Dame Eleanor Hull


The things I miss by not being in the TLQ group:

“So for a slightly frivolous topic this week, after what seems to have been a difficult summer in different ways for nearly everyone, I thought I’d ask you to suggest some perfect products we should be stocking up on for our Back To School(University) bags.  Me, I’d like to be able to buy:

  • The Dame’s Bugge Spray, now on special offer – every bottle of Bugge Spray (enabling research productivity in any ten minute gap you can find, rather than procrastination) comes with a FREE trial size of Silencing Mist, perfect for use on obnoxious colleagues who insist on telling you how much they achieved over the summer or on yourself when you just need to indulge in a therapeutic scream or rant before putting your professional face back on
  • Attractamints: leave a pack out on your desk overnight, and you’ll return to find the marking elves have been, finished up all the tests, and tidied your papers whilst they were still on a sugar high from eating the treats.
  • Readalot Glue: apply to syllabi and textbooks, your students literally will not be able to put them down until they’ve read every word!
  • ‘Sunterday’, an extra 24 hour add-on to slot into your weekend when needed, perfect for recharging on the go.”

JaneB is brilliant, as are other contributors, who offer:

“‘Guilt-Free Chocolate’, not only chocolate that you can eat without any health effects and one that brings all the comfort of lovely chocolatey goodness, but one that removes the guilt that comes from focusing on task X while the rest of the alphabet of tasks are lurking menacingly.”

“20-20 Hindsight Glasses – glasses that give you the power to see what you should/shouldn’t do with the clarity of hindsight but in the actual moment.”

“A Personal Pop-Up Blocker that can block out all those extraneous thoughts and interruptions when I need to focus. And a Switch-O-Matic–it switches you from one task to then next with no ramp up or cool down needed. Crazy discussion with colleague? Switch-O-Matic makes it so you can be deep into your research the next minute.”

Right now, I need to combine the Switch-o-Matic with Bugge Spray (how did I let myself run out?) so I can figure out what needs to happen with a set of revisions that I haven’t even looked at yet. A Sunterday would be fantastic but I bet it’s a lot more expensive than Bugge Spray.

Start by finding the e-mail.  Then open the file.  Stop listening to the voices nagging about why I haven’t started this yet (I finished all.the.notes. for the article due Tuesday, okay? so I’m going to need some of that chocolate, too) and about other things I should be doing and how there isn’t enough time.  It’s not going to get any earlier.

Signs of the times

So it’s lovely to hear from Notorious, and to enjoy, vicariously, the notion of a big mostly-empty office in which to work on a new(ish) project. My home study is pretty big, actually, but it’s also the site of many old projects, some of which are still pending (revisions . . . ), plus household files, and pickle dishes or their equivalent that I’m sorting out, and usually a cat or two, plus it’s my dressing room. Thus, even though I am better equipped for space than many academics, I still enjoy the fantasy of a fresh start.

What really hit me in this picture (click to enlarge), though, is the telephone.

At LRU, we’re losing our office phones. And cutting the library budget drastically. There is no travel money, though some may be pulled from some dark place for the untenured. And we are to expect further mid-year cuts, since the fall semester had to be scheduled before we knew what the budget would look like (besides dire).

It’s not that I use the phone so much. I can live without it, and I’d rather give up the phone than the monographs budget (not that that’s a choice: they’re both happening). But it’s a sign of faculty status, even tenured faculty at tolerably respectable universities. I frequently run into people in my area who went to LRU, or whose kid or nephew or cousin’s daughter goes there, and they think highly of the school and they think I have a good job. (Mostly I agree with them.) I think these people, whether they work in sales, accounting, law, nursing, programming, or office support in any of these or various other types of work, would be surprised that I no longer have an office phone. And I’m pretty sure that that’s not what they think they voted for.

Done. Dazed.

I have completed my second essay of the summer. About 10,000 words, combined. Neither is so done as to have been submitted, yet. The first needs to have references added. The second needs to have references changed from brief in-text notes to proper footnotes, and I’m waiting on an ILL delivery to add a long quotation that the argument needs. The first will have to wait another month; the second needs to be polished very soon.

I’m pleased with my productivity, the more so (at least from one perspective) because neither of these essays was on my radar at the beginning of May. A conference discussion made me think, “wow, better write that up before someone else does,” and then the summer issue of a journal made me think, “gee, I have things to contribute to that conversation,” and so I’ve been reading and thinking and writing these things. That’s the good news. The other side of the coin is that I had intended to write a book chapter this summer, along with revisions to a couple of accepted essays (MMP-2 and MMP-3), and I now have about 5 days to do those revisions, and the only way in which I’m closer to having written a book is that one of the summer essays is sort of a spin-off, or at least on the same main text, and so I’m re-submerged in that material.

Fortunately, I’m on leave, or I would have had to put all this work down to concentrate on syllabi awhile back, as well as grading, because in my classes we Hit The Ground Running, no gentle easing-in to a warm bath of education but rather a bracing plunge! My students get Hullified from the first day! Or they will. Next year.

I want to be Anthony Trollope and start straight in on revisions. However, though I felt quite energetic and absorbed while I was writing, now that I am done with all the substantive work, I feel like someone hit me over the head. It’s not even that I’ve been so deeply immersed in the latest essay. I took the whole weekend off to go to a wedding. Somehow, though, taking a break felt like a different thing from being done. All I feel fit for is staring into space.

Falling off the face of the earth. With cats!

You might think I did; but actually, it was my computer that went west.  Massive crash.  I didn’t lose much data, because I’m fairly obsessive about backing up (and lazy about erasing pictures when I download from the camera), but I did lose a day or so of work (because lazy in general, I guess), and was in deep denial for awhile about how bad it was.

I now have a new hard drive in the old laptop.  And a new desktop, because I’m tired of laptops and their problems.  I still have some set-up to do on the laptop.

I have looming deadlines, and in the last couple of days, a few more things thrown at me on top of the ones I knew about.  So I may fall off the face of the earth again.

But along with the computer stuff, and other distractions of the last few weeks (house guests, routine breakages, more garden annoyances), we acquired a Visiting Assistant Cat, whose line has been converted to tenure-track.  She more than meets the requirements on paper, but collegiality will be the make-or-break issue.

Rosemond Tuve on teaching

“Stay[ed] up till 2:15 writing a page each to my grad sem. 2 nights ago, anent their plans for papers (they’re as infantile about being able to find themselves something they want to Find Out, as a bunch of seniors)—and havent caught up sleep since then . . . . trying to learn to do as the men do, teach w. left hand and leave myself some leisure.  Not succeeding as yet; take it as seriously as if at C[onnecticut] C[ollege], far more seriously I took Shak[espeare] than the students did.”

Tuve, quoted in Rosemond Tuve: A Life of the Mind, by Margaret Carpenter Evans (Portsmouth, NH, 2004), pp. 156, 158.

Rosemond Tuve on My Own Work

“I’ve just worked like hell this year.  The extra course is just one too much, added to all the others as before; yet it’s been so much fun (the Spenser to Milton one I mean particularly) that I wouldn’t have not had it for anything.  But it has chopped off all my extra curricular activities such as letters & Serving Tea to Friends, & riding about viewing country.  To a great extent, anyhow.  Shall probably catch up sometime.  I try stoutly to refuse giving up on some non-utilitarian reading at least . . . . Also try to have one 3 hour session per week on what they call My Own Work—now almost indistinguishable from my advanced-course work, so that it’s a naughty shame that I can’t get to more of it—from the teaching point of view.  But nevertheless, a good life.”

Tuve, quoted in Rosemond Tuve: A Life of the Mind, by Margaret Carpenter Evans (Portsmouth, NH, 2004), p. 93.

Rosemond Tuve on LIVING (aka pickle dishes)

“We weren’t the Beat Generation, we were the Liberated one. . . . we were determined to escape from a lot of LIVING, or something that now goes under that name.  WE scorned apartments.  We didn’t see any great lure in finding some place we could COOK in, or worry abt. curtains.  We were entranc[ed] at being deliv[er]ed from the Deadly Social Round our fr[iends] that weren’t in coll[ege] seemed to be squirrel caging ar[oun]d in—We found us a ‘Room’ . . . and we got us a Boarding-house, and then we lit out for where all our friends were, The Library.  By Friends I meant both Living & Dead.  We didn’t make as much difference between these two categories as students do now.  We even sometimes gave up an engagement w. a Boring Living ONE (either sex) to keep one w. a Bright Dead ONE. . . . As I say, we weren’t the Beat Generation.  We hadn’t learned about Anxiety.”

Tuve, quoted in Rosemond Tuve: A Life of the Mind, by Margaret Carpenter Evans (Portsmouth, NH, 2004), pp. 45-6.

Margaret Frazer on writing and having a life

“I write more days than not, and when once I moaned that ‘I have to get a life,’ my loving family informed me, ‘You have one. It’s in the 1400s.’ That seems to sum up things rather nicely.”


How did I miss the news that Margaret Frazer died a couple of years ago?  Or did I know, then, and forget, in the intervening time?

The pickle dish

“There is some tribal insanity that comes over women, as they approach marriage: society offers Pyrex dishes and silver teaspoons as bribes, as bargains, as anesthesia against self-sacrifice. Stuck about with silver forks and new carving knives, as in a form of acupuncture, the woman lays herself upon the altar, upon the couch, half numb. Even sensible women, like Frances Wingate: sensible women, who later struggle, as their senses return, and throw their Gallé vases and fish knives violently around their dwellings, as a protest. . . . Why did one let it all happen?”

Margaret Drabble, The Realms of Gold (New York: Knopf, 1975), 107-8.

Most of my forks and vases (etc.) are the result not of my marriage, but of other people’s; I seem to be the family repository of Stuff.  I wonder if it is easier to get rid of one’s own Stuff than of Family Stuff.  It’s one thing to give away the gifts one never really liked, and it seems to be another to get rid of Great-Grandma’s pickle dish, even if it is an undistinguished bit of china and only my aged father really remembers it being filled with watermelon pickles at his mother’s dinner table.  I remember my father’s remembering, and so the pickle dish remains in my cupboard, though I rarely have dinner parties and when I do, I don’t set out little trays of pickles and olives.

Perhaps I should.  Perhaps it would be some form of exorcism or comfort to re-enact the sort of family dinner that my grandmother (the other one: my father’s mother went into a nursing home when I was four, so I don’t remember her dinners) regularly hosted.  The menu immediately suggests itself: the pickles and olives, obviously, fried fish, a jello salad, green salad, potato salad, crescent rolls or tiny blueberry muffins, green beans (with slivered almonds if we’re really fancy), and iced tea, probably, but just possibly wine, probably a rosé because it looks so pretty in the etched glasses (which, strangely, did not come to me: where are they now?).  Dessert would be a pie, or a layer cake, or both.  I know how to do this.  But this is not my life.

The dinners I make are usually stir-fries or simple pastas, basically one-dish meals, easy to prep and clean up after Sir John and I have both been working all day.  What did my grandmother’s days look like, in the days I remember?  I expect she cooked at least two hot meals a day for my grandfather, even if lunch was leftovers or sandwiches, and she always set the table nicely, with placemats if not a tablecloth, and did dishes immediately afterward.  She worked in the garden, and sewed for me or for church bazaars; she may have baked for church bake sales or for the Sunday social hour; she put in some time on housework, because she dusted every day, and vacuumed at least every second day.  She wrote letters to a large network of extended family.  She wasn’t much of a reader, except for those letters; if she had magazines in the house, it was for the recipes or instructions for knitting, crochet, or sewing projects.  There were times in her life when she worked: in a nursery (that is, garden center, not babies), in a shoe store.  But her life was home-centered, and when I think of it, I experience a fierce and bewildering sense of dislocation: where did I come from, how did I get to be the person I am—career woman, city person—, one state over from my grandmother’s early home, and yet a world away from the life she led?

I’m trying to lighten the load of Stuff that I’m storing.  But the pickle dish stands for a whole way of life.  I don’t want that life, I’m deeply unsuited to it, but it haunts me still.  It’s easier to keep housing the pickle dish than to re-create the lifestyle or experience the guilt I’d feel if I gave away the dish.

Basement Cat again

Now the old grey guy has been to the vet for vile experiments . . . at least they seem to have sent the right cat back this time . . . but maybe they’re just getting more sophisticated about their nefarious projects down there.  I am staying on my guard, and not going near any cat carriers.  I feel like I’ve moved to the island of Dr. Meaurao.


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