I'm still wrestling with my completely out-of-whack sleep schedule and, as a result, I tend to finish my reading much later than I would like. Still, I suppose, I have been getting things done. I just have this nagging feeling that I would get more done if I could return to a schedule a bit more in sync with the rest of the world. I mean, I have never been comfortable with getting myself out of bed earlier than, say, ten in the morning but this sleep-by-day, work-by-night thing doesn't work too well when you live in an area where you are essentially the only person on that schedule. In other words, I want to work when other people are also working. Otherwise, I'll keep feeling thoroughly disconnected from the world, a feeling that tends to have an adverse effect on my productivity.
Part of my difficulty, too, stems from the critical reading that I have been doing and will continue working on for the foreseeable future. Were an individual merely preparing to teach a course on a topic, he or she might read some of the "canonized" criticism surrounding a given work and then move on to the next text on which he or she intended to focus, bypassing many of the hard-to-locate articles from obscure international journals. (Although, ideally, one would like to have as complete a knowledge of his or her subject as possible and might, time permitting, seek out the truly rare texts). With a dissertation (or any other book-length project), however, one has the obligation to perform an exhaustive amount of research, culminating in an elite state of expertise. Now, the end result is delightful, I'm sure, but the road to getting there is another story entirely. When working on an author as prominent as J. M. Coetzee, tackling the sheer amount of critical writing can be a quite daunting -- and, after a while, rather monotonous -- task. My problem, then, is pushing my way through the many articles that repeat the same information that I have already read several times over. Of course, many of the articles are, in themselves, wholly original readings of the text but, having read scads of other essays, I find that much of the information in one paper can be found piecemeal in a selection of other essays. Thus, once one has plowed through a few dozen essays, say, any new essay is not likely to shed much light on the text. Unless, of course, it is the rare article that either identifies an important narrative thread that had hitherto been passed over or the annoyingly left-field essay that advances untenably absurd theories about the text. Basically, if my reading does not engage my attention with new or interesting insights, I have a harder time focusing, which often results in my spending much longer on an article than I would like. So, the longer it takes to read, the more likely I will be up late and, consequently, the later I will sleep in the next day. Repeat.
As for my reading today, Grant Farred's "The Mundanacity of Violence: Living in a State of Disgrace," I really haven't much to say. The essay is another of the more negative readings of Disgrace, highlighting what the author terms the "mundanacity" of horrific violence in post-Apartheid South Africa. Basically, Farred shares a convincing, if pedestrian, impression of Coetzee's novel as depicting a state of existence in which indifference and acquiescence have become epidemic and people no longer bat a proverbial eyelid at the most disturbing instances of crime. In other words, rape, murder, and robbery have become so ubiquitous in the South Africa that Coetzee depicts that they recede into the background with the equally unnoticeable chirruping of birds and rustling of leaves.
For tomorrow: Read another essay.
Farred, Grant. "The Mundanacity of Violence: Living in a State of Disgrace." interventions 4.3 (2002): 352-362.