Friday, March 31, 2006

Ugh - Time for a Break

Ok, so after five hours of less-than-solid work, I've got all of the style stuff done (though I need to double-check it), and I've realized that I somehow (still) need to cut like 3 pages, even though I already cut three pages. Whatever. The point is, I am going to take a break for a couple of hours, and then I will dig back in. Yes, I'd wanted to finish this thing by this afternoon, but that is just not going to be possible.

But the hard part of the work is done. Now it's just a matter of going over everything with a fine-tooth comb, well, and of chopping out any garbage that I can.


This profession is not for the faint of heart.

Random Music - Editing Music

The iPod is on shuffle. Here's what's playing:

  1. Blackjack by Ray Charles
  2. If Only Tonight We Could Sleep by The Cure
  3. Blues Before Sunrise by John Lee Hooker
  4. Leather by Tori Amos
  5. It Should Have Been Me by Ray Charles
  6. St. Louis Blues by Django Reinhardt
  7. It Serves You Right to Suffer by John Lee Hooker
  8. My Only Friend by Magnetic Fields
  9. Isobel by Bjork
  10. How Insensitive by Sinead O'Connor
  11. 1999 by Prince
  12. Angelene by PJ Harvey
  13. Diamonds and Pearls by Prince
  14. Murder or a Heart Attack by Old 97s
  15. Queen of the Slipstream by Van Morrison

A Pox on You, Chicago Manual of Style!

I am in the process of dealing with the stupid translation of my article into the stupid form that is Chicago Style.

Luckily, I had to use this stupid style with my dissertation, and apparently it's one of those "just like riding a bike" things that comes back to one. Problematically, I've never been a great bike-rider.

I have successfully done six (6) of the approximately 4,000 notes that this style will require of me. I want to punch (or kill) someone (myself? the publisher? who?).

Be prepared for periodic updates of my pain, as I cannot sustain this kind of work for longer than 20 minutes at a stretch.

Poetry Friday - Mark Strand

I don't have much commentary for this week's poetry selection. I honestly just opened a book on my desk and this is what I hit. It is a poem I love, though, "Keeping Things Whole," by Mark strand, and it resonates with my mood today, though I couldn't really tell you why.

Keeping Things Whole

In a field
I am the absence
of field.
This is
always the case.
Wherever I am
I am what is missing.

When I walk
I part the air
and always
the air moves in
to fill the spaces
where my body's been.

We all have reasons
for moving.
I move
to keep things whole.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Throwing Things at the Wall And Seeing What Sticks

A Professional Development Post

Ok, so I'm supposed to be translating my article into Chicago Style. I have procrastinated about doing this all week long. I need to send it off tomorrow, so there is no time like the present. Also, I generally do not allow myself to internet (and yes, I'm using that as a verb) in the evenings, as I don't want to become the sort of person whose life is dependent upon the computer all the time. But I thought to myself, after I a) spent 2 hours going to Target and to Pet Smart, b) had some lunch, c) took a nap, d) went for a power-walk (incidentally: work-outs for me are so much better at the gym, but with the nice weather I tried to do the outside thing; the problem is that I'm l-a-z-y and I don't push myself without seeing numbers on a screen), and e) talked to my mom on the phone, that I should break my rule about interneting by night and check my school email. I especially don't do this under normal circumstances because I do not want to fall into being available to my students 24/7. But so I checked my email, and what did I find?

Ok, so remember at the beginning of the week, how I should have been editing my article and turning it into Chicago Style? Well, I didn't feel like doing that. And so, I thought I'd procrastinate by sending off a proposal for an MLA Special Session. Now, why did this seem like something I should do? Well, it was my whole "Throwing Things At the Wall" theory of Professional Development at work. I thought to myself that if I wasn't doing one kind of work (grading or editing or changing into Chicago Style) that I should do another, on the off chance that it might become something. But we all have submitted abstracts to proposed MLA Special Sessions before. (Well, all of us lit types. If you're not one of those, just replace MLA with your acronym of choice.) We all know that the likelihood of having one's proposal accepted is like... zero. Especially when one sends in the proposal to a person whom one does not know, and the proposal is about a topic of which one only has experiential knowledge and on which one has done only minimal scholarly work. I mean, what is the chance of something sticking to the wall under those conditions? I was just procrastinating, right? Nothing would come of this, surely!

Apparently, the chances of something like this sticking to the wall are quite good. I just heard back from the organizer. He said he's very interested, and he asked me to send along my CV. Of course, this may not mean a thing. He could see my CV and say, "yes, you're not really worthy of inclusion on my panel," or he may include me and the MLA may reject the panel as a whole. Who knows. But, let's say that things actually turn out nicely and that none of those problems happen. Let's say I'm accepted and it's accepted. You know what that means? That means I have to go to fucking MLA for the third fucking year in a row. Even though it's totally inconvenient and even though I always regret how tired it makes me and losing that time off of my far-too-short break. WHY? WHY DO I DO THIS TO MYSELF?

Well, it's partly that I really love the MLA convention. Truly. I think it's fun. I know that's insane, but hey, others must like it, too, because I'm not the only person who goes all the time. And yes, of course, I'm actually pleased as can be to have gotten this positive response to my ideas, and I'm even more pleased because the organizer is also trying to put together a collection on the panel topic, and so if all goes well this may end up meaning another publication opportunity, too. All very exciting.

One last thing, though: I'm stupidly over-committed already and I've no idea how I'm going to fit in even just one more thing. Please, should I mention trying to throw anything else at the wall, tell me that I am an idiot.

The Date

Technically, the date was the best that I've had to this point in my adventures. The conversation flowed freely, the food was delicious, we laughed, I left the date feeling like I'd had a good time, etc.

Ok, my careful readers: what is the most important word in the above two sentences?

That's right, "technically." Because I continue to like the Chemist a great deal but after meeting him? Well, I just don't think he's for me. Why?

  1. If he's 5'9", as he claims to be, I would be surprised.
  2. Though he may be 5'9" because his posture is so horrible that the slouching may be making him shrink a couple of inches.
  3. He's... small. His frame is small. I feel like I could break him. I'm not some Jabba the Hut or anything, but I am, in the immortal words of my mother, "a big girl."
  4. He does have a nice face, but it reminds me of a cross between my childhood dentist and William H. Macy. (This may be demeanor, too.)

But all of these things are horribly superficial, right? In truth, they are just the things I'm seizing on that are concrete and that are easier to articulate than the thing that I think really made me feel like this didn't have any sort of romantic future last night. The truth is, I think he's just too reserved for me. I'm... well, I'm very outgoing. I have, if I do say so myself, a sparkling personality. And I take charge. And those are fine things, but I don't want always to determine the course of things in my personal life, and that's the danger when I'm with somebody who... I don't know... is always looking for me to direct them. I mean, I planned this whole date. I decided the time, the place, the everything. And then on the date, I decided what I'd order before he did (which NEVER happens - I'm always the person who's like, "you go, and I'll figure it out while you order"). I decided the course of the conversation. I decided (well, with the nudging of the wait staff eyeing our table) when the date ended. I decided that we would hug at the end of the date (after I awkwardly said as he looked at me like he didn't know what to do, "I don't know how to end dates" which I do think would have been a perfect opening for him to take just a tiny bit of a lead, but instead after another awkward pause I followed with, "I'm going to hug you now**.). I decided, in a word, everything. I mean, why couldn't he have suggested that we go for a cup of coffee after dinner? I would have gone. But you know what? By the end of the dinner I had had enough of being the cruise director.

I'm being too hard on the whole thing, I know. I'm making the whole evening sound worse than it was. I really did have a pleasant and nice time. I suppose it's just I'm looking for more than things like "pleasant" and "nice" and "like," etc. My alter ego is not Dr. Crazy for nothing - I need some passion, some craziness. And with the Chemist? I'm just not feeling it. So in the coming days/weeks I'll need your advice about how to transform him into a friend, if such a thing is possible. (I have faith that if it is possible that I can achieve it - I mean, I achieved the Roommate Switch, was supposed to be impossible, right?)

And so, it's time for me to go and reply to a guy whom I'll call.... Stavros (like Stavros Niarchos, the Greek Shipping Heir - hee!). At least he's over 6" tall and I won't feel like an Amazon next to him. And he seems funny. And our backgrounds (well, other than that he's Greek and that he's not an academic and he's divorced) seem to be very similar. Hmmm....

** I should note that I'm not a particularly touchy-feely person and I'm not much of a hugger - even with people whom I know very well. Thus, the fact that I had to initiate this awkward thing was even more awkward for me than you might imagine. That said, he was a nice hugger, when all was said and done.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Jitters: Is It the Caffeine or the Looming D-Word?

Perhaps a bit of both. It's 1 PM. I really can't afford to blow my whole afternoon and not do anything before dinner. And yet, I sit in front of my computer, paralyzed. Do I go to the gym? (I suspect that would be good, except I kind of don't want to.) Do I eat some lunch? (I need to eat, but I don't want to eat garbage food and apparently that's all I have in my house currently.) Do I go shopping? (A pathetic thing to do indeed.)

I don't know. I suppose the point here is that I hate this part of things. And what I usually end up doing is procrastinating to such an extent that I end up being late, even though I don't get anything of any value done pre-D-word.

Ugh. I hate dating. I also hate dating because, well, I think I might be a bit of a jerk about it. See, here's the thing: I'm ultimately completely without hope that dating is anything but a total crap-shoot and whether one thinks one likes a person or clicks with a person is ultimately immaterial because that could just be a mistake or end up not mattering in the grand scheme of things. (Yes, I know I'm fucked up. Whatever.) Thus, the only rational way to approach dating is as something that one has absolutely no control over, much as the only rational way to approach things in this profession (going on the market, submitting to journals, getting a book contract, etc.) is as something that one has absolutely no control over. Because the thing is, there are a ton of people who are really good scholars who don't get jobs (etc.) and there are a ton of people who are really awesome who don't have relationships (etc.). Thus, the only appropriate strategy in both cases is to put oneself out there and to hope for the best. Kind of like throwing something at a wall and seeing what sticks.

So last night I was talking to the Chemist and I talked about my professional side of this theory (related to the fact that I often end up over-committed because I practice the whole "throw-and-see-what-sticks" theory of professional development) and he said the following:

"Wow, I hope you don't approach dating the same way." (While laughing. Because of course he seems to be under the impression that I'm not an asshole, and so he thought he was making a funny joke rather than that he thought he had my number.)

All of this can only end in tears. Or in me having like 4 boyfriends at once, if the professional analogy holds. Oh god.

We Interrupt Your Scheduled Boy-Craziness for Some Pedagogical Strategies

New Kid's got a thread going over on her blog, a kind of pedagogical round-table or round-up in which commenters are asking questions about situations that they find challenging in the classroom. I added my own query to the comment-thread, but as I was reading through others' responses I noticed that a lot of people's concerns were literature-class related, so I thought I would post about it over here, and perhaps then the comment thread from this post could be a branch off of New Kid's in which all of the lit-minded folks could get more specific about pedagogical strategies in literature classes. I'm in no way claiming to be an expert on this stuff, but teaching four classes a semester (well, except for this semester) and teaching a wide range of students with a wide range of levels and backgrounds, I have thought about this stuff a great deal. So, over in the comment thread at New Kid's.....

Prefer Not to Say wants to know:

1. "How to design a non-lecture-style classroom activity for a work of literature (ie, not composition classroom) that doesn't wind up being vastly reductive, or just busywork. I am all ears if anyone has ANY activity that works on ANY text."

Ok, this is kind of a tall order, but I think a version of the following can work on any text, no matter what the genre. I know I've used it for poetry, novels, and plays.

  • Break students into groups of four. (Four is, I think, the ideal group number. Five can mean that some people don't participate; three can sometimes seem to small. At the beginning of the semester I tend always to assign the groups; as the semester progresses I sometimes assign the groups, and I sometimes let them choose with whom they work.)
  • Give each group a set of identical questions (about three) but different things through which to focus those questions. (For example, when I taught Hamlet, I did this activity with characters. I assigned each group a character, and they had to come up with answers for the following: a) describe the character - what he/she looks like, personality traits, etc. b) the character's relationship to the other characters in the play - including alliances and conflicts, and c) pick one scene that you believe defines this character and discuss why you think so. If you don't want to do characters, you can do it with themes; if you don't want to do it with themes/symbols, or you can do it by content, so each group would be assigned a different chapter, and then they have to a) summarize it b) discuss how it relates to the text as a whole - or the reading for that day as a whole and c) pick a pivotal moment that they think is crucial to the reading of the entire text and discuss why.)
  • This is the most important part: Each group has only 15-20 minutes for the activity. While they are working, you plot out spaces for each group to write their answers on the dry-erase board (ideally) in different colored markers. When the group is done, they record their responses on the board, and then the discussion for that day revolves around looking at each group's answers and looking at the passages that they thought were most crucial. (I generally do this activity in a class that meets for 1 hour and 15 minutes, but if you had a 50 minute class you could easily spread it over two class periods, or eliminate different parts of the activity, giving them less time to meet in groups and more time for class discussion. Oh, and I usually use this activity in lower-division classes with approximately 30 students.)

2. How to teach non-modernist poetry. Really. Like Shakespearean sonnets. What are your aims when you bust out those sonnets? What concrete steps do you take to get there?

Ok, this is a great question for me because a) I'm not actually a "poetry person," i.e., I do not tend to do my scholarship on poetry, b) I do teach poetry - everything from Shakespearean sonnets to postmodern poetry, and c) I'm one of those people who specializes in 20th century stuff, technically, so old-fashioned formal poetry isn't necessarily my thing (although I think it's so important to teach it).

  • I like teaching things like Shakespearean Sonnets or odes or ballads or whatever because I do think that it's important that students understand that poetry is not just feelings thrown on a page with some rhymes but rather that it has metrical and aesthetic constraints. Unless one teaches "old-fashioned" poetry, students do not see that. And yes, I spend time in my lower-division classes on scanning lines of poetry and explaining to them how different poetic conventions (enjambment, repetition, etc.) affect meaning. It's easier to see these things in "old-fashioned" poems than it is in, say, The Wasteland, for novice readers of poetry.
  • I'm not sure how to explain the concrete steps thing, except that 1) we always read poetry aloud, whatever kind of poem we're reading; 2) we always take poems apart line by line, stanza by stanza; 3) I focus particular attention on the "turns" in poetry and on layers of images and meaning. A great book for students/teachers of "old-fashioned" poetry is Mary Oliver's Rules for the Dance - which is short and yet really comprehensive for one's purposes in lower-division classes.

As a corollary to Prefer Not to Say's question about in-class activities, Dr. Virago asks:

And as a corollary to that, how do you do small group work without worrying that some kid on the other side of the room is saying something completely wacky and that the rest are agreeing with him/her?

I think that's the reason I like the reporting on the board aspect of the above activity that I described. If they record what the group has discussed, and if they record something wacky, it then gives me a way of talking about it that is not an assault on the wack job but also that allows me to correct the error for the whole class. It distances the bizarre reading from the individual and instead makes it be about everything that's on the board. Also, one can often find ways to use what other students have written to get students to realize that the wacky thing is wrong - I don't have to do the correcting at all - I just need to question them and push them based on what all of the groups have reported back.

Next, LaLecturess asks:

I'd like help (from the literary types) on how to switch things up on days when I'm just d-r-a-g-g-i-n-g my class through a passage that I think is important, but when they're not producing anything and they don't want to look at the language closely enough. [. . .] Other than calling on people at random one after another, or moving on to something else, or lecturing them on the importance of close-reading, does anyone have any good strategies?

Ok, this one I can answer much better than the poetry one, as my life is one of looking at passages that make students want to cry. Here are some strategies that I've used:

  • Usually I tend to read the passage in its entirety first, aloud. This is a fine strategy to begin, but if they're not talking, the only way to fix it is to take the focus off of me reading and rambling. Thus, once I've read the passage, and if they are silent, I tend to...
  • Have a student or students be the readers of portions of the passage - don't do it yourself. This takes the focus off of you, and it puts the ownership of the passage onto them. Standing toward the back of the room can help with this as well, designating a student to write people's comments on the board, and leading discussion from behind.
  • Lead the discussion by focusing on very precise points in the passage. Ask questions, and don't be afraid of silence. Sometimes, silence means they're thinking. I think we English Professor Types forget that, as in graduate school we are trained to blab to prove that we are worthy of being there.
  • If they're still not talking, try letting them free-write for five minutes in response to the passage without putting their names on their papers, and then doing this "round-robin" activity, where you move the class into a circle, and - kind of like in musical chairs - you have the students pass the papers around until you yell "stop" and then you call on somebody to read what is written on the paper in front of him/her. This means that nobody knows who wrote what, and it also means that you aren't calling somebody out by calling on him or her. It can get a little rowdy, but it has always worked for me.
  • When all else fails, be the Mean Professor and tell them that you are disgusted by their lack of participation and that they should leave because you can't teach people who aren't engaged. This is the nuclear option, but sometimes they need a jolt to understand that they are responsible for getting the most out of the class that they can. Sometimes an "I've read this carefully before and so it makes no difference to me if we go through this. You, on the other hand, will be tested on this, so perhaps you have more of a reason to worry than I do, and I'm not here to spew information out at you for you to regurgitate it back" does wonders as well. You may make the more sensitive ones cry, and your evaluations may suffer, but sometimes the class is much better for it. Use at your own discretion.

Ok, those are all the thoughts I had. Any other thoughts in response to these questions? Any other lit-specific questions? Any idea what I should wear tonight? Because I'm wigging out just a wee bit about this whole d-a-t-e that is fixing to occur. At least writing this post did distract me for a bit....

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A Hodge-Podge, or "I Should Be Grading"

But two things before I get to the grading that I should have done last night.

1. At approximately 7:40 this morning, my phone rings. It is my mother. Is something wrong? Why is she calling me before work?

Crazy's Mom: "Crazy, turn on Katie Couric! The sexy priest is on! Ok, I've got to go. But turn it on! You've got to see him!"

And then she hung up on me.

I suppose I should mention that during my mom's and my chat on Saturday that she had a list of discussion items from the Today! show, including Ann Curry's haircut (horrible) as well as "this sexy priest!" who is unbelievably good-looking and smart, which makes my mom both suspicious and intrigued. "Where did they find him anyway?," she wondered. "Do you think he's really a priest or just somebody the Vatican found to improve the Church's image?"

The thing is, the sexy priest is, really, quite sexy. I'm not sure how I feel about any of this.

2. Dr. Crazy has a d-a-t-e. Not a coffee date. Not a lunch date. A dinner date. Because the Chemist and I have decided to break the dating rules. And it's on Wednesday, because when I suggested Thursday (just to suggest something) the Chemist felt that was too long to wait. I picked the restaurant, so even if it's horrible I know I'll like the food, which is a good thing. Also, it means that I know what to wear, I won't get lost on the way there, etc. Of course, now I need to figure out what I'm going to wear. I also may need to try to get a hair appointment. I also may need to self-medicate in some fashion so that I'm not a complete freak by Wednesday.

Monday, March 27, 2006

I'm Ready for My Close-Up

Often, a certain Man-Kitty will refuse to pose for photographs. "I can't be bothered, Mama," he meows.

"I am far too busy trying to attack my tail or chasing those imaginary things that I jump up the wall to catch," he caterwauls. "Also, I may be possessed, or I may be an alien, given the way my eyes are glowing at the mo.'"

Other, times, however, the little man does, indeed, like to have his picture taken.

Sometimes he's playing.

Sometimes, though, he's just feeling glamourous.

Obsession, Procrastination, Productivity

That, in three words, was my weekend.

The good news, is that the obsessiveness was (I think) related in large part to the procrastination, and so I'm hoping that now that the productivity has been achieved (complete draft of article done! though now it is 3 pages too long, and I've yet to put it in Chicago Style, so it's not DONE-done, but it is very, very close to done) I will no longer be obsessive or have the problems of procrastinating.

Ok, that is so rambling even I have trouble following it. At any rate, in plain English:

1. Friday, the Chemist called AGAIN. It was actually quite sweet, and yet another good conversation, and it was because I had suggested in my last email before I left school that meeting would be in order and so he wanted to talk to me about that. Tragically, I hadn't really expected him to call me to ask about that, and so I was caught off guard and totally spazzed out. Also, because I was in the throes of massive procrastination guilt I couldn't really bring myself to make plans. (You know how that is, when you're procrastinating you can't actually do anything fun - that whole thing.) So then Friday I drank some wine, felt sorry for myself, talked on the phone, and watched episodes of Sex and the City. I know. It's quite pathetic.

2. On Saturday, I spent the entire day minus the 1 hour I spent at the gym obsessing. Obsessing about the Chemist. Obsessing about my work. Obsessing about my job. Obsessing about fucking literary theory. I was, to put it mildly, a bit of a mess. I accomplished nothing. I ate about 4,000 calories.

3. On Sunday, the heavens opened up and I was productive! Yippee! Did I grade? no. Did I do any prep? Well, not so much. Did I do 99% of the things on my to-do list? Oh, no I did not. But I did write my article. And yes, it's too long now, but it's in a shape where I would show it to somebody without being utterly mortified. And somehow the process of finishing the article made me stop obsessing about the Chemist and gave me some perspective. (I also think the weekend of no contact between us was a good thing.)

So now it's Monday, and while I attempted to beat the Chemist to the emailing punch, I was foiled again by his attentiveness. Love the lovely attention. I did also, however, check in with my other eHarmony suitors. I am refusing to put all of my eggs in one basket before such time as it seems impossible to avoid. So, here's what's going on in eHarmony land.
  • I got a message from The Businessman. No, I'm not kidding. I am utterly surprised that he bothered to write back to my last message, which was about two sentences long and just said I had been busy. I couldn't bear to read the message that he sent. I'll leave it until... sometime.
  • A guy I had written off (Greek, computer guy) finally responded to my short-answer questions! He still has not revealed his picture so who knows about him, but we do know that he is like 6'2" tall.
  • A new guy (Golf pro) asked to start communication with me.

All in all, a completely manageable list of suitors, and then of course there is still my lovely Chemist. Perhaps I will get to have some dates in the near future? This would be very exciting, and I think a great way to celebrate after all of my hard work. Of course, that would be ignoring the mountains of grading that must be accomplished and all of the other tasks that must be accomplished. Sigh.

And guess what else? I found my camera. Man-Kitty pictures will be forthcoming, for those of you who are fans.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Poetry Friday - Except It's Not a Poem - Virginia Woolf

I'm taking a little poetic license with the whole concept of Poetry Friday and I'm posting a passage of what I think is very poetic prose from Virginia Woolf's Orlando.

"and so they talked two hours or more, perhaps about Cape Horn, perhaps not, and really it would profit little to write down what they said, for they knew each other so well that they could say anything they liked, which is tantamount to saying nothing, or saying such stupid, prosy things, as how to cook an omelette, or where to buy the best boots in London, which have no lustre taken from their setting, yet are positively of amazing beauty within it. For it has come about, by the wise economy of nature, that our modern spirit can almost dispense with language; the commonest expressions do, since no expressions do; hence the most ordinary conversation is often the most poetic, and the most poetic is precisely that which cannot be written down. For which reasons we leave a great blank here, which must be taken to indicate that the space is filled to repletion" (253).

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Phone Call

Time contact was made: Approximately 7:30 PM
Time contact was terminated: Approximately 10:15 PM
Last time Dr. Crazy got to know a boy on the phone: 1991.
Evaluation of voice: Darling and in no way chipmunk-y or otherwise offensive.
Feeling after contact was terminated: Giddy and school-girl-like.
Feeling this morning: Same.
Number of times I've reminded myself that discretion is the better part of valor: 479

Best parts of conversation:
a.) We both laughed - a lot.
b.) He was so nice to me, and not in the bad nice guy way but rather in the complimenting of me way, which I adore and which happens like... never with the kind of losers I generally go out with.
c.) My read on him in email wasn't just the whole construction-through-reading thing, but really does seem to be dead on, except for that in email he came across a bit... well, I was worried he'd be too nice, but he's totally not too nice on the phone.
d.) Did I mention how much of the laughing there was? And really like no awkwardness? Yeah, very bizarre.
e.) Oh, and I did love that he seemed nervous when I first answered the phone.

Ok, enough of this. I did mention that my "friends" were following my eHarmony adventures and that there were many interested parties, but the time has not yet been right to reveal that readers both national and international are following my movements. We'll see whether I like him in person before I reveal any of that kind of information. Thus, I should probably shut up about it for now. But yay! It was not horrible! (Other than that I did no work last night, but what's a girl going to do? Work is just not everything.)

Edited to add: I had told him when we got off the phone last night that I would email him today. I went to do so, and he had totally emailed me already. Teehee!

Edited to add in addition to previous addition: I've been trying to leave a comment to respond to you all, but something wacky is happening with the word verification. At any rate, the point is that yes, I am totally, as Itinerarium puts it "toast," I really don't think that this whole "get to know the person" before becoming involved with the person is a good thing, as it really does leave one open to a world of pain and heart-ache, but the Chemist is fantastic. We shall see where it goes. I do know that he's made me into a nicer version of myself than I generally let out into public. I hope that lasts, though, because he is so sweet and I wouldn't want to chew him up and spit him out with the usual sort of bullshit antics that I pull. Ugh! But yes, enjoying the whole thing, currently.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

A Telephone Call

I haven't written much about the Chemist of late, but our correspondence has flourished over the past week. I'm proceeding with caution, for a number of reasons that are too complicated to go into on the blog, but we have agreed to progress to the next level - telephonic communication - this evening. I'm totally nervous and excited and freaked out. How does one talk to a stranger on the phone? Particularly a stranger who isn't really a stranger because one has been having a wonderful correspondence for more than a week with him? Also, I wanted him to call me so that I wouldn't have to be the nervous one who had to get the courage to call, but I fear that the result of this decision to be the callee rather than the caller will mean that I'll be all nutso like the protagonist of this Dorothy Parker story.

Anyway, I'm totally excited. And totally freaked out. Oh, and I'm still not done with my stupid article. I think I should just accept that I'm not going to be done with it until the date of the actual deadline. I'm just annoyed with myself that I have to be that kind of person.

But I'm totally excited. I hope he doesn't have a voice like a chipmunk, though. That would really suck.

Monday, March 20, 2006

2-Year Teaching Schedule - Woohoo!

I just got a note from the Scheduling Gods and I am SOOOOO excited about my teaching schedule for the next two years for my upper division courses.

1. I'm teaching a course in the area of my dissertation Fall 2006.
2. I'll be teaching a course that I just proposed and that just got passed as a general education course that counts for the diversity requirement that is about queer theory and literature. (Of course, I've not really designed the syllabus for this yet, so this will take a lot of work.)
3. I have been given the feminist theory course! That another of my colleagues has taught since I've been here! She had asked in passing if I'd be interested in teaching it, and I said sure, but I didn't realize she meant that it would really happen! I am so excited! Yay! Yay me! (Of course, this means designing a new course.)
4. Another course in postmodern and contemporary fiction.

Dr. Crazy thanks the Scheduling Gods for their consideration of her intellectual needs, and she is very excited to discuss how these courses develop on the blog in the coming months and years.

Edited to add:
A lot of people expressed surprise that we plan so far ahead in my department. I was going to explain all of this in comments, but then I thought that I didn't want to have that long of a comment and for this stuff to be buried in comments. So here's the deal with this 2-year schedule thing:

Part of the reason for this is because we're trying to make sure that the schedule is balanced in such a way that we don't have the problem of courses not making their enrollments. The idea is to have a plan that actually takes into account the courses that people want to teach and to try to make sure that they get to teach them.

But really, I think the point is that even though I've got a 4-4 load, I'm in a really humane department.

1. I teach the same writing courses every fall and spring, 2 sections of the same course, and I can pick and choose when I teach them. Thus, even though it is a chore for me to teach writing, it is made less painful because I'm accommodated by my department in these logistical ways. The same has tended to be true for my literature classes as well.

2. Every fall I teach the survey and every spring I teach intro to lit. I pretty much no longer have to do prep for these courses (unless I tweak or change them, as I do sometimes, but just on a day here or there), and this means that they're just totally a pleasure to teach. The only work really is in grading because I've got my schtick for the classroom down. I can't tell you how great that is, in part because it means that I can experiment in class a bit more and listen to the students more.

3. The upper-division courses are regarded by those who schedule as our reward for those other three "service" classes each semester and so every effort is made to make sure we get to teach them. And they really are a reward - I've never had to teach an upper division class that wasn't of my own invention and that wasn't directly related to my scholarly interests.

Finally, my class sizes are small (partly because the classrooms won't fit more people because they didn't plan for the school to have very many students, so if you're on a campus visit to a school like this, look for very small classrooms because it will mean that you will have a smaller # of students). Writing classes are now capped at 22. Generally I have between 25 and 30 in my service lit classes. And generally my upper division courses end up between 15 and 20. In other words, I teach fewer students than some of my friends working at liberal arts colleges (who also don't have TAs) and with only a 3-3 load.

If you're thinking about teaching at a regional comprehensive university, the gig I have is really a plum gig. Yes, it's still a 4-4 load. Yes, there are challenges to teaching the kind of students that this kind of university attracts. But really: it's not all that bad. And yes, I know what I will be teaching for the next two years. Oh, and I think part of the reason they make these sorts of plans is because they want to trap people here and because generally people never leave the department once hired, so it's not like making long-term plans is a waste of time/energy :)

My Hundredth Post - Is My Article Done?

No. No it isn't.

And thus, if I owe you an email or whatever, you shall have to wait until I have successfully thrown this monkey from my back. I apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.

I choose, however, not to beat myself up about the fact that I'm behind, as really I am a dynamo, given all of my obligations and the demands of a job at my 4-4 load institution. (Let us for the moment ignore the fact that I currently have but three classes to teach.)

In fact, the Chemist really thinks that I'm pretty amazing. Now, of course I've presented myself in a very positive and productive light, and I've downplayed the time spent napping and chatting with my kitty-cat and various friends, both local and national, instead of doing the work that I desperately need to do, but here is his response to what I wrote to him about my job:

"Oh, you typically teach 4 classes? That's insane. How can you
keep track of all of your students and the papers? And do you have to meet
with each one personally? Then on top of that you're doing your own
independent work? And you want to date? Wow, I'm really impressed."

You know, I really do love when people are impressed with me even though I can't finish even the simplest tasks.

Happy Hundredth Post to me! Must go to gym and then force myself to finish the fucking article! Not happy!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Reader's Poll: What Are Your Deal-Breakers?

Ok, so I got a message from The Chemist, in which he revealed something about himself. I don't want to say more than that, as it's not really my business to reveal to the entire internet, but it's got me thinking: if you were in my position, what sort of things could people reveal that would be deal-breakers for you? I'm not talking about anything illegal or whatever, but in terms of information about people's beliefs, lives and pasts, what kinds of things would determine whether you would continue to pursue getting to know the person or dating them?

Number of sexual partners (whether too high or too low)? Having been in jail? Having voted republican? Being a New York Yankee fan? Being poor? What kind of information would count for you as something that would rule a person out?

Poetry Friday - Elizabeth Bishop

I teach this poem in introduction to literature. It is my favorite poem that I teach in that class for a bunch of reasons, not the least of which being that I love the villanelle form. But I love teaching this poem in particular because it's a poem that students tend not to pay much attention to when they read it independently, and they actually believe that the poem is about how easy it is to lose things. Only in class do they get that the poem is about how easy it is and thus how devastating it is at the same time. But once they get the irony of the poem, they relate to it on a really visceral level. All of them have had some great loss or another, and all of them have tried to gloss over it. All of us have. This poem articulates that better than any other I can think of.

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

---Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Productivity: It's a Beautiful Thing

I don't really know what's gotten into me. I've been crazy productive over the past couple of days. Well, this whole week really. I'm about 90% to done on the article, I've graded 40 4-6-page essays, I've begun a new unit in Intro to Lit, which included teaching two poems and introducing Jane Eyre, I've considered submitting a proposal for another article for an essay collection, I've done a student recommendation, I met with Favorite Student Ever, I sent some important emails, I've continued the correspondence with the Chemist, I did 3 loads of laundry, I spent quality time with the Man-Kitty, I readied the assignments through the end of the semester for my comp. classes and did so early enough that I don't have to copy them myself, I've been to the gym regularly and I've been cooking actual meals for myself and bringing my lunch like a good girl. What's the deal?

  • Part of it is that the system I have of conferencing with students to give back papers really works for me, and it's something I've got to continue in future semesters for my writing classes.
  • Part of it is hormonal. At certain times in the month I just have more energy and more motivation.
  • Part of it is that I've been good about the gym this week, which does give energy (although this post is in part inspired by the fact that I'm procrastinating about heading to the gym right now and considering putting off doing so until tomorrow).
  • Part of it is caffeine, I've got to admit. I've had a Starbucks Venti Nonfat Latte three or four times this week.
  • Part of it is that I always feel more inspired when I'm doing research/writing as well as The Job (teaching, service, etc.). Something about having too much to do can actually make me more excited to do all of the things I've got to do - or feel like I need to do them in a more timely fashion at any rate.
  • Part of it, and this is the most pathetic part, is that since I began the online dating I feel pressure to be really busy in order to be captivating to suitors, whether with my job or socially, and this has only intensified since talks with The Chemist entered "open communication," as he actually knows what I do (basically) and so I want to be able to talk about it like I'm not a total slacker. And nobody likes the complainy slacker people anyway.

The point here, though, is that I've been getting a tremendous amount done, and that I'm excited to keep on this productive streak. The problem is, if The Chemist returns from his research trip and wants to see me, I might need to tell him no because there's really not room in my life for anything but work. And this, my friends, is why this profession is totally fucked up.

Feminism in the Classroom: Why Feminism Isn't Just for Feminists

This post is in response to the following questions, which Derrick left in comments yesterday.

Derrick writes:

"I need to hear someone with skills articulate why "feminism isn't just for
feminists" in the world of education. At my school it is just dismissed.

We are undergoing our "self-study" for re-accreditation. I asked my
committee what part of that study examined diversity/equality issues. The
response? That would probably be the one which deals with fair hiring practices.

Obviously, my colleagues do not see this little community college as having
anything at stake in these discussions. We don't see ourselves as stakeholders
in gender/race discussions (let alone transformations).

I want to claim otherwise and when I read the third paragraph of your post
this was the bell it rung for me. You are writing about the impact of feminism
across the the curriculum (and beyond).

What would you say to me and my colleagues about our stake in this?"

Wow. Well, this is a lot to answer. I suppose the best that I can do is to tell you what I think, and then I'll leave the floor open for my fantastic readers to chime in with their thoughts on this, as I'm sure all of you will have something to say.

I guess the first thing that I'd say is that the reason that feminism isn't just for feminists, or shouldn't be, in the classroom is the same reason why the Holocaust isn't just for Jews or the Civil Rights movement isn't just for African-Americans or homophobia isn't just for gay people: because if as citizens we believe in equality and if we believe that all people should be treated in a fair and just way, that these issues aren't ones for special interest groups but rather that they are issues that have to do with the deeper values of our society as a whole. If we say, "oh, let the feminists teach feminism," or "let the lesbians teach queer theory," or whatever, then what we're doing is reinforcing the structures of inequality and the hierarchies in our culture that go against the "equality" we claim to value. Putting women or children or gay people, or Jews or Muslims or whoever in a ghetto of their own doesn't teach or increase diversity on a broader scale. I'm not saying that there isn't a place for special interest departments (like women's studies departments) or classes (like classes in Arabic literature), but if those are the only places in which these ideas and topics are explored, then those most likely to hear the message are those who need it the least. The student who needs feminism most is probably not the girl who will sign up for introduction to women's studies, you know?

But here's the problem. I think that because of the way that departments have developed at colleges and universities, it's not so easy as to say, "we all should teach about these things that are related to diverse groups and perspectives," and not only because of the curmudgeons who want to pass the buck to their colleagues in women's studies. Part of the problem is the way that as academics we like to take ownership over whatever our "thing" at the university is. For example, I've got a colleague who teaches [minority] literature. There had been a survey of this [minority] literature on the books for years and years, which was "my colleague's" course. We then hired another person who also wanted to teach the course, and my colleague's response was to split the survey into two halves, so that she could continue to be sure that she would teach it every semester, even though new colleague and she could have just traded off. Was there demand for this split by students? Not really. The point wasn't about bettering the diversity offerings for students; it was about marking intellectual territory. So before we chastise our colleagues who try to pass the buck about teaching about feminism or racism or whatever in their classes, I do think that it's important to see the ways in which they may have been discouraged from incorporating those things into their classes both by institutional structures as well as by those colleagues who "own" those topics.

So how to make one's colleagues see that they have a stake in race/gender discussions and/or transformations? Honestly, I do think that this begins from the ground up and not from the top down. I think it begins with one faculty member approaching some students who might be interested in forming some kind of a club, or it begins with one class developed by one faculty member and then those students going to the administration and asking for more classes like that class or for more of that material to be incorporated into other classes.

Or maybe I'm wrong. Maybe the way to make them see it is to look at the 4-year schools to which your students transfer, and to point out to them the diversity agenda of these universities, and to suggest that greater diversity at the community college would facilitate these students' success in their future endeavors.

I don't know. What do you all think?

Ooh! A Meme That Incorporates Both Music and Fortune-Telling!

This one really speaks to my 13-year-old soul. Go to your music player of choice and put it on shuffle. Say the following questions aloud, and press play. Use the song title as the answer to the question. NO CHEATING. Found over at Scriv's place.

  1. How does the world see you? "Hello" by Poe. I have no idea what this means. Maybe the world sees me as ... searching for something? Ummm....
  2. Will I have a happy life? "Black Boys on Mopeds" by Sinead O'Connor. Huh? Ok, maybe I don't love this meme so much after all. Or maybe I really should cheat?
  3. What do my friends really think of me? "Cheers Darlin" by Damien Rice. Much better.
  4. Do people secretly lust after me? Well, the obvious answer to that is, "of course," but the song that answers the question is... "Kiss of Death" by New Order. Oh Jeez.
  5. How can I make myself happy? "Lazy Gun" by JET.
  6. What should I do with my life? "Road to Joy" by Bright Eyes. I love this answer!
  7. Will I ever have children? "Shatter" by Liz Phair. "I know that I don't always realize/how sleazy it is/ messing with these guys" - I'm going to take this one to mean it's kind of up in the air.
  8. What is some good advice for me? "Hang on to Your Love" by Sade
  9. How will I be remembered? "You Rascal You" by Django Reinhardt. That is so awesome.
  10. What is my signature dancing song? "Ted, Just Admit it" by Janes Addiction. Well, maybe when I was 16 it was... though it's not very danceable...
  11. What do I think my current theme song is? "From a Vauxhall Velox" by Billy Bragg.
  12. What does everyone else think my current theme song is? "Falling" by Matthew Sweet.
  13. What song will play at my funeral? "The Chronic" by Dr. Dre. Ok, how fucking awesome would THAT be? The real answer, though, if I were to have a song play at my funeral and I could control that, would be Madonna's "Ray of Light." I think everybody would like it. Very uplifting.
  14. What type of men/women do you like? Men: "Love Gets Dangerous" by Billy Bragg. Wow. Women: "I'll See You In my Dreams" by Django Reinhardt.
  15. What is my day going to be like? "See the Sun" by Dido. Yay! And it is a sunny day!

We Interrupt Your Regularly Scheduled Programming for Some Boy-Craziness

Love the lovely Chemist. Love the long and literate emails that actually talk about real things. Love that he is in another state, and so the emailing doesn't feel like a weird mating ritual. Still hate his name, though.

(Incidentally, I really think he would love this blog. If I ever decide to reveal to him that it exists, I'll probably need to delete these posts where I say I hate his name, huh?)

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I Actually Feel Like Working

And by "working," I mean grading, writing, prepping, all that jazz. I don't know what's gotten into me. However, when I've snapped out of it, I plan to post about the following:

1. My response to Derrick about bringing race/gender into the classroom.
2. My lovable huggable Man-Kitty.
3. Any number of exciting and interesting things that have nothing to do with boys, as things are pretty calm on that front of late, which is good as I'm so busy I've no time for them.

Until then, let me leave you with some wisdom from one of my students' experience paragraphs that was submitted with the final draft of the essay.

"I'm happy with this paper, and I think that's all that should matter."

"I mean, that's just, like, the rules of feminism."

For those of you who don't recognize the title of this post, it's a quotation from the movie Mean Girls, in which Gretchen Wieners explains to Cady that the "rules of feminism" include not "liking" or dating the ex-boyfriend of another girl. Apparently, if my students' papers are any indication, the "rules of feminism" also include an implicit belief that "young girls," "teen girls," and even women are "impressionable" and "very easily influenced by the media," which is what makes them get eating disorders, have poor self-concepts, dress like sluts, act like sluts, and I'm not sure what else. What I have learned from these papers is that "young boys" don't have similar problems, and that my (primarily female) students who chose to write about these issues have internalized all of this shit about what it means to be female in our culture that a) constructs women as victims, b) constructs girls and women as total slaves to any media they consume, c) constructs women as unthinking and vain creatures who will do anything to get the attention of men (which, of course, their arguments explain, is wrong, not because it's inherently wrong to define oneself in relation to men, but because beauty is about what's on the inside and/or one can be sexy without whoring it up and baring her navel).

This isn't a post about the "influence of the media." It's not a post about the causes of eating disorders or about whether 12-year-old-girls should dress like hoochies. At the end of the day, I don't really care where these students come down on any of these things. I care that they make a nuanced argument and that they support it with strong examples and analysis within a solid rhetorical structure. I'm a writing teacher, and so those are my things, you know? (Incidentally, the course that I teach has a theme of celebrity in contemporary culture, so I knew I was taking the risk of getting these papers when I designed it, but at the same time, I did not ask them to write on this specific topic. The assignment was to perform a comparative analysis of two texts in the service of some broader argument about celebrity.) This is a post about the fact that my students so readily accept the idea that girls and women are these unthinking sponges that are entirely constructed through consumption. They do not interrogate this idea, nor do they wonder whether consumption affects male subjects in our culture similarly. They do not think critically about these issues at all. At the same time, they believe that the papers that they are writing about "young girls" and how detrimental popular culture is to them are in some way exemplary of how far women have come and the fact that women should not be objectified. (Although I should note that most would never use the word "objectified" nor would they call themselves "feminists." These students generally fall into the "I'm not a feminist, but..." camp.)

One of the difficulties of being a feminist and being a teacher is trying to strike a balance between letting students come to their own personal feminisms on their own intellectual paths and challenging their assumptions about what it means to be a girl, a woman, a feminist when those assumptions are overly simplistic or just plain screwed up. This becomes even more of a challenge when one is not in a classroom that is designated as fulfilling the "race/gender" general studies requirement because one faces the potential resentment of students who feel like I don't have the authority to challenge their claims outside of that context.*** No, I'm not teaching a women's studies class this semester. I'm teaching two sections of writing and an introduction to literature class. Does that mean I shouldn't address these issues? Or that when I do address these issues that students have license to tune out with the sigh that they reserve for bleeding-heart-liberal-feminist-professors? (This is what happened yesterday in intro to lit, the sigh.) How do we get through to our students that "feminism" or issues related to women (or ethnic minorities, or religious minorities, or whatever) affect many different disciplines and many different aspects of their lives? How do we challenge their assumptions about sex, gender, and race in a way that is constructive and productive, when those assumptions are so firmly entrenched and when those assumptions are in many cases the result of their exposure to these issues in the courses where they're "supposed" to be thinking about these things?

***I should note that one student did consider the media's influence on men in a similar way. That student is a male, african-american student, and he considered this in terms of the way that rap music can be a bad influence on young african-american men. I think the same problems applied to his argument as apply to the arguments of the "young girls are impressionable" camp, and that both versions reinscribe power dynamics that keep women and people of color in the position of Other.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

The Day of Crap Posting

Apparently, while it is true that I do not have a "real" blog post in me, I do have a series of crappy posts that have been dying to get out. This, however, will be my last for the day, because I really do have a bunch of things to do. Like what, you ask?

  1. Go to the gym.
  2. Work on the blasted article that will never be finished.
  3. Grade like 20 essays. Because I'm an idiot and did not do them over the break.
  4. Design assignments for the end of the semester in the comp classes so that I can have them copied.
  5. Decide what to teach in the comp classes for the two weeks following conference week.
  6. Read essays submitted for mini-journal I'm co-special-editing.
  7. Revise MLA paper to submit to said mini-journal special issue, because apparently it's not a conflict of interest for my paper to be included even though I'd hoped it would be.
  8. Update my CV.
  9. Moon around thinking about boys.
  10. Eat something delicious and healthy for dinner.
  11. Regret eating both cupcake and brownie for "dessert" at lunch. Damn these student receptions! Damn them!
  12. Look at schedule for the next couple of weeks and make sure I've written things down in my planner.
  13. Judge two writing contests.
  14. Pray to the quitting smoking gods to keep me from taking up the smoking again.
  15. Snuggle with the extra-lovable Man-Kitty.
  16. Find camera (which I shoved in a drawer or something that I thought was sensible but now I can't find) to take pictures of the extra-lovable Man-Kitty.
  17. Grade papers for my intro to lit students. God, they should really hate me. Take-home midterm due before spring break, short paper due after. I'm a bitch.

The sad thing is that I'm sure I could list more things. One thing, however, that you will be excited to note is that I am totally caught up on my laundry. Which, of course, is how I've been using my "reassigned time" for most of the semester. God, I suck.

And The Good News Keeps Rolling On In!!!

Not my good news, but the good news of my Favorite Student Ever, who just contacted me to update me on more news about her grad school applications. I'd heard from her before the break that she'd gotten into a few places (with funding) and now the news is that she's gotten into a few more (with funding). In other words, she's pretty much in a position where she will get to pick and choose amongst most if not all of the schools to which she has applied. I couldn't be happier for her.

Yes, I'm a cynic about the advisability of going to graduate school in my field. Yes, I think that there are a great many things that are fucked up about this profession. But if any student can make this work, Favorite Student Ever can. (And if she can't, she can always work for her family's business, and she's entirely realistic that this may be what ends up happening and is ok with that.) So, we're meeting in the next couple of days to talk about her options. She's astonished at her success, and I suspect that this meeting will be more about getting her to realize that she deserves this success than about anything else - getting her to realize that she deserves to be admitted to these programs. If I can't make her see that at least a little bit I worry about how she'll do. Graduate school can screw with one's self-confidence so much, you know? I just want her to go in strong so that it doesn't chew her up and spit her out (as it does so many students who come from non-elite schools who don't think they "belong" in the fancy programs that admitted them).

Because I Can't Decide What to Write... A Hodgepodge

  1. Hmm.... I'm excited about things with the Chemist, though I think part of that excitement comes from the fact that he's in Big Midwestern City doing research for the week. Something about the fact that he's not here somehow makes the prospect of writing to him seem less weird. Tra la. Oh, and re: the idea of hating his name being shallow - of course it's shallow! If I were totally shallow I would have closed off communication with him on the basis of his name alone. I did not do so. See? I've got an open mind. But that doesn't mean that I've got to think that his parents had good judgment in choosing his name or be accepting of it. At least not in these very early stages. I mean, it's one thing if you love the person, as my reader does her husband "Frank." As I am not in love with the Chemist - indeed, never having met him - I think it's entirely appropriate for me to be judgmental about weird things like his name. (By the way, I'm giggling to myself as I write this, lest you all think I'm the most horrible person in the world. That said, see why I'm still single? It really takes a special person to deal with me.)
  2. In related news, I found out this weekend that my cousin who is 24 just got engaged (which means that the pressure on me will be even greater at the next family gathering, I suspect). My other cousin, who is 14 and who was gossiping about this with my mom, was astonished that I am older than the engaged cousin. Apparently, I am either really immature (most likely) or I look fantastic for my age.
  3. In somewhat related news, I somehow now have the distinction of being the only junior faculty person in my department that my colleagues fear will fly the coop. Why? Well, two of my cohort are married and both in t-t positions, so the likelihood of them leaving is like... zero. Another of my cohort took this job because both she and her husband are from the area and they want to raise their kids close to family, so they're not going anyplace either. Another was an adjunct here for like 10 years before he got the t-t position and is originally from the area, and so also is locked in. Another (my b.f. in the dept.) just bought a house, which makes everybody think that she plans to stay here forever. And the last two became a couple upon their arrival here and just moved into the house that they bought together. In other words, I am the lone non-home-owner in my cohort, and this makes all of my senior colleagues nervous. I'm not sure what to say about this, other than that I think it's probably for the best.
  4. In entirely unrelated news, welcome to all the new folks on the blog roll, and I'm still adding people so if you're not there yet you will be. By the way, readers should be sure to check some of these new additions out. There are a lot of grad student voices, in particular, and I think it's awesome that the grad student blogging community seems to be growing. Grad school can be so alienating (at least in my experience) and the support of the virtual world has got to be a good thing. Also, I'm glad so many grad students read this blog and that they get something out of it. God, that sounds so cheesy! But really, I'm glad that something I'm saying is interesting to them (you).
  5. Let's say that you have a student who has had like every horrible thing in the world happen to her this semester and has missed a ton of class. You feel bad for her, but you also want her to stop with the excuses, stop calling you, and just get her shit together. Is there any nice way to say that? Because I really do feel bad for the student, but I just do not want to deal with all of her reasons for missing class. I don't give excused absences, so why does she think I want to know? Ugh. I am so not a nurturing person. At least not to people who are adults and to whom I have no personal relationship.

I suppose that's all for now. Perhaps I will be able to do a more sensible post later? All of the academic writing I've been doing has really taken away from my ability to post on the blog. It's got to stop :)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Spring Break - Over :(

And of course it was no break at all, as I said on Friday. And my article isn't done (though it's close - maybe 75% of the way there). And I'm not sure what else to write. I've decided that I don't feel like blogging against sexism now, so perhaps I'll just table that until the next blogging against sexism day. I know, I suck. I really should grade like 4000 things, but I'm not going to do any grading until the afternoon. I really should do some other things as well, but I'm very lazy. I think what I'm going to do is to go and get myself some coffee.

Before I do that, though, I'm going to update you on my wild and crazy adventures in internet dating. 1. The businessman actually sent me a note! And I thought that it was the lamest date ever, and I didn't think that I'd ever hear from him again! He said he'd been out of town on - you guessed it - business. Hmm. I don't really know whether to contact him again or not. 2. I'm in talks with the Chemist guy. Turns out he's got his PhD and is working on a post-doc. And he's funny. And... yeah, I don't know. He has a crappy name though. I think I'll have to rename him if we go out. I hope that he understands.

I've got nothing else to report. I am the most boring person in the world this morning. I blame all of the work-related angst and writing.

Friday, March 10, 2006

It's That Time Again - Blogroll Updating

If you read my blog, and you are not on my blogroll, and you have a blog, please leave a comment so that I can add you. I try to keep up with this, I really do, but I know that there are a bunch of you out there whom I've not added and who need to be added. Come on, don't be shy! Tell me who you are so that I can add you to the big list! Also, if any of the blogs on my roll are defunct and you know that, would you tell me that, too? Because, again, I am a slack blog administrator.

Poetry Friday - Gerard Manley Hopkins

When i was in Ireland a couple of years ago, I went to Glasnevin Cemetery, the burial ground of the fictional Paddy Dignam, as well as of Michael Collins, Charles Parnell, and Gerard Manley Hopkins. Hopkins is buried in a Jesuit plot, his name just one of many on a list carved in stone. I first read Gerard Manley Hopkins, or at least I first remember reading him, as a senior in college, when my literary criticism professor, who was a nun, recommended him. I teach Hopkins in the survey. His poetry is not easy, but it is gorgeous. Students may not entirely get what he's doing, but I do think that they feel poetry move them in ways to which they aren't accustomed in reading him. So a Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, one that somehow speaks to writing for me as much as for one's battle for one's immortal soul. And my apologies for not including the proper accents - I couldn't figure out easily how to format those in blogger :)

Carrion Comfort

Not, I'll not, carrion comfort, Despair, not feast on thee;
Not untwist - slack they may be - these last strands of man
In me or, most weary, cry I can no more. I can;
Can something, hope, wish day come, not choose not to be.

But ah, but O thou terrible, why wouldst thou rude on me
Thy wring-earth right foot rock? lay a lionlimb against me? scan
With darksome devouring eyes my bruised bones? and fan,
O in turns of tempest, me heaped there; me frantic to avoid thee and flee?

Why? That my chaff might fly; my grain lie, sheer and clear.
Nay in all that toil, that coil, since (seems) I kissed the rod,
Hand rather, my heart lo! lapped strength, stole joy, would laugh, cheer.

Cheer whom though? The hero whose heaven-handling flung me, foot trod
Me? or me that fought him? O which one? is it each one? That night, that year
Of now done darkness I wretch lay wrestling with (my God!) my God.

Where Oh Where Did My Spring Break Go?

An Update on my Doings, As Well As a Muddy Theoretical Meditation

Need I mention that there has been no break? I mean, there has been some procrastination, but that takes a lot of energy. There has been writing. There has been grading (though only 1/3 of the grading that I need to do). There has been dealing with suitors, though there has been a slight slow-down on that end. I'm currently in active talks with only two - The Chemical Engineer and The Marketing Guy. I'm intrigued by the Chemical Engineer. We shall see. Re: the Computer Guy... I never heard from him again. Which I thought was kind of weird, since I emailed him a thank you after the date. I'd think I'd at least warrant a you're welcome. At any rate, I sent him a follow-up email today, as he hasn't closed off communication with me, and it occurred to me that there may be some sort of miscommunication that's happened. Yes, I may have made a fool of myself, but the glorious thing about the internet dating is that one isn't making a fool of oneself in front of anybody one cares about. Why not be a fool? It's not going to make things worse, no? And I really don't want him to think that I'm the asshole here. Why that matters, I'm not entirely sure, but it does.

At any rate, enough of all of that nonsense. What I really want to write about is what I've been writing. I'm not going to talk about it in an entirely concrete way here, but I can give the theoretical gist, and I can talk a bit about why I want to write about it on the blog.

What I'm working on in this article is a Foundational Feminist Novel by Author X and I'm exploring the notion that it is engaging the theoretical argument about women's writing that is put forward a generation before in a Foundational Feminist Polemic by Author Y. This is a somewhat controversial claim to make, as 1) Author X often disputes being connected with her immediate literary precursors, 2) Author X has resisted the tendency to categorize the novel on which I'm working as a "feminist" novel, and 3) the wacky theory of Author Y at first seems not to make any sense with Author X's novel. That said, the work that I'm doing is really interesting, I think, and as I was trying to iron out the theory behind what I'm arguing yesterday, I realized that there is a really strong connection between what I'm thinking about with Author X and what I think about in terms of my own blog-writing.

At the heart of what I'm trying to do in this article of mine - and I suppose in all of my work on Author X - is to find a way to theorize the idea that one can be a "woman writer" without necessarily expressing some "truth" of female identity, even as one attempts to articulate experiences of female bodies and of female emotions. How can the woman writer find the authority that she needs to acquire in order to write while at the same time being coded in society as subordinate on the basis of sex/gender? If authority is connected with the name-of-the-author, what connection does the "real woman" have to that name, or is that name just another way of limiting the writer, and thus foreclosing attempts at the writerly?

I know that what I'm writing here is abstract and probably doesn't make any sense, but I feel a deep connection between these theoretical concerns with the literature that I'm examining and the theoretical concerns of this blogging persona that I've created. How does one write as a woman (which I do think is an important project), write the personal (which I also think is valuable), while also trying to write in ways that break the boundaries of the identity-category "woman" (or academic, or mother, or single-girl, or whatever)? How can one be personal and impersonal (universal?) at the same time? How does one negotiate the demands of writing as a woman and the desire to be authorized in a more general way as just "writer"?

I realize that this is an unsatisfactory end to this post, but in writing it I've realized that I'm an idiot who cannot stop herself from procrastinating. I really have to put this energy into the article and not into talking in an abstract way about it in order to legitimize my blogging procrastination :)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Writing Process

When I teach writing, I build assignments in such a way so that my students will not become victimized by their own tendencies to procrastinate. The point isn't that they will be able to stop procrastinating completely, but rather that they won't be left entirely to their own devices, which then means that when they procrastinate (because as far as I'm concerned all but the weirdest of people procrastinate at some time or another) it won't put them so far behind that they force themselves into writer's block or panic attacks.

The problem, of course, is that nobody "builds assignments" for professors. Nobody hands us a sheet with relevant deadlines; nobody fleshes out the ideas with us or provides us with sample structures for how we might lay out our ideas. I know what you're thinking: we're professors! We are the experts at this! We should be able to do this for ourselves.

Well, yes, we should. And, we can. The problem, however, is my above assertion that all but weirdos procrastinate. And an additional problem is that in order to be model scholars, we'd need to be perfectly self-motivated at all times, and self-motivation can be mighty hard to come by, even for the most ambitious of us.

I am an ambitious(ish) person. Here is my "process" on this current article. Here is how I've gotten to this point:

September 2003 - Colleague asks me to submit a paper to a panel that she is organizing. I figure, "Why not? Sure I've never written a thing on Author X before, but I've always wanted to! And so what if this is a conference entirely focused on Author X and I'm a novice - I'll also submit a proposal on Author X for another small conference that would give me a chance to do a run-through of some of my ideas without all of the experts on Author X there."

February 2004 - I present my paper on Author X at what was supposed to be my "dry run" attempt at the smaller non-Author-X-focused conference. Problematically, the dry-run turned out to be sort of the real thing, as the president of Author X's society was in the audience. She loved it! Not only did we become friendly, not only did she say how much she looked forward to my paper at the Author X conference, but also she encouraged me to submit a proposal for an MLA panel on Author X. (This is the point at which, if it's possible to pinpoint, I'd say I became a total fraud and misrepresented myself as being an Author X scholar.)

May 2004 - I present my paper on Author X at the Author X conference, and it is a resounding success (even though it was a piece of crap, as I now realize). I am encouraged to submit the paper for potential publication in the Author X mini-journal and/or for a collection of papers to come out of the conference. Of course, I do this. Love the lovely mentors in the Author X society.

February 2005 - I am informed that the conference paper has been accepted for a collection from the conference on Author X, but I will need to expand it to be the standard length for an article now. That means I need to turn my 8 pages of garbage into 20-25 pages of solid, tight prose. Oh criminy. Of course, I don't have time to worry about this now, because after my MLA paper was a hit, an editor from Fancy Journal in my specialty solicited me to turn that into a full-length article. No matter. I have loads of time before I'd need to worry about turning that conference paper from the conference on Author X into an article for the collection. They don't even have a publisher yet.

Fall 2005 - Holy crap. They've got an interested publisher. A pretty good one. But I've got an MLA paper to write, and I don't really have time to worry about the essay on Author X until after that's done. Oh, and also, have I mentioned that I'm a fraud and so I've got a ton of research to do related to this article? But I've got reassigned time in the spring and so I'm sure I'll be able to get everything done in a timely fashion. Sure I will.

The Present Day - The article is due on Mar. 30. I've started making many notes. It's got to be in Chicago Style, to make this even more painful. Oh, and did I mention that I'm a fraud? And that as a fraud I became an officer in the Author X society this year? Love the lovely mentoring of my colleagues, though. That said, to quote my students, "I work best under pressure."

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Dating, Grading, and Writing, Oh My!

Well, it seems that those are the three activities that are preoccupying me this spring break, and in exactly that order.

First, an update on the dating. If this bores you, please skip to the Grading and Writing updates, as they are infinitely interesting (ha!).

Well, on Saturday I went out with the Businessman, and it was ok... I guess. I mean, it wasn't a bad date exactly, but apparently if the other person doesn't chat it up I become a crazy arrogant asshole who won't stop talking about myself. I left the date feeling like a bad date, even though I was just trying to stop the awkward silences. Not that there really were that many, but to me it felt awkward. I think part of this is that I went into the date not really knowing the Businessman at all, and so I didn't really have much to say to him. The problem wasn't one of chemistry or not-chemistry - it was one of just not knowing each other. Note to Dr. Warren: I don't care how compatible the personalities of two people are supposed to be, if they don't have shit to talk about, it's just not going to work. At any rate, if you don't believe that I was a bad date, I will prove you wrong: I explained the process of tenure and promotion to the guy. And the date ended because I looked at my watch. Not attractive. Not attractive at all.

Today, I've got lunch with the Computer Guy. After the horror of my babbling on Saturday's date, I'm a little bit nervous. I do, however, know that I look cute because I came into the office today to post my midterm grades, and I ran into my awesome department chair, who said that I looked "glamourous" and asked me whether I'd gotten a haircut or something. I am choosing to believe that this is evidence that I look fabulous and not to consider the option that this is instead evidence that I just generally look like shit when I come to work (which is probably closer to true). At any rate, clearly blowing one's hair out and wearing some lipgloss makes a world of difference. So yes, nervous for my lunch date. Don't know how people can stand to go on lunch dates, really. Ooh, and this reminds me: I'd better refresh my memory about what the Computer Guy looks like.

Edited to add: I have just finished with lunch with CG. It was... I don't actually know how it was. Much of the conversation was of the sparring variety, but there were no awkward silences. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? I feel like I'd like to go out with him again. I'm not sure though. I think he might be kind of a dick. Or maybe we were both just nervous? Because he probably thinks I'm a bitch from the way I responded to his dickiness.... Or maybe what I'm reading as bitchiness/dickiness is really just the spark of attraction? Who the hell knows. I feel like I might be too much of an idiot to date in the new millenium.

Other than that, things are pretty quiet with the eHarmony, which is kind of annoying to me. I'm used to having a little more action on that front. How lame.

Ok, this is one of the mysteries of the universe that I suspect I never will solve: why, when students are given a take-home exam, do they fail to complete the exam? I'm not talking about the ones who clearly put it off until the last minute and half-assed it. I'm talking about the ones who seem not to realize that they've got to complete the whole thing, or who don't read the directions about what they need to complete. A tip to students everywhere: if you just write some garbage down for the essay or short-answer questions, I'll probably give you half of the points possible, which while still an F, will stop you from earning a 22 on a take-home exam. I mean, you've got your books. You've got your notes. Just write some shit down! Please!

I have yet to grade the 40 papers that came in on Friday, but I really think I should wait until it's closer to next week since I'll be returning them in conferences and I need to remember what I think of the papers. Says the procrastinating professor.

Ok, so technically I've not begun writing yet. But how could I possibly when I've had all of the dating going on and when the Oscars were on and when I needed to spend yesterday lying in bed with my kitty-cat re-reading the third book in the Harry Potter series? I'm totally going to get writing done tomorrow, though. Totally. Oh, and did I mention that I heard from the editor of the collection that I have an extra 15 days to finish the article I'm working on? They so should not have told me about that.

So yes, that's what's going on in my world at the moment. I've been exchanging emails with the Computer Guy for about the past hour. Again, he makes me laugh, if nothing else. I just hope the date goes better than the debacle of Saturday.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging - Margaret Atwood

They Eat Out

In restaurants we argue
over which of us will pay for your funeral

though the real question is
whether or not I will make you immortal.

At the moment only I
can do it and so

I raise the magic fork
over the plate of beef fried rice

and plunge it into your heart.
There is a faint pop, a sizzle

and through your own split head
you rise up glowing;

the ceiling opens
a voice sings Love Is A Many

Splendoured Thing
you hang suspended above the city

in blue tights and a red cape,
your eyes flashing in unison.

The other diners regard you
some with awe, some only with boredom:

they cannot decide if you are a new weapon
or only a new advertisement.

As for me, I continue eating;
I liked you better the way you were,
but you were always ambitious.

The Friday Before Spring Break and All Is Well

I've been hanging out in my office for the past 4 hours as the papers from my two sections of comp trickle in. I decided to cancel class today rather than forcing them to show up just to turn in papers. That was nice of me. The halls are quiet; I suspect many other professors, too, cancelled their classes. My students are off to Mexico and other warm places, or they're looking forward to a week where they can get adequate sleep, or they're thinking about all of the work that they need to do over the break in order to catch up.

As I sit here, while the papers roll in, I should be grading or working on my article, or something. Instead, I am emailing back and forth with the sweet and lovable and yet unboyfriendable Computer Guy. Well, I suppose we don't know for sure that he can't be a boyfriend, but as the emailing continues, it feels like I'm emailing a friend and not a potential date. Partly this is because we had this weird exchange of relationship histories (initiated by him) over email this morning, and, well, he's just not a girlfriend-haver. It's not his fault, but I think that he would really require a lot of work to turn him into a boyfriend. I've done that work with so many guys - I just don't think I'd be up for it again. Not that this thought on my part has any basis in reality, though, because he hasn't asked me out even. He just keeps emailing me. Is he shy? Is he doing this dating service thing just to have an email penpal? Who knows.

And so. I have spent the morning telling my students to have a good spring break, screwing around on the internet, and emailing a complete stranger. I'm not sure what this makes me, but I think it definitely demonstrates how ready I am for spring break.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Back in the Boy-Crazy Saddle

Well. It looks like I've got a lunch date with the Businessman on Saturday, though nothing's been confirmed yet, as we seem to deal with our online dating nonsense at different times of day. In contrast, the emails fly fast and furious between The Computer Guy and me. I suspect that a date will be forthcoming. Can you imagine if I had two dates in one weekend? Of course, I suspect that these dates would be very different from one another.

The Businessman is just very... all business. I mean, I think we've exchanged only like 3 messages, and of those three, two of them have been date-planning type messages. I don't know a thing about him really, other than that he has this high-powered sort of job and he's from California originally, and I am not at all excited to meet him. Still, I'm not NOT excited, so I figure, why not?

The Computer Guy, on the other hand, well... he's a guy I've dated in many incarnations. This morning we've been trading emails in which he accuses me drinking Boone's Farm wine and Mad Dog 20/20 before school, and I deny it. For real. Chatting back and forth with him is not unlike chatting with my First Love from high school or the guys that I grew up with or the guys that were the fraternity brothers of First Love.... Yeah. The Computer Guy seems very familiar to me. And I suspect that if we went on a date it would involve Budweiser and shots and some very bad judgment of the variety that inspires cow-tipping. The thing is, though, the Computer Guy makes me smile and I think we'd have a kick-ass time if we went out. At any rate, we'll see if he makes a move. And in the meantime I'll continue to make plans with the Businessman.

Other than that, all is quiet in the land of eHarmony. I notice that things seem to quiet down at the week's end and then pick up around Sunday afternoon. I suppose that makes sense. I also am glad that this is the way of it, as I need a break by the end of the week from all of the questions and the requests for communication and everything.

Incidentally, you know that guy who said he didn't want somebody who was into playing games? He totally dumped me after I answered his questions. I think he could sense that I'm a game-player who's "looking for a man to make me happy." Call me crazy, but doesn't it make sense to want a person that you date to make you happy? (And yes, I know what he meant, but still.) What an ass that guy was.

Mission Creep and Its Discontents

Ok, so I'm supposed to be grading. Instead, I am sitting in my office and seething as I eavesdrop on one of my colleagues talking with (I think) a student. I can't say much about what they are discussing because it wouldn't be appropriate for the blog, but the bigger issue here is related to the direction of my department and the fact that we have been exploring developing a Master's program. There are good reasons for us to do this - namely that we are already servicing (and I use that word intentionally) a bunch of other MA programs around the university but we have absolutely no control over curriculum because we don't have our own program. Thus, when the Education people say "you've got to offer a course in X for our master's program in Y," we've got to do it for their degree, but we can't really choose what graduate courses we might offer. Big problems with self-governance in this. Anyway, all of this is administrative. The truth is that the one thing the world doesn't need is another MA program in English. As I listen to my colleague, I understand exactly why we shouldn't be ALLOWED to have one.

There is a real ethical problem with developing a program and letting people who are so far from graduate education in the discipline, so far from the mainstream of current scholarly debates and research, so far from the reality of what literary studies is, teach in it. Am I a snob? Maybe. But I'm certainly not an idiot, and I'm certainly not unaware of what's at stake in regard to these issues. I would appreciate it if my senior colleagues would demonstrate a bit more respect for those who may not have been here as long. I would appreciate it if they wouldn't bitch to a former student about how their colleagues don't know anything. I would love it if I didn't have to sit here and bite my tongue and I could tell my senior colleague that the reason a course he proposed was sent back to him was because I made sure it was blocked and I did so because it was a garbage course in [theory x] and I know this because I do [theory x] and have had graduate courses in [theory x] in the past ten years. Perhaps if this colleague took a moment to say more than good morning to me, he would know that.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

This Afternoon's Agenda

I'm trying to figure out what to do with my afternoon.

What I want to do is:
  1. Eat Girl Scout Cookies (I cracked last night and opened them.)
  2. Nap with Man-Kitty (And I promise I'll post some pics of him this week; I know you miss him.)
  3. Grade (Well, I don't WANT to grade, but I REALLY have to.)

What I should do is:

  1. Go to the gym.
  2. Go to campus for this stupid training thing that will ultimately mean I'll get $500 in professional development money. I was supposed to have this training last week, but it was rescheduled for this afternoon. I really want to miss it.
  3. Make nutritional snack and dinner. Keep GSC in the freezer.
  4. Grade.
  5. Make notes for article that I will write next week.
  6. Make notes for class tomorrow.
  7. Get good night's sleep.

What I will do is?

Is Functional Illiteracy a Deal-Breaker for Me?

I mean, yes, professionally, it is a deal-breaker for me. I do not tolerate functional illiteracy in my students. It's my job not to tolerate it. It's my job to articulate to them why functional illiteracy is a bad thing, and to try to shed some light on the rules for English language usage. Sometimes I am more successful than others, but generally I think that I'm pretty good at this part of my job.

But when it comes to dating, does it really matter if a suitor is a good writer? This, as I'm in communication with the Computer Guy now, has become a matter of some importance. At least he's being funny about his lack of ability as a writer, and he does seem like a person with whom I'd have a good time. But do I dump him just because he doesn't use capital letters? Or is that cancelled out by the fact that he spelled "too" correctly? Do I dump him because he seems so intimidated by the fact that he is a crappy writer? Or is that cancelled out by the fact that he is self-deprecating and somewhat charming? Or do I dump him because he's charming, because I am too easily charmed?

I don't expect you all to have the answers to these questions, but I suppose at the root of all of this is a problem that I've had long before this foray into the online dating. What problem, you ask? Well, this problem with dudes making a big deal out of what I do, and this being translated into things like being intimidated about their lack of language skills, asking me to "grade" them on their performance in a variety of areas (and no, I'm not kidding, and yes, it's happened with more than one weirdo), or trying to prove that they're just as smart as I am or something, as if we're in some sort of smart-person contest. (Here's a tip: we're not, because I have a Ph.D. and I don't have to prove how smart I am anymore.)

Now, before all of my loyal and true readers get their panties in a twist and tell me that I'm just dating the wrong guys or considering the wrong guys, I would just ask that you consider my geographical limitations as well as the fact that I also really don't like being fetishized as a woman whose intelligence is the one true key to her sexiness, either. Because, yes, I've gone out with those guys, too, the ones who can't get over my awesome brain in order to deal with me in a normal way and to accept that I don't have brilliant thoughts constantly. What I want (which is perhaps crazy) is for what I do not to be a particularly big deal - either positively or negatively. Sure, I'm smart. So's my mom, who never went to college. So are many of my relatives who didn't even graduate from high school. So I'm not necessarily looking for somebody with whom I share every intellectual interest that I have or with whom to talk about books, etc. I have friends and colleagues and students for that. (Oh, and I should probably note that I've never had luck going out with other academics because I get weirdly competitive or I feel like I'm always supposed to be reading the New Yorker or something, and I just can't hang.)

So what is my point here? Well, I don't know. I guess I feel like this is something that academic single women have to deal with in a way that academic single men don't. I think there is often a cultural expectation that a man will have a higher degree than the women that he dates, or that a man will have more professional stature, or whatever. As a woman, though, I feel like I have to apologize for my achievements while at the same time I have to demand respect for them. It's a tough line to walk.