I’m currently in a class entitled Children, Desire and Fear; this is in addition to my Erotica Special Studies course. The two frequently overlap, and as the year has progressed, the entire cohort now knows that erotica is one of my research passions. I no longer hide behind the much safer interest in “cultural inscriptions on the body as text,” a la Susan Bordo.
I also created a Facebook group for the cohort so we wouldn’t have to bore our non-academic friends with constant class discussions on our walls. This has turned out to be one of the best things I did for myself this year, and I didn’t even realize its benefits at the time. Not only has it allowed me to actually embrace the group and interact with them on a more social level, but it has also given me a space to see what they’re thinking and feeling.
For both courses I’ve been assigned films to watch – if you’re interested: Chloe for the porn class and The Good Son for the other. As I’m sure you all know, after endlessly staring at the same piece of writing for hours, days, weeks (months?) on end, it is easy to lose perspective on whether it makes any sense. I lamented something like this to the group and found that not only were they willing to read over my paper, but they were genuinely interested in doing so.
I had distanced myself from the group to such an extent that I had forgotten the basic fact that people are developing relationships during this time. This is an amazing group of individuals who share similar research interests, and not only might they find it interesting to read someone else’s work, it may also be useful to see how someone else puts together a project that they themselves have to do.
What a delightful revelation. And what fantastic feedback: from “uh Deanna – where’s your thesis for this paper?” (Oops!) to “you may want to consider looking at Chloe’s hair, and what that represents…” Absolutely. Not only can I envy that hair – I could write about it too!
And then personal trauma and the inevitable (according to my advisor) fear of failure and the accompanying melt-down occurred. I’d convinced myself that I’d made a mistake, I couldn’t handle this degree. I used to have a life. And friends. And no back pain. And TV! I miss TV. And why am I so obsessed with porn anyhow?
This week I didn’t go to class. I met with my advisor to discuss The Delta of Venus and The Bloody Chamber then begged to go home. She gave me leave to eat chicken soup, watch girly movies and relax. I went home and I cried. And tried to figure out what I was doing with my life. I read a bit of The Lost Girls and cried some more. And I ate cake.
But what actually made me pick myself up and realize that I wanted to carry on? I received an unexpected visit from three of the women in my class yesterday. They showed up in my office ostensibly with additions to their travel grant applications – but also because they were concerned. I tried dodging the question when they asked how I was, but I failed. They are intelligent and perceptive. Dodging didn’t work. They insisted that I attend the party being thrown that night and would take no other answer – they would pick me up and that’s all there was to it. One of them rubbed my back and hugged me while the others closed my office door and let me cry a bit more.
I didn’t expect to make friends in this program. I thought I had to distance myself from everything in the spirit of avoiding conflicts of interest. I’m glad that it didn’t work out that way.
Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada
Deanna England can be reached by email at Deanna.England@insidehighered.com. She is a member of the editorial collective at University of Venus.