All posts by Dylan Hirtler

Perhaps a Less Eventful Week

To be honest, last week I hadn’t expected the response to my depressing account of my time at Rutgers that I received. It was very gratifying to feel that my story was really taken in and appreciated(?). I thought on what Dr. Zamora suggested that I have at least one other paradigmatic event that I encode and relate to Elbow and the other authors whose works I am comparing to my story or my raison d’être. That said, I am at something of a loss. I do not want to imply that this week was not in its own way productive for me; I continued to do research and create categories of codification, as well as continued to explore new avenues of literature.

Image result for grounded theory process diagram

Like a buffoon I lost track of one particular document I had been referencing about grounded theory which had a good diagram to help give me some direction. Until I find it (if I find it) I’ve been using this one from a Temple University resource. There are different levels of theory in grounded theory – bounded, substantive, and formal. Where I believe I am is towards the beginning of substantive theorizing. In this ghost article I had annotated it labeled bounded theory as being hunches and seeds of an idea. I believe I am past that, though my substantive or explanatory theorizing has a tendency to lead to rumination. I included those two pieces last semester about the differences between rumination and reflection, as well as insight vs. self-awareness / self-consciousness. The crux of my autoethnography shouldn’t likely relate just to the depressive tendencies between myself and the world but certainly it is a part of what I’m relating generally, so it’s been hard to deeply evaluate it without falling into it.

Otherwise I can admit that my journaling this week was thin. I have a tendency to feel drained after not even prolonged exposure to my gagfeelings and especially when I have to put myself out there emotionally. Writing is something of an emotional offering up of oneself whether or not it turns into some personal exhibition so it’s not surprising to me that that is the case. It might be an interesting lead to freewrite about that experience of mine. I don’t know if other people experience the same kind of mental exhaustion when writing or expressing themselves but I become sometimes despondent after even having a sincerely cheerful mien. This blog post is turning into something of a freewrite / attempt at bounded theorizing. That’s good though, freewriting is freewriting and I’ll take my inspiration where I can find it. Sometimes the blank page is inspiration enough.

I’d like to include this freewrite I did last week. I know it’s from last week and not this week but just as an example of my less formal autoethnographic efforts, this is what I do:

A fun story that I wrote this week!

I’m going to link this story. Last week in the session with Linda and Emily they suggested I write my experience with Rutgers since it probably impacted my experience with feelings of falseness and questions about the difficulty I have in expressing myself.

Please note that these are hard feelings, and this is not a pleasant story. Don’t feel too inclined to read it but it’s a part of this experience for me so I’ll probably be including it in the general thesis process to come.

See you in class tomorrow.

A New Lead?

Thank you, The Big Lebowski

This past week we discussed grounding my thesis in autoethnographic theory, which I believe to be a good idea and am looking forward to applying the methodology to my writing. Having taken Dr. Nelson’s research methodology course I found that autoethnography was one of my preferred forms of research despite it having nothing to do with my particular research proposal for that class. I went back to Dr. Nelson’s syllabus for the class which thankfully I did not have to rely on Blackboard for since the class is no longer accessible there, and found his list of readings for us. I’ve taken some extensive notes on one of the articles but am going to look through the others to see what else I can glean from them.

It does so often turn out that inspiration can come from the most surprising of places, and of this inspiration I am not referring to autoethnography. Last week in my other course, the Writing for the Workplace business writing course, I became inspired! We were discussing letter writing, and while I do have an interest in letters generally and turn to stationary for occasions, I was surprised at how excited I was by our reading. We read a brief account of the traditions of letter writing from the classical Greek thought to its modern form of emails and I believe there is a trace of what I am going for in that theory. There is a strong interpersonal connectedness that exists in a letter, one which precedes the content and instead starts with the intent.

Thought pertaining to letters has changed over the millennia of course, so the purpose and importance placed on the craft has changed as well; diminished is a better word for it but it isn’t a judgment, it makes sense given the course of history. That being said, there is still a wealth of tradition and very serious consideration for what makes a letter a unique piece of writing that I am very interested to follow up on. The soul in the letter, authorial voice, the role of the recipient, etc., these are things akin to the journaling I am doing to produce my story. Perhaps an epistolary style would work as well? If not entirely instead of journaling then maybe in conjunction with it? It is a question answerable by continuing to write and continuing to research but it is exciting.

A Welcome Back to All

It feels great to be back in the classroom, but the task ahead is a serious one. Last semester was a real struggle for me to see myself through but I want to work to find myself having a smoother conclusion to this thesis process now. Last semester I started the process by panicking, but when that didn’t seem to do much for me I looked to the theses of my classmates to try to understand where they were coming from. What I found was that there was a strong pull to expression and writing from experience. It was effectively this self-expression that had always dogged me in my life so I decided then to challenge myself to write my thesis in a similar vein.

I decided to incorporate my “background” of Comp Lit to assist in informing me of how to direct myself in my efforts since it does not come entirely naturally to me I don’t think. I found articles to help put to words the feelings I have on the importance of just general insight and self-awareness, as well as covering bases to help keep me on a positive vector and out of rumination. I also found articles which give some stability to the feelings I struggle with keeping from toppling over my efforts, namely feelings of falseness and a lack of identity. When Peter Elbow also feels like a phony I can at least rest assured that far more intelligent people than I have also struggled with my mortal concerns.

But I also wrote. I started an exploration and a chronicling of my history as a “””writer””” which amounted mostly to writing out what negativity there was to start for me but also an acknowledgement of the importance I placed on writing even then. I have always found inspiration through others so when I feel stuck I enjoy taking time to read academic and creative pieces which elevates my spirits and gives me perspective.

My plan for the semester is that every week I want to have between 2-3 entries in this “journal” as well as having at least one additional resource which helped me. That resource could be an article or it could be something derived from a novel which influenced me for that week and helped inform my process.

Some Final Thoughts

This semester definitely ended up being a challenge. I can’t really put my finger on it but this semester, more than the other two, put me in the hot seat. I think between this class and the Children’s Lit class I just felt constantly at odds with myself because it was two very different, but very difficult assignments the likes of which I found myself at times unable to handle. Of course, these moments proved temporary because with the support of the people in the program I got through it. I’m still working but I always find that the more I have to go on the more confidently I can feel stuck at times but still say “well, I know what I have so far and I know the rest will come to me in time.”

I’ve been trying to reflect, not ruminate, but reflect, since last week. In the breakout room I was talking to Emily about how my biggest fear for my thesis will be that when it all wraps up, I won’t feel content either with the answer that I have for myself or that ultimately I won’t find an answer. The answer I suppose being to the question of where I fit into the world as a writer. I guess any one of us should be prepared to have to continue that search, but this is one of the first times that I’m seriously investigating that bit of business for myself and the fear of not knowing despite the search is very different to the anxiety of not knowing because I never tried to understand it. But as I said in my presentation, the darkness of not knowing needs to be met with the light of truth slowly, with temperance, otherwise no matter what I find I will be blinded by it.

I can’t figure out if I feel like this semester went by very quickly or very slowly. Obviously now, sitting here, I’m looking back on the semester past so relatively it feels like it’s already gone, but there were moments of struggle for me that made things feel like they weren’t moving for me at all. We all need to be challenged, otherwise I don’t think a program like this would do well for us. I’m glad that I have the people in this program to help me through the challenging moments, because without them I’m not sure I could always make it through.

An update

I realized after my presentation some weeks ago that writing for me primarily seems to take place on the computer. But I used to love writing by hand because seeing a page filled with my own physical words seemed to give me a little more satisfaction than a computer page. It may not be much of a point worth investigating, since ultimately it just comes down to personal preference, but I was looking around Google Scholar and the Kean library for articles which might speak to some aspect of a creative flow more apparent in one or the other between writing by hand or typing. What I found seemed largely to have more to do with memory or exams or children or actual handwriting, but to me it seems in a way more personal to write something out when it’s almost a confessional piece.

Confessional | religious architecture | Britannica
Me, myself, and I, minus the religion of course

I actually came to realize that I don’t really have any suitable journal or even any notebooks any more to write on. Funny how the total transition between what you used to do and what you do now can happen without you even noticing. But being in the Children’s Lit class, I discovered an artist who prints her art on lined or unlined notebooks so I ordered myself one and will move to paper again once I have it. In the mean time of course I am writing my piece on the computer, but I’m afraid I’m not getting to where I had hoped it would be going. I’m afraid I’m losing the plot a bit, and the simple truth is that I need to start really dedicating not only a little more time to this again but more of my real, undefined Self whose mystery it is I am trying to solve with this.

But it’s hard. It’s a struggle to find that person, and it’s even more of a struggle to dredge through the mostly negative associations I have with personal narratives to understand the spirit of writing as it exists through me. I’m sure if you are reading this post then you were with me until that moment, but the long and short of it is that I’m stuck in my writing and I need to go back to asking myself questions, doing a little research, and finding inspiration from without.

A nice relaxing week (almost)

After my smooth and not anxiety-ridden presentation last week I had a nice chance to decompress. Work for my other class is not slowing down but at least I had the room in this class to “take an easy” as Bertie Wooster of the Jeeves series would say. It gave me a chance to reflect on the process of what anxiety there also is in presenting one’s work, which I think is a part of the writing process as well. Writing can be very personal, but even if it isn’t then the writing itself is the personal material which is being shared and interpreted. Giving a piece of yourself over to any other person to do with what they will, see it how they will, etc., can be unnerving and exposing. I tend to just put my head down and run straight into that kind of environment until it’s over and regardless of the reception I just quickly close the door behind me and pretend like it didn’t happen. That’s something I’ll likely explore as I move forward but for now it was nice to know that at least outwardly I was given the support I could stand to have in this endeavor.

Also nice was Medea’s personal array of feedback and further reading and viewing material. She sent over the Elbow article as promised as well as directing me to Ann Lamott and David Foster Wallace, whose contributions to the general conversation I’m having I’m sure will be more than helpful.

I’m looking forward to the remainder of this process now that it feels like I’ve actually gotten a start to it, or something at all anyway. The thing now I’ll have to do is remain consistent; consistent in my writing and consistent in my research. There is a lot to look into, including reading novels by authors I’m thinking might be of some benefit to me such as Samuel Beckett, further research, and much journaling. But here’s to keeping my eyes on the prize.

Thesis Directions

Another week, another yikes. Here’s what I know: I highly value the theses that I have seen from my peers. They are personal, honest, and creative. Of myself and my thesis considerations I feel hazy, dishonest or insincere, and unable to reach a level of creativity that I actually feel good about. I am prepared to roll with that. I was asked to come up with some six different directions that my thesis could go in, but I think that the yoke of the idea ought to remain with some kind of self-reflexive correspondence.

If the main concept is “Me” as I believe is appropriate here, both because I envy and desire some likeness with my peers and because I am up for a challenge, then I believe something of a web more than a bulleted list may come in handy.

This is a “mindmap” that I created on a free site. I was asked for 6, but I really believe that any of these 5 ideas could represent a thesis I could seriously engage with, research, and maybe even be proud to graduate with. I think they are different enough to have sincere conversations with myself and others as to the merits of each, but close enough to me that none are a stretch to make my own.

It’s been time already to work on this, and I am behind. But I’m confident that somewhere here is my thesis and I am ready to get down to it.

Thesis Progress 10/8

In still not quite having a definite “this is it” thesis at hand, but as is always the case with me I do have some vague notion difficult to explain, I turn to the best source for ironing out my ideas: blind research and reading. Dr. Zamora gave me several leads to start thinking about thinking and I started initially with John Searle. Exploring the Kean Library led me to a lot of either his books or commentaries/critiques of his work, which in having an academic year to process I might be able to read one or two of his books but I’m not confident I’d have the time to do so. I want this project to be worth an MA so I’m not trying to cut corners but I should also at least attempt to be realistic. The other thing is that a lot of these articles are from decades past which, unless I suppose John Searle or any author, is fine for me but I imagine that the more contemporary the article the better(?) it may serve you. I don’t always believe that just because something is more modern that it actually is better or more enlightened, but I want to keep myself aware of when these pieces are all written to end up with a range.

I think part of the issue is that, having missed this recent online lecture on Monday, I’m struggling to do good research. I’m sitting here with probably 20 tabs open to articles I found but have not been able to even really begin reading because I want to just explore the basis of my ideas before delving too deeply into them, but then the pages sometimes crash when I close my computer or sometimes I just end up striking out on a search. I need to figure out a way to better compile my results and hang on to the pieces I think I’ll like. I love doing research because I love reading articles about things I’m interested in academically, but part of the problem here is that I’m still sort of unclear on what I’m doing exactly so the research is supposed to help me solidify this idea, but my own neophytic researching is holding me back. And even that is some generous leeway because although I’ve never done research for an MA thesis, it’s not like I’ve never done research before. I think I’m just in my own head too much and need to think about this from places I’m more familiar with.

50 lat bez Gombrowicza. Jak dziś widziałby Polskę? 'Dwie drużyny  naprzeciwko siebie ujrzałem, dwa razy hymn odegrano, a Polska piłką była'  [RUDNICKI]

I’m always drawn to Gombrowicz, and while as I sit here I can’t think of a specific tie to him relative to this thesis – and it is not my intention to fall prey to confirmation bias in my research – I always try to use his works as a source of inspiration for why I care so much about this sort of thing. When I read Gombrowicz I just experience so much that there must be some causality in this world to explain it, even metaphysically if needs be.

I’ve discussed or tried to discuss Gombrowicz many times before in this program or elsewhere and he speaks a lot about interhumanity. It’s the idea that the person we “are” is more a reflection of the life around us and the social nature of the world than a singular self. Or so I understand of it; Gombrowicz is often vague or sarcastic and does not so much hide his meaning as controls it so much through his vernacular that you have to be Gombrowicz-aware to understand it. It seems a bit of an emptying philosophy, by which I mean that when I think about it it makes me feel a little hollow inside, but then he wasn’t concerned with masking any intended meaning as I said, so I can well imagine this is a bi-product he was not afraid to evoke. I struggle with these issues of waking up intellectually to a difficult mental reality but have thought for a long time that it is exactly this which underlies the general philosophy of my thesis idea; as in, maybe we are spiritually quite empty as individuals but find meaning for better or for worse in others. It feels true of my own experience at least. And that’s where I find myself this week in my thesis progress! Kind of hazily nowhere.

A Late Start

I’ll admit that this process has not gotten off to a very clean start for me. I’m running late on blogs and ideas and the whole thing feels like I’m totally somewhere else compared to others – both in terms of progression and just mentally. This blog likely won’t satisfy the metric for a productive week’s worth of effort and while I am self conscious about that and know that I need to be better than this, I will say that something is percolating in my mind.

Can’t figure out how to actually align this center… This is one of my favorite quotes from any media by the bye~

I had initially given a few short ideas and after speaking with Dr. Zamora about where I might be springboarded to in following any of them, I kept thinking about following the line of “why we write and why it matters to me.” I think that there is more to the question of why we write than just to tell a story, because although that is literally true, the real reason can probably be as deeply consequential as the depth of the medium itself. Writing (and reading, for me) is not a shallow enterprise; art in general is not a shallow enterprise. It isn’t as though I am suggesting that something written which is not written to be a top tier piece of capital “L” Literature is likewise any less valuable to the writer, and in fact the opposite may be true, but the expanse of the meaning to that writer for however “good” the writing may be likely is belied by the actual text. I’d like to point to a Gombrowicz quote, if you’d indulge me…

“Great! I’ve written something stupid, but I haven’t signed a contract with anyone to produce solely wise and perfect works. I gave vent to my stupidity…and here I am, reborn.”

“Reborn” – Is someone different every time they finish writing something? Have they gained or lost something in the process? Has anyone, the writer, the reader, the character even, gained or lost something for all that was said? What changes in us when we write? Or is it something that changes when we are read? Gombrowicz wrote so much that I do not understand, and which I often wonder if he himself understood. His credo on writing is shrouded in so much sarcasm and irony, but also honesty and direct truth that it’s extremely difficult to parse out, but even in isolation I think this quote goes some way to address his philosophy, and yes it is true that while I try to remain “impartial” to his beliefs relative to my own, his writing has been more profound in my life than any other writer’s.

What I mean is that in general I wrestle with wanting to believe what he says despite not entirely understanding it – call it a kind of celebrity worship – but here I think I get it; I mean the quote is clear enough generally. I struggle so much with writing but that’s ok as writing in and of itself does something to us. The question is, what? And is it a want or a need which drives us to experience this thing? I want my thesis here to follow at least one aspect of many of my classmates’ theses and that is writing experientially vis-à-vis their topic. I want my thesis to be a diary of the process and specifically the difficulties of my trying to write, and using those difficulties to generate questions of why it matters so much to me that I be a “writer” through the acute troubles. I want to ask the question, hypothetically, of why do I want to write when it pains me so much? There is something very important in creation, which I have often found in experiencing other people’s creations, but I want to try to understand why I feel such a blockage of my own self when all I want is to express the only thing in this world I have some ownership of; my own being.

My plan is to explore the works of people who have touched on these points, beginning with those suggested by Dr. Zamora, and keep logs of what comes to me. I will also attempt to “write” something and log how that goes and how that all feels. I think the well is very deep here. I may not have done an adequate job of explaining this, but as of this moment it really is just a thought. Hopefully this at least shows I’m thinking about this thesis, though you can certainly take my word for it that I have thought about this in a general sense for many, many years.