I’m hoping I’m not going to make too many of my brain-wires short out, but I’ve posted a general synopsis of what I’ll be presenting at this year’s SpARC (Spring Annual Research Conference) on my DDF blog, and would like to tack on a few related (personal) reflections on this site. It’s like my e-Portfolio is trying really hard not to have an identity crisis. Anyway, I feel like the site-to-site transition has been fairly smooth, if not as consistently, dually updated as I’d like. Basically, I figured I’d talk about my ~professional~ SpARC presentation for this year over there; on this site, how I came to my thesis topic from last year, and its consequent presentation at the conference. Sometimes I just have to work out my Internet Organizational Process to the possible detriment of my e-Portfolio. Eh.
(Warning: Majorly Non-Linear Thought Ahead:)
So, SpARC is held this year on April 28. Around that time last year, I presented my undergraduate thesis in French, which was, alternately, a terrifying and surprisingly successful venture. Now that the call for abstracts is out, I got to thinking about that experience, and where I was at the time in terms of my feelings about my research. So while keeping a tab open for the SpARC deadline (aka, consciously avoiding the word deadline), I added Patti Smith’s Horses to my Grooveshark playlist. Yes, it’s a fantastic record, but it also got me through my first month of my year abroad in France. At the risk of this post sounding like the beginnings of a #FirstWorldProblem, I had quite the healthy case of homesickness upon arriving in Rennes. Even though I am not usually prone to pining after my hometown of Tampa, I was so out of my element (plus severely jet-lagged, and stupidly dehydrated), it was all I could do not to hurl myself in front of the métro train for the love of my then-distant country. I have always been a very spirited individual. Anyway, I dragged my near-hysterical self up to my new dorm:
and, after some now-hilarious linguistic challenges with the campus authorities from Université de Rennes II (hindsight is really great), Horses came on my iPod. I must have listened to that album 30 times that day, in between staring at my unpacked luggage and thinking about how scared I was to even go out to buy the toothpaste that, of course, I’d forgotten at home.
After the 31st listen: I was ready to buy some dentifrice.
After the 100th: I had very clean teeth, unpacked suitcases, and a renewed vigor for the French city that had attempted (prior to the 90th listen) to cow me into submission. Take that, Rennes.
So I’m listening to Horses right now, specifically “Break it Up,” for one of the first times since I’ve returned from Rennes. Aside from my year in France feeling like forever ago, the open SpARC tab got me thinking about how I decided on my thesis topic, and its English-version presentation at the conference last year. I read Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer for the first time while on a train to Paris to attend a friend’s wine tasting. While plenty of people are put off by the author’s language and Cancer‘s explicit content, I found myself intrigued and eager to read Tropic of Capricorn, found at Shakespeare and Co. and eventually read in entirety while on a train to visit an Agnes Scott friend in Besançon. I’m not going to summarize Cancer for you, for this site’s purposes I will say that it became the focal point of my undergraduate thesis. And, as such, allowed me to jabber at length about what I feel to be one of those most provocative, important works of expatriate literature around. In case you’re wondering, it’s way easier to jabber in English than French, so jabber I did:
It went alarmingly well.
I say ‘alarmingly’ because I was not expecting the 15 people who showed up to be there, nor for them to ask me questions about my research, nor to feel as confident as I did about that research, on the thesis I’d grown to love(/hate). It was an excellent test run for my thesis presentation in French to the captive audience in my Senior Seminar a week later. This is why I so adamantly encourage people to present at SpARC as undergraduates, not only to get comfortable speaking in front of relative strangers, but as a chance to talk about what you love, sans interruption (unless you go over your allotted time slot). SpARC 2010 was just about the last time I was able to talk at length about this particular strain of literature I love — well, unless I end up toiling away at it again, at whichever graduate department cares to let me toil away at it again.
So, the main points: Horses is still great, Tropic of Cancer is still one of my favorite books, writing a thesis in French is really hard, presenting at a conference is scary (but worth it!), and above all, I miss being in school.