"I am a Minnesotan by birth and a traveler in wild places by vocation and compulsion." -Paul Gruchow

Sunday, January 8, 2012

State of Mind: Linguistic Ecology and its Implications

There's a moment that usually happens on the Sunday before a semester starts, where stress and worry turns into excitement for the semester to begin. Today it's happening in that space between my migraine existing and starting to go away. The weather is changing around here--they're forecasting flurries or some such nonsense--and that almost always gives me a headache. Add to that two late nights of short sleep with weird dreams and I just want to curl into a ball and wait for all that pain to go away. So, today has been a cocktail of Excedrin, Advil, tea, rice bags, and every other remedy I know to relax my muscles. Of course, there's no cure for the weather.

Now that my headache has started to go away, the stress of tomorrow leading to excitement, I'm really excited to teach my Natural Disasters 150 and my Irish 252. I hope I can interest my students and teach them to think about the world just a little bit differently. I have my box of books ready to go to the office tomorrow, and my bag will be packed tonight. One of the greatest things about teaching college is that the first day of school happens twice a year (of course, this is also a drawback...)

Here's the greatest part of the day: I've been stressing about what to do to propose for the IASIL Conference this summer (International Association for the Study of Irish Literature), the kind of stress that leads to this delightful headache. But yesterday, it all popped clear for me. I've been working for a while to create this space where environmental ideas and creative writing and literature can come together and it occurs to me that the ideas of linguistic ecology that I explored with my recent paper on the Irish essayist Tim Robinson (recently published in New Hibernia Review!) is something that I would like to keep working on. So, what if I continued that idea and kept trying to apply it to other pieces of contemporary Irish literature, and see where it leads me?

My current idea, which is in the fiddling-with-language stage of the proposal process, is to take Joseph O'Connor's Star of the Sea and filter it through my linguistic ecology to see what the choices he made as a creative writer have done to effect a particular ecological perspective. What interests me most right now is not just the sentence-level awesomeness that I love to do, but I also want to examine the physical form that the narrative takes as well. This is a very interesting book, craft-wise. It's written as a book within a book, with very interesting character/voice/POV movement, that uses different forms to move the narrative forward (footnotes, letters, newspaper accounts, etc.). The prospect is extremely exciting, only some of which is relief at filling the Void of No Idea.

And then, I enter the realm that has become familiar territory for me: nobody else does this kind of creative writing/linguistic ecology thingy, to my knowledge. If I take my Tim Robinson essay, add to it my impending essay on O'Connor, write a couple more (especially given my also-impending Focus List on Irish environmental prose), I could have a book before too long. That would be excellent, a larger project, something to work towards, rather than random essays here and there. And because I also always do this, I wonder what it would be like to teach a class on the subject? Hm. Might keep that in mind for my focus portfolio, the syllabi that are required as a part of it, and hmmmmm. The possibilities are endless. So many classes, so little time--time to focus on the ones I'm actually teaching!

Bring on the new semester!

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