Tuesday, November 28, 2006

To My Readers Who've Been Rejected by Publishers

I've got a question. I just got my first rejection of the book proposal today, but well, it was really quite nice, I thought. I'm wondering whether all rejections of this sort are nice or whether I should be (as I kind of am) pleased with my first rejection.

(I should also note that this was my least favorite of the three publishers to whom I sent the proposal out, so I wasn't terribly invested in them from the get-go, and in fact am kind of happy to have been rejected by them whatever the tone of the rejection.)

Monday, November 27, 2006

Inspired by Bridget Jones?

No, I didn't engage in any filthy messaging with anybody at work. Nor did I slide down the pole at a fire station on television. I did, however, make turkey curry, with the leftovers of the Thanksgiving turkey. Delicious!

(The fact that I did this is the signal that I ate 20 lbs. of stuffing and all other side-dishes in the house. It's back on the "I eat in a healthy way with things like vegetables and brown rice" plan. Sigh. I wish I had more stuffing.)

Presentations in Upper-Level Classes

In my upper-level courses, I've incorporated an individual presentation assignment for students. It all began when I was teaching Notoriously Difficult Novel, and I decided to have students do presentations on it basically because it was the only technique that in my experience as a student made that novel accessible. In other words, I didn't know how to teach NDN without presentations, and so ignorance drove my pedagogy. That said, I think that the presentations worked particularly well in that class, and students seemed to respond very well to the assignment. Their response then got me thinking: nobody had ever taught me how to do a presentation when I was an undergraduate. My first presentation in a graduate seminar reflected that lack of experience. If your graduate school experience was anything like mine, nobody taught grad students what was expected of presentations. Rather, one was supposed to "just know" or to pick it up by osmosis. And no, not all (or even most) of my students will go on to graduate school, but knowing how to speak in front of a small group of people in an organized and systematic way about a difficult topic is a good thing no matter what students go on to do, right? Also, I believe that presentations give students a certain ownership over material, and I believe that this has enhanced class discussions all the way around. And so, after my first experience with presentations in the NDN class, I then decided that I would make them a regular feature of my upper-level classes.

This past semester, I incorporated a discussion-lead component, and I'll say that this has not been as wildly successful as I'd hoped, but hey - it's a work in progress, right? That said, overall I've been pretty pleased with their presentations, and I do think that they worked well in the same ways that my first experiment with them worked well. Students feel a sense of responsibility to one another, and they stop looking to me to be the Oracle Who Possesses All Knowledge. It's all good, right?

Well, but here's the thing. Remember how I was so excited about my enrollment in my upper-level class for spring? Well, I'm still excited, but it's causing some problems related to the presentation assignment. First, this class, unlike my class this semester, will focus only on novels. What this means is that I can't as easily divide up the presentations, having students all follow an identical format. (For example, it would be silly to have students divide up the biographical information of a novelist three or four ways - it makes much more sense to have one student present all of that material in one presentation.) Moreover, there is a bit of difficulty in finding a way to fit in 15+ presentations over the course of the semester while still leaving some days open just for discussion, which I think is one of the reasons that my presentations this semester have worked so well. Let's say we're discussing a text over three class periods - I always leave the third class an open day so that we can get to anything that didn't get covered on presentation days. Now, it's true that some students will drop once they get the 45 pounds of course materials that I will hand out on the first day of class. But as it now stands, even if like 5 dropped, I'd still need to schedule some days with multiple presentations. And that doesn't solve the problem of not wanting students to duplicate material from presentation to presentation.

Here's what I'm thinking that I will do. This is still open to revision, so if you see potential pitfalls and/or if you have suggestions I've not thought of, that's what the comments are for :)

First, I've devised topics for the presentations, to provide students with a bit more direction than I've done in the past. This way (I hope) we'll get beyond the problem of duplication of material, while still allowing students to present on something that interests them. The topics are quite broad, but I think that they will work.

Second, I do have two presentations scheduled on some days. While this is not ideal, I figure that if I take out the discussion-lead component (which didn't work too well anyway) that this will still leave 35-45 minutes for discussion on those days.

Finally, I do think that it will be possible to have uniform criteria for each presentation, even with the more focused topics. I think that having uniform criteria (for the presentation and for the handout that I require to accompany the oral component) is one of the reasons that this assignment has worked well for me. The issue is, though, that I will have to tweak the criteria so that it's not quite so specific in some ways - for example, it doesn't make sense to require each handout to have a time-line of the author's life, but perhaps I can tweak the phrasing of the assignment in some way so that every handout will still have some sort of bulleted, general information at the top.... Hmm.... Still need to think on this.

The things that I don't want to sacrifice:

  • Requiring students to consult with two secondary scholarly sources and to summarize those sources' takes on their presentation topic.
  • Requiring students to perform a close reading of a passage that relates to their presentation topic and to relate that close reading to the text as a whole.
I think I can still do this, but somehow this assignment has become much more complicated with this particular class.

I'm still planning to do a sample presentation for them in the second week, so perhaps I should prepare my sample presentation before the semester begins and that will influence the way that I design the assignment that I give them?

Sometimes I think I make too much work for myself. That said, the presentations do take work off of me during the semester because I know that on presentation days that the presentations basically take care of all lecturing and background material. That is a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. Also, I really do think that this is a good learning opportunity for students and that they learn things from doing it that they don't learn from other things they do in my courses. Hmmm.

I don't know. Does anybody else out there do presentations in upper-level classes? If so, do you have a standard assignment or do you change it for each course? Is it unrealistic to do this in a course with more than 10-15 students? Are the benefits really worth the costs of such an assignment (i.e., the time I'm spending agonizing over it)?

Ok, time to feed the Man-Kitty. He's getting very restless.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Night of Beauty/Dark Night of the Soul

Well, the agenda for the night was that I was going to have a night of beauty accompanied by a night of grading. I graded approximately 1 and 1/3 papers, and it became clear to me that I could not grade tonight. Lord. Why can't they just do what I want them to do? What I ask them to do?

So at any rate, once it became clear that the night of beauty could not be accompanied by grading, all that was left was for me to have a dark night of the soul, which included:

1) wine
2) the movie Bridget Jones' Diary
3) some episodes of Sex and the City
4) much writing in my journal
5) Damien Rice's new cd

The night of beauty included:

1) putting a mask on my face (not a halloween mask, though that would have been most fun, but rather a pore minimizing/wrinkle reducing sort of mask. Not that I really have wrinkles, but whatever. Never too early to start trying to minimize them, I suppose).
2) manicure and pedicure (although I did not polish my fingernails, as it's pretty pointless when I've got a lot of grading/typing to do, as I do now. But my cuticles are all nice and the nails themselves are buffed and awesome).
3) Nice hot bath with lavendar-scented bath oil.
4) Shaving. This is such a pain in the ass, the body hair removal.
5.) Deep conditioning of the hair.

But so now back to the dark night of the soul. (Oh, though I should mention that I polished my toenails red. How good does that make a girl feel?) I spent a lot of time thinking about what it is to want. I spend a lot of energy on not wanting things. Or, rather, on not letting myself want things that I want. This is all part of a grand plan to stave off disappointment, my least favorite of all of the emotions. The theory behind this is that if I don't want beyond my station, that I will not then be disappointed, and thus will not have as big of a hurt as if I wanted to the full capacity of my wanting.

But it's occurred to me lately that maybe not allowing oneself to want whole-heartedly may actually leave one open to greater devastation than if I just wanted in an all-in sort of a way. It's sort of like playing poker. I think I may have a habit of checking on big hands, which ultimately leaves me the big loser, whereas if I'd go all in, I could be the big winner. But going all in - that's scary. Especially when one is fully aware of the odds of such an enterprise. It takes courage. Courage which to this point I've not had, not in any area of my life.

What's crazy is that I know part of what makes it possible for me to try all of what I try (whether it's going on the market, sending the book proposal out, whatever) is that I stop myself from believing that anything good can come of any of it. I don't let myself truly want, and so that somehow makes it ok to do these things. The problem is, I think that I need to truly want. I think that by checking my desire, I ultimately foreclose the possibility of achieving it. But how does one free oneself from that prohibition? How does one stop the superstitious checking of oneself?

On the one hand, one has to make attainable goals in order not to feel like shit all of the time. And in order to achieve anything, really. But I fear that perhaps I can attain more than I think I can. And that my attainable goals have ultimately held me back. Ultimately hold me back.

I wish that I could let go a bit. I'm trying. I want to be able to. But I don't know if I can.

I'm afraid to want all of what I don't let myself admit to wanting. I'm afraid of allowing myself to admit those things because if I actually say those things out loud, and then I don't get them, then what do I do?

Remember: admitting is not only fessing up it's also letting in. That's what makes it so hard - that it means both expression and, I suppose, impression. I don't know which I'm more afraid of. I suppose it's the inward part more than the outward part.

All of this may seem strange, given the ways in which I do put myself out there - take what may seem to be risks. But every risk is a calculated and cautious one. A middle ground that stops short of the thing that I really want to happen. I go on the market telling myself all the while that it's just that I want to choose my current job. I do online dating telling myself that I have absolutely no expectation that I'll meet anybody who's worth more than a date or two. What I think I've decided is that this is no way to live my life. But if I admit to wanting more than the provisional thing - the thing that can't disappoint - and I don't get what I want, then I will have to deal with that. And that's a hard thing to take on.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Ok, so I know it's late, but what with the cooking, the celebrating, and my attention-seeking parents (who are now at a nearby casino - things must be going well since they had only a hundred bucks between them), there was no time to write before now.

So what am I thankful for?

First, the shallow things:

1. For the fact that I finally learned how to make stuffing that is neither too dry nor too moist.
2. For stuffing generally.
3. For the glass of wine I'm drinking right now.
4. For the internet.
5. For nearly a full week without teaching.

Now, for the less shallow things:
1. For my parents, who really are awesome. Add into this one all of my friends who are really like family, etc.
2. For my sweet, darling Man-Kitty.
3. For the fact that I have done well at my job and that I have some confidence in my abilities as a professor.
4. For the fact that I haven't embarassed myself (yet) in this attempt at being on the market. Or at least not in an irrevocable way. Oh, and I've had another request for more materials (yesterday) - did I mention that? I'm thankful for that. I'd be even more thankful if I were to be offered an interview at any of the places to which I've applied. But scratch that because it's not really in the True Spirit of Thanksgiving.
5. For not necessarily being able to see what the future holds, even though I often wish that I could see what the future holds.

And now, for some Thanksgiving pictures!

This is where the Man-Kitty was hanging out while I was making the Thanksgiving feast. When he wasn't trying to force my stepdad (who had his first experience with using the internet and was wicked-excited about being able to read like 15 different newspapers - some in arabic - all morning long).

But then, the turkey was ready!

After turkey (and all of the many side-dishes on the menu), pie.

When Dinner was done, naps were taken, etc., the Man-Kitty then retired with the Stepdad of Crazy for some quality male bonding time. Did I mention that the Man-Kitty and my stepdad are best friends? And that if the M-K hears the S-D's voice on the phone, that he immediately leaps toward Crazy's head and begins purring and nuzzling the phone and meowing? And that he follows S-D around like he's the second coming whenever they're together? It is very strange, but I think probably good that the M-K has a strong male role model.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Update on Preparations


Here's what's done:
Sweet Potatoes
Green Bean Casserole
Every room but kitchen clean.

Parents of Crazy are due to arrive in approximately 3 hours. I just got a progress report from my mom. It's hilarious when my mom calls on a cell phone because she doesn't really know how to use them. So she calls me, and my stepdad's in the background trying to pretend he didn't bring the turkey from the store, which he volunteered to do because he and his brother bought the store this year and so he was all excited to bring the turkey - anyway, after it was determined that he was "Just kidding!" my mom then starts telling me about this person she used to work with and giving me gossip about a job that she had THREE YEARS AGO. Can I tell you how much I don't care? So my mom says she has to go, and I'm silently saying, "yes! you do!" and we hang up, but as we're doing so, I hear my stepdad in the background saying, "Talk to her! Why you hang up?!!"

I love my parents. They're so... well, crazy. Sometime I'll have to post about when they moved me to Grad School City, which involved driving 10 hours in a truck that was normally used for transporting vegetables (we had to unload the cucumbers before we could load in all of my worldly possessions) listening only to oldies radio (if you say, "A Town without Pity" to my mother she will begin laughing maniacally as well as imitating Gene Pitney) and arabic music.

And you all wonder why I'm crazy. It's so obvious.

Ok, need to go clean the kitchen and make some pie crusts from scratch.

Oh, and keep updating the de-lurking/blogrolling post below - I'm not going to get to the updating until Saturday or Sunday. Also, to all of those who de-lurked, hi! Thanks for reading! Nice to see you!

De-Lurk, Please :) Oh, and If You Want to Be Blog-Rolled...

Hello, apparently it's some sort of de-lurking week, and so I will ask that those of you who read and don't comment reveal yourselves - just to say hi - should you wish. Also, I've noticed in recent weeks that I've got a number of non-lurkers who are new, and so I probably should update my blogroll. So if you're not on my blogroll and you'd like to be, you can use this thread to leave a note about that, too. Hello lurkers! Hello new people! Thanks for reading my blog!

Note to Self

Hire a maid. Get over the working-class guilt thing that makes you think it is wrong not to clean your own house. Forget everything that you read in Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed. You are a slob. If somebody was coming in once a month to clean, you would be less of a slob because you would feel ashamed of yourself. You would clean for the cleaning person. You would not (as is your current MO during the school year) save cleaning for times when you're having out-of-town guests (and you don't have many of those during the school year).

That said, the bedroom is cleaned (though my mother better not enter my closet, for apparently I'm still 14 and I just shove everything in there willy-nilly in order to try to hide my sloppiness from my mother), the dining room is cleaned, the study is, well, a place where I like to put paper and so nobody would really want to hang out in there, but at the same time, it's not an embarassment. Now, to tackle the bathroom (which is actually not terrible - I am not ok with a not-clean bathroom), the living room (clutter, clutter), the kitchen (also not terrible, except for the floor, but I think I'll just swiffer and full-on mop after I finish cooking the T-day feast), and then finally, if I'm feeling REALLY ambitious, I really should dust. Obviously, that is last on the list, as my mother never dusts either, and so she will understand if it doesn't get done.

The one nice thing about all this cleaning though is that when I get rid of the Thanksgiving guests, I will have a very clean house. I'd say that I'm going to turn over a new leaf and keep it clean, but that would be a lie. Which is why I should hire a maid. Even though I probably won't. I really don't like people in my house. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Only 24 Hours Left! Crap!

It's true - in 24 hours, the Parents of Crazy will arrive for Thanksgiving.

Needless to say, I have to clean my entire house (for I did NOTHING this weekend related to this task) and I need to begin cooking tomorrow, for I make the entire thanksgiving feast (as it is a way to control my thanksgiving experience, and since thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, there are some things that need to be in place in order for me to be happy).

What's on the Thanksgiving menu you ask?

1. Turkey.
2. Stuffing (or is it dressing if you don't make it in the bird?) At any rate, just a basic bread stuffing. Nothing fancy at all. I don't come from the kind of people who put oysters or sausage or chestnuts or whatever in stuffing. I come from the kind of people who make stuffing with the cheapest bread at the store - i.e., "stuffing bread" - carrots, celery, and onion and a shitload of butter. It's really yummy, and it has approximately no nutritional value.
3. Mashed potatoes. The only advice I have on these is to use yukon gold potatoes and to mash them with real butter and a minimum of 2% milk (though I like to throw in a little half-and-half, too).
4. Green Bean Casserole. You know, the one with the recipe on the back of the can of french-fried onions. Oh, though I do add some almonds in for crunch into my version of this "classic."
5. Mashed rutabaga. YUMMY.
6. My dead grandmother's famous giblet gravy (a perfect non-lumpy gravy that actually doesn't require one to make a roux).
7. maple-syrup glazed baby carrots (a new addition this year, per my mom's request).
8. Sweet potato gratin.

I'm going to include the sweet potato recipe, because it is AWESOME if one wants a savory sweet potato/yam option. In the past I did a sweet option with pecans, but it was almost dessert-y, and I really don't like any sweet potato/yam recipe that involves marshmallow. So anyway, here is the recipe, from the Wild Women in the Kitchen cookbook.

3 sweet potatoes, peled and sliced thin.
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh sage (or you can use a teaspoon of dried, if necessary - you could also switch out the sage and use tarragon.)
1 cup of cream (though you can use half and half if you just can't imagine going the actual cream route)
1/2 cup grated Jarlsberg cheese

Preheat oven to 350. In a buttered casserole dish, overlap the potato slices in a single layer. Sprinkle with half of the sage and pour half of the cream over. Add another layer of potatoes and top with the rest of the sage and cream. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 40 minutes and until the top is bubbly.

1. This recipe is rich and delicious.
2. You can do everything ahead of time so that all you need to do on Thanksgiving is pop it in the oven.
3. Did I mention that this is rich and delicious? Oh, and it allows me to incorporate cheese into the meal, which really makes me happy, as I love cheese.

For dessert, there will be homemade (from crust to filling - my only compromise is that I do use canned pumpkin) pies - apple and pumpkin. And if I do say so myself, I make a wicked-good pie. And my crust is PERFECT.

At any rate, I suspect I may not have time to post for a couple of days. If that's so... gobble gobble! See you after the holiday!

Dumbest. Song. Ever.

I'm sure you've heard this song. Probably when you heard it, if you're anything like me, you felt like it reminded you of Nickelback (which I am pretty sure might be one of the crappiest bands ever) even though actually the band doesn't sound anything like them really. But yet, the band is sucky in exactly that Nickelback way. What song is it, you ask? "Lips of an Angel," by the band Hinder.

Wow. They really suck.

Oh, the song isn't immediately coming to mind? Let me sing a few bars for you...

" Honey why you calling me so late?
It's kinda hard to talk right now.
Honey why are you crying? Is everything okay?
I gotta whisper 'cause I can't be too loud

Well, my girl's in the next room
Sometimes I wish she was you..."


"I gotta whisper 'cause I can't be too loud." That's poetry, that is.

In other pop music news, I had a dream right before I woke up about the Man-Kitty, and I was holding him, but then the next thing I knew he was a little miniature Prince that I was holding upside down. Unaccountably, this was not at all disturbing. Then, the next thing I knew, I was talking to Johnny Depp who was playing Prince in a biopic, and Scarlett Johannson was starring as Apollonia. Only it was 1998. Once we flipped to that part of the dream, I was holding the Man-Kitty again.

I'm actually kind of pissed off that I remember this dream, as the night before last I had some sort of really important dream in which I had some Grand Insight into Something, and knew I had to remember it, and as soon as I woke up - poof! - it was gone, just like all those times when I was writing my dissertation and I would dream about it and have grand insights into it in my sleep and yet never remember them. How frustrating.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Dr. Crazy's Job Search

Positions to which Crazy applied: 9.
Schools that have received application: 9.
Schools that have rejected Crazy thus far: 0. (And School Way out of My League? Yeah, you TOTALLY should have rejected me by now. Please get on that.)
Schools that have requested additional materials: 2.

What does any of this mean? Well, not a whole lot. But I did make it past the first cut at a couple of places, which is good. So I feel like whatever happens from this point I've made a respectable showing. I would have felt really, totally lame had I been rejected outright by every committee. However much I told myself that I wouldn't feel really, totally lame if that were to happen.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Woo-Hoo! Enrollment Worries Over!

I think I may have written about this before - I've had some... challenges... in terms of making enrollment in my upper-level classes since I began my job at this university. It's never been a big deal in terms of how my performance in this job has been evaluated, in part because of a certain culture of inertia about How Things Are Done here. When I've expressed concern to my senior colleagues about this little problem, they've said some version of the following:

1) Students here choose courses based on the instructor, not on the material. Since you're "new," you're going to have some trouble.
2) Students are afraid of your specialization.

There have also been hints that part of the problem is that students react negatively to "feminism" and that this might cause some of the problem.

In no way have any of my senior colleagues suggested that I should change what I do to address the problem. Rather, they've suggested that with the slow passage of time that the problem would just resolve itself. (We can talk about the ways in which that attitude is kind of screwed up - I mean, isn't there a problem when students choose courses with no regard to their own intellectual curiosity? Isn't there a problem with a status quo that makes it difficult for junior faculty, particularly female junior faculty, to do what they were hired to do? I'd say yes, but that's not actually the point of this post.)

The point is that for the first time EVER I've managed early in the pre-registration period to make the college-wide enrollment minimum for an upper-level course without it being in the "danger-zone" in which the chair has to "fight" for the course not to be cancelled.

I think this has to do with a number of things, few of which actually having to do with me.

1. The department took a hard look at its scheduling of upper-level classes last year, and came up with a (somewhat) rational schedule that takes into account providing a range of offerings at a range of times of day.

2. We had our first-ever advising meeting for majors, and so a lot of students who did not know me got a chance to see what I'm like. In a campus culture in which Personality reigns, this was a good forum for me.

3. The slow passage of time is working in my favor. Word has gotten out that I don't suck. For whatever reason.

But now that means I can really get excited about the course, even though I'm also a little anxious about it. I've taught a version of this course before, but I've significantly revamped it, and so I'm not sure about the rhythm of the readings that I've chosen. I think it will be good, but I also wonder whether I'm being overly ambitious in my expectations for them. Also, I've been thinking hard about how I can tweak a presentation assignment that I've done in my past couple of upper-level classes in order to fit the content of this particular course. What I've done in the past may not work for this course, though I think that the assignment is really valuable. I'll need to think more on this. I'm also a little anxious about the dynamic of the class. Only two students enrolled have had me before - the others are a completely unknown quantity. Of the two that I know, I'm not entirely sure how forcefully or positively they'll affect the class dynamic, and this class does to some extent depend on us hitting the ground running, and since I don't know most of the students, I'm not sure whether that's a realistic expectation.

Then there's also the problem (note: this is where I put the cart before the horse and cross a bridge long before it is even on the horizon) of whether this class can work if for some unforseen reason I need to cancel a class or two unexpectedly. Say, if I were to get a campus visit. Or something. I *never* cancel my lit classes. And when I cancel my comp classes, it's always already on the course schedule from the beginning. I'm not sure whether it's a positive thing, but I'm the sort of professor that follows the syllabus to. the. letter. I hate getting off schedule. And I hate veering from The Plan. And so I have a problem with the idea - however ephemeral at this point - that I may need to make decisions that would take me - and the class as a whole - off of the carefully crafted schedule. Whatever my professional ambitions are, I really don't want to short-change my students, you know? But again, this is putting the cart WAY before the horse, so I suppose I shouldn't fret over it, at least until it's clear whether I get an MLA interview someplace.

But then this leads to another cart WAY before the horse thing that's been giving me pause. I feel a lot of ambivalence about the prospect of potentially (however remote the prospect is) of moving on from this place. My department has been one in transition. On the one hand, there is The Way Things Have Always Been Done group of faculty, and this group has one way of doing things that stretches back to before we had admissions standards and to before there was a community college that was feeding students into our university. On the other, there is The New Guard group of faculty, most of whom have been hired within the past five years, who tend to do things differently from the other group. I'm part of that New Guard. That New Guard is really important to the direction of the department and to the direction of the university, but more significantly, The New Guard is really important to students. (I'm not saying that The Way Things Have Always Been Done group isn't important to students, but sometimes this group is less in touch with some aspects of the discipline generally and with the profession specifically, and their expectations for students can reflect that.) On the one hand, this transition is exciting. It means that I really have a central role in shaping the direction of my department. On the other, I hate it. Part of me would rather be in a department where there wasn't such a gap between the expectations of one group of faculty and the expectations of another.

I really do feel that the work that I do here has particular and specific value. I'm not sure whether anything that I could do at another university would have the same kind of value. Yes, I would be able to devote more of my energy to research. At the same time, I would also continue to invest energy in teaching. It seems like a win-win, right? But would I be able to teach the kinds of students whom I teach here? Would I be able to have the kind of impact on another group of students that I have on this one? And let's say that I do devote more energy to research - would that be energy well spent? Will my research really make any difference in the world in the way that teaching these particular students does? What will it mean to me to make such a change? And will it mean something positive?

Obviously, a change in institutional culture is not the only reason that I decided to go on the market. There are things about my life here that I wish were different, and I do think that they could be different more easily if I were to move on from this place. But I wonder whether the benefits of that would outweigh the consequences related to what I would necessarily give up?

But for now I'm just happy that my class is safe for the spring. Really, I can't project beyond that in any sort of a sensible way at this point. So I should just stop. I should bask in having reached the magic number of minimum enrollment and leave all of this other musing to a time when I actually have something concrete about which to muse.

Woe Is Crazy - It's That Sunday Feeling

In approximately 72 hours, the Parents of Crazy will descend on her (very messy) abode for our annual Thanksgiving visit. This weekend, I should have:

1. Removed all clutter so as to accommodate visitors.
2. Dealt with my perpetual problem of the bedroom that doubles as a closet, i.e., dealt with organizing the actual closet, placed clothing in the closet and the dresser, and stopped living like the Lady of the Piles.
3. Cleaned the bathroom and the kitchen.
4. Vaccuumed.
5. Finalized the still-have-to- buy-for-thanksgiving shopping list.

In addition to all of this, I also should have:

1. Done a small bit of grading. (Though think I will do this tonight, so all is not lost.)
2. Worked on the book manuscript.
3. Finished reading a novel for Tuesday.
4. Come up with a checklist for proposals I'll need to grade on the spot before the holiday (which I can't due because I don't actually have the assignment at home).
5. Called back a friend who's called me twice over the past week and to whose messages I've not responded.

What I actually did this weekend was:
1. Read the Philip Pullman books. Oh god. They are so awesome.
2. Went shopping again, buying things that are fit for a life that I want but not a life that I have. (My big score was a dressy-dress that originally was $160 but that I bought for $23. It would be perfect for a dinner at a fancy-ish restaurant or similar. Tragically, I do not ever need such a dress in my flannel-pajama-based existence.)
3. Had brunch with colleagues.
4. Alternated between staring into space and compulsively checking the CHE forums, the job search wiki, and my email.
5. Napped.
6. Oh, and I watched The Ghost Whisperer and What Not to Wear.

While it is good to take time to recharge, it is BAD to loaf around as if one does not have visitors coming in just a few short days. Similarly, it is BAD to loaf around as if one does not have pre-Thanksgiving professional activities. That said? I am tired. Tired of the semester and tired of having to do things. So maybe I will forgive myself. Though right now I have that feeling from high school where you put off all of your mountains of homework until Sunday night. Not good, friends. Not good at all.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Research in an Upper-Level Class

My students in my upper-level class just submitted their research paper proposals. This class has been a pleasure for me this semester, but it's also been... unusual. First of all, the class is entirely made up of women. What's odd about this is that the class is not designed as a women's studies class or even as a class focused on gender/sexuality in any overt way. The syllabus is equally balanced between male and female authors, and in fact much of the material of the course is often considered "misogynistic" in feminist critical circles. And yet, here I am with this group. The group itself is very comfortable and participation is almost universal. (This is the other unusual thing.) This is pretty awesome, I've got to say. Also, the level of discourse in the course is great. While I can attribute some of this to me, I think a lot of it just has to do with that ephemeral thing of "class dynamic" that one can't control. I've only had one of these students in a course before, so it's not at all that they're just used to me.

The thing that's weird/interesting to me about their paper proposals is that so many of them have chosen to write on one particular text in the course. On the one hand, we might ascribe this to proximity - it just so happens to be the most recent text we've read. But on the other hand, I wonder: is there something about this text that is in some way more compelling than the others? Or is it that this text is particularly compelling to me and that this is in some way compelling my students?

(To give some background, this is the very same text that I chose to write about in a very similar course when I was an undergraduate. It is probably what I'd say is my most favorite novel ever, if I would ever admit to having such a thing, which I wouldn't, as I'm an English professor and I refuse to admit to such pedestrian things as having One True Favorite Novel.)

But here's the thing: this is probably the most difficult of all the texts in the course on which to write a research paper. There just isn't as much critical material on this particular text, and this is going to cause the students problem, particularly when it comes to book sources. Now, they are all pretty close with one another, and I know they will share books. But still - the course that they are setting for themselves will not (probably) run smoothe. I don't want to discourage their interest, but I know there would be topics that could be easier. I don't know. I suppose I'll just respond honestly and see what they choose to do.

Also related to this is that I have a student in this class whom I absolutely love but in whom I see characteristics that I myself have and that actually have worked to my detriment as a critic. The problem is this: this student is incredibly enthusiastic and passionate about the texts that she reads. Why is that a problem? Well, because often that passion and enthusiasm is contrary to the demands of literary criticism. How do I know? Because this is my exact problem as a critic. It's also my strength, but it's more of a problem than a strength, at least initially. Now, we can discuss the problematic nature of this - why is passion BAD? - but in my experience, I've had to work not to stifle my passion about texts but to channel it into something much more... tempered. That has been my success - that I've been able to do that and yet to retain my voice. Or at least I hope that's been what I've been able to do.

Now this student is awesome in class discussion. She always participates, and she has really bright things to say. And I really like her, which I suspect has been the case with her other instructors as well, as she's very likable. But I fear that if I don't push her that she will never move beyond being merely likeable and being merely a pleasure to have in class.

What worries me about all of this is that I am afraid I'm responding to her too much out of my own experience. I don't want to stifle her passion - I just want to teach her to master it so that she can go deeper than she would do naturally. No other instructors have forced her to do this - I suspect because she's so likeable. But what is gained by me doing this? What good does this do her? Am I doing this for her or am I doing this for the me that I was before graduate school? And if I'm doing it for the me that I was before graduate school, is that what this student needs?

One of the things that troubles me most about my identity as an academic is that my personality trumps my intellect - that I am where I am not because I am worthy of it intellectually but that I am where I am because I've charmed people into letting me into the club. I say this not to be arrogant - I fear it comes off that way - but because I know that I do have a strong personality and that this can sometimes get in the way of people seeing what I think. Or what I think doesn't come through in a clear and sophisticated way because my personalty somehow blocks that. This is a weakness in me, but is it a weakness in this student? I see it as that, but I'm not sure that I'm fair in perceiving it in that way.

I guess the thing I'm trying to navigate here is that chasm between my own experience and what is best for the student. It's hard to detach and to separate from my own experience. I don't think that I'm wrong in critiquing her in the way that I have been, but what if I'm wrong? I really don't want to stifle the passion that she feels initially for what she reads. I'm afraid of doing that because I think that passion is so important. It's just a difficult line to walk.

Poetry Friday - Dorothy Parker

Ok, so I'm coming to this late today, but here we have it. (I apologize if I've posted this one before - I don't think I have, but it's one of my favorites, so who knows. But it fits my mood this evening.)


If I don't drive around the park,
I'm pretty sure to make my mark.
If I'm in bed each night by ten,
I may get back my looks again,
If I abstain from fun and such,
I'll probably amount to much,
But I shall stay the way I am,
Because I do not give a damn.

On Clinging to a Pseudonym Long after It's Lost It's Utility

Ok, so after all of the crap of the last week, I think that everybody here probably knows who I "really" am. And yet, I have no plans to stop being Dr. Crazy. And I've thought a bit about this, wondering why that is. So let me just lay it out for everybody here, if you care:

1. When I say I don't want the blog to be google-able under my real name, what I mean is that I don't want any stranger I meet to be able to google my real-life name and find the blog. I'm single and dating (well, or not dating, but I would date - I'e not ruled it out) and there are a lot of fucked up people in the world. I also want the choice of who reads it in connection with me (as much as I can have such a choice) in terms of professional contacts. I don't particularly want people to have access to the blog without choosing to give it to them in those circumstances. Now, if people choose to use any number of clues to figure the real-life name out, while I don't get it, I don't care all that much.

2. I don't want to feel like this needs to be a space on which I write only "professional" material. I know - male academics write blogs under their own names and they don't stick only to "professional" topics. But let me tell you: I've got no model for that in terms of a woman doing it, and so until I become brave enough to be a pioneer in this regard, well, I will continue to stay Crazy.

3. It actually kind of pisses me off that people persist in their interest in who the fuck I am - you know, really. Why does that matter? My readers are great, and I do think it is kind of the many people have emailed me (over the years that I've been blogging - not just this week) to warn me that they were able to "figure me out" with whatever methods they've used. I will say, though, that I will never understand the desire to sleuth around to find me out. Why the fuck does it matter? When you find out my name, do you really know any more than you know from what I write here? You know where I work. You might even be able to read my publications, if you're really motivated. But does that give you some kind of insight that you wouldn't otherwise have? In truth? I really don't think so. And if you want to know who I am, just send me an email - I tell most people. Why be all cloak and dagger about "figuring out" who I am? Because I'm many things, but I'm not particularly cloak and dagger about much, and every time somebody tells me that they've done all this detective work to figure out who I am, I always feel a little bit violated. Why not just respect the conceit that Dr. Crazy is who I am? Or if you don't respect that, why not keep it to yourself that you don't - because when you reveal it to me - in however well-intentioned a way - I often feel like that translates into a disrespect for me. I mean, I'm not actually trying to keep the blog a "secret" even if I don't want it immediately connected with my professional identity. That makes perfect sense to me, even if it apparently doesn't to anybody else. The pseudonym isn't really about being afraid at all, or at least not in the way that people think.

I don't know. I've thought a lot about what it would mean not to use a pseudonym. But I don't want to be forced into that decision, should I ever choose to make it. But I also don't want to write about my pseudonym or having one or anything else for a while. So, if by some super-secret detective work you put two and two together from details in posts and you figure out who I am, don't tell me. I don't really want to think about right now. Mainly because the more I think about it the more exhausting blogging becomes and the less I want to continue doing it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Oh, the Drama - But Crazy's Gone Shopping!

Ok, so I've actually been really busy aside from all of the drama related to blogworld. I'm quite something, if I do say so myself. But what's really important is that I've done some REALLY good shopping over the past couple of days. Oh, Macy's One-Day-Sale, how I love thee.

I bought....

4 bras (each costing under 10 bucks - and they normally would have been $32 each)
1 skirt that can be worn with my black suit jacket (under 30 bucks, normally 78 dollars)
1 skirt that can be worn with my brown suit jacket (under 30 bucks, normally $98)
1 long jean skirt ($13, normally $44)

I'd probably have found even more excellent things to buy, but as I had to do all of this shopping in just 1 hour (I had to go to a faculty meeting), I think I did very well indeed.

Oh, and yesterday I bought a pair of black pants and a pair of running shoes, the two together costing only 80 bucks. Because I am a bargain-hunter!

But so I've got a question, oh blogosphere: what's the rule on closed-toe sling-backs? Are those for spring/summer only? year-round? (I ask because I really love my sling-back pumps, but I never know when to wear them.)

Outed - But then Put Back In! Hurrah!

Ok, so sure, I outed myself yesterday, but another blogger has taken it upon him/herself to out me on his/her blog. Even after I asked nicely that no one do that. Is it just me, or is that a really fucked up thing to do?

I suppose I have myself to blame, but if the person will not change the reference to Dr. Crazy, I may be changing pseudonyms and changing addresses, or stopping blogging altogether. This is mainly because I do not want this blog to be google-able with my professional name. I didn't set this up as a "professional" space, and I don't want it to become one. I don't list it on my cv, and I don't ever want to. I also don't want to have to explain it to people unless I choose to do so.

So, that's the dealio today. I was going to do a post about shopping, but you can thank the Outer for killing my shopping buzz, so that post will not be happening tonight. Tonight, I will be drinking some wine, prepping for class, and being irritated - both at my own carelessness and at other people's assholery.

Thank you all for all of your comments. You should know that I emailed the blog in question, and all is well. (This is one reason why I did not link to the offending blog, as I wanted to give the opportunity for the mistake to be corrected.) At any rate, the whole thing was coincidental. They had no idea about my own foolishness yesterday (early) but just picked up on some other foolishness. See? I told you all I was careless. At any rate, to anybody out there who finds a blog that does not have the person's real live professional name out front and center: Even if you make the connection, DON'T PUBLISH THE REAL LIVE PROFESSIONAL NAME ON YOUR BLOG! At any rate, until further notice, I've no plans to move, to change names, whatever. God! So much drama! And all of my own making!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Isn't It Ironic? Don't Ya Think?

Edited to change opening of post because a kind reader alerted me to the fact that he figured out who I was from googling related to the opening. Not to be a bitch, but why do people even care who I am? I never google to try to figure out who people are. I thought about just leaving things as they were - I feel like everybody in the free world knows who I am anyway at this point, but I suppose an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure or something. And I, no, I'm not sure what I mean by that. But so here's the post with basically no introduction....

Why do we choose pseudonyms? What do they give us? What kinds of anxieties can they cause? How does one manage two identities - one "real" and one invented? (Or is all identity invented, blah blah blah, but I'm not talking about that right now.)

I suppose this brought me back to thinking about how 19th century novelists like Charlotte Bronte or George Eliot (whom we still know by the pseudonym, which I think is incredibly interesting, especially since we "know" it's not a man, except for I didn't know it was a woman when I had to do a book report on The Mill on the Floss as a senior in high school and, whoa, was I surprised when I found out I wasn't reading a male author) used pseudonyms.

Why choose to take a male name?
Why choose to take a name like Dr. Crazy or Bitch, Ph.D. or New Kid or Profgrrrl or Bardiac or Anastasia, or Horace, or Scrivener?

What do the names that we choose say about us? Why do we choose them? Why do we work to protect them? What power is there in a pseudonym, and what weakness?

Many have written about bloggers who use pseudonyms as doing so out of fear. Many have also noted that many bloggers (though not all) who use pseudonyms are women.

To counter this, many who use pseudonyms (including me) have talked about doing so in order to gain a certain kind of "freedom" in their writing.

Isn't this juxtaposition of fear and freedom exactly the same juxtaposition that we see with writers like Charlotte Bronte? We have Jane and we have Bertha - the good girl with some rebellious tendencies that must be mastered and the madwoman who must remain behind closed doors. Isn't this exactly what a pseudonym offers? The ability both to be good and to be mad (or bad)?

I've written about choosing this pseudonym in terms of feminism just recently. And I know I've written, whether on this blog or my previous one about pseudonyms generally. I suppose what's interesting to me in light of my recent gaffe, in light of my recent talk, is the ways in which pseudonyms allow us to move inside of certain kinds of discourse without certain kinds of repercussions. And yet, we're never without repercussions, right? We're never, ultimately, outside of power. So why even bother?

Clearly we all get something out of the pseudonym. But what, ultimately, do we get? On the one hand there is a constant fear of detection. If one, in fact, expects that one can get away without being detected. On the other, we get a certain kind of freedom to say whatever we want. Except for that's not quite right, either, since of course, once we build an online identity, it's as constraining as a real life one. As Dr. Crazy, I can't really say anything. I can say some things. Within the confines of this persona. Yes, this persona evolved when I moved addresses. Yet, just as Dr. Realname "means" something to people, so, too, does Dr. Crazy. Is there really more "freedom" with the pseudonym? Probably not. So then why? What is the payoff? Is it just a game? Is fear of getting caught part of the fun? Or is it something else that motivates us?

I don't have the answers here. I do know that I'm careless when it comes to protecting my real life identity. I have been since I started blogging. It's never been tremendously difficult for people to figure out who I am. I cared in my former space, about this carelessness; I don't really care about it at reassignedtime.blogspot.com. Carelessness, I know, from things I do in my real life, is to some extent a part of who I am. Part of what that means is that I need to deal with the consequences of my carelessness, but it also means that I have a certain fearlessness, which doesn't really go with the "I'm not blogging under my own name" profile. So if I'm not afraid, why be Dr. Crazy? If I'm not hiding something, why bother with the facade?

Maybe this has been the question for all writers who've written pseudonymously. Or maybe it's just my question. But at the end of the day, I think that maybe all of the anxiety over naming doesn't really mean much. Maybe we all exaggerate the importance of our "real" identities, or of our "pseudonymous" identities or of both in conjunction.

Shhhh! It's a Secret!!!!

Well, as many of you know, I made a little oopsie in my last post involving a mistake related to naming. It could happen to anybody, right? I'd just ask that everybody who googled me (and I know some of you couldn't resist) be kind enough not to go shouting to all and sundry who I am. I'm not super-secret about this blog, in all truth, but at the same time, I'd rather not write under my real life professional name. The blog is a hobby - not part of work - yes? So thanks in advance. Now back to your regularly scheduled blog reading.

Oh, and Now the Fun Begins

Today, I had TWO students emailing me a) to inform me that they would be missing class (although I specifically write on the syllabus NOT to do so) and b) to ask me to tell them what we missed. Neither student is doing that well - the first because he's had some legitimate medical issues this semester, the second because she just doesn't give a shit about the course and doesn't want to learn anything (or at least that is my perception).

I responded, basically,

Dear Student,
What we will be covering in class is listed on your syllabus (as it has been for every other class meeting of the semester).
Dr. Crazy

What I did not respond to in the second of the two above emails was the following:

1) The (Doesn't Give a Shit) student making demands about meeting with me on Thursday (I've said she should do this throughout the semester) - and, of course, it HAS to be Thursday because she's got a paper due for me on Tuesday. I really can't meet with her at her convenience on that day, and so I suggested that perhaps Monday might work for me. So I guess I responded, but I responded in a pretty unhelpful fashion, or at least I will suspect she will interpret it as such.
2) The fact that she called me "Ms. Crazy." Motherfucker. I write Dr. on my syllabus. I introduce myself as Dr. Other students call me Dr. Don't fucking Ms. me!!!! I hate it!!!! I did not go to school for all those years and get into all of that debt to be called other than Professor or Dr.!!!! (Though I suppose it at least wasn't "Mrs." That might have made my head explode.)

What I did not respond to in an email from one of my advisees was the following (an advisee I've yet to meet, by the way):

"Hello Firstname"

I don't care who you are, but unless I tell you that you can call me by my first name, it's Dr. Crazy to you. Especially when I've signed a previous email to you as Dr. Crazy. Not as Firstname. Because you know what, Advisee-whom-I've-never-met? I do not want you calling me "Firstname." But I didn't go off on some diatribe. I just signed my name - pointedly - as Dr. Crazy. If he doesn't get the hint, I suspect he'll call me Firstname in person, in which case I'll tell him that it is my preference that he not call me that.

Dude. Just call me Dr. Crazy. It's not that hard. And don't ask me to tell you what we're covering in class. It's on the syllabus. If you want more detail than that, COME TO CLASS! Ugh.

Ooh, a Meme!

I found this over at New Kid's....

1. Yourself:


2. Your boyfriend/girlfriend.....


3. Your hair?


4. Your mother?:


5. Your Father:


6. Your Favorite Item:


7. Your dream last night:


8. Your Favorite drink:


9. Your Dream Car:


10. The room you are in:


11. Your Ex:


12. Your fear:


13. What you want to be in 10 years:


14. Who you hung out with last night?


15. What You're Not?


16. Muffins:


17: One of Your Wish List Items:


18: Time:


19. The Last Thing You Did:


20. What You Are Wearing:


21. Your Favorite Weather:


22. Your Favorite Book:


23. The Last Thing You Ate:


24. Your Life:


25. Your Mood:


26. Your best friend (s):

talkative :)

27. What are you thinking about right now?


28. Your car:


29. What are you doing at the moment?


30. Your summer:


31. Your relationship status:

fuckoff (Ok, I know that's two words, but I hate these relationship-centric memes. Screw that!)

32. What is on your tv?


33. What is the weather like?


34. When is the last time you laughed?


Monday, November 13, 2006

On Not Writing

I've got writing I need to be doing. Not writing, really, but polishing. As in making my book manuscript all shiny and fancy in the event that anybody ever is interested in it. I had intended that I would do some work on it today. I didn't.

I'm trying not to beat myself up about this. I had other things that I had to do that were pressing (typing up some minutes for a committee, grading, reading for my class tomorrow, working out, reviewing grad applications for a 7:45 (!!!) AM meeting tomorrow, making shopping lists for thanksgiving as well as for some clothes-shopping I plan to do in the next two days), but I'm still kind of mad at myself for putting the manuscript on the back-burner.

I'm kind of thinking that I'm going to do the realistic thing, which is to put off work on it until later in the week. Thursday I'll be able to get out of the office by 2 PM, and that means that I can spend two hours on it on Thursday. There is nothing wrong with that. Really.

(Why I've put myself in this position where I have to polish the thing while also freaking out in this waiting phase of the job search as well as with the semester careening toward its inevitable conclusion and with having to do thanksgiving next week, I'm not entirely sure. Oh yeah. That's right. This was my brilliant plan that was going to keep my mind off of freaking out about the job market. I'm awesome.)

At any rate, as I need to get up for a 7:45 AM meeting !!!! tomorrow, I will now sign off and take to my bed with The Golden Compass (which, incidentally, I'm pretty enchanted by now that I'm a bit further in. Now that we've got Mrs. Coulter and the Gobblers and all of that, I'm pretty psyched to see what happens next.)

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Musings on Leisure and Productivity

Ok, so as you all know, I had a rockin' - NOT - Friday night in which I worked on syllabi.

But the rest of the weekend was pretty much a wash, work-wise, until about 6:00 tonight. Yesterday, my major accomplishments were going to the gym (which I thought would help with the rage at human beings but it turns out, no, going to the gym just made me more pissed off - I blame the guy who was flying through the parking lot in his pickup truck and almost hit me for the rage not being decreased) and I made one of my favorite meals - haluska, a.k.a. cabbage and noodles. I modified the recipe (for no, I did not use an ENTIRE stick of BUTTER - or even any butter at all - but it still was yummy yummy). I also finally began reading the first in Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy (verdict's still out on how I feel about it) and took a nice relaxing bath. Today, I had many big plans, but when I realized that by noon I would not actually do anything, I called up BFF and moved up our plans to go to see Borat - which is b-r-i-l-l-i-a-n-t and I've not laughed so hard at anything in a very long time. All should go and see it. And we got dinner, and then I came home, fed the cat, called my parents to tell them to go see Borat, talked to my best friend from high school on the phone, and here I am.

Since that point I have:
  1. filled out 4 EEOC things and addressed/stamped those that required it.
  2. loaded the dishwasher and straightened up in the kitchen.
  3. straightened up the living room. (All the straightening was done in a multi-tasking while on the phone fashion.)
  4. Took out the trash.
  5. Composed a handout for a talk I'm giving at a local library this week.
  6. Looked at my to-do list for the coming week and updated it (this list is HUGE).
  7. Begun thinking about introducing research writing in my comp. class.
  8. Made a cup of tea.
What I think I've managed, which I can't always do, is that I gave myself permission to have quality relaxation time this weekend, and the fact that I gave myself this permission has upped my productivity in a huge way over the past couple of hours. BFF and I talked about this over dinner - the way that one can tell oneself that one "can't" do anything fun because one "has to" work, but then what ends up happening is that one just spends like 18 hours watching a Flavor of Love marathon or something, and thus at the end of it all just ends up feeling vaguely sick and hating oneself. I've known since graduate school that this isn't healthy, but it's very difficult to give oneself permission to take time for oneself when one is in a self-motivated job. (I imagine this is not unlike what it must be for stay-at-home moms or for people who run their own businesses.) One of the most difficult things for me as an academic is allowing myself to be the me who isn't an academic - to allow myself to decompress. But this weekend, I achieved that. And it is an achievement, and it is necessary, in the end, to doing good work.

Also, I think it's necessary to figuring out what one wants in one's life and who one wants in one's life. I may write about this more later, but when I was on the phone with my mom this morning, I think I had a kind of break-through about one aspect of my life that I've been kind of clueless about. My mom is so awesome. I love that I am as close to her as I am and that I can talk about real things with her. So that's me on this sunday night. I don't have the angst-y sunday feeling and I actually am feeling positive about heading into this work-week, even though it promises to kick my butt. But now I need to go and watch the Iron Chef America battle between Giada DeLaurentis and Rachel Ray, in part because I really am hoping to see Rachel Ray crash and burn because I think that she makes nasty food and I want confirmation of this. (I never make her recipes because they all look lame to me, but I do watch her show religiously as it inspires me to cook. I mean, if she can make the crap that she makes - "stoup" anyone? or how about "sammies"? I mean, come on. Giving something a dumb name does not at all make it something edible - I certainly can make something decent in 30 minutes.

(I'm not necessarily a huge fan of Giada, but whatever. Rachel Ray must go down.)

Edited to Add: Ok, the battle is almost complete. First of all, I am disappointed because in the commercials for ICA, they did not adequately communicate to me that RR and GL would be working as a team with Mario Battali and Bobby Flay. First, I am totally annoyed that they didn't just let them have at it on their own. Why did they need the "big boy real chefs" to assist? Throughout the show, I was really annoyed by how both of the "ladies" acted like they were totally out of their depth, with RR acting like she was totally intimidated by being with the "real chefs" and deferring to MB and GL running around like a frazzled beautiful mess. Annoying.

But who will win? Which chef(s) will reign supreme in the battle of the cranberry?

RR and MB. I'm not sure I even care.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Friday Night, Quality Time with Syllabi

Well. It's Friday night, and I'm having a glass of wine (or two), and I'm working on my syllabi for the spring. Ok, so I don't need to be doing this right this very minute, but there is something about designing a syllabus (or multiple syllabuses, syllabi, whatever) that is a calming pursuit for me. I like making a syllabus, perhaps more than I like a lot of the other parts of the job. There's something so great about the clean slate that a new syllabus signifies, and it's great to remember why one loves teaching certain courses as one updates (and changes) a syllabus from the year before. Also, this activity tonight is definitely inspired by some of the anxiety I've been feeling about the job market. I've gotten a marginally "good sign" from one of the places to which I applied (emphasis on marginally) and this has sent me into a tailspin of worry. I mean, I was fine when I thought I'd just be rejected out of hand by all places - then there'd be nothing to negotiate, you know? - putting carts way before all possible horses, wondering what in the hell I'll do if I have to schedule campus visits (I mean, with the marginally good sign, I've now been worrying over a number of uncontrollable things, like I teach 5 days a week, and I really can't afford to cancel classes with the kind of tight schedule I design in my courses) or how one actually moves a cat to a far-away location, which I realize people have done before, but somehow this causes me great stress. I can't do anything about the cat, but somehow looking at the syllabi allows me to feel like I'm doing something about the campus visit "problem" (which, of course, may not even be a problem, as it's not like I've even gotten a request for a single MLA interview yet, and as I'm superstitious, I entirely believe that I still may not get a one, even though if I don't I'll be really upset, if that makes any sense.) Add to this that my university is starting the process of going up for review for an accrediting body, and so things with the syllabi need to change accordingly. (Aside: fuck learning objectives and learning outcomes and assessment tools, not that I don't have these, but that I hate having to fit what I do explicitly into this stupid model.) And so here I am, working on my spring syllabi, and I'm actually feeling quite calmed by the process.

More than that, though - and this is the real reason for the post - working on my syllabi makes me want to talk about the really great things that I'm thinking about in relation to my literature courses for spring.

First, I am so excited for the upper-division course I'll be teaching. For the first time ever (though superstitious me feels I should probably not say this) I'm not worried about the course making its enrollment. Even though we're early in pre-registration, I've got a good number of students registered, and I credit the advising meeting we held for all majors last month for this. We told them that the meeting was mandatory and a huge number of them actually believed it! And they showed up! At the meeting, we dealt with a number of advising issues, but we also had faculty talk for a minute (or longer, for some of my colleagues) about the upper-division courses they'd be teaching. Now, my spiel about my course wasn't exactly illuminating. I basically said the name of the course, told them they'd read a bunch of things they'd probably never heard of before, and then said, "There are a lot of people here who've had me before, and they can tell you: I'll make you do a bunch of things you don't want to do, but you'll learn a lot! Wow, how many of you will sign up for the course with that pitch?" and then I was done. But they did get a sense of my personality from that, I suppose, and I also suppose that students are getting to know who I am more now that I'm in my fourth year ("knowing" the instructor is a big deal at my university - students take courses often based just on the instructor and not at all on the material - we talk a great deal about our "frequent fliers" - which puts junior faculty at a huge disadvantage in terms of making enrollment). Now, this is such a good sign for me, that the course doesn't seem to be in danger. The texts in my area of specialization tend to be somewhat alienating to this particular student population. I had never anticipated such resistance when I chose my area of specialization because, well, I'm into these things, and my specialization is - one would think - one that would draw students just by virtue of the fact that the stuff I teach is relatively current. I understand the difficulty that, say, medievalists might have in attracting students, but at my university this isn't the case. At my university, students are incredibly compelled by the Canonical and What They've Heard of Before. As I have a fairly sheltered student population, the stuff that I teach seems Foreign and Scary and Hard and - on top of all of that - not Literature-Capital-L. So I've had some difficulty with making enrollments in my upper-division courses. But not so this time! I taught a version of this course a in 2005, but I've changed the course kind of substantially for the spring (to incorporate some things I'd taught in another course that I'll no longer be teaching, mainly), but it's going to be AWESOME. One reason that it will be awesome is that I'm teaching the Novel I've Been Working On Most in my own research in the course, the Novel Related to My Recent Publications. I am so excited to teach this book now that I'm kind of an expert on it. (I taught it last when I was just embarking on scholarship on it, and I have so much more to bring to teaching it now.) I'm also excited by the way I've reorganized the order in which I'm teaching some things, which I think will be more effective than when I taught the course the first time. Finally, I'm excited because Student To Whom I Suggested Graduate School and another Favorite Student From a Previous Course have already enrolled, and so I know that the level of discourse will be really high and interesting.

But weirdly, I am not most excited about my upper-level course. I'm most excited, as I've been since I begun teaching it, by my intro to lit course. (This is one of the reasons I'm somewhat ambivalent about the job search: I really love my intro to lit course, and if I get the kind of job that I've applied for, the likelihood is that I'd never get to teach this course again. That said, would it be a fair trade-off to give up this course to get rid of teaching comp? Probably.) But I digress. I want to talk why I'm excited about my intro to lit course.

Now, I've written about my intro to lit course before. I still believe all of the things that I wrote about it in my previous posts. But I've changed the course substantially for the upcoming semester. 1) I've changed one of the novels that I teach. 2) I've changed one of the plays that I teach. 3) I've moved to using a custom anthology for much of the material of the course, which means that students will need to spend less money and which also means that I've switched a couple of the poems that I'll teach in the course. The short story that I teach is the same; one of the novels is the same; one of the plays is the same; the long poem and the movie is the same. I am so excited to see what will happen with the small changes in texts! Changing them has meant that I've changed the unit titles, and while none of the changes I've made are substantial in terms of teaching things that I'm unfamiliar with (which I do sometimes) I will be teaching things I've never taught before. I hope that these changes will be positive, not only for me but for my students. I really think they will be. As I do this next semester, I'll totally post about it.

But so some final thoughts: Why does moving up in this profession mean moving away from introducing people to literature? Wouldn't it make more sense to have people who are really committed to literature introducing people to it? And why is it that introduction to literature is something that is often not required of people who MAJOR in literature? Don't they need an introduction as well?

Poetry Friday - Wilfred Owen

"Dulce et Decorum Est"

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!-- An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.--
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,--
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.


I always teach this poem right around Veteran's Day. I teach it alongside other World War I poems, including Rupert Brooke's "The Soldier." For as long as I've taught these poems, we've been a country at war.

Students have various reactions. Sometimes they accuse me of trying to impose my politics on them.** Sometimes they talk about how much the poems touch them. Sometimes they can't really say anything. Sometimes these poems cut too close.

**Aside: I think it's quite an achievement to have this accusation hurled at me in the context of a survey of British literature course. Especially since I don't volunteer my views on our current war in the class, as, really, it's a survey of British literature and there isn't really time for that.

Because It's Friday....

It seems right to do a Bloglines Quiz! As seen over at Scrivener's....

What American accent do you have?
Your Result: The Inland North

You may think you speak "Standard English straight out of the dictionary" but when you step away from the Great Lakes you get asked annoying questions like "Are you from Wisconsin?" or "Are you from Chicago?" Chances are you call carbonated drinks "pop."

The Midland
The Northeast
The South
The West
North Central
What American accent do you have?
Take More Quizzes

Thursday, November 09, 2006

You Know What's Good?

1. Hunan Noodles. And an eggroll. Mmmmm. Love cheating on healthy eating diet plan.
2. A certain Man-Kitty (who is very meow-y, as he missed me today).
3. Having just four conferences to go! Yippee!
4. Thursday Night TV night.
5. Knowing that after tomorrow I have two days off.
6. Saturday's plan to go to the movies.
7. Naps.

Any number of other things. Oh, and also good were both of my classes this morning, as apparently what I required was that string cheese in order to feel better. And I did get all of those papers graded (with the help of the two students who chose to miss their appointments, and no, I will not be accommodating those students to reschedule them - except for I probably will because I'm a push-over).

I think I'm going to go take a hot bath. And then maybe I'll search around my house for something sweet (as I'm LONGING for something sweet).


  • I have to teach in 25 minutes.
  • I did not get enough sleep last night.
  • I have no energy.
  • I feel slightly sick.
  • In theory, I am having six conferences beginning at 12:45, back-to-back. Problematically, I still have six papers to grade for those conferences, and I teach for the next 3 hours.
  • Did I mention I don't feel good?
  • And yet I'm a little hungry, even though I ate breakfast.
  • Maybe I'll have some cheese.
  • Dammit! My string cheese package had a malfunction and I can't open it!
  • Ah, fixed it. Now am eating cheese.
  • Have to teach poems about suicide, death, and the atrocity of war today. Fun times.
  • Why can't I just go back to bed?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Grading, an Odious Task

Oh yes, it's that time again. In theory, I need to grade 8 papers for conferences tomorrow. Well, actually that's not in theory. The conferences are scheduled, and I have to have those 8 papers graded for those conferences. I've graded two. But do I need to grade the rest of those papers tonight?

Devil on Crazy's Shoulder: Oh, Crazy, don't grade those papers tonight. You will be more efficient if you put it off until tomorrow morning.
Angel on Crazy's Shoulder: Don't listen to that Devil, Crazy! He lies! He lies!
DCS: No, Crazy, listen to me. Grading expands to fill the time available. If you wait until tomorrow morning, you will whizz - I say, whizz - through those papers!
ACS: No! You will oversleep and then you will freak out and then you won't really read the papers carefully and you'll inflate the grades because you won't feel comfortable giving them the grades they deserve!
DCS: Wow, ACS, you don't really have any faith in Crazy, do you? I know that I believe that Crazy would never be such a slacker. She will wake up at 5 AM!
ACS: Do you even know Crazy?
Crazy: Hey, ACS, I resent that!
ACS: I'm just telling it like it is. I know the truth hurts, but just because I'm an angel doesn't mean that I'm here to make you feel all warm and fuzzy and loved.
DCS: I love you, Crazy. And I believe in you. I think that the negativity of ACS is really bringing you down. And in the frame of mind you're in, how can you really be objective and assign students the grades that they've earned on their papers? I mean, won't you in your current cranky mood punish them unfairly with your poison red pen?
ACS: Are you kidding, DCS? Haven't you even glanced at those papers? I mean, the assignment required abstract thinking. They deserve a reality check about what that means!
Crazy: God, you two are exhausting.
DCS: See, that's why you should call it a night!
ACS: See, that's why you should stop procrastinating and get busy grading!
DCS: You're such a kill-joy, ACS. How about a compromise?
ACS: There are no acceptable compromises!
Crazy: But what about -
ACS: Don't you try to smoothe-talk me, Crazy! I know what you're going to say! You're going to say that you can finish up two more and then do the rest in the morning! Not acceptable!
Crazy: Why, ACS, that's a great idea! I'd never have thought of that!
ACS: But I didn't mean -
DCS: I like the way you think, ACS. You may not be so bad after all.
Crazy: Well, if everybody's in agreement.
ACS: I really -
Crazy: Shut up, ACS.

Crazy and Stress

I've been thinking a lot lately about what stresses me out and about how I handle stress.

Yesterday, I got some marginally good news. Last night, I tossed and turned and had a horrible night's sleep. Racing mind. Freaked-out thoughts. It seems that I am most stressed out when good things happen to me. Unlike most people, who view good news, however marginal, as, I don't know, good, it sets me into a crazy spiral of freaking out. That's item #1.

The second thing I've been thinking quite a bit about is that I don't complain very much when I've got a lot going on. If a bunch of bad shit is happening, I go all pragmatic and calm, and really I'm good at handling things in a crisis. That said, when I'm stressed out (which of course happens when things are going well but have the potential to change and/or are in the middle of change, but because the situation would look positive from the outside people don't really understand that I will become stressed out in the given situation), I do tend to overreact to things and/or to be kind of bitchy. People don't know what to make of this because I don't really complain much, so then they think that the way I'm acting is about how I feel about them. (This goes a long way toward explaining my role in the demise of my last Super-Serious-Relationship, which, incidentally, was the last time I was on the market.) I suppose it's good not to spend one's life complaining, but I'm thinking that perhaps if I complained a little more then people wouldn't be so confused by my erratic and bitchy behavior. That's item #2.

Not sure what to say about any of this, but as I'm still feeling a little on edge this morning, I thought maybe posting about it would help.

Monday, November 06, 2006

I'm Not a Feminist, But....

One of my upper-division students came to me with an idea for her research paper, and she presented the idea with the caveat: "I don't want the paper to be overly feminist... it's so cliche."

Now, of course, I busted out with the "I'm not sure what 'overly feminist' really means" and feminist critique of literature is not a "cliche," but the fact of the matter is that my students really do resist the label "feminist" - don't want to do "feminist" work, don't want to be called "feminists" - and I'm wondering whether this doesn't have something to do with the dominant feminism or feminisms that they encounter.

That's right - dominant feminism(s), which might sound like an oxymoron. Isn't it true that feminism is about dismantling hierarchies and structures of oppression? Isn't it true that feminism is "the radical notion that women are people"? Isn't feminism the antithesis of domination?

Except, for many of my students, that isn't what feminism is. Feminism is something that tells them that their religious beliefs are wrong. Feminism is something that tells them that their mothers and grandmothers and maybe even they themselves are oppressed. Feminism is something that tells them that sexism is everywhere and that they should be suspicious of men. Feminism is something that insists on righteous anger and indignation on the part of women.

Now, when I was a student, I think that I embraced a lot of these things about Feminism (capital-F) because I wanted desperately to rebel and I was intrigued by the idea fighting for my liberation. I liked accusing my mother of being complicit in her oppression and accusing my father of misogyny. It was my thing. Kind of like how it was my thing when I was in high school to correct my parents' grammar. See, for me embracing Feminism (capital-F) was as much about rejecting my working-class roots as anything else. And so, at least to start, I embraced a very upper-middle-class version of feminism.

But as I became freakishly over-educated, and as I saw a bit more of the world, I realized that the upper-middle-class feminism of my peers would never really be my own. For one thing, the whole notion of "choosing" not to work just does not compute for me. The only people in my family who "choose" not to work are on welfare. Both of my grandmothers worked, and my mother has always worked. In other words, "working" is not a "choice' or something one does "for the experience" (as one of my friends' mothers said to my mother when my friend and I were in high school - my mother replied, "Oh, Crazy won't work for the experience, she'll work for the money"). And I have trouble bemoaning the way that I'm compensated in this feminized field of mine, blaming the patriarchy for my salary or for the kind of benefits I receive or whatever, because the reality is that I make more money than most of the people I know, and so I feel kind of rich, comparatively. And finally, I guess I have trouble with some versions of Feminism (capital-F) because they leave out so many women's experiences, and it makes so many women feel judged because they don't conform to certain "feminist" ideals.

And, in fact, it's all of that stuff (I think) that can make some students respond to feminism as if it's played out, a cliche, something that is just totally uninteresting or not for them. I think for many of my students feminism is reserved for privileged yuppies who don't have better things to do with their time, and it's - maybe more than anything else - boring and silly, a waste of time. I'm not saying that these students are right - I don't think that they are - but I do think that this view of things comes from somewhere, and I don't think the only place it comes from is "patriarchy."

So the question is this: to what extent is it my responsibility to show them different versions of feminism? To what extent must feminism to reconcile itself to different kinds of belief systems (conservative religious or political beliefs, for example) in order not to exclude whole groups of women from a feminist agenda? To what extent is it the role of feminist professors, who probably have the most contact with not-yet-feminist women, to show them that feminism is, in fact, "for" them, even if those women have a lot of voices in their lives that contradict dominant feminisms with which they are familiar?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Did I Really Need More Tall Boots?

Well, apparently I did. Today, I bought this pair of space-Pocahontas-suede boots (my apologies for the crappy picture)

and this pair of dark brown boots.

The awesome part? I spent just 75 bucks for both pairs. Not 75 bucks each. And both pairs are totally comfortable.

In other news, the Weekend Without People has been quite good, though I do think that yet one more day without people really is going to do the trick. I'm so excited that I can have a Monday Without People tomorrow that I could cry with joy.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

I Think I'm Lying to Myself....

Ok, so at the moment, I'm making risotto. Right now I'm doing the rice part, and at the end I'm going to mix in some chicken (and apple/ham/and maybe some peas or broccoli or something so as to have another vegetable....), the plan being that this will make it more of a meal than a side-dish). Anyway, the point here, is that I'm fairly certain that every single one of the ingredients below is allowed on the South Beach Diet, phase two.

Here are the ingredients:

  • Chicken Stock (organic)
  • Short-grain brown rice
  • one medium onion
  • about 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of dry white wine
  • probably like 8 oz. baby portobello mushrooms, trimmed
  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped
  • boneless/skinless chicken breast
  • maybe 4 slices of ham from the deli (that were in my fridge, so I figured, hey, that's yummy with chicken)
  • A little bit of parmesan cheese (maybe 1/4 cup, and given that this will make about 6 servings....)
And yet, how is it possible that the above is diet food? It's totally not, right? And this is where it becomes clear to me that risotto is infinitely more than the sum of its parts.... Ah, love the risotto.

(That said, you'll notice I no longer use real and perfect actual butter in the dish nor do I use as much cheese as I did once upon a time nor do I use white short-grain rice, so I suppose it is possible that I've modified the recipe to some extent, thus making the risotto somewhat less sinful. Oh, and I'm not making the risotto as a side to veal, breaded and sauteed delicious veal with a lovely wine sauce. Nor am I serving the aforementioned with gorgeous and sinful maple-syrup-glazed carrots....)

[Edited to Add: Oh. My. God. I don't care if the above is diet food or not. Am in heaven. Could die now and wouldn't, honestly, be too fussed about it. Might lose my mind with the gloriousness of the meal that I cooked. Wonder what I will do with my evening now? Hmmm....]

Friday, November 03, 2006

Poetry Friday - W.H. Auden

"Musee des Beaux Arts"

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.

In breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

Fall of Icarus - Peter Breughel
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus Pieter Breughel c. 1558; Oil on canvas, mounted on wood, 73.5 x 112 cm; Musees royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels