Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Nappies, Sleep and Reading

I'm currently in preparation mode for the new academic year and busy writing, updating and adapting module handbooks and course content for my institution's VLE, so ... not much time for reading books and research. I'm now looking upon July and early August as a 'Golden Age' of renewed research interest and intensive reading, an age which now seems rather distant. Indeed that distance seems to have increased dramatically with the arrival of my second child four weeks ago. Sleep deprivation is now very much the order of the day, and, while this may be conducive with altered states of consciousness, it isn't helping me analyse where I stand on such topics as relations in Object-Oriented Ontology or correlationism and Speculative Realism.

I was always impressed by academics who seemed to balance children and research, and this was replaced by simple awe when I had my first child; carefully preserved gaps for research were eaten up by the need and demand for nappy changes (likely to make it to the top of my Harmanian and Latourian inspired lists of objects and actors), food, comfort and various other kinds of attention; moreover, one never seems to have quite enough sleep. The sensation of sleep walking through some lectures springs to mind, and I would certainly like to know the secrets of any academics who have managed to maintain philosophical form and quality through the early years of parenting. I return again, at this point, to Graham's reflections on sleep:

The highly refreshing character of good sleep has the metaphysical significance of freeing us from the various trivial encrustations of relation in which we become enmeshed. It restores us for a time to the inner sanctum of our essence, subtracting all surface ornament. Reversing the usual association of higher organisms with greater wakefulness, it might be the case that higher entities are higher precisely through their greater capacity to sleep: ascending from insects through dolphins, humans, sages, angels, or God.

Currently, this feels more reasonable than it did on my first reading (and I assume that by higher entities, Graham is not deploying an ontological hierarchy). I am certainly feeling ensnared by "trivial encrustations" and also less than human some of the time. This also brings me to the point of what I am finding time to read at the moment. Despite having a large pile of books staring at me in an accusatory fashion, and demanding to be read, I seem to be re-reading Prince of Networks. This is thankfully proving quite productive, the activity of revisiting many of the topics and arguments is a valuable reminder of just how much does not stick on first reading; a point that Graham is well aware of and takes time to remind us. Usefully I am now reading everything through the lens of my initial responses and a few weeks of half-formed questions, ruminations and speculation. This should, I hope, be the impetus - despite relational encrustations - to form some more focused thoughts. Minimally, though, the Harman/Latour language has percolated up through my consciousness to the point that I am thinking about nappies and other objects in terms of actants (sad, I know).

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