Friday, December 09, 2005

The Struggle for Words When you have a Mouth Full.

Home is where the Books are.

In the last month I have begun working on my PhD thesis proper. For a year before this I had been reading the 'course literature'. Reading is something I am good at as I have been trained in it since I was a young child. To read long and deep, to read vivaciously, to read is never wrong. I was never denied a book when I was growing up, and I grew up in a house with thousands of books. This probably rings true for many and I am not saying it is a bad thing. Reading is good, but how you read is an important consideration.
Just now I am struggling to find my voice in the writing of thesis work. For the whole of my education I have been taking in and regurgitate the arguments and observances of others. I swim in the warm waters of sparkling words and adroit phrases. The mental gymnastics of French poststructuralism is something I actually enjoy (sad isn't it). I am a glutton of the reading world. But I have never really paused in my reading and begun thinking reflectively and critically, really divorcing myself from the avalanche of beautiful books and make my own word space in reaction to my reading. Although I do write from myself (poetry, stories) this is an easy recourse to an imagination that has been with me since childhood (like reading)and would have been so even without reading but perhaps expressed differently.
In a sense this reader spectrum is the difference between what could be described as active and passive reading. The active reader may read only one book a month (or even parts of books) but it is digested and sustains the mental life of that person for the whole time, the book is pondered on and recalled (perhaps read several times), and is recycled in thought and action. The passive reader can read several whole books a week, reading fast and even deeply but spend little time in the worlds of each book and have largely forgotten the book 5 or 10 books later. Both readers are reading but it is done differently. Neither is 'better' than the other, just different. Where I am at just now requires me to stop so much reading and start building with words my own "world of discourse" (there's that bloody poststructuralism) and just to make it that more difficult, it has to be based around the story worlds of other authors. So, as my supervisor says, focus, calm down, and build up your argument using simple terms of your own IN YOUR OWN WORDS. This last one, 'in your own words' is what really stumps me. Really trying to think for oneself is very very difficult, trying to describe it in a clear and concise manner is even harder. I think I have to stop reading and start thinking.

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