Winding down and gearing up

This week I had three straight days of oral exams, one solid day of reading final papers (with a very energetic “sick” child home from school), and one full day of meetings and doing the end-of-term massive desk clean up (sorting and recycling the massive stacks of paper, returning library books, etc.). So no, no real research at all, though I did put together a conference abstract for a conference  at the University of Bergen this coming June on Death in Literature. I was so excited to see the call for papers, as it’s the perfect venue to try out part of my Byatt analysis.

As of right now I’m contemplating attending four conferences in a six-month period. I’ve already decided to drop the annual SASS conference, which is being held in Salt Lake City this spring (I’ve been there enough times before that even the attraction of my fabulous colleagues and friends in SASS aren’t enough of a motivation to go through the grueling travel that would entail). But there are four within easy range that are really tempting:

That last one I’m a little doubtful about. All the other topics I’m proposing relate directly to work I’ve already done (the cabin book, Byatt, Peer Gynt) but for this one I would be proposing something totally new and only peripherally related to my current work (I’m thinking of doing something with either Ole Høiland or Gjest Baardsen). If I could somehow find a cabin connection, that would be one thing. Another option would be some of the crime fiction that I’m looking at in the cabin book. Oh! A thought just occurred to me! Finn Alnæs‘ Koloss (1963), which I think is going to be a major work for the post-WWII chapter, actually uses the court case as a structuring element! It’s not a novel I particularly like, but it’s unavoidable in a study of Norwegian literary representations of cabins. I’ve been dreading working on it, but thinking of it in the context of that conference suddenly makes it more palatable. The author contrasts the protagonist’s incarceration and court case in the Netherlands with his “true” home at his mountain cabin in Norway throughout the narrative. Kapow, there you have it folks, more proof that writing a writing blog actually helps with, well, writing!
I should note that these four conference are in addition to the week I’m going to be spending as a visiting professor at University College London. I’m really trying to max out my last year as a postdoctoral research fellow, as there’s no telling whether I’ll ever have travel funds again, or even be active in the field at all come the end of my fellowship.

I’ve just got one more grading meeting (to discuss my students’ final papers with the censor) on Monday, and that’s it for a very hectic fall term. During the archaeological excavation of my desk, I found the response to my analysis of Collett’s Amtmandens Døttre that a colleague gave me this summer. My goal is to clean that up along with the Peer Gynt manuscript by the 15th of January (or the submission deadline for the Ibsen position; whichever comes first).

As I work on those two editing tasks, I really need to start strategizing how to get back into the new material for the cabin book. The proposal I’ve submitted for the conference in Paris in March relates to chapter three (the fin-de-siecle hunter’s cabin motif). For some reason, I feel totally uninspired by the thought of that chapter, but experience tells me that if I just buckle down and start working, it will start to get interesting. The title is “The Anti-Modern Retreat: Exploitation and Abject Masculinity.” Two of the major textual analyses for that chapter are basically done (Hamsun’s Pan and Ibsen’s Når vi døde vågner), so it really shouldn’t be that hard. I think my problem is that the remaining texts I plan to work on don’t necessarily relate all that well. I think I need to do some more reading, both about the period itself (particularly on decadence) and of other literary texts that might also relate. I may also want to read more of the non-literary prose from the period. There are myriad hunting and travel narratives that present the image of the wholesome outdoorsman that these literary texts counteract.


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