Take my current problem, for example: to write a 25+page in-depth analysis of Gertrude Stein's Three Lives; if possible, to come up with some original insight into its creation, reception, and influence on modern American literature.
What else is there to say, though? I can talk about how much of an influence Cubism had on Stein and her work (and how much influence she had on it, thanks to her and Leo's palling around with the Parisian artist's community); taking that idea further, I can write about how much her experimental style reflected and influenced early 20th-century literary modernism; we can discuss the sexual politics of "The Good Anna" and/or racial politics of "Melanctha", even though I find analyses like these irritating and exhausting; I can go back and mine Stein's work with William James and the Harvard Psychology Laboratory for some juicy tidbits about her characterization style.
Thing is, it's all been done. I'm currently surrounded by a sea of printouts of journal articles talking about everything I mentioned above. The only other approach I can think of at the moment is to discuss the significance of threes in Stein's life and work made manifest in Three Lives (also, Cubism. See, cube = three. Get it? *groans*), and right now I don't know how to spin that one without making me sound like some weird New Age fool.
The problem here, too, is that I have now read Three Lives backwards, forwards, and sideways, and I can tell you this: I hate it. I HATE IT. I have never liked the Modernist Literature movement and its dreary misery and emptiness. I hated the literary and linguistic experimentation and how it was all so dreadfully artificial and frequently got in the way of whatever story there was -- and sometimes there wasn't any story to speak of, nothing but a mess. It takes an extremely talented writer to make his or her experimentation seem fluid and organic, and as far as I was concerned Joyce (and to a certain extent Woolf) did it. I am a formalist at heart, and Miss Stein, all you did here was annoy me. Especially with "Melanctha" and its meanderingly circular way of storytelling. Talk about ending not with a bang but with a whimper.
I want to make it clear that I'm not against all literary and linguistic experimentation here -- literature would stagnate if it didn't occur -- but there's a huge slush pile of mediocrity to wade through, here.
It feels like a rat race, sometimes.
Gosh, that felt good. I'm sure I'll regret a lot of the things I've said here by tomorrow, but right now, it feels really good.