Wednesday, September 21, 2005

This post is about sex!

Not really. Only in so far as everything in Freud is about sex.

Okay, so I'm getting ready to write a paper about Freud and dream analysis and theory, and I thought I would do a little thinking out loud, as it were. Or weren't.

So, here is how dreams work, in a nutshell.

First, there are three levels of the mind. Later, Freud will come to call them the id, the ego, and the super-ego, but in The Interpretation of Dreams (1900), he hasn't invented that terminology yet. So we get a Conscious (Cs.), a Preconscious (Pcs.), and an Unconscious (Ucs.). The Ucs. (id) is basically a primal, wish-driven want machine. Most of these wishes are sexual and formed in infancy. These wishes have been repressed because they're inappropriate—this is the classic "sleep with your mother/kill your father" issue that everybody knows about. Or other terrible things that you want to do and think are inappropriate also end up here, although I'm not sure how that relates to infant sexual fantasies. Doesn't matter. What we need to know: Ucs. = "bad," powerful wishes.

So all that sort of hangs out in your Ucs., but because it's unconscious, you don't know about it, and what's more, you can't know about it. The Ucs. has no way to access the Cs. directly and let you know that you're having these issues, because you've repressed them so efficiently. Go super-ego. So this is where the Pcs. comes in. The Pcs. is basically there to keep you from exploding from these unconscious desires—I haven't found this directly in the text, but I get the impression that if your Pcs. goes haywire, you have a psychotic break and open fire. So. Your Pcs. takes random crap that your Cs. has noticed throughout the day—say, that there's a long hallway lined with blue chairs in the IMU (student center), and essentially allows the Ucs. to cathect (cathect: imbue with cathexis, which is wish-energy) the image. This is a compromise that allows dreams to work. Because you're horrified of your unconscious wishes, you can't be allowed to experience them directly. However, they can't go unexperienced, either. So the Pcs. and the Ucs. work together to express them, but to sort of...hide that expression from you. This process is called overdetermination, and it's why you'll dream of something completely benign and wake up sweating and terrified. Like my hallway above. I know it's absolutely harmless—it leads from the information desk into a ballroom. However, in the dream I had a few nights ago, I was deadly certain that I didn't want to go down the hallway because there was something bad at the other end and I would be in the wrong place if I did.

However, that's not all overdetermination does. Overdetermination also imbues things with about a zillion meanings, because remember, your brain is trying to protect you from that really baaad thing that you're wishing. So if there are multiple meanings, it's going to be harder for you to be hurt by that wish. So my hallway is like, my wish to have attended a different school, my desire to kiss the German guy, and my latent desire to kill my parents for having another child, or something. I don't know. You can't really analyze your own dreams, because you can't remember them (that's repression again!) and really you're just incapable of accessing what your Ucs. is trying to tell you.

So now the question is, how do we apply this to literature? According to Freud, the way you know when you're on the right track as an analyst is when the patient reacts to what you've proposed as an analysis. Of course, literature can't really "react," per se. When was the last time you saw the letters of your page rearrange themselves to spell "Damn, you're brilliant!"? (Last week, hm. Were you high? As a kite, yes, I see.) So we have to see if a psychoanalysis of text makes the text "resonate." Does a psychoanalytic reading open up more questions? Does it lead us to a deeper understanding of the unconscious intentions of either the text or its author?

Okay, I think I've got the basic points of this down, so I'm off to see what I can do with Reverend Dimmsdale's cathexis. (Oooh, dirty!)

Monday, September 19, 2005

Point of Etiquette

Okay, is there a way to compliment your professors without sounding really marginal? Because I have two professors who wear just outstandingly excellent shoes, and since I'm a firm believer in positive feedback, I'd like to mention my approval. I just haven't figured out how. "Dr. L.,* can I discuss this grade with you? Also, nice shoes. Really top notch."

And since it's grad school, let's "complicate" and "trouble" the question by examining the fact that one professor is male and one is female. Does this create two protocols? How does the gender of the complimenter factor in? What if I tell you that one of the classes is pass/fail and one is not? That one of the professors is a medievalist and one a writer? That I'm really just procrastinating reading my theory right now?

*I don't actually call my professors "doctor." They go by first names with graduate students.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Erin's Recipes for People Who Can't Cook: Beef Stroganoff

1 lb. ground beef
1 med. onion
1/2 tsp. pepper
2 tbsp. flour
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
8 oz. canned mushrooms
1 can (10 1/2 oz.) cream of mushroom soup
8 oz. light sour cream
2/3 bag egg noodles (wide)

Chop up onion. There are varying theories about how you can do this without making your eyes water, but forget it. Spoon in your mouth, chewing gum, pinching yourself, whatever. You're going to tear up. Chop quickly, that's my advice. Toss onion and ground beef into pan to brown; lightly pepper. Crumble meat as it cooks. Put water on to boil for egg noodles.

Once meat is browned, drain. Then add garlic salt, flour, mushrooms, and more pepper. Stir and cook one minute. Put noodles in water pot to cook (5-7 minutes). Add mushroom soup to meat mixture. Stir and heat on medium for 10 minutes. Add sour cream, heat through. Drain noodles; mix in a little pat of butter to keep them from sticking. Serve gravy on top of noodles; attempt to keep cat from licking plate before you are finished.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The mish-mash. The MONSTER mish-mash!

Don't date midgets, boys
There are three German guys that ride the bus at the same time I do on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I love them. They're hilarious, not only because they're cute and European, but because they have no idea that I can understand everything they're saying to each other, including their commentary about the mysterious Amy, who's cute if you go for small women, apparently. Evidently these guys are in some sort of business program at UI, and they like football, especially the Pittsburgh Stars. (I know. So cute.) I'm trying to figure out a good German line with which to strike up a conversation some day and make them wonder if they've said anything untoward the past few weeks.

Sugar shock in three, two, and convulse
I've said it before, but sometimes Iowa City is just entirely too cute for its own good. I went to the weekly farmer's market tonight and bought an onion from a Mennonite or an Amish woman or whoever it is that lives in Kalona and wears a bonnet and grows vegetables. I also got some zucchini and a long discourse on the various varieties of garlic. I didn't know garlic came in varieties other than "bulb" and "granulated." Anyway, there were children playing soccer with their parents in the adjacent park, lots of free samples, and generally pleasant expressions on the faces of every person I saw. It was like the most wholesome thing I've ever experienced.

My Intro to Grad prof wears headphones all the time and I think it's kind of weird
Top ten songs on the playlist lately:
1. Ryan Adams - La Cienega Just Smiled
2. Dave Matthews - Some Devil
3. Michel Buble - Fever
4. K.D. Lang - Helpless
5. Green Day - American Idiot
6. Counting Crows - I Wish I Was a Girl
7. Melissa Ferrick - I Still Love You
8. Weezer - Beverly Hills
9. Sara Bareilles - Fairytale
10. Antony and the Johnsons - For Today I Am a Boy

Hm. Seems to be some gender confusion and self-loathing in there. Honestly, my life is way more upbeat than this list suggests.

I think this is actually how most academics structure their careers
It's kind of hilarious when you find yourself structing your entire reading of a text around one person who really just irritates the crap out of you.

There's a guy in my Chaucer class who I absolutely can't stand (because he's an arrogant idiot—an all-star, if you will—who dominates the conversation and is incapable of keeping his shoes on gross put your damn sandals on and shut up right now), and I spend a lot of time thinking about things to say that will refute whatever he's just said. Generally it doesn't even have to be something I believe. As long as it's contrary and defensible, it's a go. Amusingly enough, the entire rest of the class does the same, as far as I can tell.

I don't know if that's really the best way to go about evaluating texts critically, but if you can make the theory work and smack someone down at the same's a beautiful thing, man.

Oh, and can I just say one more thing, chief? I hate people who insist on taking notes on their damn laptops. What do you think you are, a 1L? No. We're English graduate students. We are humble. We use a pen and paper, and we don't distract everybody in the classroom with our tappy tappy and our power cords and bite me you pretentious all-star. You're lucky that's not an Apple you're typing on, or I'd stab you in the eye with my super uncool yet totally unoffensive ball-point. Seriously. Why are you taking notes on a computer? There's NO GOOD REASON. You're just trying to show us all how "with it" and "smart" you are,but mostly you're showing us that you're totally out of touch with your actual major, which is entirely composed of PAPER AND THE INK THAT IS ON THAT PAPER. If you want to work with computers and typing, go hang around with the computer science people, who will immediately laugh you out of town. Put the computer away. And put your shoes on, right now. You're wrong about The Knight's Tale, too.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Interesting facts I have learned in class so far

Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales, was accused of rape in 1380. This is weird, given his generally empowering view of the female gender.

"Satyagraha," Gandhi's program of passive resistance, actually means "truth-force," and is, like most foreign words in my South Asian Lit class, impossible to pronounce. (Suh-tee-gruh, with the last "ha" part kind of swallowed.)

A literary journal may be considered successful if its circulation hits 2,000. By comparison, The New Yorker has a circulation of over 500,000, and Sports Illustrated of over 2,000,000.

Hindi, one of the national languages of India, and Urdu, the national language of Pakistan, are essentially the same language. They just use different writing systems.

Nietzsche was not an anti-Semite, or at least not one of particular vehemence. After he died, his crazy anti-Semitic sister edited all his manuscripts to fit her agenda. Also interesting: Nietzsche went insane ten years before he died. It was either syphillis or a tumor. Sadly, this does not explain his extremely weird writings.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Everybody says cut my hair

I have a new hairstyle.

It's nothing drastic—if you saw me right now, you might not even notice. I've got the new swoopy bangs that are all the rage with the kids right now. Mine swoop to the left and are aaaaalmost long enough to tuck behind my ear.

Anyway, having the new bangs is not so terribly interesting (unless you're like me and you CANNOT stop playing with your hair, ever). What is interesting is how I got them. I actually let my sister cut my hair.

You have to understand the magnitude of this event. For an adult woman, I am entirely too attached to my hair. I've lost all perspective. I feel intensely uncomfortable letting licensed professionals touch my hair because once I figure out what works with a certain cut, I don't want to have to figure it out again. That's the reason my hair is as long as it is: stylists can't mess it up (and neither can I). So allowing E4, who is neither a licensed professional nor even a high school graduate, to touch my hair was an act of total trust. Or total unwillingness to pay for a real haircut.

The thing is, though, that E4 has very cute swoopy bangs. And then the other sister (Juliette Lewis!) got them—and, in a Single White Female twist, hair color the same as E4's. Since their hair is roughly the same texture and curliness as mine, I wanted them too, and the girls assured me that they were very easy to create.

So tonight I sat on the toilet lid in front of E4 and asked her four times if she was sure that she knew what she was doing.

"Have you done this before?"
"Yeah, no problem."
"To whom?"

This was not reassuring, or even comprehensible. But the parting, the measuring, and the snipping proceeded, and now I have adorable bangs hanging in my face and irritating my mother, and I look even more like my sisters. And every time they look at me, they can see my bangs and know that I love them. Or that I'm very cheap. Either way.