“The most remarkable example of such a process is found in the anal eroticism of young human beings. Their original interest in the excretory function, its organs and products, is changed in the course of their growth…” “
What is Freud saying here?” My professor asks. My class is silent. No one knows how to engage in an academic discussion about “anal eroticism” and “the excretory function.” Someone eventually raises his hand and attempts to tether Freud’s passage to the individual, civilization, the super ego, and guilt.
“Well,” my professor claims, “I think Freud is talking about poop.”
The class laughs. Over the summer, I approached canonical texts, like Freud’s Civilization and Its Discontents, through close reading. In other words, I analyzed texts on a sentence and word level, asking myself, what is the writer saying here? What are these words doing? While I learned how to close read many years ago, revisiting this method of reading reminded me how to be a careful researcher. I did not close read alone, however, I grappled with these theories in a room full of scholars of color. Through dissecting many important texts amongst a lively group of people of color, I learned a lot about research and feel extremely inspired.
From June 13 through August 13, I participated in the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellowship (MMUF) Summer Research Training Program (SRTP) at the University of Chicago with funding from MMUF and HCAH. The MMUF is a program that aims to diversify institutions of higher learning through encouraging undergraduate students of color to pursue PhDs. Forty other Mellon Fellows from around the country also participated in the SRTP. The program involved taking two classes and engaging in an individual research project under the guidance of a graduate student mentor. As I unpacked theory in my classes and started researching for my senior thesis, I also wandered around Chicago and gained many fruitful friendships amongst my peers and mentors.
Last night, I returned home from the MMUF SRTP and am already longing for Chicago. This past Thursday, I participated in a research symposium, in which I presented my research proposal on the precariously still body and temporality of performance art. After a summer of reading, meeting with many graduate students, and seeing art throughout the city, I narrowed my research question to, how does looking at the act of stillness lead to new understandings of temporality in performance art? After presenting my work to my peers and the public, I returned dozens of books to the library and savored the last moments with my new friends before flying home.
Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. Rev. and newly edited / by James Strachey. London: Hogarth Press, 1975.