I have finished the first week of classes at the start of my doctoral studies and have been pondering over what to make of this experience and how to share it through the blog. On the one hand, I want to chronicle my experiences, but on the other, I want the blog to continue toward becoming a more public space, where I can work through some ideas but also enable others to engage in turn. I’ve had some fruitful discussion and exposure through my last two entries on my decision to pursue a PhD (Part 1 was joining the conversation over the value of the degree in this era of uncertainty and turmoil in higher education, and Part 2 was on the field of composition and rhetoric and the value for me as a creative writer), both in person with friends and through comments and twitter retweets, and I don’t want to lose that trajectory. The risk with blogs is that they can become unidirectional or self-serving, and I want to resist that as much as possible.
The difficulty for this first year of my doctoral studies is that I have the potential luxury of being purely a student, as I will not start teaching again until the fall of 2014. I say “potential” because while I value the opportunity to get into the experience and find my way around being a student again, I will miss teaching tremendously and will find it difficult to not have a class within which to put into practice some of the lessons, texts, artifacts, and teaching approaches I’ll come to through my studies. Fortunately, the blog seems like a logical outlet for those thoughts about practice I derive from my studies. Where appropriate, I’ll also interject my sense about what it means to be a graduate student in the humanities and will look back on my decision to go for this degree and let you know what I learn in hindsight. While I’m not going to reflect specifically on my cohort and this first week, I can say that my experiences thus far are keeping me optimistic that I’ve made the right choice, both for the degree and the program through which I’ll seek it.
In addition, while it would be arduous to respond critically to all the reading I’ve been doing, I do want to take advantage of the virtual space to log my reading along the way and share some of commonplaces that I find engaging/interesting. I’ve spoken about the power of commonplace books before, and figured it might be nice to keep my so-called “CPB” public, but I didn’t want to take up space here on the blog for entries that most people won’t find as useful or as engaging as the idea-driven entries you’re used to seeing from me. For this purpose, I’ve created Here Now, Commonplaces, a virtual commonplace blog where I’ll keep track of my reading and index it with categories and tags. If you aren’t aware, a commonplace book is a space where a reader logs and indexes passages they find engaging. These passages may or may not be organized in a specific way, though there usually is some kind of indexing system to help the person navigate the notes in later use. I’ll be using tags to help me with that, and might link to other relevant readings or to source material, if it’s available online.
With my students, I ask them to respond briefly to the passages they are recording, but at this point I don’t think I’ll be able to do that for everything I log (I’ll be busy being a graduate student, remember); but it’s worth saying, as a matter of instruction for reading this thing, that the act of recording a passage is not an endorsement of the author’s point or approach. It might just as well be a passage I’m curious or unsure about, or something I even disagree with or a point of frustration. While I don’t yet have a system for marking those impressions (plus, impressions inevitably change and evolve over time), I eventually want to come up with something for that purpose. For now I’ll just say that if I’m inspired to say something more than what the log of passages and tags might otherwise account for, I’ll be writing about it over here at Here Now, Myriads in traditional blog-entry style.
My first entry over at HNC is passages from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own, which was the first reading assignment for my History of Criticism course. I won’t say any more than that, as I hope the system I put in place for organizing the passages will speak for itself. I’ll say, too, that along with regular postings to HNC, I do also hope to be blogging with more frequency as I’ll inevitably be inspired to write about and think through some of the things I’m engaging in during my studies, and will be seeing the world in new and (ideally) productive ways. I hope you’ll join me along for the ride.