Wednesday, January 15, 2003 tells me that the mercury will not rise above freezing here in Ithaca until, well, March. As people around here like to say, it's not the cold but the grayness that gets you down. The winter I spent in Helena, Montana was bitterly cold—I would get up in the dark, put on about eight layers, and stagger the block and half to my job at a little publishing house specializing in outdoor guides and "Americana," whatever that is. From late December through February it would routinely be zero degrees Fahrenheit when I did this—not counting wind chill. At five 'o clock I would reverse the process, again in the dark. BUT, if I did manage to poke my head above ground at lunchtime, there would be bright freezing sunshine shattering everywhere. Life was much better in MIssoula, where it wouldn't be nearly as cold and we still got that winter sun, which is a good deal better than no sun at all, I can tell you.

The semester begins on Monday. I think I'm prepared. I'm teaching more or less the same class—a first-year writing seminar on Frankenstein movies (the films: Bride of Frankenstein, La Femme Nikita, Blade Runner, Hedwig and the Angry Inch (what do you suppose Cornell freshmen will make of that?), Memento, and Fight Club). My last group of students was talkative and engaged; I hope I can do as well the second time around. (But Cornell students are as affected as anyone else by the gray winter, especially the first-years.) I'm taking precisely one seminar: Jonathan Monroe's Contemporary Poetry & Poetics (read his course description here) and the rest of the time is for researching my dissertation. Well, not all of the time: I'm low on funds and need some kind of part-time job. Maybe some tutoring, or maybe in the local independent bookstore (or if necessary the local dependent bookstores).

Today I might work on the paper I've been procrastinating for last semester's Modernism seminar. I'm writing about the parallel uses Stein and D.H. Lawrence put the emblem of roses to in their poetry. Stein of course discovers a constellation of signifieds in the signifier "rose" and in the process tries to reawaken its function as an erotic signifier in lyric. Lawrence features roses in a little cluster of poems that appear in the dead middle of his first major collection, Look! We Have Come Through!. Although these poems are far more conventional in appearance than Stein's, he is equally interested in rescuing language, especially poetic language, from reification. By likening himself to a rose (in "I Am Like a Rose" and "Rose of All the World") he sets up a kind of feedback loop, by which he acquires erotic power through identification with the rose and the rose acquires a regrounding in authentic human being through identification with him. By "identification," however, I don't mean that either rose nor man precludes or wipes out the other's otherness. The disjunction between them, the "force field" created by the violent yoking together of rose and man, is precisely that zone of excess which is characterized as erotic (erogenous?).

Or I might just go read and drink coffee until my brain is thoroughly caffeinated. I might even write a poem. Now that hasn't happened for a while.

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