Is Insomnia Just Part of the Package?

I never really struggled with insomnia until the final semester of my M.A. program. Sure, I’d have the occasional sleepless night, but they never occurred in twos, threes, or even for weeks at a time until the last week of my last semester. I slept like a baby the night before my Thesis Defense. But by the time I’d finished all of my coursework a week later, I was sleepless despite my exhaustion. The night before graduation, I didn’t sleep at all. And there was much less to be stressed out about then.

I have a theory that I sleep better when I have MORE going on. Inaction and waiting make me restless, leaving me making to-do lists into the wee hours of the morning. Sure, sometimes the insomnia is related to excitement, but more often it’s new things, the unknown, that electric mixture of fear and excitement that courses through my veins with such intensity that I become convinced I can actually feel it, streaming through me and commingling with my blood. I can’t wait to get started. I have no choice but to wait.

Maybe that’s why it started the week before graduation. For the past six years, I’d known my plan. My life had order and organization, and I knew exactly what to expect and what would be expected of me on a daily basis.

It was glorious. Much like this:

Anyway, starting last summer, I got a new job (doing familiar things–teaching/tutoring–but in a new place). I was facing down a year without coursework (I still feel like something’s missing, because of that). Last fall, the unknown was the world of PhD applications and the sheer potential that sprang into existence with every application I filled out.

Now, waiting for those application results, I’m starting a new semester. Probably my last at my Alma mater. I’m teaching a literature class for the first time. I’m pondering which of my books I’ll be forced to put in storage and which ones I absolutely cannot do without as I start this new adventure. I’m looking forward to a cross-country (or interstate) move, but nervous because this will be my first one as an adult. I’m sad because I’ll be leaving behind some of the most amazing people–the faculty and colleagues I’ve worked with and studied under here at the Alma mater–and nervous and excited to work with new people in a new department.

Things will never be the same. I think the word “better” is arbitrary (apples to oranges, and all that), but I hope that, if I get into a PhD program, it will be filled with people as wonderful, diverse, and accepting as those I’ve come to know here.

Well, it’s back to the pre-semester to-do list for me. Keep it classy, internet.

Libraries, One More Time

Gospel Truth.

So, I ended up applying to one more university, where one of my new favorite Victorianists teaches. The school has an amazing program, a fellowship specifically for Victorianists, and a beautiful campus. Consequently, I owe you one more library tour.

University of Florida.

U of Florida is home to the George A. Smathers Libraries, which reminds me vaguely of the Simpsons. These are not the only libraries associated with U of Florida, but these seven libraries are home to the humanities collections (primarily located in Library West). The libraries host an impressive 4.5 million physical books, as well as nearly 80,000 electronic journals, over 600,000 ebooks, and much more. You can see a picture of Library West here, and visit their Facebook page here.

Also, there is a Starbucks right inside the library, for convenient caffeination.



Libraries, or, Waiting is Hard. Must. Distract. Self.

It’s only been a couple of days since I finished my PhD applications (I know, the date of my last post says it’s only been one day, but I actually posted on Dec. 1 and I think my blog has time zone issues).

Due to some insomnia issues, however, I feel like it’s been at least a week. And I have developed a compulsive need for certainty that I’m pretty sure will never be satisfied. Or, at least not for two months. Which is beginning to sound like twelve years.

And I thought I was slightly nutty before. BahahahahHahahHAaAaaa. *eye twitches*

Ehem. My life is suddenly all about distraction. Work is a good distraction, as are television watching, grading, eating, playing my guitar and singing, cleaning my house, etc. As soon as I’m done grading, I’ll add EDITING THE NOVEL to the distraction pile, because I perform better when I’m able to tell myself that I’m doing said thing for the sake of avoiding another pressing thing. It’s like, I have to come at everything from this weird oblique angle of slanted-intention. If that even makes sense.

Today, however, I’ve run out of productive distractions to do (sleeplessness makes reading for fun hard) and I’m stuck at a very slow Writing Center for another two-and-a-half hours. So, I decided to give you a blog tour of the libraries each potential school offers me. Because I’m all for order, we’re gonna do this geographically West to East. I grew up in the West, okay? It’s always first in my mind.

University of Washington, Seattle. 

Although the University of Washington has many libraries, the two I would work with most as an English student would be the Suzzallo and Allen libraries. According to the university website, the libraries are home to over two million print volumes and cover 350,000 sq. feet. *Nerd Glee*

The Suzzallo, which went into construction in 1922, is simply breathtaking. I’m posting links instead of pictures because of copyright schtuff. I don’t want to take credit for anyone else’s work. But seriously, look and drool.  It also includes an espresso cafe. *faints*

University of Oregon, Eugene.

Once again, there are several libraries on this campus (what’s with that? my Alma mater only had one. I feel cheated. *pouts*). The main library is the Knight library, which was built over a two year period (1935-7). It’s got some awesome greco-roman architecture going on, which I really like, and more importantly, holds over 3 million volume and subscribes to over 17,000 journals. That, my dears, is research heaven. Especially for someone who did a master’s thesis at a one-library institution (is that the equivalent of a one-horse town? probably) with a limited collection of texts and periodicals. My former institution’s library has no delusions of its own grandeur and I love it dearly despite its smallness. Still, it will be nice to do real, large-scale research in a ginormous library if I get into one of these schools.

You can take a look at Knight library here. I’m pretty sure I also saw mention of a coffee shop on the library’s premises. *cha-ching*

University of Colorado, Boulder.

Boulder is another campus that boasts multiple libraries. I’ll be in library heaven wherever I end up. 🙂

Ehem. Norlin library is CU Boulder’s main branch and home to the intriguingly named Laughing Goat Coffee Shop. The library hosts an Arts and Humanities collection of over 700,000 titles, but I haven’t been able to figure out how many books it houses in total. I will research this more later and edit accordingly. Here’s a great shot of the library. So pretty. So big.

And…my brain is too numb from sleep deprivation to continue writing. So…

To Be Continued. 

PhD Apps: Let Me Back Up a Bit

There was a time, months and months ago, when the last rambling post I made would have been impossible even to start. It was a time before THE LIST took over my life. And by THE LIST, I mean the list of schools and check list of application requirements that has not left my side and is becoming mildewed and so coffee stained that most of the paper is a stale brown color.


So, where did all of this madness begin? How did I even know what schools to look at? How did I sift through the immensity that is academia and find programs that I thought would foster and challenge my research?

Well, like all English majors, I started by snooping. And by snooping, I mean, being part of the English dept. long enough to learn where all of my professors went to school. Those schools were where I started my research. Now, as a disclaimer, my Alma mater has a grand total of one Victorianist, and even though the school she went to has an excellent program, it is very close to where I grew up and I knew I wanted to go somewhere different for PhD school.

So, I turned to a handy list compiled by the University of Texas at Austin, which you can find here. This list is organized in two formats: alphabetically and by state. The “by state” option is much more helpful, in my opinion, because it allowed me to look for universities in parts of the U.S. that I actually like and where I would actually like to live.

The only problem with this list is that it does not provide any indication of which schools just offer Bachelor’s / Master’s  and which offer PhD programs. But it is an immense list, and adding those kinds of notations would be a phenomenal task.

So, I delved into guesswork, clicking on university names and perusing their English department websites to see if (a) they even offered a PhD in English or Literature, (b) if they had any Victorianists on their faculty lists, (c) what kinds of work they required for the PhD, including coursework/hrs but also comprehensive exams, language requirements, etc. (d) if they offered funding and in what form–TA, RA, Graderships, etc, (e) if they offered health insurance, (f) if they offered research and/or interdisciplinary opportunities.

As I noted in a previous post, one of my big criteria for this round of applications was whether or not the school required the GRE Subject test, because if they did, that automatically put them into “next year, if none of these schools pan out” territory. It’s not that any of them are second-choice schools, in fact, Harvard and Yale both made the list (although I would only apply to one, because they are both reach schools). But there are so many possibilities that they have to be sorted somehow, and the GRE Subject requirements seemed to be a rational way to sort them. Mostly for financial reasons, but also because I’d rather not take another standardized test if I don’t have to. They make my eyes glaze over.

After I compiled a list of possible schools in this fashion, I also did a Google search for “best PhD in Victorian literature” which didn’t turn up much, and “Best doctoral programs in 19th century British lit” which led me to the highly contested rankings of the US News. I didn’t concern myself terribly with the actual rankings the site gave, but rather took advantage of the list  of schools that I knew had PhD programs in a Victorian and/or general 19th century studies. This was immensely helpful, as was their list of 100+ English Grad programs in the U.S. (not sorted by specialty).

Finally, I skimmed through the forums of Grad Cafe, where people occasionally post lists of the schools they intend to apply to. That site is more terrifying than helpful, but it’s become something of a morbid fascination for  thousands of potential grad students (as far as I can tell). All it really offers is a swirling vortex of angst, anxiety, self-doubt, and a few dubious and vague statistics on acceptances and rejections for every U.S. institution you can imagine.

Interestingly, this is probably the EASIEST part of the application process, because you aren’t in so deep that you’ve lost confidence in your decision making abilities. It’s also fun because, like window shopping, it involves a lot of daydreaming and “what will my life be like if I end up here” scenarios. I also did a lot of research about the bookstores, coffee shops, farmer’s markets, and pubs near each school I chose. Because those are the essentials of life. Enough said.