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It's a truth universally acknowledged that the best Emma AU is and will always be Clueless, but for quite a bit I've been thinking that the closest modern equivalent to "three or four families in a country village" (one of Austen's tongue-in-cheek descriptions of her own preferred subject) might in fact be the members of a university English department. This is particularly relevant to Emma, because let me tell you, professors and grad students in English departments are such huge gossips. Not always in a bad way, but information does tend to circulate... At any rate, I've been pondering this for a bit, and while I'm not sure when I would even have the time to write it (or what kind of audience it would have, outside an English department!) I'm going to spend a little bit of time thinking through the various characters and how to transpose them to this new modern setting.

Preliminary thoughts behind the cutCollapse )

***

More directly on the scholarly front, today I wrote up notes about one of the texts I'm going to work with in my upcoming seminar paper, Margaret Cavendish's Sociable Letters. You can check them out over at my academic journal [link].

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Professor
After deciding, totally on a whim (and with far less forethought than I should have invested in it) to follow a friend's challenge to create something every day for the month of March, I started thinking a lot about what it means, for me, to MAKE something, and how that's changed over the past few years. 

I'm pretty sure I always knew I wanted to be a writer. But I'm pretty sure that was mostly out of a sense that words, and the things we did with them when they left our mouths or our hands and made their way out into the world beyond us, mattered. I wanted to do something with those words. I wanted to show other people how they could matter. And being a writer seemed like the only option available to me: after all, no one was going to pay me to sit on my couch all day and read books.

I'm a stubborn person, and a critical one. I tend to be very critical of myself for giving up on projects I said I'd follow through on, even when those projects are no longer as central to my conception of who I am as they were when I first devised them. And so as a result, late in college when I realized I wanted to apply to grad school and that I felt so much more fulfilled in my English classes than my creative writing classes, I beat myself up over it. I was majoring in English so I could teach high school English and still have time to write on the side, until writing became the thing I did full-time. That was the plan. That had always been the plan. (I realize this sounds like exaggeration, but seriously I have documentary evidence of my desire to be a teacher and writer from as far back as an "About Me" survey I filled out in the second grade). Going against the plan wasn't just going against myself, in some fundamental way -- it was "giving in" to doing the thing that was "easy" and that I could know I was good at, rather than the thing that promised fewer tangible rewards in the near future but was "more worth it."

And you know, I'm really glad I stared down my anxiety about that plan I'd made for myself all those years ago, and let myself be okay with the fact that I'd changed, because I love what I do as a graduate student. Not all of it, no -- but a substantial portion of it, all of the parts of it that have to do with belonging to a community of people who care about the production of knowledge, whether those "products" are tangible or not. All the parts of it that have to do with how much words matter. (And lo and behold, I do get paid to sit on my couch all day and read books!) It is, in some ways, an easier life than the one that I used to want -- but part of that is because I think it's always easier to live the life you want to be living than the one you think you should be living. 

It's become easier for me to accept the fact that what I do (and love) now isn't the thing I thought I would never stop wanting to do (i.e. creative writing) as I've come to admit to myself that the same impulses that prompted me to that old plan are satisfied by the new one. It's hard to justify this to people other than myself -- the things that I "make" as an English grad student, when they are concrete, are also directed at a very specialized audience. I'm writing seminar papers and conference talks and lectures that may never have audiences beyond the people present in the room at the moment that I deliver them (and before long I'll be writing articles and a dissertation and scholarly monographs that won't gain a readership any larger than that).

But here's the thing: I care more about the continued life and health of the constantly-fluctuating community of people who gather together to consider and rejoice in the ways words matter than I care about having anything like a central role in that community. It's hard to tell people that the thing that you "make" for a living is something as intangible as "knowledge" or "a community" or "a spirit of rational inquiry" (god I am more of a student of the Enlightenment than I think I am). But these things need to be made. By which I mean both that humanity needs them, and that they don't just spring up on their own. They must be sustained by the ongoing contributions of effort and energy that community members/human beings make, one by one, day by day.

And I've gotten into some pretty abstract philosophizing here in the process of making what is, to me (but often not to others), a simple point: my work as a grad student, and the work I'll do someday as a professor, is essentially creative. Not just because I care about researching and writing papers whose arguments are inventive and unique and, in some ways, beautiful (though I do care about these things, and quite a lot!) -- not just because I produce tangible (if arcane) things -- but because I am part of the collective support system for something bigger than me, something that everyone who supports it is constantly involved in (re)creating. 

(As a side note, I feel like a lot of what we think about when we think about "making things" has to do with distinctly individual authorship -- this is certainly the case with books -- and this is increasingly a problem for me, because I really do want to emphasize the communal role of the work I do, the impossibility of doing this work or of this work having meaning outside of a community. And that means giving up some of my own authority as sole agent of creation. That also, however, lets me change my definition of what "counts" as creative in a way that has been incredibly rewarding for me personally.)

---

In other news: I also baked things today! I am basically working my way happily through the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, and finally got around to making chocolate chip brioche pretzel rolls (yes, you heard me). Warning: if you attempt these yourself, watch your KitchenAid while it's mixing -- I think the dough is actually way too heavy to be properly mixed for 10 mins straight (as it's supposed to be at one point). My KitchenAid started massively overheating and some other people's actually broke. So do the 10 mins in shorter intervals, and be prepared to knead a bit with your hands. Still: totally deliciously worth it! [picture]
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NaCreSoMo 14, 15, & 16

Muse
Maybe -- MAYBE -- I will actually post these things the day I do them for this week since I am on spring break?! ONE CAN ONLY HOPE. (Also I will start commenting on other people's stuff because I realize that's part of this thing that I've been totally lame about.)

Day 14: On Thursday I delivered my first ever lecture in front of a classroom full of college undergraduates. I was given the opportunity by the prof I TA for to give a guest lecture (something that's somewhat common practice here?) and I jumped at the chance, especially because I got to lecture on the second half of Austen's Persuasion, a novel I absolutely adore and have a lot of thoughts and feelings about. I have really no problems about speaking in front of people (like, really no problems with it, never have had) and so I went into this with more excitement than anything else. I think my biggest fear was that no one would show up, since it was the last class before spring break! But the students showed up, and I gave the lecture, and even though it wasn't perfect, it was pretty damn good. My professor congratulated me afterwards with, "That was an amazing job, and you're obviously doing the thing you were born to do, so keep it up!" And that's basically how I feel about this, so it's good to have it confirmed. (Downside is that I spent a lot more time talking on Wednesday and Thursday than I usually do -- the lecture was 75 mins, I practiced it twice the day before I gave it -- and as a result my throat is still a little bit sore...)

Day 15: So, I was coming off the high of giving the lecture (and deciding that I deserved some time to rest on my laurels before jumping right back into the fray), and then I got hit by horrendous sinus pressure headache that I thankfully recovered from just in time to prepare drinks for the small group of friends who came over for the evening: blackberry gin fizzes, to be precise, from this Smitten Kitchen recipe. (If you're trying to replicate it, I sort of find straining out the blackberry seeds to be unnecessary -- I mean, you'd eat them if you were eating the berries, and it takes longer than you think it will to strain them out.) I made more of the blackberry puree than I needed, but that turned out for the best...

Day 16: ...because I saved the puree and used it as a sauce for the lemon ricotta pancakes I made this morning for breakfast. [recipe] [picture]
This entry was originally posted at http://readingredhead.dreamwidth.org/289053.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

NaCreSoMo catch-up

Reading
 So, okay, as expected I have been doing a bad job of keeping up with all of this. So have a catch-up post with a lot of days smooshed together.

Day 7: Sausage, kale, red onion, and ricotta pizza: We had a couple of random cheeses left over from a calzone [personal profile] oliviacirce made earlier in the week -- specifically some ricotta -- and so I made a pizza based on this one from Smitten Kitchen. I adapted it by using crumbled Italian sausage instead of prosciutto (cheaper) and also by adding chopped raw kale to the ricotta mixture so that it cooked with the pizza. Click here for a picture.
 
Day 8: ---

Day 9: ---

Day 10: Baked a batch of raspberry ricotta scones based on this recipe from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. They turned out very deliciously -- so deliciously, in fact, that it appears I don't have a photo of them.

Day 11: I made a slow-cooker beef stew based on this recipe (though I use my own blend of herbs and spices instead of onion soup mix). Since that got prepared in the morning, I had time to make these rosemary pull-apart rolls

Day 12: ---

Day 13: Today I really got to work on my lecture on the second part of Persuasion that I'll be giving tomorrow (!). I've been planning in part through the use of sticky notes and note cards on my closet door [picture]. It's basically a conglomerate of every idea I've ever had about the novel, and there are a lot of those, so organization has been difficult -- but I think it's finally coming together. 
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NaCreSoMo Day 6: Baking cookies

Muse
 The students in the class I TA for have their midterm tomorrow, and I decided to bake them cookies. I made just under four dozen in an hour and a half.

Molasses Crackles
makes ~2 dozen cookies

2 C flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 C shortening
1 C brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 C molasses

Preheat oven to 350F. Add dry ingredients to bowl and mix; then add wet ingredients and mix. Place even balls of dough on cooking sheets about 2" apart. Bake for 12-13 minutes; cookies will look slightly under-done, but that means they'll be just right once they've cooled.

Brown Sugar Pecan Cookies (adapted from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook)
makes ~2 dozen cookies

1/2 C (1 stick) butter, softened
1/2 C packed brown sugar
1/3 C granulated (white) sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/4 C flour
~1 C chopped pecans (I haven't actually measured this, might be a little less)
1/2 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, cream together butter, brown sugar, white sugar, egg, and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl*, whisk the flour and baking soda together; stir this mixture into the butter/sugar mixture. Fold in the pecans. Place even balls of dough on cooking sheets about 2" apart. Bake for 10-12 mins, until edges are light brown. Let sit on baking sheet a few minutes to firm up before transferring to cooling rack.

*I didn't use the separate bowl and I'm pretty sure these turned out just fine.
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NaCreSoMo Day 2

Nora Reading
Today, I did a fair amount of planning work on the first paper for one of my seminars. I wrote up a lot of notes about it on my academic Dreamwidth account, if anyone really wants to read about thoughts on late-17th/early-18th-century women's writing and the creation of virtual or actual female homosociality, but I don't blame you if you don't.

Now I realize it maybe seems like cheating that I'm working on a seminar paper and counting that as "creating something." But I really do believe that academic writing and what we call "creative writing" can and should have more in common than the typical assumption of unreadable scholarly prose allows. I think that good scholarship is about creating something: looking at what you have before you and turning it into something new, something that wasn't there before you started tinkering. I also think that the papers themselves can (and should!) be written in a language that is exciting and engaging and clear -- just like any good work of fiction. 

Sometimes I worry that I spend so much time working on seminar papers and so little time working on more "creative" prose, but this is not actually a useful way of distinguishing between the two genres. If I stop thinking of seminar papers as a creative outlet, I'll never write beautiful ones. And I care about the beauty of my academic work, just as much as my "creative" (i.e. fiction-writing) work, so I'm going to keep thinking about seminar papers as thins that I create, one step at a time.
This entry was originally posted at http://readingredhead.dreamwidth.org/288202.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Grin
So like I said in my previous post, I'm going to very interpret the "something" in the title of "National Create Something Month" very loosely...mostly for the sake of days like yesterday, when the only thing I created was dinner.

But trust me -- it was a good dinner.

There's a restaurant about ten minutes' walk from my apartment called Kitchenette that does the best savory breakfasts. Possibly the best sweet breakfasts, too, but I love them for things like biscuits and eggs and home fries. On weekday mornings, you can get the "Kitchenette Special" for $7.50: biscuit, bacon, two eggs, cheese, and coffee. (This is a steal in Manhattan.) My biscuits might not be quite as good as theirs, but we had heavy cream and I decided I would whip up a very easy biscuit recipe (five ingredients, less than 20 minutes!) and have Kitchenette Specials for dinner.

Kitchenette SpecialCollapse ) prefer fried, so I made some of both. If you want your cheese to be extra melty, you can scramble it in with your eggs, or place some strips of bacon on top of the frying egg before laying a slice of cheese on top.

4. Split open the biscuits, and serve the finished eggs (and cheese and bacon) onto one half of the biscuit. Cover with the other half for a sandwich or distribute across both biscuit halves to eat open-faced or with fork and knife.</div>

I suppose we could also count it as working towards creating something that I spent part of last night watching a punk rock band documentary and thinking about how I want to write a Romantic poets rock band AU...
This entry was originally posted at http://readingredhead.dreamwidth.org/287927.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

National Create Something Month

Fear for Courage
Maybe it's not the best idea to take up my friend's challenge to create something every day of this month when it's the month during which I have to write a paper, give a lecture, and have family visiting for a week and a half...but I've been frustrated lately that I spend so much time doing things and so little time making things, and I need to set aside time for this, for MY sake. I also need to remember that a lot of what I do really is about making things, and this will actually force me to look at what I do on a daily basis as working towards things I am making in the long-run.

I'm planning to take the "something" in the title rather vaguely -- which means that, for the next 31 days, you'll get updates about everything from school stuff (I have a paper to write and a lecture to give in the next month, not to mention research for another paper to start in on, and a syllabus to plan, and a conference to start thinking about) to kitchen stuff (I've recently become a lot more invested in cooking, so possibly some of my creative things will be recipes or meal plans!) to fandom stuff (I know it's been ages since I have been active in Young Wizards fandom, and that frustrates me and so maybe I will work to change that) to actually Making Things With My Hands (probably via knitting, but who knows?).

I'll use this as a masterpost throughout the month to keep track of the "things" I'm working on, but I'll also be posting what I've accomplished at the end of each day, one post per day, to this journal. My first post will show up later tonight.

Anyone else in this with me?

Things by day:

Day 1: Breakfast for dinner (+ biscuit recipe)
Day 2: Seminar paper planning
Day 3: ---
Day 4: Secondary source report
Day 5: Interiority as social media in the works of Jane Austen
Day 6: Two types of cookies (+ recipes)
Day 7: Sausage, kale, red onion, and ricotta pizza (+ recipe)
Day 8: ---
Day 9: ---
Day 10: Raspberry ricotta scones (+ recipe)
Day 11: Beef stew and rosemary rolls (+ recipes)
Day 12: ---
Day 13: Worked on Persuasion lecture
Day 14: Delivered Persuasion lecture
Day 15: Blackberry gin fizz (+ recipe)
Day 16: Lemon ricotta pancakes (+ recipe)
Day 17: Some meta on "making" & chocolate brioche pretzel rolls (+ recipe)
Day 18: Jane Austen English Department AU & seminar paper planning

Things by topic:

Food: 1, 6, 7, 10, 11, 15, 16, 17

Seminar Paper: 2, 18

Other school assignments: 4, 13, 14

Unassigned academic work: 5

Meta: 17

Fiction: 18

This entry was originally posted at http://readingredhead.dreamwidth.org/287692.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Holiday cooking and baking

Grin
A round-up post of sorts, dedicated entirely to all of the awesome things that [personal profile] pedantic_wretch and I have cooked and baked over the course of the past month, give or take.

Gingerbread Scones - Goes without saying that these are amazingly delicious, but they're also surprisingly not that hard to make. I have made many a batch in the past year-ish. Most recently, a batch traveled with me and my housemates to the midnight showing of the first part of The Hobbit.

Almond Horns - I actually baked these with my mom, who loves them as much as if not more than I do! I tried my first almond horn at the Hungarian Pastry Shop, literally two blocks from my apartment, and so I never bake them when I'm in NYC because they can be a bit messy and time-consuming, but Mom LOVES them and doesn't live here. We omit the dipped-in-chocolate step.

Beef Stew - This is one of my favorite things to make, especially in winter, and it freezes/reheats really well, which is a must for a grad student. I don't really use this recipe anymore, I've managed to change it and make it my own, but I'm lazy and don't want to actually write up all the modifications...maybe the next time I make it, I'll keep track!

Nantucket Cranberry Pie - Don't let the title fool you on this one, it's more like a thick-topped crumble. Pile cranberries, chopped pecans, and a lot of sugar in a pie pan, then whip up a deliciously almond-y batter that bakes on top of the cranberries. So easy, so ridiculously delicious.

Roasted Vegetable Minestrone - I modified this recipe a bit since [Unknown LJ tag] isn't a huge squash fan, so we only used one large zucchini and roasted two red bell peppers instead of yellow squash. We also added more green beans than it calls for, a bit more pasta, and at least 1C less broth (I like soups to be very chunky). But by and far the best call was using Trader Joe's fire roasted tomatoes with green chiles instead of regular diced tomatoes -- added a really great kick of flavor and turned this into perfect sick food, all the vitamins in the veggies PLUS it clears out your sinuses a bit!

Bretzel Rolls - Are they bread? Are they pretzels? Who cares, they're delicious! Especially with some of Trader Joe's sweet and spicy mustard...mmm!

Pancetta, White Bean, and Swiss Chard Pot Pies - Oh my god, these are the BEST THINGS EVER. Made them at home, considering buying ramekins for Avengers Tower so we can make them here too. I was skeptical at first about making my own pastry dough to top the pot pies but it turned out to be pretty manageable, provided you have a pastry blender.

Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Galette - The dish that taught me I loved butternut squash. I only wish it hadn't taken so long for me to figure that out!

The previous two recipes are both in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, which Avengers Tower owns and which I bought as a Christmas present for my parents. Made a couple of other recipes from there that aren't online, but which I will post titles of to tantalize you into buying it:

Gooey Cinnamon Squares - Think snickerdoodle meets cake meets cookie bar FROM HEAVEN. Felt a bit labor-intensive, but then, I made them without a stand mixer.

Buttered Popcorn Cookies - Yes, these are cookies that include popped popcorn. Perfect combo of salty and sweet, not time- or labor- intensive.

Rosemary Gruyere and Sea Salt Crisps - Basically a much classier version of Cheez-its, without the weird orange coloring that suggests they must be bad for you. I'm not much for gruyere but found that these work equally well with cheddar (sharp gives a better flavor, mild gives a better texture). The first batch I made was mostly consumed before they could even cool down -- and it's not like the batches are small!

So as you may or may not have noticed from all of this, I've turned into something of a cook! I mean, mostly as procrastination or relaxation, but I do love good food and I'm starting to believe that it's a thing I can actually make for myself. It helps that both the housemates enjoy it as much as I do! I always have willing sous-chefs or taste-testers. 
This entry was originally posted at http://readingredhead.dreamwidth.org/287354.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

Nov. 10th, 2012

Write
 So apparently I'm now writing a novel about a werewolf and his friends trapped inside by a hurricane during the full moon, when aforesaid werewolf has left his anti-wolf meds at home.

Well then. That makes things interesting.
This entry was originally posted at http://readingredhead.dreamwidth.org/286329.html. Please comment there using OpenID.

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