpopo River, surrounded by fever trees. No one.
I’m trying to intersperse normal human activities into the madness. Today I finally got my hair trimmed, which was sorely needed. And Danny and I rented a movie and ordered pizza. (Obviously the best thing about Lent is pizza Fridays.)
I’m also trying to look on the bright side. Because while my comprehensive exams are sucking away my will to live, they are finally allowing me to read what I want to read and not what I have to read. I can read Edward Lear’s nonsense poetry and Lewis Carroll’s Hunting of the Snark instead of Captain Singleton or Pamela. ::shudder:: And there really is nothing more uplifiting in Rice’s library than the aisle that contains most of the Victorian children’s literature. The spines of such books tend to be colorful and illuminated. And earlier this semester I checked out Andrew Lang’s The Orange Fairy Book, only to discover a clover pressed inside:
Okay that’s a horrible blurry photo. But you get the idea.