Welcome to my blog..

"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty

When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.

I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.

As of September 2013 I started teaching writing (composition and rhetoric) as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While felt blessed for the opportunity, after four years of this, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in my own apartment and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again.

I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.

I am now working full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, and editor. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.

Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.

For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani

Recently, I started a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. I will be blogging there, too, now. You can also contact me through that site.

Monday, May 19, 2014

How's 'molecular history' grab ya?

OK, so the folks who contributed to the discussion about micro-history have earned a collective ‘prize’, because all of them have contributed to a deeper understanding on my part of what ‘micro-history’ has meant, can mean and how it relates to this project (The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani aka "my grandmothers book).  You are all invited to my place for dinner to convene for my famous lentil stew and an ongoing conversation.  Jane, who instigated this conversation by asking the question about ‘micro,’ is also invited as chief provocateur.

First to give credit for a suggestion for a totally new name, ‘granular history” – a real writer's choice from a real writer, Christian - who notes that granular data is that collected at the level of individuals, that granular also implied grain and of course ‘grannies.’  I love the poetry of this, but have not landed here…however, it got me thinking in the direction of evocative terms that are not only about size 'micro' but also substance...I also just thought of course of grainy photographs...like this one...(a personal favorite...)

Dick, Jim & George: 1939 - this picture just haunts me in all the right ways

hmmm...maybe I will go back to this...but for now...

Comments about micro-history from Robin and a historian, referred to the history of the term, which gained traction in the 1970s-80s amongst European academics and implies histories that either included people who were not ‘major actors’ but also not ‘major events.’  Or “asks large questions in small spaces.” 

Robin looked up the definition of micro, which was “conceded with minute detail” (which, she noted, hardly means insignificant) in contrast to small, which was "not great in amount, number, strength or power" (the last one was what struck her).  Therefore micro is not about small but about 'minute detail.'

The historian mentioned a book I know I should read, Nina Gelbert's King's Midwife.  She suggested this because the author discussed how difficult it was to write about a person who can only be discovered in traces.  While I have a lot of stuff about both grandmothers, there are also a lot of gaps I need to fill, so this is valuable to consider.

John, who contributed the most in-depth analysis, saw an analogy to micro and macro-economics, quoting the comedian P.J. O’Rourke who said “microeconomics concerns things that economists are specifically wrong about, while macroeconomics concerns things economists are wrong about generally.”  In other words, one has to do with money on the ground and the other has to do with theories of economic flows, models, etc. 

John goes on to say that "the distinction being made with micro-history is much more complex than the economic model would suggest, because economics looks for necessary relationships that can be mathematically modeled and history is about contingency. Right from the start of your project, the differences between Dick and Jani's lives illustrates that micro-history is not about correlations, nor about differences-in-degree that can be measured: it is about choices and consequences, about the differences-in-kind that compose historical events and times....

"...Macro-histories show how people are caught up in the sweep of history, but micro-histories show how each person makes choices that distinguish them as individuals over and above the general flow of the historical. The "big names" of state sponsored macro-narratives may have changed the course of the historical, but in micro-histories individuals are changing themselves and distinguishing themselves from the dominant narratives of their time...

Further "...micro-histories create an ever larger sense of the historical: far from trivializing history, the micro-historical gives back to history the complexity proper to anything temporal in nature.”

So, given what we have seen in terms of grand narratives, I’m all pro-the micro in this context. 
However, John also drew a parallel between the way micro & macro works here and 'molecular' & 'molar' works in the French philosophers Deleuze & Guattari.  I am not going to summarize their work here, because that would be silly...but...

This led me to consider a phrase I now like ‘molecular history' – because molecular is a level that can only be perceived with a micro-view - but, as we all know, nothing exists without being created by molecules.  If you could see any object at the molecular level, you would see how vital even a seemingly inanimate object is. This ironically, gets us closer to the complexity of the reality on the ground as it were.  Plus, molecules cannot be considered trivial in any way and are bound by strong, yet mutable, bonds...kinda like, well, life...

So...Whaddya think?? 

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