Roller coaster

Today was my critique session with my WIP-partner. I really didn’t know what kind of feedback to expect on the Byatt paper, as I had sort of reached a point where I had no critical distance to the work at all. The feedback I got was incredibly helpful and laser accurate, and I’m so grateful for getting it, but if I’m really honest, it was pretty overwhelming. I think I just need a little time to process.

I think I got buried in the analysis sections, and lost track of the point of the article. At first my WIP-partner suggested putting the article in time-out and focusing on other things, but after we talked it through it seemed pretty clear that I really want to get it out and under review, and that there is actually a way of re-framing the analysis that we both think is promising and exciting. It looks like I’ll mostly need to pull back from my attempt to talk about reception, and instead focus more directly on the ethics of life writing, which I only touch upon in the current draft. My WIP-partner strongly suggested Judith Butler’s Giving an Account of Oneself (2005) as a good touchstone for exploring this aspect of my analysis further.

So tomorrow it’s back to the salt mines. I have a plan for first integrating my own corrections to the article (I proofread it over the weekend), and then reading the written WIP feedback in detail (we just talked it through at our meeting, and I didn’t want to get further demoralized by reading it afterward). It seems to make sense to get this version in the best possible shape (which won’t take much effort) before tearing into it to make room for the new approach. I’ll need to order the Butler book since it’s not currently available in the library, so I have some time to clean it up. One thing I know I need to strengthen is my use of Derrida and the notion of the violence of the archive (which I mention, but don’t carry through as I should), and I also need to insert the missing references to Photography and Death.

Today I also got some really useful feedback on my languishing book review from a colleague who agreed to read it for tone. I have been afraid of seeming really petty and cranky, but my colleague said the tone was fair, although it’s doubtful that the book author will enjoy reading it. Even better, my colleague indicated that my review probably won’t discourage people from reading the book, perhaps even on the contrary it might spark interest.  I think that’s all I can ask, given the serious reservations I have about the book. Based on the feedback I received I was able to do a quick edit and send the review off to the journal editor. This was a huge relief.

In sum, this day ended up being kind of a roller coaster of emotions connected to my academic writing. It’s amazing how draining and emotional processing feedback can get, especially at this early phase in the process, when the ideas are still forming, and the field of study is still not clearly mapped out. I freely admit that on occasion I have just had to put my head down on the desk or have a good cry after reading peer reviews of my work. The trick, of course, is to get that gut response out of my system so that I can actually take in the criticism and put it to use. It always pays off, though sometimes it isn’t very easy…

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