Monday, June 30, 2008

The Time Has Come

My dining room table has been a Monument to Projects for, lo, many months now. Indeed, I don't really remember the last time that it wasn't the Dining Room Table of Anxiety. I am taking a wee break from excavating it right now. Indeed, today is the day: the DRToA will be no more!

I have just finished shelving about 30-40 books (I know - ridiculous - imagine what it was like when I had library books littering it and the surrounding chairs as well). The next project will be to organize my CDs, which have somehow found their way into total disarray. I've got a couple of crates of paper stuff that will make their way into the study to be dealt with at a later time. It's all necessary paper, but it's not really organized. I just can't make myself organize it today as well as everything else, for filing, I am not a fan of filing. At least the crates are organized by topic.

But so yes, once this project is done, I'm going to make my way into the kitchen, where I sorely need to organize the cabinets. Once that is done, I shall then straighten in the living room. This will put me in decent shape for a top-to-bottom spring cleaning tomorrow, I hope.

But for now, 30 more minutes of break and then back to it!

Edited to add:
Ok, so the whole "reorganizing the kitchen" thing is so not happening. If I'm honest (though why I should be, I'm not sure) I've not even finished with the DRToA. I did, however, get the CDs in order. And then this inspired me to get to work with syncing my new iPod shuffle, which I bought to have for the car, rather than having to cart my big iPod around all the time. This was part of my shopping extravaganza of yesterday, in which I successfully purchased some cropped pants that were a) cheap and b) that actually fit. In a sad bit of news, if one has the Hips of Eastern Europe and should be squatting in a field birthing babies, one has to buy Target pants at 4 sizes larger than one buys her clothing normally. In jeans, in skirts, in pants that cost a hundred dollars, I am all the same size. But in the Cropped Pants of Cambodia, well, I am decidedly not that size. Whatever. They fit as they should, and they were cheap. I shall cut out the size when I get around to it. Or I'll just think about doing so, and then not. Whatever. But so the point here is that I was distracted by the shiny thing that is my new Shuffle, and really, I did need to get on with that project, as I shall be driving 4 hours to Hometown in just over a week's time, and really, I couldn't put this off. (Ha.) At first I just tried the whole "autofill" thing, but it chose stuff I didn't really necessarily want. Also, I do like a whole album, or almost a whole album, every now and again. And also, some music is just not appropriate for the car. And thus, I had to do a fairly control-freaky syncing of the machine. This task is now nearly complete - I'm now just attempting to autofill the remaining moments in the memory (though I keep being irritated and so having to delete and retry. Dude, I don't need weird 20 second Sufjan Stevens interludes, nor do I need Kanye West intros and outros. Or Dr. Dre ones for that matter. Dude, I know I have some 2 minute songs in there. The technology needs to be up to this task.... (time passes) ... Aw yeah! I got it to within 55 seconds! I am the master of musical technology! Huzzah!

So, because I'm a nerd, I just copied the contents of the Shuffle into a playlist so that I could shuffle it without it changing the order of the actual Shuffle (I'm not sure if this was necessary, but I wanted to preserve albums in a row and artists in a row where I've got them). But so, I'm certain you're wondering about what sorts of things are on there! Or if you're not, well, I don't care. I shall tell you the current top 20 in the shuffled version of things, for I am so excited that I am in the world of people who have their digitized music in the car! Huzzah!

  1. Feels Like Rain - Buddy Guy
  2. Cure for Pain - Morphine
  3. Another Travelin' Song - Bright Eyes
  4. I Ain't Ever Satisfied - Steve Earle
  5. Parting Gift - Fiona Apple
  6. Rollerskate Skinny - Old 97s
  7. For Emma - Bon Iver
  8. Cry Me a River - Justin Timberlake
  9. She's Crafty - Beastie Boys
  10. All Falls Down - Kanye West
  11. Put on a Side - The Breeders
  12. Redemption Song - Bob Marley & The Wailers
  13. Human Thing - Be Good Tanyas
  14. Knock 'Em Out - Lily Allen
  15. Finest Worksong - REM
  16. No Man's Woman - Sinead O'Connor
  17. Cheated Hearts - Yeah Yeah Yeahs
  18. Hey - The Pixies
  19. Hypnotize - The Notorious B.I.G.
  20. Head On - The Jesus and Mary Chain
I've got to say, this little list is a pretty fair representation of the range of Crazy's music, when all is said and done. There's a little "clearly Crazy identified as a 'progressive' or 'alternative' music girl in high school and college," with a dash of "hey, some radio-friendly hip-hop/R&B doesn't go amiss," and a smidgen of "Crazy's most serious relationship was with an indie guy music snob who veered toward bluegrass and country" thrown in, and a pinch of "Crazy's dad instilled in her a love of the blues." Sadly, Bob Marley is the only "classic rock" representative in this list, but nevertheless, even that, too, has good representation in the collection as a whole. I am so excited for the four-hour drive through cornfields, even if kitties will be in tow and likely meowing! (Though I know that Bon Iver, Jack Johnson, Lucinda Williams, and Van Morrison will facilitate the stopping of each of them meowing [historically all are true for my Man-Kitty, and from experiments in recent days, the same will be true for Mr. Stripey], and let me tell ya - there's a good sampling of each on the shuffle.)

As an aside, can I just note how much the iPod Shuffle holds? 271 songs. This is so many! I mean, clearly not enough for as much music as I own, for my Big iPod has 2503 songs stored currently, and that's not even everything (for I'm lazy, and some CDs still aren't loaded in), but still! I was imagining I could only fit like 100 songs in there or something! And I'm so excited that this isn't the case!

So yeah. That's the latest with Crazy. She got distracted by the new shiny thing and didn't accomplish nearly as much as she really should have done. What else is new?

Saturday, June 28, 2008

And the Happiness, It Continues

In spite of the fact that I found out I won't be attending a conference I'd hoped to attend in the fall (panel rejected). I'm actually not terribly upset about it as it would have meant a bunch of new research that I don't really want to do in September/October. As it is, I think I'll use the paper for another conference in June, which won't be as terribly competitive.

So today I went to a party - With not just co-workers! Where I met new non-work people! - which was super-fun, and out of this, I think I have a new activity - a weekly sort of thing - in which I will begin to participate!

Said activity has been something I've wanted to try for ages but could never get off my ass to do it on my own. It does suck that I'll only be able to go for this week and then I'll have to take a month off because of my travels, but my hope is that I will have enough skill after the first meeting to practice during my travels so as to be ready to learn more upon my return.

In other news, I feel that I should report that after I made my "happy! hurrah!" post of last night that I then proceeded to have a total freaking meltdown in a conversation in the immediate aftermath of that post that began about energy policy in the United States, in which I cried and raged like a fool. Because, apparently, even though one does really "even out" in one's adult life (as my mother had predicted it would when I was 15 when I would cry and slam doors after political conversations with my Stepdad), every now and then the inner 15-year-old peeks out of the darkness and raises her ugly head, and one has, well, a total freaking meltdown. So even a happy Crazy is an erratic Crazy. It has always been thus, and I suspect always shall it remain.

Well, This, Is Strange

So, for the first weekend like ever in this godforsaken town, I apparently am booked up with the socializing. Like, tonight, I went out, and like, tomorrow night, I've also got an engagement. None of this is because of Grand Schemes Involving the Online Dating Universe (indeed, I've not done that since last spring). No. I'm talking actual socializing in normal, friend-type situations two nights in a row. Either the apocalypse is near, or things really are coming together quite nicely.

And I've got other plans on Tuesday evening. Again, with the normal, friend-type plans. What the heck is going on here? Just what the heck?

In other news, I got a call from First Love this morning because he'd read the blog (I told him about it last year maybe? I feel he now reads it instead of bothering to call me a lot of the time) and he was so excited that I seem so happy, from what he's been reading. And what was weird? I hadn't really realized that I was - seriously - super-happy until he pointed it out. I mean, I've recognized I'm happy in individual blog posts and such, but no, seriously, I'm totally, actually happy. And it's not just about a new kitten or a trip abroad or something - it's like an all-over sort of happiness.

  • I'm happy with my job.
  • I'm happy with my research (which, yes, is to do with the job, but which is also it's own individual part.)
  • I'm happy with my mom, and stepdad, respectively, and love that this is the year of family travels.
  • I'm happy with my kitten-to-human ratio.
  • I'm happy with my friends.
  • I'm happy with my weirdo friend-though-more-than-friend-though-not-quite-something-else.
  • I'm happy with myself.

I'm happy with my fucking life.

This, I feel, I should note. It's easy to use such a space as this for bitching and moaning. And I'm content with doing that much of the time, and I do think that the bitching and moaning is valuable in its way. And it's hard to write about being happy without sounding like a tool, and so a lot of times people don't do it. Or at least I don't do it for that reason. And I often think that choosing not to do so is, overall, a wise decision as a writer, as often as a reader I feel like people who blab on and on about how great their lives are boring and stupid. And, dude, a boring and stupid Dr. Crazy? Totally not possible.

But you know what? When you are truly - really and truly - happy with all the parts? Well, it's worth it to acknowledge that. And it's not being a tool and it's not lame. It's important, ultimately, because how often does that happen? In my experience, not very. And so sure, I'm sure I'll be bitching and moaning again - probably tomorrow or the next day - but let's just note it for the record that right now, indeed, I am happy. Indeed.

Friday, June 27, 2008

In Which I'm a Bit of a Fool

Mr. Stripey's butt apparently did not really look funny. Apparently, he had litter stuck to it, but otherwise it's totally normal. Dude, I thought that at first, but when the litter didn't just come right off, I thought it was a desperate malady. It's not like I have much experience in these matters - I've never actually SEEN the Man-Kitty's butt up close and personal. He's a much less.... exhibitionistic cat.

So they gave me some dewormer (I think just to set my mind at ease) but otherwise just checked him out, and it appears he's hunky dory. Indeed, he has gained a full pound in just two weeks. I think that he might end up being the size of a tiger or similar. But then, as we know from the first paragraph, I am no expert in matters related to Mr. Stripey :)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Done Except for the Finals and the Tabulation of Final Grades!

And, I've got to say, I'm feeling very pleased. Very pleased, indeed. And not just because I'm done (or will be done tomorrow, for real).

The one course that I taught was one of the best I've taught ever. And what's so exciting was that the students thought so, too. Comments as they turned in their finals included thanks for making the class so fun, happiness that they stayed in the class even though they were afraid at first that I was expecting too much, the usual comments I get about how I made them see the point of poetry and enjoy it and there should be even more on the syllabus (which is totally weird as I'm not a "poetry person" and so I don't get why they love the way that I teach poetry so much, given the conventional wisdom that students typically hate poetry - and note, one of the poems that I teach is Pope's Eloisa to Abelard, so it's not like I'm teaching them a bunch of 4-line poems that they don't have to work to get), thanks for my enthusiasm and introducing them to stuff they'd never have picked up to read on their own....

Note, not a one of these students is a major. Most are in majors that are probably the exact opposite of an English major. And yes, I take more pride in the work that I do teaching these students than in preaching to the choir of students who already likes reading, who already likes writing. Ultimately, it means more, I think, the work that I do in courses like this. Not that I don't love teaching majors, which I do, but, well, they'd be into it even if I sucked - at least minimally. The thing is, a course without majors is a course that I've got to rock in. And I love the way that they inspire me to rock and the way that I have new ideas about how to bring material to students because of their perspectives.

You know, I've fought for a long time against the notion that I "belong" at an institution like this. But I totally, and happily, do. And I even belong not just at an institution like this but also at this particular institution. Thank god I fucking feel that - finally. It's been a long road coming to realize and accept that, not in the least because I had to learn to shut off those voices in my head of mentors and colleagues who told me that I could - should - "do better." You know what? I do awesome work here. I do better work as a teacher than I could possibly do at another kind of institution, and I do very good work as a scholar. So screw those voices in my head that say this shouldn't be where I am, that I'm better than where I am. No, the fact is, I'm great where I am. And that rules.

That's not to say I'll never go on the market again, but it won't be because of what other people think if I do. And it won't be because I could "do better." You know what? I think that what I do here is my absolute best. And I care about doing my best for these students.

I do have one student that I'm anticipating a grade challenge from (not from the Best Class Ever, but from the Other One), but I'm hopeful that I'm just being paranoid. If not, though, I've got a paper trail to support my position, and I'm not too worried about the outcome.

But so yeah, I'm feeling good, and I'm looking forward to finishing grading and to turning in grades tomorrow. I'm finally done, people!!!!! Summer teaching is for suckers. (And for people who are financial idiots who refuse to give up extras in order not to have to do summer teaching.)

God. Just God.

In excellent news, I got an email from my production editor that the proofs of my book are in the mail! Huzzah! In less than excellent news, I need to have them done by July 21. I should note that I'm scheduled to go to Hometown for the few days before Lebanon on the 9th. Oh, and I can't work on them 4th of July weekend because A. is coming to town. I have a feeling that I'm going to have to do a super-duper marathon 48-hour sort of thing. I want to die.

(If they really went in the mail today, though, it could well be the case that I'll have them by Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, in which case I can work on them Wednesday through Friday, give it the weekend while I'm chilling with A. to rest, and then do another three or so day marathon to finish up, which would be sweet.)

But so after tomorrow, grades for my summer courses will be posted, I will spend the weekend going to the pool and cleaning my hideously filthy home, and yes, I do believe that will take me through to Monday, when I will come into the office and clean here in earnest (so that when BFF finally moves out of her digs they can switch the desks without me needing to be here). Also so that there will be a place to put my bright and shiny new computer when they replace the piece of garbage I've got in there now.

I really don't want to grade. I just thought I'd note that in closing.

The World Might Be Coming to An End, And Other Thoughts

Well, first off about the whole world ending business. I actually read a Chronicle First-Person piece that didn't make me want to slit my wrists, poke out somebody's eyes, or set the internet on fire. I felt that I should note this, given the fact that I think I've never written a single positive thing about a Chronicle First-Person piece. I should also note, however, that I probably appreciated this piece because I have - not often, but in the course of history once or twice - slept in the burrito of not having made the bed. Maybe my enjoyment of the piece is just that I love it when other people admit that they, like me, are slobs. This could well be the case.

In other news, what? I think I shall do a list.

  1. I think that the wee Mr. Stripey may have an intestinal parasite. He will need to go to the vet today. I will say, he doesn't seem to be any the worse for wear, but his butt looks funny, and I say better to be safe than sorry. Now, I could take him to the vet by school, which is linked to the adoption program through which he was fostered and where his treatment would be free, but you know what? I'm taking him to my vet. As much as my vet is an asshole (and really, he totally is: BFF has confirmed it), he has kept my little Man-Kitty healthy and happy, and I do, weirdly, trust the guy. Yeah, I think it's time for him to meet Mr. Stripey.
  2. Today is the last day of my summer teaching!!!!
  3. I got my stats from my spring course evaluations last week. They are the best evaluations I've ever received in the course of my entire teaching career. Like, on a scale of 1-5 I actually got 5's on a few questions. And lots of 4.9s and 4.8s. What is responsible for this statistical windfall? I shall speculate: 1) I was only teaching two classes, and yes, I had lots of responsibilities to fill in for the other two courses in my load, but still, two classes is two classes; 2) Both of those classes were ones I was very excited to teach; 3) The class dynamic in both sections was awesome; 3) The stars aligned; 4) I've finally become The Most Excellent Teacher in the Land; 5) Sometimes good things happen to good people, and those things happen when a person who is totally burnt out on teaching comp doesn't have to teach it anymore. In other words, who the fuck knows. But I'm very excited about this.
  4. One reason I'm excited about this is that it does seem to confirm my snarkily conceived "goal" for the 2009 year to teach more diverse texts because in classes where I teach those texts my evaluation numbers are consistently higher. This goal was snarkily conceived partly because of my lasting hatred of our evaluation forms, and because it was a politic way of noting to my chair that indeed, some of our students are sexist. Who knew.
  5. You know, the state of Mr. Stripey's butt makes me wonder if I'd ever notice something similar with the Man-Kitty. He's just so furry, and he does not display it by walking around with his tail raised. Who the hell knows what goes on with his butt. I suppose he likes to keep it private, and if something were wrong he'd let me know.
  6. I'm beginning to get very excited about the Lebanon trip. I'm also excited that A. is coming for our belated Vagina Power Weekend over the 4th. And I'm very excited that the front and the back ends of my trip to Lebanon will be spent visiting in hometown, which means I'll be there both for A.'s birthday and her boyfriend's birthday.
  7. I am sad because I will be out of town when BFF moves away. And when I come back there will be no BFF. It's going to be a year of change, with that being the case. I'm hoping it's good change. If not, that will certainly suck.
  8. Now that school is done, it's time to a) totally clean my house, which I've still not done, b) get back on the fitness bandwagon, c) prepare for my travels, and d) relax. Ah, relaxation. Well, once I've got my grades finished. This should be done by tomorrow.
I feel as if I should come up with two more list items, but I think I will leave it at 8 rather than pad. Oh, I suppose the last thing I should note is that Man-Kitty and Mr. Stripey grow every more intimate and more egalitarian, and while it is true that Mr. Stripey continues to rule the roost with his exuberant and entitled ways, Man-Kitty and he now have reached some sort of time-sharing agreement about the top tier of the cat tree. The other night, when I wasn't paying attention, Mr. Stripey relinquished his position on top of the world for the evening napping.

Once I woke them up by taking the first picture, they then proceeded to keep their positions for some pre-bed bathing.

Yes, my cats take naps before bed. Going to bed really takes a lot of energy, you know.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

I'm Not Really Sure If This Qualifies for Blogging the Lost But....

So, MONTHS ago, I was nominated for a college-wide award, which meant that I had to submit a version of my promotion and tenure materials to be judged alongside the other nominees. This was a pain, but also was kind of good because it means that I had to do a lot of work with the materials that I otherwise would have had to do this summer.

But so anyway, the annoying thing is that the dean STILL hasn't sent letters out to let us know who won the freaking thing, and my binder has been sitting in the college office since April. Well. I am not a patient person, so I finally did email somebody about wanting my binder back, and they are carting it over to my office today, I guess. But apparently I'll get a letter "this week or next" about the stupid award.

I do not care about a fancy official letter. Just tell me if I'm a winner or a loser, goddammit!!!!

And so now, I'm sitting here wondering whether it's a good sign that nobody's leaking the news or a bad sign. Or maybe it's no sign at all.

But so I thought I'd blog about this issue because while that letter isn't technically lost (well, unless we think of it as lost on my dean's to-do list or lost in his brain), I really want to find it in my department mailbox before the week ends!

This whole waiting to know whether I will be awarded something really, really sucks. Did I mention how I'm not patient? And did I mention that we were supposed to be notified about this by mid-May? Grumble.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

RBOC: I Do Not Want to Grade

  • It will only take me a half hour to do it, which is convenient as this is about as much time as I've got. But then tonight I'm also getting a set of papers and worksheets in. Oh, and did I mention I've got a final to write?
  • Today, I went to the pool. I did nothing that I needed to accomplish.
  • I have realized also, that I have not accomplished many of my grand plans for the past 7 weeks. My office has not been cleaned; I have not wrapped up all of the stuff for my fall online course (which I have justified to myself in a number of ways, but I'm totally an idiot for not having finished with it - or really even worked on it at all); My house is not really clean (though having A. come for the Fourth will help with that, as I can always be counted upon to do major cleaning before guests); etc.
  • But today is the last day of regular teaching!
  • Of course, then there is massive amounts of grading and finals to administer.
  • Do you ever feel like you just don't want to bother with actual grading because you know what people will get? I feel that way all the time. But I never let myself indulge in that practice. Even though I've never yet been wrong.
  • I have some kitty pictures, but I've been trying to save them up a bit because I was feeling like my blog was becoming kitten-saturated. That said, I do have news to report about them, which you can expect in an upcoming post.
  • I still don't want to grade.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Nobody Gets into This Profession for the Money


I got into this profession for the money. Not that I ever thought I'd make "real" money or get rich, but yes, money was a factor. Like I never cared that I'd make above a decent middle-class wage where I'd be able to pay my bills and never have the phone shut off. But seriously: when I decided on graduate school, part of what I considered was that if I got a tenure-track job, I'd make on my own per year what my parents made combined, if not a bit more. And I'd be doing something that I loved to do, but no, I wasn't some martyr to a profession that wouldn't pay me.
When people note that "nobody gets into this for the money" they're basically saying that in choosing a field that they "love" they have sacrificed money they would have made elsewhere, money that other people that they know make.

I've got exactly one friend/family member outside of the academy who makes more per year than I do. So yes, I suppose, I got into this for the money.

So why am I writing about this? Well, one of the threads that ran through DD's comments to Friday's post especially was this idea that workers who choose an academic path somehow have "chosen" love over money. I agree that we've chosen love over lots of money, but seriously: I make more money than many people I know. I didn't choose to do what I loved without regard to money. I chose to try to do what I loved if I could be compensated adequately and if I could have greater job security by not seeking more than adequate compensation. That's not the same thing as having no regard for money.

Fact: the only people who have the luxury of choosing a career path with no regard for compensation are people who have money already. Whether it's family money or a spouse's money or money that they saved up before embarking on the love-path. And that's not a discipline-specific fact, but rather it is a universal fact. A truth, if you will. And I believe in very few of those, but this is one of my exceptions to my general rule that there are no universal truths.

Now, this is something that BFF and I have talked a great deal about, because she got the "Nobody gets into this profession for the money" argument when she was offered her new job, and they tried to offer her less than she was offered to start at my institution - even though she'd already been on the tenure track for five years. Her response to them ultimately was, no, I'm not in it for the money but I don't expect to take a pay cut to accept your position (a pay cut that would have been close to 10 grand, with identical cost of living in both locations). Ultimately, she got them to hire her in at just about her current salary, and that worked for her. She didn't make money on the deal, but she didn't lose money either (except if you count the time she's lost on the tenure clock, the cost of moving, etc.). But the whole "you should just feel lucky to get a job" thing totally wasn't where the conversation stopped. Why? Because that's bullshit.

My concern, when people make this argument, and I'm thinking about this with my specific field in mind, is that it increases the class uniformity of the professoriate. And yes, I think it's valuable that people from a variety of backgrounds - class, ethnic, whatever - can choose this profession and try to succeed in it. New ideas come from people who have differing backgrounds, life experiences, and worldviews. What a commenter to Dean Dad's most recent post, Joe, writes, is true:
I recognize that society benefits by having people study the classics, whether or not there is an immediate need. But society also benefits by filling in pot holes, funding the public defenders office, and not taxing me so damn much that I might have to move just to keep out of bankruptcy.
The question is, who is going to decide that filling in potholes is an option? To be a hair-dresser (the career I thought I'd have if I wasn't able to go to college)? To dig ditches (a profession that a real jack-ass in my high school European history class used to like to reference when talking about the unwashed masses)? To work construction, to work in crappy office jobs as my mom has done throughout her working life, to work in a steel mill (as my dad did throughout my young life), to work in a factory (as a cousin of mine and a kid I went to grade school with do) to work in food service or retail? I'll tell you who: it's people whose parents didn't save a dime for them to attend college, people who don't know anybody who has gone to college, people who, ultimately, don't know that NPR exists before they attend college (if they do) and people who don't have the material or cultural resources to know that you can choose something that you love even if it means a "pay cut" - a "pay cut" that still will give you more than your family and friends make.

It's not that all of the jobs that I've listed don't have value. Obviously they do. But I really bristle at the idea of limiting a whole class of people to those jobs if they could succeed in others that would be more fulfilling to them. And I know that my students do benefit from the fact that I, coming from where I come from, teach them, if only because I don't think of them as lesser human beings because of where they come from (as some of my more privileged colleagues do).

When we think about restructuring the pay scale and professional structure of higher ed and even before that the funding structure of higher ed, we've got to think about those students - and potential workers - whom the new structure might exclude. If we don't, we only replicate and perpetuate fucking injustice.

Now, all of that being said? Had I not secured tenure-track employment in my first year out, my plan was to have them to convert me to an actual full-time employee at the job that I was temping at for the months leading up to my defense (which they wanted to do, and which would have given me benefits), to adjunct one or two classes a semester in addition to that in order to keep my teaching current, and to write a shitload and to attempt to publish hardcore. I never considered adjuncting full-time because I didn't have the money to consider doing that. And if that hadn't worked after three cycles on the market? The plan was to say fuck off to the profession and to find a real fucking job. Because you know why? I needed the fucking money and I'm not a total idiot. Just only a little bit of an idiot, for otherwise I'd not have chosen this path in the first place.

The point here, for me, is it's not about love or money. It's about love and decent money and job security. So don't tell me that I didn't get into this for the money. Dude, I'd have made more money than adjuncts make, and with benefits, working as a transcription typist, and I'd have been living in my hometown with tons of support networks. I could read in my spare time, and I'd have had spare time to do it with. Seriously. Even I can do that math.

Professors, Lecturers, Adjuncts, Oh My!

I'm writing this post because I keep mulling over these two recent ones by Dean Dad. Go read them both - as well as the comments - I'm not offering a full account of either here. I've left a comment to each, but the thing I keep thinking about is about DD's suggestion that parity of compensation becomes possible if we were to eliminate tenure and to bring t-t salaries down while raising adjunct salaries (the idea being that "a class of adjuncts [is] exploited at Wal-Mart levels to make possible endless internal interest-group politicking" in the current system, which is, it seems that Dean Dad is arguing, the fault of faculty on the tenure track or who have tenure and who have job stability and health insurance).

First, let's think about who makes hiring decisions at universities, and how that money is allocated to departments. Ultimately, this is an administrative decision. Departments don't just get a pool of money that they then decide to use as they wish. So it's not like, "Hey, English department, here's 50K that you can have, so you can either hire one lecturer with health benefits who teaches 8 classes a year or you can hire adjuncts to cover adjuncts to cover 16 or 17 classes, none of whom would get benefits." No, lecturers, like tenure-track people, are "lines" that the administration gives or takes a way based on budgetary constraints. Adjuncts make it possible to increase enrollment or at least to keep it at current levels when the budget tanks, thus making the school appear still to be growing even as resources aren't there for new growth.
So, to recap: t-t positions and lecturer positions are "lines" that are allocated by the provost and the dean. You can be promised x lines, but in times of budget shortfall, the lines you think that you have can be axed (for lecturers, as my post last week discussed), and lines you were promised for t-t hiring can be "frozen" or eliminated altogether. None of this has a thing in the world to do with the pool of money available for hiring adjuncts.

Yes, adjuncting jobs are also in jeopardy in times of budget crisis. An attempt is made to streamline based on things like
  • offering fewer course releases to permanent faculty, so they pick up classes that adjuncts had historically taught.
  • being more stringent about enrollment minimums so that courses that don't make the minimum are canceled.
  • increasing enrollment maximums per course, so instead of teaching 25 students you're teaching 28 or 30 per course.
Ultimately, though, even with those measures in place, the only way that we could eliminate adjuncts at my university would be to eliminate course offerings. There is no way to bring lecturer, tenured, and tenure-track salaries in my department down to the extent that we could offer every employee health care and still cover all of the courses that we are required to offer in order to meet with accreditation requirements for the institution and in order for students to be able to satisfy graduation requirements.

This is not me being an apologist for adjunctification of my field or or the profession generally. Relying so exhaustively on adjunct labor is not a good thing - not because adjuncts are necessarily bad teachers or anything like that but because it's exploitative and just plain wrong. This post is an attempt on my part to think about the (vague) numbers.

  • When I was hired in on the tenure-track 5 years ago, I was offered a salary in the high 40s. This was an amazing offer - I have known people in the past 5 years who've received job offers - tenure track ones - in the low 30s in places not much different cost-of-living-wise than mine. In my job, I have a 4/4 load, an expectation of some publication and conference attendance, and a fairly heavy service expectation that includes committee work, advising, service in the community, stuff with students, etc.
  • At the same time, a lecturer would have been hired in at a salary in the high 30s (with health insurance). Lecturers have no research requirement for reappointment, and only minimal service is required of them. They also teach a 4/4.
  • Adjuncts at my institution make around 2K per course (atrocious, I know). Obviously no service is required of them, nor is publication required of them. Let's say that an adjunct taught 5 courses per semester and 2 in the summer, then that adjunct would be taking home approximately 24K a year, without benefits.
  • Add to this the pool of tenured faculty, none of whom make more than about 90K/year I'd say, and most of whom hover in the associate professor zone of the 60s.
So, if we assume that what people are being hired in at has not gone up in five years for the "permanent" lines we've got a pool of resources (if we totally reorganize the working conditions of our permanent employees) that is about 30 people, making somewhere between 40 and 90K per year plus health insurance. Even if we just wanted to give health insurance to every adjunct who teaches at least 3 or 4 courses, say, that would mean needing to do it for approximately 70 people (my department employs somewhere around 125-150 adjuncts a semester, I would estimate). Somebody tell me how the math would work out, because I feel like it's pretty much an impossibility, if we are going to keep any professors at a wage where they can pay back their student loans, etc.

But the issue is, the courses must be offered. We will not be getting any new hiring lines in the foreseeable future. Lecturer positions were cut. People who are leaving their job here whether by getting another job or through retirement are not being replaced. Administrative staff positions for small programs were cut. This is how it is.

But in order to support the student body at its current numbers and to fulfill the state's 20whateveritis mission of actually growing the student body (they wanted us to double our enrollment - the president has basically told them that they're on crack given the fact that they've taken away a huge chunk of our budget and we don't have the buildings for all of those students, let alone the instructors), the courses must go on, in some fashion.

So then the question is, should we shrink our enrollments rather than grow it? And if that's the case, what does that mean to open access higher education? And if we are employing grad students from nearby institutions as adjuncts - who have insurance through their schools at which they are students - and we are helping them get needed experience, writing them letters of recommendation, mentoring them, how does that complicate or fail to complicate the compensation structures that we're discussing here?

Obviously, Something Must Be Done. One thing that would surely help would be national health care, but even that wont solve the problem completely. The issue is that we want more - if not all - people to attend at least some college. At the same time, we don't want to hire full-time people to teach those students because it's not "cost-effective." The only answer to that is adjuncts, people. Until we're willing to say that we can't increase enrollments and graduation rates, we can't decrease the number of adjuncts. Or, if we can, you tell me how. 'Cause the reality is that faculty don't make these decisions, at least not at my institution.

The question that keeps rattling around in my head, with that being the case, is what exactly are faculty supposed to do about it - when we don't allocate resources, when we can't use money that we're given for whatever we want? Hell, my department had to play this crazy game this spring with our 2% raise pool in order to convince the administration that just splitting the meager sum across the board wouldn't undermine their insistence that raises should be on "merit." (I believe our argument was something like "all of our faculty are equally meritorious" or something lame like that. The result is that we all got a raise of about a grand. This raise will ultimately allow for us to at least somewhat absorb the increase that's coming for parking as well as a new tax that will be levied against us in the coming academic year.) These decisions, at least as I've seen them be made, aren't faculty decisions. They aren't made to make it possible for faculty to have meaningless turf wars and to huff and puff and posture. Administrators make them, they make tenured faculty in the middle (chairs, directors of writing programs) implement them, and then we all go about our business in a system that is deeply unequal and that compromises those core disciplines that are central to a liberal arts education. As far as I know, tenured and tenure-track faculty don't like the idea of adjunct labor at all. Speaking for myself, I can tell you that it doesn't mean I don't teach service courses, it doesn't free up my time so I an pursue some outside-of-power life of the mind. I think that's often what's implied about faculty on the tenure-track or with tenure - that they benefit from others' misfortune. I just don't think that's true everywhere or that it's really that simple. But at an institution without a union, and without having any administrative power, and, in my case, not even having tenure yet, what exactly is a person to do? And how do we serve thousands of students while reforming the system and revolutionizing higher education?

That's what I want to know.

And is serving students just giving them skills that are quantifiable on a job market? Is there value in giving students a liberal arts education in addition to vocational training? I think there is, but maybe I'm lacking in imagination or something because I value the liberal arts - even for all of my business majors who are taking my summer courses right now. I do believe that traditional disciplines like English and Philosophy and History play an important role in shaping a person's worldview, and I think it's totally bogus to imply that because those disciplines don't have easily translatable market value in the "real world" (note - I say "easily translatable," and not no market value) that they should be left to die. This isn't me saying we can't change how we might think about those disciplines and what they do and how we teach them and the role that they play in the overall curriculum. To my mind, those things are all things we can and probably should do. But just saying, "let the market decide and pay English teachers less," well, yeah, that makes me angry. Not because I'm so special and I can't believe others don't know it, but because I really do think that it's valuable to be able to read a text and to analyze it and to write about it - in any number of "real world" contexts. Just because it's not flashy doesn't mean it's without value.

And then there's the question of grad programs and number of grad students admitted, etc., and I'm not even going to go there in this post. Somebody else can take up that mantle, or maybe I'll get to it another time.

But really, what I want are nuts and bolts answers. How does this sort of brainstorming affect curriculum? How do we achieve such wide-sweeping changes if we want to keep enrollment at consistent if not increased levels? If these are administrative decisions, should it be faculty effectively paying for those decisions by taking pay cuts? Are there ways to think about these problems that fall somewhere in between "Trust the market! Let the market decide!" and "Nothing in these hallowed halls shall ever change!"? Is tenure really the problem, or is something else at the center of these ongoing debates? What is the role of the university in the 21st century? If it's just job training, then do we siphon off the conventional liberal arts disciplines someplace else and just call a spade a spade and be done with it? Why do people go to college if it's not just about job opportunities? How do we serve those interests?

Feel free to answer, comment, offer more questions of your own. Or just continue going about your business until next I provide you with a picture of my Dynamic Duo of Kitty-Cats.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Oh, That Music Meme

I think that Caro tagged me for it first. I think some others have also tagged me, though I'm not certain. The point is, I really need to do this meme. Now, I've been procrastinating because I've felt like I'm not really "into" a bunch of songs right now. I blame the summer teaching. But then I thought to myself, well, I do have a set of things I love in summer, and I have been listening to those quite a bit, as well as some others. So anyway, here we are with 7 songs, though I'm not sure how committed to them I am :)

The rules are these:

List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your spring summer. Post these instructions in your blog along with your seven songs. Then tag seven other people to see what they’re listening to.

  1. "Skinny Love" - Bon Iver. (Really, though, I'm in love with the whole album. Also check out "Flume" "For Emma" and "Re: Stacks," especially.)
  2. Concrete Sky - Beth Orton
  3. Price of Gas - Bloc Party
  4. Time Running - Tegan and Sara
  5. The Jump off - Lil' Kim
  6. Stir It Up = Bob Marley
  7. Hey Hey What Can I Do - Led Zeppelin
(The last two are totally summer classics that I love every summer. I cannot help it. Actually though, you know what says summer to me, in my Ohio girl's heart? The Steve Miller Band. Really, there's no need for other music from about May to October if you've got The Steve Miller Band's Greatest Hits. Even if you know better. Totally. Though you could also throw in some Doobie Brothers and Little River Band for good measure, and you'd be smooth sailing. If you really wanted to put the icing on the cake, though, you could also include some America. Just saying.)

Zoom! Zip! Hurrah!

And on the inside of the car, you feel like you're in a Harry-Potter-esque magically enlarged interior, and yet, the car itself is wee and you can zip and zoom and frolic along! It is so fun to drive! And so zippy! Hurrah!

(Note: I feel like I did decently with the wheeling and dealing, though I still don't love this sort of adult-type purchasing. That said, I really do love actually having things so all in all, a positive experience. I will also note that I got the one and only automatic on the lot, and it is mine. And apparently there aren't any more for like 4 states.)

In other news, I also have begun reading the Patricia Wrede books that somebody - was it K8? - recommended to me a couple of times. I am about halfway through the first Enchanted Forest Chronicles book and it totally kicks ass! Indeed, these books may - just may - be capable of replacing the Potter for me. We shall see.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Budget Cuts

I'm not sure if I should actually post this, and depending on how I feel about it tomorrow, I may well poof the thing. But this is something I'm thinking about, and I feel like I should post about it, for however brief a time.

Ah, the time of the post being up. It was brief. But it did help to vent. Poof!

Cross Your Fingers That All Goes Smoothly

So, I'm in the process of buying my first ever car on my own. See, the car I've got I leased. This was mainly about commitmentphobia and a lack of liquid cash for a down-payment. And did I mention the commitmentphobia? But part of this whole Operation Financial Freedom thing in part had to do with the fact that I felt like a loser for leasing when really I know it makes more sense to buy and to just take care of the car whilst driving it into the ground. But dude, this is totally a scary enterprise. Did I mention the whole fear of commitment business?

At any rate, what makes me hilarious is that I am managing to do 99% of this whole thing over the phone. Because I'm a loser who feels more comfortable doing it that way. And I've got this awesome sales lady who's working for me, who's not trying to sell me bullshit (probably because I called her completely certain and having done my homework) and so it's likely I'm not getting the super-best deal in the world, but I'm certainly not getting the worst.

And I shall have a cute wee little car that gets excellent gas mileage!

You know, I suck with this adult shit. I hate doing it. I have fantasies that someday I shall happen upon a life partner who will do all of these things for me so that I can focus on more important things, like kittens and lazing about and inventing recipes and rereading the Harry Potter books over and over and over again. Or if not a life partner, that I will come into a grand sum of money so that I can have a business manager who does this all for me. Because you know what? I find this sort of thing totally stressful and not empowering in the slightest. I mean, it should be empowering, right? Don't you think? But no, it is totally not.

I think it's that I'm basically, deep down, an irresponsible person. Or rather, I'd like to be an irresponsible person, but I know that to be irresponsible is stupid. So I'm basically responsible but I'm not terribly... I don't have great acumen with money. If I could just not think about money - just totally not think about it - I'd be a happy lady. It's so funny: I really admire people who aren't like this, and yet somehow it is not in my nature to change. Hmmm.

In other news, you know what is very, very hard for me? When somebody tells me a piece of news that has nothing at all to do with me, tells me not to tell anybody about it (which obviously I'm going to, because dude, we all know that I can't keep things to myself), but then also tells me not to blog about it, which I'd never have considered doing in the first place had the person not told me I wasn't allowed, and so now I've got a burning desire deep down in my soul to blog this thing that's not even mine to tell and that I'd never have even wanted to blog about anyway.

Some people. Sheesh. :)

Edited to add: Ok, so I was willing to give Dealer #1 the benefit of the doubt throughout the day, but by our most recent conversation (in which I felt like I was being played), I decided that I needed to do some shopping around. So I called up Dealer #2. Smarmy Car Salesman #2 seems very, very motivated to take business away from Dealer #1. Now, SCS #2 also comes off as smarmier, but per our most recent conversation, it's looking like he's also offering to give me what I want at about 3K less than SCS #1, who initially seems less smarmy but who also, I feel, is trying to screw me. So. I'm meeting with SCS #2 tomorrow morning, and depending on what happens there, I will potentially see SCS #1 on Saturday, instituting a competition for my car-purchasing dollars! I do not feel excited and financially empowered by all of this, but I do certainly love feeling like I'm wheeling and dealing and like playing the game of trying to get the lowest possible price. What's ridiculous about this whole thing is that I'm on the market for a bottom-end car, so there's not really much room with price in terms of negotiations. In other words, this wheeling and dealing that I'm doing ultimately is sort of meaningless, compared with wheeling and dealing that others might do. But so now, it's time to get ready for the teaching.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Blogging Angst

This post isn't actually about my blogging angst, for I'm not actually feeling any at the moment. Rather, it's a more general meditation about the cycles that we go through as bloggers, and how the genre forces us periodically to reinvent our writing selves.

I decided to post about this after reading Hilaire's belated blogiversary post. Now, I've written many times about my own struggles with what to blog or how to blog (so many, in fact, that I'm too lazy to find links). There have been times when I've felt like I was being too "raw" or like I was revealing too much, times when I've felt like what I chose to write wasn't really true to who I was or to what I wanted to say, times when I've felt like my blog is a bunch of narcissistic bullshit and was boring, times when I couldn't figure out what it was I really wanted to say. And yet, I found a way to keep blogging. Because I realized it mattered to me.

Now, here's the thing, when I began in the summer of 2004, I really didn't think that four years later I'd still be blogging. I was fucking around when I started that first blog, and I really didn't think that it would stick. But then, well, it sort of snowballed. I became part of a community of bloggers that I really like, and I really like writing for an immediate audience.*** Those two things I apparently can't (or refuse to) give up. But over this stretch of nearly four years (I do believe that this will be my weirdly premature blogiversary post, as I'll be out of the country when the real deal actually happens) I've had my growing pains. I've gotten into spats with strangers, I've moved blogs because I was threatened with being outed, I've wondered what to do about unbloggable things, I've blogged things that I shouldn't have blogged. I've even outed myself a few times accidentally, and then had to stuff myself back in the pseudonymous closet (no easy feat). You'd think I'd have given up blogging, given all of the drama that I've experienced as a result of blogging.

I suppose the reason that I haven't is that this medium has really allowed me to figure out who I am as a writer, and it's allowed me to situate myself as an academic in in a way that scholarly writing doesn't. The blogging has had positive benefits for my scholarly writing, sure. I'm a much more certain writer now, and a much less jargon-laden one. But the fact that this space has been a free one, where I'm not bound to my scholarly voice, has meant that I've been able to figure out who I am as a professor. It's allowed me to think about all of the facets of the job, and how I negotiate them all.

Now, I've kept a diary since I was 12. What I do here isn't a diary, although I suppose it is at times diaristic. The reality is that I've never really written about work in a diary, or when I have it's been utterly self-indulgent crap that I would die if anyone ever saw. The writing that I do here, even when diaristic, is different from when I'm writing only for myself. I really do think about audience in this space, and really, I think to have a blog that is readable one has to do so.

Now, I'm not saying that this blog is some perfect representation of a blog, or of what a blog by an academic "should" be. It's not. It's just my version of this kind of blog. And in my version, there will be whining about work I'm not doing, Important Pontificating about the State of the Profession and Other Issues of the Day, meditations on teaching and research, complaints about service, gratuitous posts in the anthropomorphized voices of my cats, posts about breaking up and making up and all of those in-between spaces in relationships, boring to-do lists, posts about what I'm eating and whether I'm exercising, whatever. And the reason that this is my version is because I remember wishing that I knew what the full life of a professor might look like when I was in grad school. I got only glimpses from my mentors of what this life might be, and I felt totally blind-sided when I ended up on the other side of the fence.

And even what glimpses I did get barely resemble my life now, because my mentors were all Fancy-Pants Scholars at Fancy-Pants Schools. That's not where all professors end up, folks, and so that's where I think "Dr. Crazy" does a service. I'm one version of what this life might look like. Not the only version by any means, but one version.

But the thing is, I've changed over the past four years, and so too has what I've chosen to blog about changed. In the beginning, I felt a lot of anxiety and chafing over things like blogging about stuff that wasn't my usual shtick, or about not blogging for any length of time ("What if people stop reading?!?), or about how certain kinds of posts would be received. Four years in, I can say that I've developed the confidence that if people find me annoying for a bit, they'll either bail or they'll stick around until I've got something interesting to say again. I worry a whole lot less about whether I'm breaking some kind of trust with my readers, because I've learned that people who really read me are cool with whatever I do. Or if they aren't, they still have faith that I'll return to what interests them sooner or later. So yes, this has made me much more comfortable with writing for an audience, because I've learned to trust my audience in ways that I'd never done prior to the blogging experiment.

And yes, this has given me much more confidence in other areas, too. Without blogging, I'm not sure I'd have published as much as I have in the past four years, or that I'd have finished the book, or that I'd feel as confident as I do about how I think and how I write. What's given me that confidence is not that everybody who reads this blog is part of some Dr. Crazy fan club (although if you wanted to start one I'd surely support it ;) ), but rather just that I've seen that even when I suck, people are willing to give me the benefit of the doubt. That must mean that something that I do in this space is good. And yes, that translates into teaching and research and into interactions with my colleagues. And that's a good thing.

I've never wanted to blog as a means to enhancing my professional standing or as a means to any sort of material success. That's why this blog doesn't bear my name, and that's why I don't do ads on the blog, although I probably could make some (small change) money if I did. No, I started the blog because I wanted not to write in a vacuum. And so, I blog, and I don't write in a vacuum. And I've met some amazing people, and I have daily conversations with people across disciplines and across institutions. I have a common experience with people whom in "real life" I'd never likely have met. I get ideas from you all, and I get reality checks, and I get support.

And you? I hope that you get something, too, and you must or you wouldn't read. I'm under no illusions that this is an Important Blog That Does Important Things. It's not. Sometimes it's insightful, sometimes it's entertaining, sometimes it's just crap. But whatever it is, I do feel like it does good stuff, for me, and I hope for you. Even if it's just you getting the pleasure of finding me irritating sometimes :)

I've thought a lot about shedding the pseudonym with tenure, and I really don't think I will - not really and truly. I've been toying with the idea of doing a "poof" post when the tenure deal is done in which I tell my actual name, but then, of course, poofing it. Why would I not want to come out? Well, it's because I really like being Dr. Crazy. I like the persona, and I like that people have gravitated to this blog based on what I write rather than where I work or what I've published (or not published). I like that this space can grow and change with me, and that it doesn't necessarily have to represent a person who I want you to think that I am.

So, I suppose this is a long way of saying that we all have angst related to blogging, and that has to do with growing pains that we feel both as writers and as people. But a blog really can grow with a person. There's no reason that one must stop blogging because of the chafing that one feels when one seems to have grown out of one's blogging skin. People stick around, and they're interested in the transformations. At least I am, and I think most of my readers, given that they've kept reading, are, too. And that's why I'll probably be doing this blogging thing until I'm dead (unless, of course, people stop reading). There's something about writing daily-ish missives to real people that is awesome. And there's something awesome about the conversations that one can have and the people that one can meet when one makes a commitment to doing so.

Now, blogging isn't for everyone. I'm not saying it is. And even for people who gravitate to the genre, well, they may decide at a certain point that they're done. And that's ok. The point is that this is one of the few genres of writing in which one can totally decide on one's persona, on one's level of commitment, on one's modus operandi. One of the few genres that allows for a kind of writerly flexibility. Will it always be this? I certainly hope so. The minute I have to start being totally consistently one identity forever in this space, I'll hang up my blogging hat. The thing that I love about this space is that I can grow here. And I don't have to calculate that growth. And that's awesome.

***Note: I read recently on a grad student's blog that she feels insecure about joining the conversation on academic blogs by professor-types, and this is something I've heard from other grad students periodically. Here's the thing: being a grad student is a fraught subject position, and there's a lot of insecurity. And yes, there are still hierarchies in the blogosphere. BUT I would also say that the academic blogosphere is a lot more willing to let grad students in than many other academic communities, and it just takes doing your time in the community and then you will feel like you're on fair ground. I've got a ton of readers who are grad students, some of whom I've actually read chapters and articles for, and I certainly don't think less of those readers because they're grad students. I think that grad students are colleagues. Period. And I think that's how a lot of other professor-types who blog feel as well. I only get disgruntled when a grad student I don't know is a dick, because yes, I do feel that I'm beyond having to deal with that dickishness - I did my own time with that in grad school. So be a colleague and I'll treat you like one. And if I've got any power to do so, I'll be a mentor to you. Don't come in with a chip on your shoulder, and you'll be cool in my space and in most others. You're welcome and we like you here - as long as you're not an asshole. If you're an asshole, I'll treat you like an asshole colleague, and nobody wants that :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Teaching Malaise

You know, my classes this summer term are going well. I really don't have a thing in the world about which I have a right to complain. I admit this up front, as I don't want to give the impression that any complaints that will follow are actually legitimate. They are not.

But, well, the thing about summer teaching is that everybody - students, me - is done. Students take these courses in order to finish more quickly or because they're hoping for an easier version of something that in the regular semester would give them trouble. Faculty teach them because they want cold hard cash. In other words, nobody's primary agenda is the whole "learning" thing. Now, in my one section, the students are learning a ton, and it's really been quite awesome (and unexpected). In the other course I'm teaching, though, I can't help but feel disappointed. It's not that they're not doing the work - they are - or that they're not engaged - they are. But. This course is one that I teach during the regular semester - every semester now - and the vibe over 16 weeks is just so much different and I totally miss that vibe. Again, it's not about level of engagement or about anything that they're not doing. In some ways, they're doing more than students in previous sections of the same course have done. It's about the fact that in the full semester, they've got a lot more time to process, something from which I think this particular course really does benefit. It doesn't really make the grades any different, but it does make the experience different - for them and for me. And the fact that they're not processing in the same way - in spite of my effort to accept them as they are and whatnot - really does disappoint and discourage me. And this is not my best mode as a teacher.

See, here's the thing: when I'm disappointed and discouraged, I kind of suck. This is one reason why I've done everything in my power to end my days of teaching comp. Comp makes me disappointed and discouraged. It's not that I don't do a good job of teaching it - I really do, according to evaluations and according to colleagues across the university who've had my students after they've taken comp with me - but I actively loathe the whole idea of doing it, which makes it suck in its own special way. This is not unlike how when I was in school I could do the work of an algebra class, but because I wasn't into it I couldn't fully commit to really learning in a real way. In other words, I lack the ability to really push myself when I'm not totally into something. I'm really good at feigning enthusiasm, but the whole "feigning" part makes me really depressed. And the thing that sucks mightily about the one course that I'm teaching is that I see that they aren't processing in the way that really excites me, and then this makes me not want to teach (or to grade, or to prep, or to do any of the things that make my teaching good.)

I forgot my book today and I didn't even care. I just taught and didn't give a shit that I didn't actually have the text in front of me. This isn't a good sign. No, indeed it is not.

Now, the other class is not disheartening in this way. In fact, it is like this glorious pleasant surprise where nobody - not them, not me - had anticipated liking anything about it, and yet we're all wicked engaged and into it. So that's great. And yet, I'm tired. And they're tired. And that, in and of itself, detracts from what can happen in there. Now, I'm probably going to teach summer school for the next couple or three summers. It's the whole "cold hard cash" thing, that really is alluring. But after doing it this time, for the first time, I'm really thinking that I think the whole concept of summer classes is wack. I think people need time to rejuvenate, and I think that probably the whole summer school thing actually gets in the way of what students have the potential to learn. I know that there is no likelihood that such a schedule will be abolished - there are good reasons for it - but I don't think it's actually positive in terms of education. Yep, that's what I think.

So I'm really looking forward to being done after next week. And I suspect my students are as well. Thank god we've only got this week and next to slog through.

In other news, it's still Kitten Central over here. And I've got a couple of pictures for you.

First, I managed to take a picture of the forced bathing of the wee Mr. Stripey. The thing that's hilarious is that Mr. Stripey seems to think that it's the Man-Kitty's job to bathe him. Sure, he'll periodically do some self-maintenance, but when he wants to get really clean, he'll just annoy Man-Kitty until the Man-Kitty does something about it. You will be happy that I didn't actually get a picture of the M-K taking care of the wee one's bottom, which is really kind of gross. And for those who wondered at my use of the adjective "maternal," well, all I can say is that the Man-Kitty refuses to be gendered masculine. He's a very enlightened kitty :)
You will also notice that there is a Glorious Shoelace in the above picture. Now, as I noted long ago, the Man-Kitty loves him a shoelace. My dream was that the two of them would find a way to love a shoelace together. This dream, my friends, is a reality.

It's like a game of tug-of-war, though with CATS. I can't tell you how entertained I am by this (and also how awesome it is that I am no longer central to shoelace play).

You Know What I Don't Want to Do?


(Only 8 more teaching days left, 4 per class. This means both I'm almost done - thank goodness! - but it also means that I cannot put off grading any longer. I hate my life.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nothing to See Here...

Except Man-Kitty and Mr. Stripey that is!

Tragically, the picture that would have been most awesome I could not manage to take (we really need a full-time photographer around this joint). Man-Kitty and Mr. Stripey had retired to bed with me for a wee siesta. Well, I was planning on a siesta, as was Man-Kitty. Mr. Stripey was a little nutso. So Man-Kitty first was minding his own business and giving himself a bath (as he likes to do before naptime). At a certain point, however, he decided that all felines should be clean before he could rest. He grabbed that Mr. Stripey and proceeded to forcibly bathe him. Like a Mama Kitty would do. Like, he's totally got a maternal instinct, which was not at all what I'd expected. Strange times, friends, strange times.

In addition, BFF came over to meet Mr. Stripey today, and I think that Mr. Stripey may have given the Man-Kitty a wee shiner during a battle that they had in showing off for the guest.

But so two pictures, so that you all can get your kitty fix.

First, this is what the dynamic duo were up to while I was busy weeding out MASSIVE amounts of paper:

Second, I think this picture really captures the power dynamics of the relationship between the brothers: I don't think that Man-Kitty has been up on the top perch of the cat tree, unless Mr. Stripey is snuggling with me, since Mr. Stripey's arrival. One kitty in this house clearly runs the show, and, in spite of his size and age, it is not Man-Kitty. No, not at all.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Sleepy Kitty Cats

So, after the last post, after the playing and finally both of them having their dinners, Man-Kitty and Mr. Stripey felt very, very sleepy.

First, they retired to separate locations.

Mr. Stripey went into the little house in the cat tree.

The Man-Kitty decided to have his little sleep near me, in the dining room.

Ultimately, though, Mr. Stripey felt lonesome. And here is how the dynamic duo ended up.

And yes, I promise I'll stop posting obsessive kitten pictures soon. They're both just so great, though! And so darling together! I cannot - CANNOT - resist!

Jesus H. Christ

The Man-Kitty has become wise to the fact that I've been sticking the wee one in the bathroom for his dinner time. You know, so that Mr. Stripey doesn't gobble up all of the food, leaving the Man-Kitty with none. Except now that the Man-Kitty understands that this is the case, he won't eat his food because he wants to be with Mr. Stripey. All. The. Time. It's just not ok if Mr. Stripey is not around.

So I've got a 2 lb. cat that's a glutton and who will probably make himself sick if I let him eat all of what he wants, and an 11 lb. pantywaist who can't be parted from the 2 lb. glutton.


I should note, the Man-Kitty has never in the history of his life avoided dinner for any reason. Damn. Mr. Stripey has many powers that mere humans cannot comprehend.

And now they are wrestling and chasing each other around, according to the sounds coming from the living room.

Oh yes, indeed that is exactly what was happening, as the above demonstrates.

In other news, I have finished the closet, cleaned my bedroom, and now I have made the fatal decision to drink wine while doing paper weeding out. This does not necessarily bode well for productivity as the night goes on.

RBOC: Break in the Great Closet Excavation Edition

  • I embarked on this project thinking that I had to bring out the summer clothes (packed away?) and put away the winter clothes (all over the place). Turns out I never fully did the seasonal switching - a ton of winter clothes were in the box I'd thought held summer clothes. The summer clothes are randomly scattered throughout my closet and dresser and second bedroom. I'm a slob, and I'm an idiot.
  • However, this has inspired me to put a bag together for charity. Clearly, I've got a lot of shit I don't wear.
  • I just caught the Man-Kitty using the WEE KITTEN LITTER BOX. We have to have the wee kitten litter box in addition to the Man-Kitty's because Man-Kitty's has huge walls because he likes to kick the litter all over creation and the wee kitty couldn't get into it without a major effort. But if this is the way the M-K is going to roll, I may need to upgrade to the large and yet not large-walled box for the wee one, as the M-K barely fits into the wee box, what with his large size. I have to say, seeing him in the wee box and then getting out of it to bury his business (for there was no way for him to remain within and to do so) was one of the funnier things I've ever witnessed, but it's ridiculous.
  • Man-Kitty and Mr. Stripey are clearly BFFs now, for they don't go anyplace without one another. They've both been following me back and forth all morning as I undertake the closet cleaning. Note: it's usually M-K following Mr. Stripey, and not the other way around. I'm not sure whether it's that M-K feels he needs to keep an eye on Mr. Stripey or whether Mr. Stripey is just running the show.
  • And yet another picture of the dynamic duo, and then back to work:

Crazy Cat Lady

Though I've got to admit, even I feel as if I should address some new topics very soon, as I'm boring and nerdy even to myself. But so first, I know you'd like a picture of the sweet Mr. Stripey, looking sweeter than he's ever looked before on film.

Now, it's true, he only looks this particular way about 20 minutes a day. The Wee Mr. Stripey is generally more into leaping around like a very silly attack cat than in looking like this sweet little darling that you see before you. But during those 20 minutes when he's sweet? He is ever so sweet.

In other news, he continues to eat enough for one Mr. Stripey plus one Man-Kitty. Indeed, the only way that Man-Kitty gets breakfast and dinner is that I lock Mr. Stripey with his food in another room for 5-10 minutes so that he can scarf down what is actually his, giving the Man-Kitty a chance to daintily eat without shouldering the Wee One out of the way (which he has yet to even gesture toward doing). You'd think that an 11 lb. cat could take a 2 lb. kitten, and that this problem would be the reverse of what it is. Alas, no. It turns out that the Man-Kitty is a little bit like the Cowardly Lion in his sensibilities. He is absolutely no match for the fearless, brave - and dare I say it, entitled - Little Mr. Stripey.

The Man-Kitty may be spoiled, but he's never been so bold and brazen as this Mr. Stripey. And really, it's so cool to see how totally... chill the Man-Kitty is in contrast to this kitten. I mean, Mr. Stripey is one cool cat, but he is a bit more... well, in your face. I do wish Man-Kitty'd protect his food a bit more, but well, I suppose that's what I'm around for - to make sure that everybody gets fed and that a little 2 lb. punk doesn't starve my Man-Kitty out of health and happiness.

In other news, last night we had our first "normal" sleeping night, in which nobody was locked up and which the Man-Kitty snuggled up with me business as usual (after the two of us tag-teamed Mr. Stripey and forced him to settle down - for he was frolicking around on the bed, hopping sideways and pouncing for reasons that still he has yet to reveal to either one of us*** - me with soothing talking to him, Man-Kitty with some pretty awesome wrestling moves). And you know what seems to be true (knock wood)? Good old Man-Kitty and Mr. Stripey apparently wake up before they wake me up to hang out. Note what I said: wake up before they wake me up! Now, in olden times (i.e., last Monday), the Man-Kitty has been known to wake me up because he's bored. And then wake me up again. And then wake me up for breakfast. And then not let me go back to sleep. Not every day, but every now and again. The pattern with these two fine fellows seems to be that they find each other infinitely more entertaining than they find me. This makes me sad a little bit, but it's also, well, pretty kick ass. For example, once upon a time (i.e., Tuesday), I would not be able to post this in peace but rather would have to intermittently play with the cat teaser in order to do anything - otherwise the Man-Kitty would attack my foot. Unlike in days of yore, I am totally free of such obligations, because a kitten just chased the Man-Kitty into the bedroom. I anticipate that we have about 72 seconds before the two gallop from the bedroom back into the dining room, this time with a Man-Kitty chasing Mr. Stripey.

But so enough about these two frisky felines. On the agenda for today is the Massive Undertaking of Cleaning out the Closet and Cleaning Out the Study. It is time, friends. I cannot stand the insanity any longer. Apparently, this is why I had to finish that article. Until it was done I lacked all spring cleaning (and yes, it is still technically spring) motivation. I cannot - cannot - just lay around with the cats all day, as I did yesterday. I'm actually excited to accomplish these tasks.

What else? Oh, I heard back from Very Good Journal, and they'll be sending my article out for review when the editor gets back from vacay. This is why it pays to meet those internal deadlines that one sets up - sending something off at this time of the year can indeed slow the process of something going out for review, which I knew, but well, one can know this in one's mind but sometimes one can't help but not finish things in a timely fashion. Whatever the case, the thing is out of my hands and in theirs, so there's not much to do about it now other than to be patient. That said, I shouldn't complain, as I heard back within two days of sending it off what the status is, which I know is not at all the norm in most cases. I suppose this is why it pays to submit to places in which one has been invited to submit? Or perhaps it's just that Very Good Journal is Very Good about being responsive about such things, which is one of the reasons it's very good. At any rate, though, this means that I don't expect to hear anything back about the article until summer's end, at the earliest. This is fine, as I don't really want to have to revisit the Article That Would Never Be Finished before then.

Well. I do believe that this is all for now. Perhaps more later, if I'm in need of a break from my tasks of the day.

***"Cats will often display behavior commonly called "elevenses," since it seems to occur most often around 11PM. This consists of the cat's eyes dilating, its tail poofing out, and alternating between hopping sideways and racing all over the house. Your cat wants to play. Take it up on the challenge. Chase after it, play hide and seek. This can also be useful; playing with a cat just before bedtime reduces the chances of your cat wanting to play with you at 3AM."

Friday, June 13, 2008

Let the Kitten Porn Continue

Dr. Crazy here. Well, it seems that the introduction of the felines has been a great success. Of course, I anticipate some battles because how could it possibly go this smoothly, but let me just say, that the integration of Mr. Stripey into the world of the Man-Kitty does appear to be going just fine.

So, last night's post basically gave you the 411 on how the two were introduced, and gives you a sense of the dynamic between them. Around 11:30 last night, I realized that neither would ever rest in the presence of the other, so I put Mr. Stripey in the bathroom, at which point the Man-Kitty immediately zonked out, and after about 15 minutes, I suspect that so too did Mr. Stripey. And then I went to sleep. Until 4:20 this morning. When a certain Man-Kitty awakened and decided that he needed to be in the presence of Mr. Stripey. I considered my options, and I decided, screw it - let them be together and work their junk out. And so I let Mr. Stripey out and I went back to sleep, figuring if something horrible happened that I'd hear it (a) and also that Mr. Stripey seems to be running the show and is no dummy (b), so if Man-Kitty lost his shit that Mr. Stripey would hide under the couch, where the Man-Kitty can no longer fit. My sense, however, is that good times were had by all, for the Man-Kitty forgave me enough that he woke me up in his normal way for breakfast at 6:30. So I gave both their breakfasts, and there has been some playing, but the Man-Kitty seems infinitely more relaxed with his new little bro.

All in all, I do think that this was a fine decision indeed. Mr. Stripey is just darling and so sweet and yet also completely bossy and hilarious. The Man-Kitty is super-gentle with him (so far, knock wood) and yet also seems to enjoy the fact that he now has somebody to run around with.

Oh, and you'll be happy to know that Mr. Stripey now has a real name in addition to a pseudonym. This name is one of the following:


I will let you speculate on which of the above it turned out to be :)

In non-kitten related news, the dates for Lebanon are set! July 13 to July 30, baby!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hello! Hello! I'm Very Pleased to Make Your Acquaintance!

And how do you do! It is me! Mr. Stripey! And I'm very excited! All the time! That's actually why this picture doesn't capture my full glorious beauty, as you see, I like to leap! And to frolic! And to scamper! And to drink out of my new brother's water dish! While he watches, suspicious and confused, and yet I do believe intrigued! Intrigued, I say! And underneath his stand-offish exterior I am convinced that he is very excited to meet me! Convinced! Did I mention that I'm happy to meet you! And to have my new home! And how even though I had a shot today I'm full of vim and vigor and general good-will? And how playing is so totally fun? And how my new brother seems to kind of like me I feel like, even if he is playing a wee bit hard to get? Huzzah! Hurrah! Oh Happy Day!


Excuse me. I feel as if it is my duty as the most mature person on the premises to break into this festival of exclamation points. Oh, in case you didn't know, it is I, the Man-Kitty. According to all of the experts about introducing usurpers into the one-cat home, I should have yet to meet this ridiculously small feline. Indeed, there should have been room-switching and sniffing of all sorts for weeks. And then, upon our meeting, there should have been hissing and a bit of a turf war. This, I must admit, is what I had planned. I had anticipated that this would be how I would deal with this tiny usurper. And yet no.

First, the mother of the two of us broke the rules. She did first introduce us with the Tiny Mr. Stripey in his carrier, presumably so that I could see who he was without eating him. And then she did have us in separate rooms while she went out for a bit. But upon her arrival home, Mr. Stripey meowed. First, she came to greet me under the bed, where I had retired to reflect upon this new development in my previously uncomplicated life. I was, I admit, a bit cold with her upon coming out from under the bed. And then she responded to the Meow! Meow! Meow! from beyond the closed door. She tried to close the door, but I too, meowed. And then. Well, the fact of the matter is that I wanted to meet this Mr. Stripey person for myself, and as you might imagine, Mr. Stripey was a bit starstruck upon seeing the Man-Kitty in the flesh and couldn't wait to meet me for real. I have that effect on everyone, you know.

And so, we have been getting to know one another. This consists of me bopping Mr. Stripey on the head and Mr. Stripey scampering around and trying to wage attacks. Currently, I am lying on my back, enticing him with my furry belly and my switching of my very glorious and furry tail. Periodically, Mr. Stripey approaches. And then I bop him on the head. And he runs away. Every now and again, Mr. Stripey becomes bored with this game and attempts to go and play by himself. This is when I chase him a bit, to attempt to get him to focus his attention back on me. I have also spent long minutes watching him go about his business. When this becomes boring to me, I chase him across the room. When he is once again engaged, I proceed to lie down. You see, I am the Man-Kitty. Really he should come to me. Oh hell.


Hi! Hi! I'm back! Everything's so fun! Meow! Want to see a picture of me and my brother! I know you do! We're so great! Everything's going exactly according to plan! Best friends! We shall be best friends! Toys! Brothers! Awesome! Meowza!

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Authority and Scholarship

Dr. Virago has a great post up about the "intro to graduate studies in English" class that she teaches, in which she discusses her desire to encourage a feeling of scholarly authority in her graduate students. She closes the post with the following (though it's worth heading over and reading the whole thing, as well as the comments):

But mostly, I want them to understand that I wasn't born a medievalist with a book and some articles and a good knowledge of my field. Heck, I was pretty much an idiot in my first year or two of graduate school. Everyone is. The ones who think they aren't are smug bastards and often they're the ones who make deadly mistakes along the way. (Learning how to recognize the smug bastards and not following their example is a life skill in and of itself, but a subject for another post.) What I try to teach them, anyway, is that building knowledge of one's field -- both of the primary texts and the critical conversations about them -- takes time and work and dedication. It doesn't happen by taking a class or two. You have to keep at it. And you do that because it's the knowledge and the creative thinking about your subject that gives you authority -- not your place in the hierarchy. I think one of the best examples of that is the kinds of conversations that happen on blogs -- so I suggest students read some of them, too.

But still, I see too much shyness, too much deference, too much fear of asserting their ideas with authority. So clearly I need to do more. Tell me, oh wise readers, how it is you developed your own authority, and how you seek to teach students how to develop it.
Now, I can't (yet - though soon I will be able to, as we've begun a grad program in which I will teach) talk about this in terms of teaching graduate students. I can however, talk about how I deal with these issues in terms of teaching undergrads, and particularly in terms of how I teach my advanced undergrads, and particularly and especially in terms of how I have tried to facilitate this kind of authority in those students of mine who express a desire to go on to graduate school. Because even though I don't currently teach graduate students, this is a huge issue for me in terms of what I want students to become as writers and thinkers across my courses, whether they're majors or minors or just general education students.

For me, this whole question begins with the writing that we expect of students in our courses. Even in a first-year writing course. I think that most students enter college - as I did - thinking that the point was to spit out authoritative voices that are not their own in their writing. This is what got me A's in high school, and this is what even many of my college professors seemed to appreciate. The result was that I felt very disconnected from much of the writing that I did. I thought that feeling of disconnection was normal. I thought feeling like I was an underling whose ideas didn't matter was kind of the point. I was not by any stretch of the imagination "joining the conversation." I was parroting conversations that other, more important, people had already had. Again, this sort of thing is often rewarded, whether in high school or college. "Good students," the kind who end up in graduate school, are smart, and they realize that this is the kind of thing that is often rewarded, and so they learn to do that. It's a "safe" bet. And depending on one's context, the ability to do this can put one at the top of the class.

But ultimately, the point of "academic writing" - at any level - should be to "join the conversation" and to produce new insights. This point is the very antithesis of the "collage of other people's ideas" approach that is often rewarded. It's also really fucking scary. And it also means that you might screw up sometimes and be inadequate to the ideas that you try to put forward. The much safer bet, in many contexts, is to be deferential.

So where does this begin in my undergraduate classes? It begins with forcing students to have their own ideas. And part of this means designing paper topics (if I give them) in ways that are self-consciously quite broad or in organizing assignments in steps so that students develop their own topics. It's not that I don't give my students guidance, but I do force them to arrive at their own conclusions through the topics that I provide for out-of-class writing. (I'm more directive on exam essay questions, in part because it's easier on them.)

In other words: let's say that I'm assigning a 3-5 page primary text literary analysis. I do not give topics like Discuss the representation of women in "To His Coy Mistress" and "My Last Duchess." This might be the sort of topic I'd provide for an essay exam, but for a paper, I feel like it encourages regurgitation, either of what I lecture on in class or of what other Esteemed Critics Have Written (even if it's not technically plagiarism, though often such topics do inspire that). Or, at the very least, it implies an answer I might want given what I highlighted in lecture and class discussion. They know what I think about the representation of women in these two poems. They'll give that to me if I ask the question in that way. Instead, for a paper topic, I tend to go broader and to frame the topic in ways both broader and more narrow in terms of a series of questions that force them to offer their own ideas. So yes, I might do something about the representation of women, but I'll give them their own choice of texts to compare, and I'll offer questions and counter-questions, which are (as much as is possible) neutral and don't give an indication of "what I want them to write." Some students truly hate this. Most, however, feel like it liberates them. All of a sudden, somebody cares what they think. Somebody cares about their ideas. That's the first step.

Now, I do a bunch of stuff to facilitate the idea that they can have any idea that they want, as long as the text supports it. First, I organize most of my classes now around group activities in which they get together and figure shit out before I lecture. I base my lectures off of their responses, and I really engage with their initial readings much more than I did as a new teacher. I give them steps for analyzing, and then I - off the cuff - respond to what they come up with. (Note: this is only possible because I'm so comfortable with the material that I teach now and with my authority as the teacher, which is, I think, different from scholarly authority.) Second, I have a range of informal writing that students do in most of my classes that is more "reaction" or "response" based, to which I give comments, although the emphasis is not on the grade. Again, I give them the rules for how to write these reactions/responses, but I don't give them the ideas that they should have. Along these lines, I also give presentation assignments in my upper-level classes, which makes students the authority on given topics/texts, and which is crucial to destroying any image of me that they might have as "sage on the stage." No, their classmates are the authority for certain class meetings. I may supplement what they have to say, but I'm in no way the Subject Who Knows.

I should note: the point of all of the above is not, and my students know this, that any idea is as good as any other. I regularly talk about how some ideas are better than others. I give examples of crap ideas that I myself have had. The point is not that "anything goes" or that any reaction or interpretation is just fine and dandy. The point is that all ideas must be supported by the primary text. But if the idea is supported by the primary text, even if I heartily disagree with it, a student can earn a very good grade. The point is not that you've got to agree with me but rather that you've got to convince me. And in my discipline, that's the whole point really: convincing your reader that your interpretation has merit. Showing how you got there, and showing why it matters.

And, see, that's the thing about the whole "authority" question in literary studies. It's not about "facts" in any sort of concrete way, but it is about "evidence." It's about being able to show your work, and to close any loopholes that might allow others to dismiss you. So yes, it's more "subjective" than other disciplines, but it's not without rigor. It's about being able to persuade others, through the rigorous reading that you do and your articulation of that reading, that you are not a schmuck. No, it's not data-driven. But it is evidence-driven. And the point is not to give a report of what everybody else has said, but rather to put your own carefully thought-out and analyzed ideas into context with what others have said and to enter into conversation with them.

Aside: this is, perhaps, one of the reasons why students can mistake English for being without rigor. They think it's all a shell-game in which any idea is as good as the next without any sort of skill. The truth is, English is more like a high-school geometry class, in which even if you get the right answer on a problem, you'll get points taken off if there is a mistake in the proof. Yes, there can be multiple and divergent readings of a text. But if you fuck up in the proof, your goose is cooked. You've got to make somebody who disagrees with you think about why they disagree and acknowledge that your methodology is sound, even if they disagree. That's the whole point. Not that all interpretations were created equal, or that everyone must agree on what a text "means."

So, another thing that I do, which I noted in Virago's comments, is the following:

One thing that I do with advanced students is I'm pretty free about showing them versions of my own scholarship in draft form. I think a lot of times students think that what I'm asking them to do is disconnected from actual critical conversations (a) or that somehow I've reached a point where any scholarly work I do just pops out of my head brilliantly (b). I think that this brings home to them that what they're doing is just a version of what "professionals" do in the context of publication, and it helps to model the coming to authority in a piece of writing.

Now, I'll admit: I've had colleagues look at me with wonder when I tell them that I do this. They say, "But students don't care about our scholarship! Are you insane?" Here's the thing: most don't really care what I'm working on. That's true. But they do respond to seeing the process of what I'm working on, and they do appreciate the fact that I'm in writing hell as they are in writing hell. They also appreciate that I am revealing my writing to them in its messiest forms just as I see theirs in messy forms. It equalizes us. So I'm under no illusions that they care what my scholarship is about - but I do think that they care that I struggle with my own academic writing and that I'm not just a sadistic bitch who enjoys watching them suffer through my horrible assignments. Ultimately, showing them my work is a way for me to explain the work that I assign for them to do. I show them how I'm trying to enter into scholarly conversations that I don't have immediate entry into, and that gives them confidence in entering into scholarly conversations in which they don't feel they have the right to participate.

The thing is, this "authority" thing is not just a problem for students, or for graduate students. It's a problem for scholars. It's a problem for any scholar who decides to branch out from his/her dissertation. Sure, I'm an "expert" on my diss authors, in some fashion, but what about my scholarly tangents that I've followed in the past five years? No, I'm not. The point is, my dissertation isn't me. My dissertation taught me how to analyze literature; it taught me how to interrogate literature through theory. But I'm not dead now. I've got new questions, new things I'd like to explore. And so I use the skills I learned in the dissertation to ask new questions, of new texts, with new theories. Even if I feel like a fraud when I do. The point is, I am more comfortable now with the fact that I won't necessarily know "everything" before I write something about a novel or an author or through a theory that I didn't study in grad school. I'm not necessarily going to be "expert" in everything I explore, but I am an "expert" in how to explore it. And yes, there will still be feelings of anxiety, and yes, I may be way off base with some ideas, but I have faith in my methodology and I have faith in my voice - that I've got something to say and that I can say it in a way that may be well received. And the more that you have that kind of faith, the more things you write, and the more you really do become "an authority" - even in those areas where you feel like a fraud.

This stuff I've been focused on since the diss? I started off as a total fraud. I started with an author I'd never studied in a class, having read only one novel among her 475 published works. And I published an article, and I was a fraud. And yet, somehow people decided, because of that article, that I was an authority. Now, well, I'm a master of the criticism of not one but of three of her novels, and I feel confident in the theoretical tangents that I've made. Part of that confidence comes from the fact that "experts" in these areas have found my fraudulent takes on things "innovative" and "interesting." I've gotten more recognition related to this stuff than for the dissertation/book stuff, not because it's less good, but because it's less afraid and less derivative. I really am my own scholar now - not because authority was conferred upon me or because I read every single thing that I should have read, but because I made the interpretive leap and I joined the conversation, even though it was totally freaking scary. That is what I want from my students. I don't want perfection. I don't want a lit review that beats all lit reviews. I want courage.

That's what I see in the scholarship that I most value. That's what I aspire to in my own work.