I set out on a narrow way/many years ago…
-Rascal Flatts (and yes, I’m a little worried that I hate country music and have found myself listening to a country band twice during my writing time this week, but I like these guys)
It hasn’t quite been a year, but I think I’m finally ready to deconstruct one of the most amusing dreams I’ve ever had. So let me tell you, dear reader, about the Lester Faigley Gargoyle.
Should Dr. Faigley find this entry by Googling himself or some other happenstance, know that I’m a huge fan of your work. I loved Fragments of Rationality. You could even say it got in my head. LITERALLY.
So here’s the story. At the end of my MA, I had a thesis defense/reading exam. This is, I believe, quite common in the field (though I envy some of my peers who wrote 40 pages and defended it—I read approximately 40 scholarly works and wrote almost 150 pages). My exam was scheduled, however, at a time that would work for all three of my committee members, and some of them were leaving the university for the summer. So the week of my exam, my mother had surgery and was laid up in the hospital AND I had three full day sessions of portfolio evaluation.
I hadn’t finished all of my reading when the week started. Yeah, I’m a bad boy. I was reading The Braddock Essays collection, and I figured “oh, I’ll be fine finishing this up!” and I hadn’t received one of the Jay David Bolter books I was reading a chapter of (I love that book, btw—it’s called Windows and Mirrors, with Richard Grusin, I believe, as the co-author. It’s oft overlooked in our field). But I had a pre-defense meeting with my chair, and she gave me a few sample questions. One of them was about Faigley’s book and a point I took issue with (wherein the doctor details online classes where he felt he couldn’t speak—I mentioned that as a longtime digital student/instructor I knew that one just had to take agency).
My chair mentioned that this same question might come up in my defense and that I’d want to have proof ready if I wanted to claim Faigley was wrong (which I’m not sure I was saying; it’s not about right or wrong, but rather it’s about perception of a moment. Chatters, particularly at that moment in internet history, wouldn’t grant space to anyone. It was a “take your spot” time). So I decided I better re-read that book.
The night before my exam was rough for my mom (not an excuse—I still passed with high distinction, and I only fumbled one question because I decided to be honest instead of lying and BSing about a text I couldn’t remember due to my mind just blanking on me out of panic), so I fell asleep in a chair at the hospital reading FoR. In my dream, I was in the room where my exam was to happen, and there was a gargoyle in the corner.
The gargoyle spouted lines and ideas from FoR in the voice of Patton Oswalt impersonating Tom Carvelle. It was a mix of terrifying and comforting, but in the dream my committee members couldn’t hear it, and at times I was using it as a citation.
The question didn’t come up in my exam. In fact no one brought up Faigley’s work in particular (though I used him myself to justify my postmodern stance). But some nights I am still visited by the Lester Faigley Gargoyle. I wonder if he’s not protecting the roof of my intellectual house, insuring that the water doesn’t seep in and cause damage and warding off evil spirits.
Or if maybe my imagination is too wild.