October 15, 2003

The clarity of fall

Category: Research — Biella @ 8:21 am

Lately my life has been firmly that of being student. Sitting, reading, writing, and transcribing. No complaints especially given the fall season which is perhaps my favorite for studying. Fall weather has been in and out in Chicago although today it is unmistakably “in,” with brilliant blue skies, red creeping into already creeping green ivy, and yellow and orange tree leaves melding with the sky and scattered on the ground. One can’t but help admire the almost sick perfection and clarity of the colors, the vibrant feel of the air, and that sensibility of change which is what fall is all about.

As of late I have really appreciated things well done (that is, things that come close to sick perfection) although always, of course, measured in relation to to their genre and my enjoyability. On Friday, I read something horribly unclear, which given the fact that I had a fever at the time, left me really frustrated. It seemed like such a shame, such a waste of communicative energy. I wanted to understand what was being said but was forced for reasons out of my control into this ludicrous guessing maze, mucking through prolific assumptions and interminable paragraphs and sentences that never even gave a clear sense of argument and intention. And then perhaps I thought it was just me and sometimes it is. But then when you come across something well written, like Referential Practice by William Hanks, and, well, it feels akin to talking a walk during a fall day. He writes about cultural lingustics which is something that never came easy to me. Yet, reading his account of it made it clear in such a way that I never encountered before. You can actually enjoy the process while reading and perhaps learn something. It does not frustrate; it invigorates.

It makes me ask if struggle really should be part of reading? I do feel a little guilty blasting someone for jumbled writing and praising those who gush with clairty. The thing I fear the most about writing my dissertaton is that I know clear writing is far from a simple task. So despite my clarity of ideas and goals for my dissertation, I am afraid that my clarity will just be that, mine. And I want it to be yours. Well at least my advisors.

Writing is for me a two step process. I write in part to to self-understand my material. While I might have a pretty good and clearn working sense of what I want to say, until I put it in words, structure, paragraphs, that is in a larger whole, my understanding is still somewhat at the level of the abstract. I guess I need the vehicles of words and letters to fully concretize, to make real what is otherwise just in relation to I. But the end of writing should be so that the reader comprehends what you have come to understand. It is an I-thou relationship. And this is tricky given that you have a lot of extra material in your mind that your readers don’t. I guess in the end, the struggle should be yours. Yours so that you achieve some sort of clarity so that your readers can instead walk through the brisk day, feeling somewhat invigorated by what you say even if they don’t agree with it.

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