Thoughts You Have While Writing an Academic Paper

Stage 0: Having a topic assigned to you

Okay, this topic. Well, could have been worse. Could do with some instructions, though, but I guess we’re practising academic minimalism again. Time to hit the library!

Stage 1: Primary literature

Bored.

Bored.

Bored.

Bored.

Weird sex scene.

Bored.

Bored.

God, how many more pages?

Bored.

Dear Author, do you have anything interesting to say in this?

Bored.

Hella bored.

You, Mister White Heterosexual Protagonist, are a waste of literary resources with your constant existential angsty whining.

Bored.

Stage 2: Research and secondary literature

Why are all the books I wanted taken? How many people were assigned this topic again? Is this just really popular right now?

Why isn’t this digitalized yet, anyway?

Why isn’t everything digitalized yet?

Why am I not digitalized?

So, online resources… what? Nothing? Try some other search terms…

Nothing? Oh, come on!

There we go, fucking system on the fritz again…

1982?! What the hell kinda old shit is that?

Seriously, library system, would it kill you to open a tab normally?

This one looks promising… no access?! What the hell?

Okay, how about this… 1979, nope. 1985, nope. 1987, also nope. 1974, what the fuck, is there no new research on this writer?

Okay, fuck this, shift the focus of this paper slightly…

There we go. About 25,000 results for the civil rights movement. None of which have anything to do with this writer. You know what, fuck it, I can come up with some bullshit myself.

Stage 3: Reading and selecting quotations

This has nothing whatsoever to do with my topic.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with my topic.

This has nothing whatsoever to do with my topic.

Nice read. This has nothing whatsoever to do with my topic.

One useful quote, sold!

This is okay… but it’s old. Can I quote this even if it’s more than fifteen years old? Welp, I can.

What’s the deal with psychoanalysis in literally everything, why do these ancient fossils see penis everywhere? And what does it say about them that they do? That’s not what the D in Ph.D. stands for, dammit!

So this is the extremely renowned academic my professor likes, definitely have to throw in a quote of his.

Copying machine? Psshh! What you think I have a phone for?

Picture of book page. Picture of book page. Picture of book page. Selfie! Picture of book page. Picture of book page. Picture of book page….

Okay, on to the PDF articles.

New word document, make a nice list of quotations for future reference.

Why won’t this copy and paste!? Come on, I don’t want to type the entire paragraph! Okay, this can be copied and pasted…. aaaand suddenly it’s a completely unreadable font. There’s not enough tea in the world to get me through this.

OMG, I CAN COPY THIS, PRAISE THE MOTHERFUCKING LORD!

Hm, this researcher really knows their stuff, but I can’t quote just them. Doesn’t any of the others say the same thing, only different?

You know what, I should just insert a hyperlink and quote the entire article, this some good shit. I wonder what else they wrote….

No, no, focus. Need to select quotes. So which are the most useful?

WHAT DO YOU MEAN I CAN’T COPY AND PASTE THIS?!

Stage 4: Writing

Structure… Intro, whatever. Second, characters, because the old fossil who’ll be grading this changed his mind and now he also wants old school general character analysis and narratology like this is some fucking undergrad course. What does this have to do with my topic?! When I said instructions would be nice I meant something useful, like which style sheet you want, or what are your criteria for grading! Okay, next section, my actual fucking topic. Four, no… three subsections. Yeah, I can pull those two into one section. Alright. Conclusion, whatever.

Okay, introduction. “This paper discusses the thing you’re about to read so you might just want to go ahead and do that”.

Nope. I’ll get on with that later.

No one cares about all these minor fucking characters, this is not the focus of my paper, why are you making me do this? I’ll do it later.

Finally, the real stuff. Time to write!

Okay, doing pretty well, and we have… still at least 6000 words to go.

Bored.

Bored.

How many times can you say ‘however’?

How many times in a row can you quote the same person?

Maybe I’ll just paraphrase.

Come on, there must be a synonym for this!

Fuck it, quotation it is.

Can’t start two successive sentences with ‘therefore’, dammit, re-write…

I’m so hungry.

Urgh, I want a cake!

“Mentions”, no. “Draws the readers’ attention to”, no. “Deals with”, oh not again. “Discusses”, hell, I just used that! How do you say ‘It’s a thing in this novel’ without actually saying ‘It’s a thing in this novel’?

Is ‘moreover’ even a word?

This sounds stupid. Re-write. Now it sounds worse. Re-write. Oh for the love of… Re-write.

You know what, just quote it.

Seriously, why am I always hungry when I’m writing? How many calories can thinking possibly burn?

What’s that word that sounds like “comprise”?

Uuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh.

Maybe I should take a break.

Cat video time!

Somehow the paper did not write itself in the last two hours while I was watching cat videos.

Okay, back to work.

Maybe I should check my e-mail.

Maybe I should check facebook, what if something important is going on?

Actually, this place needs cleaning.

Somehow the paper did not write itself in the last three hours I spent cleaning the entire house.

Why does ‘therefore’ even exist?

Stomach: FEED ME, SEYMOUR!

If I add emphasis to a quote, do I do that at the end in square brackets or right after the author’s name? I dunno, it looks weird in square brackets.

Why won’t this style sheet tell me how to indicate that I added emphasis?

Why won’t any style sheet tell me how to indicate that I added emphasis?

You know what, fuck it, square brackets it is, even if it looks weird.

Still need 2000 words, time to bullshit my way through character analysis.

“This character…” is really boring. “This character represents…” my will to live throwing itself out of the window. “The main characteristics of this character”, oh my god, you can’t have ‘characteristics’ and ‘character’ in one sentence! “The protagonist is…” obviously an author self-insert. “The female protagonist…” could be replaced with a table lamp because she’s only a love interest, and no straight guy in the history of ever wants to fall in love with an interesting person with like thoughts and ideas ‘n shit.

There’s not enough vodka in the world to get me through this.

I know I had a quote for this somewhere, where the hell is it?!

Things I accomplished today: Won three imaginary arguments. Things I didn’t get done: Work on paper.

I’m going to eat the entire fridge.

Is this English?

Do I even know what I mean?

I don’t know, what is the proposition?

Endemic across regional boundaries, yes, totally.

What?

Maybe I should take a break.

Why is it suddenly two days before the deadline?!

Works Cited Page… I did not actually quote this guy. Neither this one. Nope, this one’s out, too. And this one wasn’t actually that useful. And this one said the same thing as the other guy. Jeez, I hope that’s enough sources.

Wait, where’s that one guy?! Oh, there he is.

Wait, did I forget the one about desegregation?! Oh, there it is.

OH MY GOD, IS THIS THING STILL NOT DONE?! How many more pages do I need?

I don’t wannaaaaa….

Maybe I can get a deadline extension.

But I have this exam the week after, so if I had this out of my way I’d be able to concentrate on the exam a lot better….

Uuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrggggggghhhh.

Whatever, just type some 700 words on those shitty characters and drop it in the secretary’s office, who the hell even cares.

Wait, why the hell am I only finding this article now?! Oh my god, this is exactly my topic! RE-WRITE!

Are we done yet?

Are we done yet?

Are we done yet?

Conclusion… some bullshit… “As demonstrated”… “clearly illustrates”… “Furthermore”… “Finally, the main point”… Jesus, can’t you just read the fucking thing?

Stage 5: Home stretch

Okay, time to edit out all my mistakes.

Why the hell do I keep typing ‘at least’ as ‘as least’?

Why are keyboards in this order, even?

Who in the hell decided it was a good idea to put ‘i’ next to ‘o’? Which prankster wanted me to keep writing ‘in’ when I mean ‘on’?

Oh fuck, I have this part twice, how did that happen?!

Okay, but now it’s done.

PRINT, MY SLAVE!

Printer? Hello-ho, printer?

Uuuuurrrrrggghhh!

PRINTER!

Oh, come on…

Who’s a nice little printer?

Why can’t I just hand in the PDF via e-mail? What year is this, 1403?

PRINT, YOU INK-FILLED MALCONTENT, OR I WILL END YOU AND CURSE YOUR OFFSPRING TO THE SEVENTH GENERATION!

Finally!

Fine, don’t have an office hour, I’ll drop it in the secretary’s office, they’ll get it to you.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN, YOU DIDN’T GET IT?!

See, this is precisely why this kinda shit should to be handled via e-mail!

Oh, so you did get it? Just buried under all the other papers, is it?

Ugh, I don’t even care any more. If anyone needs me, I’ll be in the couch, crying into a tub of Ben & Jerry’s.

Wait, did I remember to close the quotation marks in that one quote I shortened?

Uuuuuuuuuurrrrrrrrrrrgggggghhhhhhh.

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So Basically, James Joyce Was a Whore.

Recently had what felt like the 564th lecture on James Joyce. What else can I say except screaming internally. Entire generations of scholar’s have grown up to kiss that guy’s spectral ass, singing hymns of praise over Ulysses and Dubliners, mostly because no one ever actually finished Finnigan’s Wake.

And even in the new century, the rightfully deceased Joyce still holds sway over the not-so-peaceable land of literature. He and Yeats are the mighty two towers of Irish literature by which any other author will and shall be measured!

I have problems with this. Number one, his writing is… not that good. It’s mostly rambling about… actually, it’s not about anything, stuff just seems to happen to the protagonist, peppered with Bible quotes and Classical mythology to keep a semblance of interest, and no amount of scholarly research will tell me otherwise, nothing will make this nonsense suddenly worthy of my precious, precious time. Number two, Joyce was the mighty slut before the lord. Don’t you know I am a lady of quality! I shall not indulge in this debased filth! No wonder the future generations consist of degenerates delighting in depraved debauchery if the impeccable institutes of learning make them read masturbatory memoirs of sluts and whores!

Seriously though, he was slutting it up.

Like most Men Who Do Great Things, Joyce’s success depended on someone else doing his laundry, cooking his meals and, dunno, paying all his bills. So in Things Wikipedia Never Told You News: Joyce took the classical route and got hold of numerous patrons, or sponsors. Who were all wealthy. And… female. Basically, he kept finding new sugar mommas.

I guess this also kinda explains why it took him thirty years and two or three children to finally marry his wife. I mean, she wasn’t rich. Far from it, actually. So, you know. He just kept shakin’ what his mama gave him. In the general direction of heaving bosoms with well-filled wallets.

I know, you are saying, “But, but, but! Should we not judge an author by his literary merits? Did not most creative heads in history live a life against all social acceptability? Is it not the rejection of morals-of-the-time put in place by the-powers-that-be that fill the mind with prose? Is it not a truth universally acknowledged that a great mind must needs be unmolested by the day-to-day drudgery as well as pesky norms? Can and should you really judge this literary giant by his social life?”

Yes. Yes, we should.

Now, there’s technically nothing wrong with being a whore for the sake of literature, and no one will disagree with me on that (and if you do, the door of this private prose bordello is over there, get out). Technically, there’s nothing wrong with being a whore, period. But I mean, come on. Can you imagine if James Joyce had been Jane Joyce? Would we still be reading Penelope today or would scholars be more interested in examining Jane’s relationships with her ‘sponsors’? Chances are, we wouldn’t be reading any of her work. Jane would also have never been able to write a masturbation scene in Penelope (which, admittedly, was censored for long years, but wouldn’t you know it, came back) or a visit to a brothel with her as the customer and still have her book published. Never in a million years, or at the very least not in 1922. James Joyce, however? 800 pages of Notes From A Boner, also known as Ulysses in case the joke wasn’t clear. Oh, so you masturbate to a woman on the beach? Okay. Why? Oh, so you don’t like the fact that your wife is having an affair, or you assume she has an affair, but you’ve no problem going to a brothel on what seems to be the regular? Okay. Why? So you and your friend/son substitute/potential gay mate are pissing in the backyard even though it’s been established in the early chapters that you own a perfectly good outhouse? Okay. Why? Did the outhouse fall over somewhere off screen, or…?

Also, what the hell kinda drugs are you on with your frequent hallucinations?

I just wonder how this book became such a classic. No, actually I don’t wonder. It was obviously risqué and daring for the time because it was a complete attention grab, and the fact that it was so difficult to get it published, and that it was censored so heavily and indeed put on the index for years in some countries made for great publicity. Then some of the chronic onanists who got a hold of it, actually made it through the 800 pages, and liked it somehow became scholars of literature and the rest, much like the life of James Joyce, is history.

And now there are people meandering through Dublin, wide-eyed and delirious as if someone had dropped a copy of Finnegan’s Wake on their heads, every June 16. Wonder if they also visit the brothel, though.

There are two kinds of people. Those that have read Ulysses and those that haven’t and those who gave up halfway through, and those who have problems with numbers. And then there’s those weirdos who have to bite their fist so as not to yell “‘TIS PITY HE’S A WHORE!” through a lecture hall.

Not that I ever did that or anything.

Bah, sick of Joyce. Let’s talk about Yeats. Wanna hear a Yeats joke? Why was Yeats sad? Because his Maud was Gonne! Ba-dum-TSS!

Julian Gough and the Almost Complete Absence of Irish Sci-Fi

Was at a reading of Julian Gough the other day, an author I had legit never heard of before. Well, more or less. I knew that he was an Irish author who looks like he’s hanging on to the hippie bandwagon by his last fingernail, and that he has a penchant for making silly faces and taking even sillier photos. But that was it. I kinda regret that now because this dude is hilarious! Might give his writing a chance now, even though a quick google search revealed his association with a band that had an extra silly name even by indie band name standards, and I judge people on their band names. Harshly. (I don’t really remember what it is now, come to think of it. Something silly, like Flambéed Agnostics or something.)

Anyway, Gough is an Irish writer, and if you’re a student of literature and you hear the words “Irish” and “writer” in one sentence, you groan in agony as you receive vivid and terrible flashbacks to the rightfully deceased James Joyce. Gough isn’t like ol’ Jimmy boy, thank his Catholic god.

So Gough goes on to talk, quite humorously and with a healthy dose  of sarcasm, about “authentic Irish writing” and his lack thereof, and how there are more people outside of Ireland identifying as Irish than there are inside of Ireland, a mini rant about the veneration of Peig Sayers in Ireland. Then he goes into all the bullshit standards and tropes that go into “authentic Irish writing”, the kind that actually gets published like by the New Yorker. It’s pretty much always the same, poverty and misery and exile and  alcoholism and an inability to speak English (looking at you Peig Sayers!). And funerals in the rain! Lots of those! No authentic Irish writing without a funeral in the rain! And perverted priests! And terrible Family Secrets (TM)! And towards the end he mentions the almost complete lack of Irish science fiction because Irish writing is much too focused on Ireland and history and introspection of, you guessed it, life in Ireland, and not enough on the rest of the planet, much less the rest of the universe.

And I am, of course, gone. Completely. ‘Cause you know… sci-fi and me is like, get the toast ’cause this my jam. A stroke of luck had it that Gough was through listing his twenty-three or twenty-six ironic commandments for writing* and we were already into the discussion when my brain started banging against the inside of my skull. I was having a hard time not to unleash my trademark roaring laughter during the reading (Yes, he’s that funny! We found a funny Irish guy who doesn’t write about funerals in the rain!), but at that point, it was all I could do not to choke as my thoughts boarded a bobby car and ran away with it, honking the horn all the way. Why is there no Irish sci-fi? I tried to imagine Irish sci-fi, and all I could come up with were parodies and stereotypes.

Imagine… Earth makes first contact with aliens. These aliens are green, like Irish shamrocks. The Irish befriend the aliens and they in turn help them to transport the entire island of Ireland to a distant planet so they can live in peace as far away from the English as possible. They do live there peacefully and still curse the English, until one day, a good three or four generations later, a young child asks “What’s an English?” and once that child grows up mounts an expedition to old Earth to uncover the secret of the English…

Imagine… Firefly, I hope you watch Firefly, if you don’t you need to watch Firefly… nine Irish people living on a space ship called the Millennium Tiger that’s shaped like a shamrock…

Imagine… what with the Irish habit of emigrating, space is just the next logical step. The Irish are the first to leave Earth once space travel goes mainstream. And they found a colony on Mars, where they can have funerals in the Martian rain, and terrible family secrets upon the De Valera space station that’s cruising about Nova Eire in geostationary orbit, while back on Earth the Scottish are calling dibs on the now deserted territory of the island…

Imagine… the Irish branch of the Catholic church boarding a gigantic vessel. Their five year mission: To find god among the stars and prove them pesky Protestants wrong for all eternity…

Imagine… a day of strolling, like Ulysses, through a gigantic futuristic city, monologuing as you go…

See? Doesn’t work. What makes a novel or a story Irish, even? Is it the style? Is it the funerals in the rain? Does it need to have Irish people in it? Does it need to be set in Ireland? And how does it work if you throw space in the mix? Or the future? Irish writers apparently can hardly handle the existence of the internet. Is it even possible to write authentic Irish sci-fi?

Lots of debate is going on about Authentic Irish Writing (TM), about 1.5% include Authentic Irish Writers (TM) because pretty much all of them are dead. Authentic Irish Writing (TM) is a specific type of Irish writing that usually contains Joyce and Yeats, and much less Wilde because 1) SINNER! Sinning sinner who sins!, 2) not enough about Ireland and family secrets and funerals in the rain. Gough, who like most Irish writers does not live in Ireland anymore, will in all likeliness not be counted among the elite of Authentic Irish Writers (TM) either, though what with the way Irish writers are usually only recognised post-mortem we’ll just have to wait this one out. Maybe he’ll even write us some sci-fi before that happens. Meanwhile I’ll amuse myself with trying to come up with Irish sci-fi myself. Kind of hard, that. I mean, we all just know that any Irish space endeavours would fail after a week due to lack of alcohol supplies, right?

And not to stereotype, but it’s all the English’s fault. No one knows how, but it’s like 600% certain.

*Which can be basically summed up as “Thou shalt not write boring shit we’ve all read before”, and I’m sure he’d agree with this paraphrasing.

The Bloody Chamber and the Bloody Ridiculousness of It All

So we discussed the Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber in a class I had. For those of you who don’t know the story, it’s basically a turn-of-the-century (from 19th to 20th in case that wasn’t clear) retelling of the Perrault’s Bluebeard fairy tale (Charles Perrault, 1697, the story itself is a lot older and the older versions have a lot more female agency) only from the perspective of the wife, who is a seventeen year old girl trying to escape the poverty she lives in with her widowed mother by marrying an insanely rich and perverted Marquis who plans to kill her like his other wives. Go look it up, but only read it if you have a strong stomach.

Anyway, I really just need to vent, because I also have to write a paper on this and I keep coming back to the class discussion. This is going to be about gender studies, so if you don’t like gender studies a) screw you, b) bye.

The discussion was interesting, albeit not from a literary point of view but from a psychological one. I mean… people were going on and on about how the seventeen year old working class narrator didn’t marry the Marquis for love and called her a gold-digger and an adulteress because the young piano tuner was nice to her and she noticed he was pretty. But no-one, absolutely nobody, lost a single word about how the middle-aged serial killer Marquis didn’t marry her for love either, but to make her his next murder victim. I mean, perspective, please! And that got me thinking. I mean, I get the criticism that this is a first person narrator and first person narration is always unreliable, even if nothing points to the narrator lying, but let me get this straight: A very young girl living in poverty, trying to earn a meagre living as a pianist, wants to escape poverty by way of marriage – not that she actively pursues that because she doesn’t, it just so happens – so she and her mother will be taken care of financially, and everyone calls her names and goes on about how “weeeeell she didn’t marry for luuurrrve”; but a guy about fifty who wants to marry a teenager so he can fuck her and then behead her, we go “Welp!”

I mean, come the hell on! Are we really this desensitised to male violence that we basically shrug and call it Tuesday? Is this just something we expect now? Are we really not going to talk about a guy who marries one woman after the other just so he can torture and kill them in horrible ways, and who sets his latest wife a trap just so he has a reason to kill her too because she ‘disobeyed’ him by discovering his murderous little secret? Are we just going to ignore all this in favour of calling a teenage girl a gold-digger and worse? Oh, we are? Well, fuck all y’all, that’s what’s wrong with the world!

And then there was that special case of a dude in the back who was like, well, if the Marquis had only found the perfect wife he would have stopped killing, basically he was torturing himself, to which, thankfully, the entire class decided this was taking things a step too far. I think sometimes the most scandalous thing a man today can do is to respect a woman’s choices. Like, seriously, no one cares if a man murders women, but I’m sure everyone would be writing paper upon paper about a male fictional character who is just a decent human being. But then they’d probably call him effeminate or emasculated (like the narrator’s second husband, the nice music-loving but blind piano tuner) or just plain boring.

It’s bad enough that in the story the entire castle staff and the village know what’s going on, because killing wives and women is sort of a family tradition apparently, and everyone’s just sort of okay with that. Takes the narrator’s mother to put a stop to this. And you know how? She got a phone call. One single phone call from her daughter that wasn’t even about “Hey, I just found hubby’s former wives”. Actually, that phone call was before all that. And mom rushes in like a maternal avenger and just shoots the bastard without a single word. One woman, one bullet, all it took to end a few centuries worth of murderous terror. I’d actually be interested in hearing the mother’s side of the story. Now that’s the kind of motherhood I could get behind.

Yeah, yeah, I know there are a lot of other different aspects to this story but I can’t be arsed to discuss them here, I already have a full formal analysis to write, so don’t come in here with “Oh, but you’re missing the point of the story”, because I’m not, I’m just standing on one of them and I’ll move on to the others when I’m good and ready. Just really, really needed to get that off my chest before I can go back to working. Peace.