Organizing Your Writing Projects: A Review of Scrivener

By: Shawn Gonzalez

If you’re looking for a practical holiday gift for the dissertation-writer in your life (or yourself), consider the word processing software Scrivener. Scrivener is designed for drafting large, complex projects that involve frequent revision and rearranging. It differs from other word processors by allowing the writer to easily move between the note-taking, planning, and drafting stages of a project.

Most word processors offer a single way of looking at a project: sequentially, from start to finish. However, Scrivener allows writers to compile a variety of documents related to a single project and look at those documents from different perspectives. In Scrivener, you can easily shift between notes, outlines, draft sections, and comments within a single window. The program also offers a variety of split-screen options that are particularly useful to writers working on smaller computer screens.

I would particularly recommend Scrivener to students just beginning the first draft of a dissertation. The ability to compile all of your research and notes in a single location is especially helpful when trying to figure out where to start. My one caution would be to avoid doing a lot of formatting in Scrivener, because elements like footnotes sometimes transfer poorly when you export your completed document to another program.

Scrivener offers an extended free trial, and then costs $40 to download. It is available for Mac and Windows.

Vicente L. Rafael’s Book Talk: “Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language amid Wars of Translation”

By: Gabriel Bamgbose

On Tuesday, October 25 2016, Vicente L. Rafael, a professor of History and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of Washington in Seattle, graced Yolanda Martinez-San Miguel’s Comparative Literature graduate seminar, Introduction to Literary Theory: From World Literature to Pluriversality, with his visit to discuss his latest book, Motherless Tongues: The Insurgency of Language amid Wars of Translation, published by Duke University Press this year. The conversation took place in the Comp Lit Seminar Room. Yolanda opened the floor with an introduction of the guest, his intellectual project, and a question of how the book came into being. Rafael explained that the book was rather accidental, unlike his previous book projects, which were well conceived as a unified project and followed through as such. By this he meant that the book was a product of series writing for lectures and invitations. Moreover, it was a product of several years of involvement with Translation Studies. He talked enthusiastically about how his involvement with the Nida Institute and the Summer Institute of Linguistics had been instrumental in his intellectual project in Translation Studies. He provided a general background on the complicated linguistic and cultural context of the Philippines, which he explained as a plurilingual world. Of importance is the historical “fact” that there was no monumental culture (as opposed to the situation of China or India) in the Philippines, until the arrival of the missionaries and colonialism–of course multiple colonialities–that produced an environment of political instability, economic dependency, lack of ideology or, ironically, excess of ideologies, and identitarian undecidability as an existential condition, which should not be seen as a mark of shame but as a critical resource to draw on.

20161025_144905

With the background provided, the stage was set for students in the class to engage him with questions. The conversation glided from the concept of the accidental, the uncanny, and the repressed in the context of language, translation, and identity as central themes of the book; the notion of the literary and the gift of language with its force in his writing style; the issues of language and power relations, and the status of slang as a subversive language belonging to no one, yet available to everyone; the question of translation, conquest/war, untranslatability, and machine translation; the hegemonic status of English, the “wildness” of accent, and the semiotic power of sonic monstrosity; translation and the practice of self writing; language, memory, code switching, and creolization; to the idea of mistranslation as a structural necessity, the condition for the possibility of translation, as well as its continuity and change in different contexts. The conversation vigorously benefitted from putting Rafael’s ideas in critical conversation with the work of other scholars in Translation Studies and Comparative Literature, especially with the work of Emily Apter. The conversation, colored with wide-ranging ideas that drew on the diverse interests of the students, began at 2:00 pm and ended at 5:00 pm.

Everyone working on the politics of language and translation will find Rafael’s Motherless Tongues a very useful resource. And the fact that it presents powerful arguments crafted in a beautiful language also makes it an enjoyable read!

 

Graduate Student Summer: Archival Research in Hawai’i

By: Virginia L. Conn

As a result of a generous grant from the Rutgers Center for Chinese Studies (RCCS), I was able to pursue research in the lian huan hua collections at the University of Hawai’i, Manoa, this summer—work which will set the foundation for my future dissertation research. The grant was used to purchase a plane ticket to Honolulu and a hostel in the city for nine nights, during which time I was allowed daily access to the special collections’ lian huan hua archive housed at the Hamilton Library.

Lian huan hua literally means “linked serial pictures,” and can be very loosely translated as “comics.” They were widely published in mainland China beginning in the 1920s, but reached their peak in the 70s and 80s following the Cultural Revolution—largely promulgated as a way to bring information to the illiterate masses. Because they were printed on cheap materials and made for mass consumption, originals have largely been lost. UH Manoa, however, holds one of the largest extant collections in the US, and I had the privilege of being able to access them during the latter part of the summer.

virginias-post1

While in the archives, I was primarily looking for depictions of mass mobilization among the people, as well as images of the impact of technology on labor. The lian huan hua were used as a tool of education and propaganda in the state’s move towards modernization, and as a result there were many examples of the impact of trains, mining, agricultural improvements, electricity, telephone lines, and shipping techniques on the development of the country, as well as their impact on individual lives. Of course, the lian huan hua were used as pedagogical tools, largely for children and the illiterate, and the narratives being presented are idealized in the extreme. This does not detract from their value as historical tools, however, and indicates the way that the publishers sought to establish and shape mass opinion of the nation-building process.

As my own research involves the impact of technology on laboring bodies and the way those bodies are subsequently mobilized, the lian huan hua collection was an invaluable resource. Its significance in presenting top-down propaganda about the state’s development following the Cultural Revolution indicated the way the national narrative would be shaped for many years and provided a valuable point of entry for further analysis. I am indebted to the RCCS and the UH Manoa special collections staff for allowing me the opportunity to access these materials. Many thanks!

virginias-post3

Connected Academics Proseminar: September 2016

This is the first in a series of posts about the Modern Language Association’s 2016-2017 Connected Academics Proseminar  written by Connected Academics Proseminar Fellow Carolyn Ureña.

Carolyn is a Ph.D. candidate in Comparative Literature and a 2016-2017 Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellow. Her dissertation develops a critical framework for understanding the ways in which a sustained encounter between disability studies, the medical humanities, and the racial phenomenology of decolonial theorist Frantz Fanon can generate new conceptions of health and healing.

 

Last year our very own Tara Coleman, who now holds a tenure track position at LaGuardia Community College, participated in the inaugural MLA Connected Academics Proseminar. This year, I’m excited to carry the torch and share what I learn with our readers in as close to real-time as possible. To read more about Tara’s experience, check out my two-part interview with her from Spring 2016.

The Andrew W. Mellon funded MLA Connected Academics initiative seeks to expose doctoral students in language and literature to the variety of careers available to people with Ph.D.s. In light of the changing job market, now more than ever it is essential to think more broadly about the kinds of work we imagine ourselves doing after we graduate. The exciting news is that many professional organizations–like the Mellon Foundation, the MLA, and the American Council of Learned Societies–are encouraging graduate students to consider the wide variety of careers for which you will be qualified. The more prepared you are for what may come, the better your chances of finding meaningful and fulfilling work after the Ph.D.

Career Exploration as Prototyping

Although many graduate students imagine an academic career in linear terms (undergraduate degree, grad school, tenure track faculty position, Assistant, Associate, then Full Professor), the reality is that most career paths are not so straightforward. Enter the concept of “career exploration as prototyping.” This means trying new things–teaching, volunteering, taking on small projects in new fields or industries–as a means of exploring what you like and what you don’t like to do.

You might be wondering how time consuming or worthwhile it might be to explore different career paths, and ultimately this will be a question of your own schedule and interests. However, keep in mind that developing new skills–like running workshops, managing groups of people, and developing a budget for a project–can be very useful for your job search, both on and beyond the academic job market. If you do pursue the academic path and land your dream job, depending on your institution you will find yourself advising undergraduates as well as graduate students, and you will be in a much better position to encourage their exploration if you have done some of it yourself.

Seek Opportunities to Expand Your Skillset

Part time work and projects can also enable you to write more convincingly in your job materials about your ability to manage teams and projects. My own experiences as a research assistant, as a teacher for Prep for Prep , and as Fellowship Advisor at GradFund  have not only given me greater confidence as a researcher, teacher, and writer; working in these roles allowed me the opportunity to creatively engage a different part of my brain. These experiences enriched my dissertation by encouraging me to rethink how my project can impact my community, while also allowing me to hone my ability to describe my work succinctly to a wider range of audiences.

Join the Conversation

The conversation about exploring alternative or complementary careers is not new, which means there are a good number of resources to help you begin to explore different paths. Initiatives like the MLA’s Connected Academics work to make this conversation more visible, and one easy way to get involved is to follow related groups on social media, such as @MLAConnect and the #withaPhD  hashtag on Twitter. When you meet with other graduate students, take some time to ask them about their interests outside of their research. Explore the MLA’s excellent list of job sites  for positions in Business, Government, and Not-for-Profit Organizations to get a sense of what kinds of careers are possible. And, finally, check out this eye-opening list of transferable skills for Ph.D.s in the Humanities  from the MLA Commons blog for Connected Academics–it will help you understand how your teaching experiences, for example, have prepared you to “devise and implement metrics for success” and “keep detailed administrative records.” You might be surprised to learn how qualified you already are!

 

 

Brown Bag Talk with Louis Sass. “Lacan: The Mind of the Modernist”

By Rudrani Gangopadhyay

 

Professor Louis Sass (Rutgers GSAPP, Clinical Psychology) delivered the first Brown Bag Lecture of the year on “Lacan: The Mind of the Modernist”, much of the material of which came from his 2015 essay by the same name, published in Continental Philosophy.

Prof. Sass’s lecture was primarily aimed at providing an intellectual portray of Lacan by focussing the incorporation of modernist perspectives in the French psychoanalyst’s work. As a contrast, Professor Sass provided a background on Freud, who was anchored in a pre-modernist vision and was much more Cartesian and Kantian in his approach. Lacan, on the other hand, was far more skeptical of the naturalist preferences associated with Freud, and chose instead to transform as well as supplement the latter’s work.

The lecture focussed on two general issues with regards to Lacan’s work: the first being Lacan’s appreciation of the paradoxical nature of the human experience, as demonstrated by his concepts of the Self as well as that of Desire. The second issue was that of “transcendental subjectivity” in Lacan, consisting of the “Imaginary”, the “Symbolic”, and the “Real”, which together make up his Triad of Registers. In trying to offer a synthesis of both the dynamic and the ontological dimensions of the human condition in his idea of the conflicted yet interdependent Registers making up his Triad, Lacan also demonstrates a need to be understood in Heideggerian terms.

In contrast to popular belief, Prof. Sass’s lecture also repeatedly emphasized Lacan’s affinities with phenomenology, contradicting the widespread belief that Lacan is a deeply anti-humanist thinker. Rather, Lacan’s work seems to demonstrate an influence of hermeneutic forms of phenomenology, following Heidegger’s ideas on the ontological modes of Being.

Thank you, Marilyn!

In the picture: Marilyn Tankiewicz (left) and Professor Elin Diamond

By: Shawn Gonzalez

I had the privilege of sitting down to speak with Marilyn Tankiewicz, Administrative Assistant at Comp Lit, before her retirement in July and asking her about her experience at the university. Marilyn began working at Rutgers in 1990 in the libraries, where she did payroll and administration. Then, she worked briefly in the Chemistry department, before coming to Comparative Literature. After working in various parts of the university, Marilyn became an excellent source of advice for graduate students about how to navigate the university, and her guidance is greatly missed. Before leaving, she offered us two pieces of advice: “Be patient. Understand that whatever mistakes get made, they can be fixed,” and “You get more done by talking to someone in person.” She says that when you need a problem resolved, try to go to the person’s office, instead of sending an email.

While working at Rutgers, Marilyn earned her bachelor’s degree in Women’s & Gender Studies. She said, “It was a good major for where I was at that time in my life.” After staying home to raise her children and take care of her parents, Marilyn brought a different perspective to discussions than many of her classmates who were just out of high school. She looked back fondly on the experience of working with a diverse group of classmates. Marilyn also minored in Psychology and Labor Relations, which allowed her to develop her interests in those fields. She described graduating with honors as one of her proudest moments, and she celebrated with family members who threw her a surprise graduation party.

Marilyn said she would miss working at Comp Lit. Her favorite part of her job was watching new students come into the program. She enjoyed seeing how they gradually became more comfortable as they developed over their time at Rutgers. However, she was very excited for her upcoming retirement. She plans to travel with her husband, enjoy hobbies like painting and playing golf, and volunteer at a local hospital. She also hopes to start a book club. We thank Marilyn for all of her help over the years, and wish her the best of luck with her plans for retirement—especially the book club!