All posts by Dylan Hirtler

Closing Out the Semester

Now that the damage has been done and my presentation is over, I have only another handful of weeks to finalize my thesis. From last week to this, I continued my readings and wrote a short abstract for my thesis. I’ll have to spend the remaining weeks doing the actual writing of my research document, although it’s going to end up being largely descriptive but will of course contain the scientific and other research I’ve done and will likely continue doing at least until next week when I’d like to have my lit review done (this is my particular goal for next week). I’m looking forward to hearing Ryan speak tonight as I think his has been a thesis I’ve been particularly interested in throughout the past two semesters.

Last week I forgot to read something from Bachelard I felt was one of the most impactful quotes I’ve come across. It just looks into some contextualizing of unreality for Bachelard etc. etc., but it speaks to how values come from an unknown nothingness (here the house, but the point stands I think of the mind as well). He speaks of what power memory has as something that props up the facts of the past as, if those memories should be “effaced,” then facts become much more spectral. The point is that it blurs the lines between our history and what Bachelard calls our “indefinite pre-history.” For me, this means that the “space between words” so to speak, or the space between being enlivened by words threatens to make unreal the life I’ve built for myself through literature. It makes it difficult to write when the experiences I’ve had become harder to make truly mine, save for when the reality of my past is given the “new” life of reading from others. Anyway here’s the quote, and understand that this comes with some paragraphs or even pages of context, but I think it’s an incredible quote:

“But it would seem that this element of unreality in the dreams of memory affects the dreamer when he is faced with the most concrete things, as with the stone house to which he returns at night, his thoughts on mundane things. William Goyen understands this unreality of reality (loc. cit., p 56): ‘So this is why when often as you came home to it, down the road in a mist of rain, it seemed as if the house were founded on the most fragile web of breath and you had blown it. Then you thought it might not exist at all as built by carpenter’s hands, nor had ever; and that it was only an idea of breath breathed out by you who with that same breath that had blown it, could blow it all away.'”


We have to accept what Bachelard and Gombrowicz call the unreal, as it happens in the space between; between anything. Dream, humor, these things matter for even serious things, or the serious pursuit of things. It’s hard for me to keep that in mind sometimes and not feel lost in the spaces between or in the time “before.” See you in class later.

Where I’m At

So here we are at the end of March with only a month and change left of work before things need to be looking about done. The last few weeks have not been the most productive for me and it’s at a time like this when I feel myself returning past the surface that I feel the weight of the missed work. On top of that I really made the decision that next week I will be presenting, which will be alongside Lexie (sorry Lexie) whose work I’m really looking forward to hearing and will be a nice counterpoint to my crazy thesis. I don’t think any of this is unmanageable though, given the proper attitude and belief in my work.

I’d like to present something of an outlined timeline, and speaking of Lexie I’m stealing her exact template for this el oh el.

  • March 28 – April 2: Finish reading The Poetics of Space and finish presentation
  • April 4 – 9: Finish reading Diary and write my third artifact
  • April 11 – 16: Collect remaining research and finalize lit review
  • April 18 – 23: Compose interpretive analysis
  • April 25 – 30: Edit
  • May: Produce final project

I’ve appreciated the support of everyone these past few weeks despite hating that I’ve been so down and out. Even though I won’t be graduating with you, friends, it’ll have to be enough for me to hang my hat on that I was able to submit my thesis alongside you all and those from last semester.

D-Day Approacheth

Did you know that the “D” in “D-Day” apparently stands for “Day”? I’m not a military or history buff but that one surprised me. Day Day. In any case I have my presentation next week so I’ve been taking some time to start setting up my PowerPoint. As everyone knows by now it takes a heavy toll on on me to present things, or talk in front of people, or be in front of people, so I’m trying to set myself up as best I can because for me this is the big one. I want to show that since last semester I took the germ of an idea that I had and really cultivated it into the thesis that, though still in process, I am proud to present to my peers and my advisor.

As for my actual thesis progress, I didn’t do much autoethnographic writing this week. I do still want to have another serious artifact or point of reference to go on here, and then subsequently a more free-form piece detailing the experience of writing these stories to offer the larger context to what went through my mind as I did it and the feelings I had, matched with the rumination/reflection paradigm that is a part of the basis for my thesis. In the end what I want my thesis to produce is a series of 4-5 writings, “creative” writings I suppose, one explanatory writing to be the yoke that allows the reader to have sort of retrospectively moved with me as I told these stories, my research and annotations if possible to further help the reader understand the step-by-step processes I took to get to the end, which includes the specific progressions of my thesis by way of grounded theory, and maybe an analytic, more comparative/academic piece to offer as the culmination of the thesis.

That’s what I want, and a lot of that I already have done or will have done by my presentation next week. For this week, it was prep work; it was making sure I have everything neatly arranged for myself for the coming week. And of course, the return of an old favorite…

Calvin and Hobbes' was best ended in 1995 | The 1995 Blog
The water color background adds a nice splash ; ^ )

Writing, reading, and keeping up

The past two weeks for me have been on the difficult side. Last week I was unwell and this week has presented its own constant frustrations. That, however, is life, and one must carry on. As it is, I’ve spent the time continuing my research and writing but am anxious about rejoining the class after just the one week away. Presentations are beginning and I am looking forward to seeing what Nives and Linda have so I can stack my progress and thesis against two people’s whose works I’m sure will eclipse mine in many ways. But I’m more confident lately with the specific place of my evolving thesis and have been compiling as much of my research materials for the lit review as possible.

Bachelard in The Poetics of Space posited that art “is an increase of life.” He was at that moment discussing another idea brought forth by poet Jean Lescure that painter Charles Lapicque “…demands of the creative act that it should offer him as much surprise as life itself.” Art, or more generally any creative act, is generative in more ways than merely text or images on a page or canvas or what have you. These people I have briefly mentioned here were putting forth an idea that life itself is created in the artistic endeavor, or to me anyway that life in a way is given when someone gives themselves over to the art of another. After reading this I was hit with a thought, a further step along the generative theoretical process: is a part of what is happening for me that I value the life given to me by others when I take in art more than the life I create for myself and others when I generate art? I don’t mean this in as disparaging a way as perhaps it might seem, or in a depressive way necessarily, but I was so halted in my reading of Bachelard when I read this that I knew I had to really sit with it.

In any case that’s just a snippet of the theoretical position I’m located in on the map of my thesis. This now is a short bit of writing I’ve recently done which I do not believe to be my third real autoethnographic entry but is, in a meta sort of way, a breakthrough entry for my thesis in that I wanted to write about it. It’s interesting for me at this point in the process to have any desire to write about my experience relative to the still-present self-consciousness I feel in doing so. It’s a kind of ambivalence. It may also be important to note that, as I mentioned in the “foreword” of my attempt at writing, I wrote this most likely because I was reading something of value to myself that discussed poetry, and this is about an experience I had with a poem.

An Aside

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.