Category Archives: research

This Is Nothing New…

Tonight, as I was talking to my professor, completely exuberant about my topic, another classmate asked how I have had time to learn so much about Chaucer in these weeks. I didn’t get it at first. But then it dawned on me. People assume this is a recent development because I have only now started openly speaking about it.
I have had this fascination with Chaucer for almost fifteen years. I have written half a dozen papers, and even long after I finished school the first time, I perused this interest independently. I have only recently opened up about it for several reasons. The first of which was my assumption that no one would ever be interested in it, so it would be best to keep it to myself. I remember a few years ago, as I was driving out to a cafe in Hollywood with Sean and Ashlyn, I was reciting Chaucer to them off the top of my head, and they thought it was quite interesting. But I could not imagine anyone outside of academia ever wanting to hear about this. So I never spoke about it. I most certainly didn’t blog about it. I just buried it, using it as something to fill my time in the middle of the night when I could not sleep.
Then I went back to school. But Chaucer isn’t exactly the most popular topic there either. So I focused on other things. Until a project came up for which I could not think of any other topic. It was perfect! I could finally put all of my research to good use! Yet in doing so it came back to what it originally was. I had a legitimate reason to conduct my research in the light of day, and actually feel as if I was doing something worthwhile with it. So of course I got excited again. I went to my parents’s house and unearthed the many boxes of books I had kept in my old closet. I looked over all of my old papers, and revisited the original sources. I remembered all of the things I had learned which I enfolded in the crevices of my memory, believing it was all too antiquated (600 year old manuscripts are hardly ever a hot topic in any situation).
But now that it has all come back, I have no intention of putting it away again.

Who Did You Ask?

I am currently writing a paper on the enregisterment of Internet language as deviating from Standard English, creating its own dialect, and even perhaps a pidgin. I am very excited about how it turned out, and I found some great research on the topic. But I also found a lot of biased research, and I am curious how no one figured out the faulty assumption under which they were operating.
A lot of the research of how texting and social networking has affected the written word nationwide was based on self analysis on the part of the researchers. The researchers are well educated people who typically speak and write in complete sentences. Does anyone see a problem here? It was no surprise that they found little to no problems when analyzing their own texts. For instance, Lauren Squires wrote an amazing article, “Enregistering Internet Language.” However, she bases a large part of her conclusion on her analysis of her own IM conversations. I can only assume that someone who writes as well as she does is not engaging in sub par language use.
For example, in my informal speech such as texts, or chat conversations, I tend to speak in complete sentences. I am aware I use ellipses a lot, but even in between all the dots I form coherent thoughts. For those of you who know me, you are aware that I end most texts with “…” This does not mean anything is to follow. No, I have ended the sentence there. I just, for whatever reason, trail off with a series of dots instead of a period. I also use “…” instead of commas. Again, for no particular reason. I like to think that that is my way of mimicking actual speech in which my voice slightly trails off as opposed to an abrupt stop. Who knows.
Regardless, I do not abbreviate words unnecessarily, do not use “u” instead of “you,” and I most certainly do not combine numbers and letters as if playing bingo with someone over the phone. However, other people do just that. So, if I were to conduct some sort of research on texting trends, I would in no way assume that analyzing my own would be indicative of the population at large.
In fact, one of my friends who teaches English constantly complains of how his students continuously insert these lovely texting habits into formal papers. He was tempted to fail a student just last semester (quarter?) for writing “u,” “b4” and other such nonsense into her final paper.
So when all these articles are telling me that the Internet and texting has not overall changed the way in which people communicate, I am a little suspicious. Especially when the researchers are telling me their sample group is themselves and ten of their closest friends, who also just happen to be well educated and coherent speakers of the English language. Hrm… 

I Remember

It has always been about Chaucer. But somehow I forgot. He was the reason I majored in English. I knew I would since I had first read him in ninth grade. He was the reason I went to grad school. But I forgot that too.
My personal statement for grad school was a revised version of my undergrad one that basically read “I want to go to your school because I want to take your amazing Chaucer courses. And I am totally willing to do all that math and science stuff beforehand if that is what it takes.” It worked.
And as soon as I was able to take my upper division English classes, Chaucer was the first one I signed up for. And then I took another. And another. Along with a few seminars for good measure.
I remember I had one Chaucer final on my birthday. Best present ever!
And then somehow I forgot. I went back to school, but apparently Chaucer isn’t important anymore, and no one teaches him in grad school. So I put him away. But I couldn’t stay away. I had to finagle him into something. Because I am resourceful. And a little obsessed. But mainly resourceful.
I started looking through all of my Chaucer papers, and notes, and I realized how much I enjoy this. How much time I wish I could spend on this. How much I want to dedicate to this.
A few weeks ago as I was talking to someone about the doctorate program he asked me what I want to specialize in. I didn’t really know. I knew it would be early literature. But there was nothing in particular standing out. I guess “all of it” isn’t an answer to that question. The two authors that immediately came to mind were Donne and Marvell because I wouldn’t mind. And they have always been my default. But really? I wouldn’t mind? That sounds like a terrible reason to dedicate your life to something. Because I wouldn’t mind. That is how bad marriages start. I mean, I guess it is not as bad as specializing in Gibson or… dare I say Meyer. (Is this is a thing now? If so, it really needs to stop). And I am sure I would have done it. And enjoyed it. But I wanted something more than “I wouldn’t mind.”
I know I forgot. But now I remember. And it feels so good to be this excited again. For the past year my love of literature has nearly been beaten out of me, and replaced by motions. But as I sit here playing around with ridiculous amounts of obscure research I feel a happiness I haven’t felt in a long time. Oh… so this is what it has all been leading up to. That moment, in the middle of the night, when you realize what you are going to do with the rest of your life.