Your name: Sean Dolan
Your home town: Clear Lake, Minnesota
Your major(s): Anthropology
Are you fluent in any language(s) other than English? Malay/Indonesian
What are your career plans? To do research and teach in a university context.
What is your favorite book or author and why? Flannery O’Connor’s The Violent Bear It Away for its rejection of heroism of even the minutest kind.
What is your favorite word? Come on, who has a favorite word? My least favorite words are ones that contain “ag” like “lag”, “baggage”, “dragon”, or “wagon”. Whether because of a residual Minnesotan accent or pure idiosyncrasy, I pronounce such words as most people would “eg”—“leg”, “beggage”, “wegon”. They are a constant source of anxiety.
Describe a significant breakthrough in your development as a writer: My experience as a writer is characterized not so much by breakthroughs as it is by slow plodding—often along paths ultimately abandoned to a “deleted excerpts” file. For me, writing is vexed by the paradox that knowledge of what one intends to write is achieved only as a result of having written it—like one of Zeno’s arrows, the project of writing cannot even be begun. And, much like an Eleatic paradox, the best way of negotiating the problem of writing is to conceal it—avoid reflecting on it—and carry on as well as can be managed. My current best strategy (but strategy is deceptive here, unless one includes alongside the general’s bold plans for confrontation, a panicked flight to the closet to hunker down—to paraphrase Marx, “put a piece of cheese down there on the floor, you’ll find out whether I’m a man or a mouse”) comes from a friend who actually finished her PhD and, as a result, now believes that humans have affective capacities that extend beyond dread, shame and anxiety. She prescribed, knowing that I dislike mornings nearly as much as she, getting up early and beginning to write without giving my head time to clear—taking only enough time to make a cup of coffee before starting. Although it would be dishonest to claim that I have followed this regime strictly, over these summer months I have tried it and found it quite effective; it is easier for me to write in the mornings before my thoughts have come together for the day.