I’m the smartest little geisha in Japan.
-Sidney Jones (“The Geisha”)

One of the best things about the department I’m in is that there’s a real sense of community: the graduate students know and like each other. We respect each other’s work. Besides seminars, which yours truly is no longer taking, the main forum for sharing our academic preoccupations with each other is the Slavic kruzhok (accent on the o). The kruzhok, which literally translates to “little circle,” is a place where we meet at least once a month to discover what we’re all working on and to exchange ideas, as well as to eat and do what people usually do while eating: complain, pleasantly bicker, catch up and learn from each other. It’s a great thing to have in place for intellectual support (not to mention surviving graduate school) and really helps to foster ideas.

Yesterday, some of my fellow graduate students and I went to the SF Ballet to see Igor’ Stravinsky’s “Petrouchka” (staged in the same way it was back when it premiered in Paris with the Ballet Russe in 1911)–an event that was sponsored by Kruzhok. After the performance, the Greek and I (who attended as an honorary member of Slavic) went to Hayes Valley where we continued the French theme by getting crepes and buying delicious macarons (featured above) from Paulette. Like with most things, I’m now obsessed with the thought of making my own, but this project will have to wait until the fast-approaching summer is well and truly here. I need to buy supplies; this isn’t just a pantry-ready undertaking.

Then, today was our last meeting of the semester and we had ice cream cake, festively decorated for spring (Kruzhok was proudly written across the cake in its original Cyrillic font) and, coincidentally enough, more macarons….this time, however, from the delicious Masse’s Pastries in Berkeley. Don’t you just love the colors? They’re like mini works of art.

The topic of discussion was dissertations. And, yes, I’m still working on mine. Slowly but surely, this beast is coming together. It will be done by mid-May….before I float off into the land of age 28 (!!!!) and my fun summer travels begin. To show you what I’m working on–in the non-culinary arena–I offer two images: the first is a perfume ad from the 1890s in Russia when Japonisme was on the rise and geishas were a rising symbol of beauty; the second is a Russian ad for the somewhat shockingly silly and yet oh so forgivably campy operetta by Sidney Jones, “The Geisha, or the Story of a Japanese Tea House” (1896).

My ideas on both are currently mapped out in my mind, but are still working their way into a written and polished format. I guess you’ll just have to read the chapter. Maybe that’s just the incentive I need. šŸ™‚

5 thoughts on “Dissertation Survival: Community and Cookies

  1. I'm so happy to see that someone caught a shot of the lovely cake before we ate it all! Good work. And I agree with every word above – our department is all about cookies and community. Slovo! (instead of saying “word”).

  2. Ha ha, I just googled “berkeley slavic kruzhok” (hoping to find a description of the group from an earlier year) and this entry is the number five hit! Wow, it's almost like you're famous. šŸ™‚

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