Friday, October 10, 2008

A Profound End to a Pedestrian Day

Today was an oddly productive day, even though I had planned it that way last night when I wrote down my list of the things I had to do. The most important thing was to sleep in by a couple of hours, since I had no class commitments today, and could make up for the six hour nights I had gotten earlier this week. After checking my e-mail, reading my webcomics, and looking through some music and movie reviews, I made myself presentable for the masses and made a lunch that would last until around 8.00pm.

After that, I got the bus into campus to drop off some forms for a professor who was writing a couple of recommendation letters for me to go with my research grant applications. Since that was the only business that I had to do on campus, I left immediately after this, and got the bus back downtown to buy a new book/laptop bag, as my old one was fraying at the edges, handles, zippers, pockets, and pretty much everything else that could fray.

So I went back home, marked a pile of first year papers, did my laundry, read some The Red and The Black in French (which I've been working on for just over a month now), watched My Name Is Earl, read a New Yorker article about the life of Arianna Huffington, then worked on some thesis research. This is where the first piece of profundity comes in.

I'm almost to the end of a book about the central philosopher of my doctoral thesis project, Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The book's author, Gary Madison, is a former McMaster professor, and I was told that this book is regarded as the stage-setter for Merleau scholarship, which first made me think it would make me very angry. But Madison and I seem to have very similar perspectives on Merleau. I'm glad because having precedent makes it a lot easier to get people to accept my ideas as valid, something I had some pretty serious problems with during my MA. But I'm a bit disappointed too, because it means my work might not be as iconoclastic as I hoped.

Anyway, my work focusses on Merleau's ideas close to the end of his life, and his unfinished second magnum opus, The Visible and The Invisible. There are a lot of ideas similar to Martin Heidegger's late-period work in Merleau's writing in this era, and as I was finishing a section in Madison's book on the concepts of Being and Logos, I wrote a paragraph so good that it might end up in my thesis almost word for word. In one half-page handwritten paragraph, I connected Heidegger's analysis of the Greek concepts logos and physis, Merleau's appropriation of them into his non-reductive realism, which fed my own Gilles Deleuze-inspired analyses of differentiation (physis) and understanding (logos), in the context of my concept of existence as a process that continually constitutes multiplicity.

With that taken care of, I started writing the novel again. My friend Vikki published a facebook photo album last week that included herself and her posse climbing around some of the hills on the edge of St John's, and I thought of a great way to rewrite an early scene I needed to revisit. I originally included a short scene around page 10 where the protagonist, his university girlfriend, and some of their friends, spent Saturday night drinking in a condominium under construction. The changes in the condo building was originally going to show the shifts in time as the narrative jumped around various points in the protagonist's life. But eventually I dropped the condo angle as it never really fit well into the story.

So instead, the same characters are having the same conversation while hiking up Signal Hill in the middle of a Saturday night drinking. And I added a long paragraph that introduces some of the central themes of the book as the protagonist and his girlfriend look out over the city at night. It revolves around the vibrant, self-contradictory, anachronistic, idiosyncratic nature of the city, the conflicts and resentments between urban and rural Newfoundlanders, and the limitations of life in the city, even while it remains so incredibly alive.

Then, reading out this paragraph to myself, I opened my mouth and swallowed a fly.

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