Life as an Extreme Sport

Said and Burton

Edward Said spends the second chapter of Orientalism talking about the history of orientalism, if you will. He starts with Sacy and Lane, and from those two move forward in chronological order, briefly addressing some of the most influential writers of that period. Chauteaubriand, Nerval, Flaubert, and Burton are all mentioned (in basically that order). Said draws some interesting distinctions, noting that the British writers tend to follow Lane in being very dry, academic, and empirically scientific when discussing the Orient, while the French are much more romantic (as well as Romantic), preferring instead to move within a narrative framework of the dream of the Orient.

Said concludes this walk thru the process and progress of Orientalist thought by ending with Burton, a man he claims walked a line between Orient and Occident, understanding the Orient while still retaining the power of the Occident. What I find interesting, though, is how Said treats Burton. Specifically, Said doesn’t focus on the extensive research Burton did on homosexuality in the Orient (especially India), his translations of the Kama Sutra and The Perfumed Garden, that the annotations to the Kama Sutra were considered pornographic for their time, or that Burton’s widow burned a new translation of The Perfumed Garden (renamed The Scented Garden), as well as 40 years of diaries and journals, because she didn’t want the world to know of Burton’s fascination with bizarre sexual practices and perversions (fearing people would label him as such).

For someone who’d just spent some large chunk of book discussing how the Occident eroticizes the Orient, and particularly taking Flaubert to task for it, it seems odd that Burton’s own fascination with the Orient and all aspects of sex is so completely ignored.

Hell Days

Wednesday was Not Good. No motivation, no desire, a really bad conversation with a former instructor – and then Kanna and Phillip pulled me right out of it (they’re so my shining knights). From there, Craig and I went to see Mirrormask, which I have decided was a very simple story highlighted by sharp writing, and a beautifully magical set. I came home, curled up with some Foucault and Pratt, and was in bed at a decent hour.

This morning, I feel relaxed and energetic. I’m confident about my 390 small group for the first time this quarter. I’ve found my personal hook into the material. While this week is on Orientalism, John asked that we focus today on the power/knowledge discourse that Said borrows from Foucault. Adam is going to talk about the EU and Turkey, Matt wants to talk about knowing literary texts, and me? I am going to talk about the power dynamics of a classroom, what it means to have knowledge, and things like that. Exactly what’s been on my mind this quarter, and off/on since I started this whole pseudo-teaching thing. I need to pull some quotes from Said and Foucault and make photo copies of the Pratt, in case anyone wants the article, but I’m feeling very confident for today. I have a small activity planned and everything.

It feels nice to have found my legs.

Drop Desire

I woke up this morning with the profound urge to drop the class I’ve yet to really mention this quarter, my medical history course. It’s not that it’s a bad class, it’s that I’ve not been the last two sessions, I’m not terribly fascinated by the material, and I’ve been running myself a bit ragged trying to keep up with everything.

First step – open MyUW and see what my degree audit says. Crap. If I drop the class, I’m one fucking credit shy of the minor (including the class I’m planning on taking next quarter), and they are not a flexible department. Problem the second – Lab Medicines has placed a hold on my transcript. The hell? Great, insurance screwed up again and it’s going to cost me money to get it fixed in time for registration.

Are we certain today isn’t a Monday? It’s really feeling like a Monday…


Up early today. I fell asleep before 9pm last night, just physically drained and exhausted. The 390 focus group went much better last night, using pop culture “props” to drive conversation. I’m strongly resisting the urge to make lesson plans and powerpoints, because I don’t want to (nor should I) be the teacher for that class. But, having things to make conversation go is nice. Bride and Prejudice is a wonderfully over-the-top way to illustrate Orientalism, too.

But, true to form, I crashed off the feeling good by the time I was halfway home. I hadn’t eaten lunch, so stopped to get dinner, and it was just downhill from there. I knocked together the very barest annotated bibliography, (which I will hopefully be able to flesh out some before class today. I also need to print copies of the papers for today’s thesis class, as well as reread an article for 390. …see, there was a reason I set the alarm for 4, even if I didn’t actually get out of bed until 5am), and then crawled into bed with a book, read for about 10 minutes, closed my eyes and gave up the fight.

But I like being up at this time of day, even if it’s so difficult for me to actually get out of bed in that initial instant. There’s something ever so serene and peaceful about the world, as it’s just me and a few other souls moving. I have just a few lights on, and (freshly showered and dressed) am sitting in the middle of my ever so comfortable new bed, listening to variations of Om Mani Padme Hum being sung over the stereo. The repetitive chanting, the peace and quiet of morning, the slight tinge of saltwater on the breeze – if only I could capture this feeling and always carry it with me. Right now, the world is busy and crowded and chaotic, but in a good way; it’s a way that energizes me and keeps me moving. I have the faith in myself that it will all be done and done well… if only that hung around with me until the end of the day!


I’ve discovered the oddest thing – if I read something complex aloud, I’ll have a much better chance of understanding it. I think it has to do with levels of engagement; I have to put more of myself into something if I’m reading it as well as listening to myself, and it activates different areas of the brain. It makes sense, since I’ve always learned well via lecture.

The end result of that discovery is that I was able to engage with the intimidating paper on a level that I’m happy with; I found structural issues to comment on, and did so in a manner that doesn’t have me looking like a simpleton. But man, after looking through all the papers I’ve graded this week, lemme just reinforce what a good thing it is I don’t use red ink. (Back when I was first starting this whole teaching venture, a good friend’s mother gave me one piece of advice that she felt was invaluable: knowing how chatty I am in commentary, do not under any circumstances grade in red ink. The papers would be handed back looking like they’re dripping blood, and that’s just not friendly. So now, people get grapes back…)

Beyond getting all my papers graded, I refreshed on the reading (although not as well as I would have liked; Taylor is complicated, and few people seemed to understand him – presenting myself in a light of having fully understood feels like cheating), and got “omgrough” draft of my grant application finished. I’m already thinking about how to change it, so it will be a long day of editing in gap times. I’m still not certain I can actually finish it in time for the deadline, but I’m going to try – if nothing else for the practice. There’s another round of funding in January if I really blow it this time, so it’s not a dreadful level of pressure (although getting funded now would certainly be better than then). I mostly just want to perform well so that I can get a “good” out of Phillip – the things I’ll push myself to do (like only getting 3 hours of sleep) for a little ego stroking.

At least I know what motivates me.