Putting oneself into one's writing

Since I graduated (undergrad) in 2001, I've been putting/bringing myself into my writing in the classes that I've been taking as a graduate student at large…

First, a matter of scope.  By "one's writing" I am referring to non-fictional, academic writing.  I believe that is as broad as I want to construe it.  Of course, my writings have been even further restricted as I have only written in a few disciplines since graduation. (Silly boy, that's still more disciplines than most people encounter in an entire college career today.)

By this I mean situating oneself and more particularly placing one's experiences into the project by engaging the material in view of one's own experiences.  We can never truly know anyone else, and while we are unable to fully and truly know ourselves, in the end 'we,' that is our own personal 'we,' is all we can ever know.  This bit of trivia is based on over 40 years of personal experience and in particular on the last few years of my education.  These brief sentences are the shorthand of the shorthand of the arguments that get us here.  Yes, I am greatly oversimplifying (that essay is for another day).

My college experience, and a lifetime of reading, have impressed upon me a certain style of writing that is analytic and synthetic, but dispassionate, and completely divested of one's person, and particularly of one's being.  My education brought these two together and to a head for me.  This detached style of writing, at which I am pretty good, was bothering me before my undergraduate graduation in May 2001.  Maybe this is in part due to how much of me was being found or rediscovered over the last few years.  Either way or another, I have read a few passionate things, or pieces where an author's true self shines forth, or heaven forbid she places herself in the narrative.  Just as in any style of writing, there are bad examples, but there are also excellent examples. 

And since we can only know ourselves, and it is ourselves that we know best, why is it that we leave ourselves out? 

31 Dec 2003


Distinguished Alumni 2003

I want to begin with a big thank you to the department for choosing me as a Distinguished Graduate this past year. This university, and especially the Philosophy Department has been very good to me in so many ways. This was an incredible honor for me and I really enjoyed our panel discussion format and my co-honorees, Stacy, Michelle and Steve. I had the privilege of being in a few classes with Michelle and we graduated at the same time. I truly enjoyed getting to know Stacy (and if you ever need a quality draft beer on me give me a call) and am happy to see someone making a positive difference in her community. I had a truly enjoyable evening with many and varied intelligent and interesting people, but I deeply regret not being able to spend any time with Steve. We are about the same age but our lives went in such completely different paths. A missed opportunity on my part I fear.

I work as a Library Technical Assistant at Milner Library in Access Services (Circulation, Reserves and ILL). I do many things, but my primary function is electronic reserves. I am also a graduate student at-large; which by the way, happens to be one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I take classes that I am interested in, particularly if they are from professors that I like as educators and scholars. ISU pays my tuition and fees as an employee. People sometimes laugh at me, but I do not intend to ever stop taking classes. I am in my third seminar with our own Dr. Horvath (2004 recipient of the David Strand Diversity Achievement Award, congrats Chris!) in this manner.

This year I was finally able to get my grad school application completed. I should know in early March if I will be able to start on my Masters in Library Science degree at UIUC this summer. This unfortunately means a return to other-directed studies for a while, but the end result is that I will be able to get a slightly better paying job that will allow me to ensconce myself at an academic institution for the rest of my life (at the minimum acceptable wage, since one could say I am well ensconced here.). I also hope to at sometime get another Masters degree in something along the lines of History, Philosophy, or Sociology of Science and Technology since many academic libraries require librarians to have a 2nd subject masters.

My hobbies are: Learning. Questioning or is it questing? Various reading/discussion groups that I'm in, which besides being intellectually broadening and stimulating provide me with a sense of community. Being a member of a community of scholars. Watching my children turn into the wonderful young adults that they are.

Last, but always foremost, I want to thank Donna and Iris for their never-ending love and support. Two finer women I have not known.

Published in Alumni Newsletter, Department of Philosophy, Illinois State University, Volume 8 Spring 2004, pp. 3-4.


Education for a Lifetime

Frequently, I am asked about my current undertakings as a student. When I tell said interlocutor what I am currently up to I am usually either looked at as if I have a contagious disease, told I am nuts, asked if my credits will transfer, and so on. I am a graduate student at-large; which by the way, happens to be one of the most liberating experiences of my life. I take classes that I am interested in, particularly if they are from professors that I like as educators and scholars. None of them will transfer and I often audit the classes if my semester seems too busy. Of course, this just adds further questions such as, "What is auditing?" and "Why would anyone audit a course?" I can only give my reasons, which for me are wonderful reasons! I am a life-long student - there is so much of importance and of interest in this world that I cannot understand how others cannot also be interested; maybe not interested in the same things as me of course, but interested in something. I am not just randomly grazing at the feast of learning though; there is a definite method and purpose to what I take whether for a grade or auditing.

This semester I am auditing both of my classes since I have now joined a third reading/discussion group. My classes are Sociology of Religion and a Topics in the Philosophy of Science and Mind seminar focusing on Evolutionary Psychology. These classes are with ISU Distinguished Professor Dr. Richard Stivers and Dr. Chris Horvath, respectively.

So why am I taking these classes you might ask? I cannot begin to say enough about Richard Stivers as a professor, as a scholar, as a male role-model, and simply as a human being. Previously I have taken three graduate seminars with Dr. Stivers and am currently in two reading/discussion groups with this learned gentleman, along with others in the past. This scholar's work is absolutely essential to my figuring out this world that I find that I inhabit after retiring from the Army. The way I see it, my society is floundering on the rocks and his work explains why this is so for me. His sources and influences are extremely valuable to this process. I am taking Sociology of Religion because he is teaching it from his overall theoretical view. I would be a complete fool not to make the most of the time that I can with him while we are both here at ISU.

My topics seminar is my third one with Dr. Horvath. He is dual-tenured in Philosophy and Biology. In my first seminar on the concept of the gene, I wrote a devastating critique of evolutionary psychology. I am taking this semester long look at the subject to further my understanding of its strengths and weaknesses as a theory. I consider this only fair, as it is overly simple to undermine any discipline from a methodological or theoretical standpoint. It is much harder to try to learn, apply, and possibly improve upon its remaining methodological or theoretical strengths.

This breadth of subjects, and depth in a few, can only serve to benefit me in my chosen work in academic libraries. I heartily encourage everyone to consider a return to scholarship and learning. Working at an academic institution requires engaging with students and faculty; taking classes is one of the best methods to further that engagement. Also, it is a great way to further Milner's mission, and to show the academic community that the library is composed of wonderful people. Anyone with questions regarding 'returning' to school should feel free to talk to me.

Published in Milner Memos: The Monthly Newsletter of Milner Library's Faculty and Staff, No. 161, March 2004, pp. 7 -8.


Please email me at: mark [DOT] lindner [AT] insightbb [DOT] com

©2007 Mark R. Lindner     This page last updated 16 July 2007.