Thursday, August 18, 2011

"Il no va esta f*ckin' picnico"

My dissertation chair is fond of saying "Ideology is externalized in food." And while I don't practice what cultural critics call food studies, my research of Romantic-era agricultural writing overlaps with some of it.

For example, Andrew Hubbell published an essay in 1996 called "How Wordsworth Invented Picnicking and Saved British Culture." He argues that the Romantics perceived eating outside as a radical symbol for transgression against food commodification.

I chewed on that idea for awhile. While sitting in a Moroccan restaurant in Oakland one night, I was asked to explain my early writing and was hit with the familiar accusation, "There's no food in Wordsworth!" Before I could think to talk about the difference between food production and food consumption, I drunkenly announced, "Wordsworth invented the picnic!!"

Gin, Maes, and K-Ro have never, ever let me forget it. And since these are clever, pretty women, I endure their teasing rather than smacking them in the nose.

I met a important, self-imposed deadline yesterday: a big chunk of my archive chapter is floating around in space, waiting for my Chair to bite into it. But rather than capitalizing on all that great momentum, I've spent most of today procrastinating and wallowing. I have a massive database of notes on agricultural writing, all of it sorted into searchable terms and sortable fields. In some disciplines, this would serve as a thesis unto its own, but in literary studies, I have to shape all that primary data into a cogent narrative. I've re-outlined the remaining sections five times today, but they just won't congeal into a logical and syllogistic argument. It's pissing me off. There are lots of ideas on the page, but there's no structure, which is not my ideal situation.

Then I remembered a great metaphorical usage of the word "picnic" from my favorite film. I hadn't thought about this scene in a long time, but after watching this clip, I wrote a few paragraphs about the madness of post-modernity's desecration of the individual.

Yes, Jack, I DO think I'm being punished for my sins. Sometimes.

But forgiveness is hard to find.

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