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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Not bad, despite a minor setback

OK, so the long story (because god forbid I should give you the Cliffs Notes version): About a year ago, I decided to try out the "pro" version of Adobe, because it allows me to do things like combine scans into one document and fill out forms on the computer. I pay a monthly fee, and usually I'm not even aware of when I have to renew the license, but today, I was working on a PDF of a critical essay, and at first I got a couple of warning messages that my "free trial" was about to expire--and then suddenly the PDF simply closed itself, and I couldn't open any Adobe file without renewing my subscription. I tried to do that on the WiFi network of the coffee place where I was sitting, but I've been unable to connect to their network (very possibly because of the antiquity of my laptop). So, there I was with about an hour and a half to go before I met Paul for dinner, unable to complete the annotation I was working on.

Pause for frustration.

Well, that being the case, let's see what else I can do. So, I looked at some of what I'd already written, and noodled around with some of that material. In particular, I started working on my own critical essay about one theme that is widely recognized as one of the primary themes of the novel (even Le Guin says so) and yet has received almost no critical attention. In everything I've looked at, only one critic takes it on at all, and although she does talk about it beautifully, it's still only a portion of her overall argument about a different theme entirely.

I realized, as I started, that I was trying to do two things at once, and I probably need to try to separate them out. On the one hand, I was trying to explain to students how one gets from a theme to a thesis. ("One theme in the novel is loyalty and betrayal" isn't a thesis: it's a statement of fact.) On the other hand, I wanted to put on my academic regalia and write like a scholar. It was rather amusing to note that what I was doing in teaching mode was what Paul calls "throat clearing": the vague noises we make while we're trying to figure out what we're really going to say. What is my thesis? Took me a while to locate something that would at least point my argument in some specific direction. I know it will change--and I wonder if it would be of any benefit at all for me to use the "track changes" function and publish that, so students can see what it looks like to slave over a piece of writing. I know I'm not producing a writing guide, but part of what I'm doing is intended to make it possible for students to write papers about the book, so writing guide (and reading guide) stuff keeps sneaking in.

But thinking of writing guides--and college success guides--it was great to talk with Paul about the pages of his work that he shared with me. We really do serve as wonderful sounding boards for each other: we're enough alike to get each others' point of view, and we're different enough to sometimes hand the other the missing bit we've been looking for. So, I'm about to send him some of what I've got: he may find ideas in my stuff that he'd like to raid--and I already saw ideas in what he has that I want....

But now, it's late, and I'm getting too wound up, so I need to get serious about winding down so I'm not still noodling around on the computer at 3 a.m. After all, I have now renewed my subscription to Adobe, so I've got a day of work cut out for me tomorrow....

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