Picture of dog

Lecture 2

Foucault, Barthes, and the death of the author.

I am a writer (for hire) of commercial texts. An author of discourses subject to ownership. Am I alive?

[Two weeks later.]

Lecture 3

Complicated stuff, glad to have a guide. Envisioning a multimedia accompaniment to the ideas of hermeneutic circles and other hard-to-grasp philosophical ideas.

We adopt a dog. We have to give it back after it bites my father-in-law.

[One month later.]

Lecture 5

“All art is quite useless.” – Oscar Wilde

I attend an industry-academic seminar in New York on “shift-left” operations for IT support escalation in financial services. My role is to take notes and write up the proceedings. The event is held in a conference room at a midtown Manhattan bank. The view from the window: the Brill Building. I have the ideal view of a symbolic threshold only ever glimpsed, that I have yet to cross. It hurts to look at it.

[Two weeks later]

Lecture 6

Read a chapter of William Empson on ambiguity. Takes some warming up but a good guide to an ambiguously interesting topic.

Lecture 7

Russian Formalists. Not sure I get it, even after going to Top Pot for a donut.

Why do some people feel the need to go back to basics? Probably because of the Russian Formalists.

We take a family trip to Baltimore for a harbor tour on the USS John Brown.

Leon Schneider (at left) on SS John Brown, speaking about WWII Merchant Marine.

[One month later.]

Lecture 9

We get to structuralism, which played a big part in my master’s thesis.

[Three weeks later.]

Lecture 10


I sign up for the 30-day special at the yoga studio.

Lecture 11

Derrida. Man, this is dense.

Had a chat with Robert [my friend’s housecleaner, RIP] about Google Glass, how you can live out in the middle of nowhere and use virtual reality to fill in the people, the sights and sounds.

Back to Derrida.

Fell asleep listening to the lecture.

RIP Robin Williams

RIP Michael Brown


[Two weeks later]

Lecture 11 (again)

Professor Paul Fry makes a reference to “All in the Family.” I look for the episode and end up watching a different one: Meathead and Gloria go to the commune, leaving Archie and Edith alone for eight days. Interesting to see how the idea of going to a commune became embedded in the culture. It’s written more like a mini-play than a sitcom, and you can feel the actors exploring their characters. If it were written today, this one episode would have fourteen subplots over ten episodes: Edith investigating a murder, Gloria uncovering nefarious goings-on at the commune, Archie getting into a knife fight at the bar, and Meathead learning a new recipe for vegetarian chili.

Lecture 12

Watched Jacques Derrida documentary. Fell asleep watching. He usually spent the day in his pajamas and bathrobe until he had to leave the house. On hands and eyes: Others are the only ones who can see those in action. The same is true of the rest of the body, if yoga is any indication.

[A few days later]

Tried to read some ITL [Introduction to Theory of Literature] but didn’t get very far. I’m feeling that it’s a distraction from the real challenge of Don Quixote [DQ], and that if I go down the rabbit hole of theory, I may never extricate myself.

“Maybe I should stop now.”

The counterargument: “No, keep going! You can apply ITL to DQ and HB [Hebrew Bible] and everything else in OYC [Open Yale Courses].”

“But at some point, I just have to stop and write what I know and move on. I’ll come up with an outline for DQ and stick to the damn thing, using what I’ve learned so far, through deconstruction.”

The counterargument: “But what about Freud [i.e. the subject of the current lecture]? Isn’t Freud important with DQ?”

Damn you, counterargumentative Ivan.

And so I continue.

Drawing from composition class with Margaret Davidson,
Gage Academy, Feb. 2014

Link: ENGL 300: Introduction to Theory of Literature