Monday, December 10, 2007

Student Guilt Trips

It's the end of the semester and this student (a senior in a class of 15 underclassmen) only ever came to see me twice during the semester- both times *after* receiving his papers with grades he did not like (one a B, the other a B-).

In an e-mail sent this evening- a full 3 days after the final paper was due, and 4 days after I returned his paper on PL, which was a grown-up but hardly sophisticated summary of Book IV and which I knowingly inflated from the C it was to a genial B minus, quoth the Student:

"Dr. Muse-
I probably don't need to tell you that I am again disappointed with my paper writing. It's frustrating that I'm doing poorly in the type of class in which I typically thrive, but that happens I guess. I'm sure you have as little free time as I do at this point in the semester and I know that you already have two papers of mine to grade, but I figured I would at least ask if I should try to rewrite this Paradise Lost paper for a better grade or if it's too late and I need to just eat the B-. If there is anything I can do to try and improve my grade in the class, I would be happy to do it, as a poor grade in a class I took just out of interest will certainly raise questions on graduate school applications. Either way, thanks for an enjoyable class and have a good break-

My initial response:

"Are you trying to make me feel guilty for giving you a B in an intro-level English course and thus poisoning your grad school applications? Give it a f***king break!"

My second response:

"Yeah, you can rake my yard and give my cat a bath. And when you're done you can give me $500 for a ticket to Montreal."

I know, I know, I'm a meanie. But only in my imagination and on this blog.

In the end, I wrote him a kind, sympathetic e-mail telling him that yes, it was too late for a revision, that I still had his final paper and his revised other paper to mark, and that I'd be happy to sit down with him next semester and discuss where and how he could improve his argumentation.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

New Obsession: German Botanical Charts

I covet these charts. They are affordable at 16 euros unmounted (mounted classroom use they are 40-60 euros), gorgeous and would look great framed. I'm especially attracted to the black background. I already have two wonderful lecons des choses that a dear family friend brought me back from Deyrolle in Paris- Tea and Sugar charts. But now I want more and I want these German botanicals.

Jung, Koch and Quentell Charts online

Hannukah Ham

According to Jewish humor site, this is an actual advertisement in the window of the Manhattan gourmet institution, Balducci's. I can't decide whether it's an intentional joke or not.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Anthropologie: Clothing Academics Since 1999

Whoever writes copy for Anthropologie obviously knows the customer base better than I thought. Case in point:

(I must have these) Tenure Trousers

Hmm. Maybe if I don't get tenure I can go write for Anthropologie.

Why I Sometimes Love the South

Reasons Nos. 14 and 15:

The Camellia in front of my porch is blooming:

And there are mid-November figs from the tree in the garden:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Personality and Perspective

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Professor in possession of a good English Degree must necessarily be a charming and genial person.

Yet for some reason, a list of irritating professor types has surfaced in the blogosphere. I cannot possibly fathom what kinds of deplorable people might have contributed to such a fictitious document. I post it here for your perusal. Please take a look at the comments section below as well (especially those by "Professor Ingenue").

List of Irritating Professor Types

It's funny, when I read this I immediately started treating it like the DSM IV, looking to diagnose myself and my department. Thankfully, we weren't there.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Carigueya, Seu Marsupiale Americanum Masculum. Or, The Anatomy of a Male Opossum: In a Letter to Dr Edward Tyson, from Mr William Cowper, Chirurgeon, and Fellow of the Royal Society, London. To Which are Premised Some Further Observations on the Opossum; And a New Division of Terrestrial Brute Animals, Particularly of Those That Have Their Feet Formed Like Hands. Where an Account is Given of Some Animals Not Yet Described by Edward Tyson, M. D. Fellow of the College of Physicians and of the Royal Society. London: 1698.

As seen on the Mulberry from my study window this evening. And yes, it has feet formed remarkably like hands. And a strange, joker-ish smile. It was rather small, though not a baby, and surprisingly cute (I learned later that the fur is remarkably soft, they never stay in one place for more than three days, and they eat mice and cockroaches and are generally good for the environment).

Friday, October 26, 2007

Fantasy Desk

I've just finished installing a shiny white desk, faded red kilim and knock-off Jielde desk lamp in my milk-colored study. The desk is a simple white parson's table, 5 feet long. I bought it unfinished and disassembled, painted it and nearly destroyed my shoulders and knuckles putting it together (you try screwing sixteen three-inch screws into two thick pieces of solid birch).

But sometimes I like to dream. And on Friday afternoons, after I have packed up my laptop, the three or four books I'll need over the weekend, and filled my bag with file folders crammed with student papers and various articles and drafts of things-in-progress, shut off the light and driven home, I like to pour myself a cup of tea and lick the ebay window. I don't really know what else to call it- "browsing" is too noncommittal. So I've chosen to anglicize the French idiom for window shopping- leche vitrine, or "window licking."

During a recent mid-century modern furniture foray, I came upon this graceful, utterly useful 6 foot desk. It is smooth and polished and slopes, like a piano. It has storage and lots of table space and it is Very Long. It is a desk to dream about. It is also $7500. Sometimes Ebay is like a decorative arts museum.

Edward Wormley Desk on Ebay

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Book Envy

I've been buying up new books. Not just any new books, mind you, but new books written by old grad school classmates of mine. It is kind of scary to know that friends from grad school already have their books out. The one I am thinking of, which came out in June, is spectacular. It has a gorgeous (color) cover, a beautiful, catchy two-part title (I thought we weren't allowed to do that anymore!), and six elegant chapters.

This is the first time I am actually able to see the progress from dissertation to book, and it's still kind of magical, despite me constantly prodding and pricking myself with reminders about how difficult it was for this scholar to get the dissertation written, to get a job, to get fellowships, to finish the book, and to get a great second job. I saw this person struggle from the first: I remember when she presented a version of a chapter at our bi-weekly reading group, and how tough everyone was on her. I remember her telling me about the first time our adviser made her cry, and I remember thinking of her words the first time our adviser made me cry (a rite of passage).

I remember watching her wrestle with finishing her dissertation and looking for a job, and I remember when she returned to our reading group several years later, in the middle of a tenure track job, already moving on to the next one. At that meeting, she shared a draft of her book's introduction, which was freshly written, experimental and very messy. I believe our adviser told her to scrap the whole thing and she laughingly agreed. All of this is to say that I saw her struggle. I saw how difficult this project was, and I saw how hard she worked. I saw her skip lunch for an entire year on fellowship just to get more time to write and revise. And now ironically there is this beautiful, transparent book glittering away all on its own, which makes us forget all about the struggle. Sprezzatura indeed, and book author (if you are reading this or if someone points you to this) I congratulate you.

{Coincidentally, but not related at all to this particular book, what does it take to get mentioned in the acknowledgments section of a book by a friend, adviser, colleague or former graduate student peer? I'm not disappointed that I haven't been acknowledged yet, but some of my friends have, and they haven't contributed any more to the discussion, or commented on any more drafts than I have. We've all run the discussion seminar at one point in our time as graduate students. So what do I have to do to get mentioned? Be nicer? Be meaner? Be further along in my career and more published? I'm just saying.}

I began this post planning to write about how much I envy this scholar her beautiful book and beautiful job, but in writing it I've realized that I don't. I'm proud of her and I'm glad I got to see how hard and painful and stressful and long the whole process is. Lunch, adieu.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Yes, I'm Still Here

Yes I'm still here, and I've been posting quite a bit lately.

Are there more than five people reading my blog? Because I really can't tell and I'm feeling neglected. I'd like some comments, please.

Thank you.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Being Under Something

I am "under review" this year at my job. According to ancient departmental documents, this means going through all the same motions one does when one is "up for tenure." The only differences as far as I can tell, are that there are no external reviewers and I'm not expected to have a book contract and a glut of publications. I do have to assemble two dossiers, one of written work (published, polished, and in progress; book proposal), and one of teaching materials including syllabi, assignments, handouts, course descriptions and exams. I also need to compile a list of all my departmental and university-wide activities and committees, which is actually quite short because my department has a "no service" policy for the first year. And finally, I have to be observed teaching.

Anyway, all this is a large introduction to my "whew" news which is that I've finally turned in my dossiers. Yay! Knowing that they are in and out of my hands is a source of huge relief, whenever I pause to remember it (which is not that often during the week, what with teaching and manuscript surgery). Yes, I fretted and rushed to revise everything but putting it all together was in the end a nice reminder that even though it seemed like I got very little writing and research done last year, I was wrong. This time, I was able to revise my book proposal to match my manuscript, and not the other way around. Revising my chapter on Lucrece for the review committee was intricate and painful, not unlike how I might imagine arthroscopic surgery might feel. But it was also necessary and useful- I now have a new, better, stronger argument that doesn't force itself upon the text yet moves in new directions. I'm not exactly "happier" with the piece, but I am less unhappy, and ready to send it out to a journal again. I am, though, tremendously happy about my argument. I just hope it shows!

So I have finally crawled on top of this review process, if only for the time being. Why is it always "under" review and "up" for tenure? The preposition "under" does seem fitting: it feels a bit like being buried under a pile of folders, or maybe held under the proverbial "thumb" of the department while it decides whether to smoosh me like a bug or lift me up like an equal. I exaggerate of course- I'm not going to lose my job over this. But I am going to be critiqued by my colleagues, some of whom relish the opportunity beyond its purpose. Being "up" for tenure is scarier- more precarious -because the fall seems that much further. Given the choice, I'll side with Hamlet's worthy pioneer: I'd rather be "under" than "up."

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Book Autopsies

A colleague pointed me to the work of the artist Brian Dettmer, who takes old books- many illustrated with woodcuts and engravings -and carves them up into sculptures and dioramas. It's beautiful and fascinating and a little bit scary because some of these are valuable old texts (see the comments section below on Webster's 2nd).

Monday, September 17, 2007


So at the moment I'm putting off editing my article/chapter on Lucrece (that old windmill tilter) even though it is due to my committee tomorrow afternoon. This committee is a group of three senior colleagues who will be conducting my second-year review later this semester. Yes, that is right, I'm being reviewed in my second year. I will also be reviewed in my fourth, and the 6th year is the tenure review. Quite a lot of reviewing, no?

Anyway, whilst playing hooky from my fucked up footnotes, I decided to steal a glance at the MLA Job Information List, just a tiny look.

So I did. I peeked. I'm not ashamed.

And I can finally let out a sigh of relief. Maybe I'm too much of a snob for my own good, but I saw very few enviously scrumptious jobs in my field. Sure, there were some jobs that looked like nice first jobs, but only one or two that looked remotely second job worthy. Of course I'm pretty happy here at my first job, so maybe I don't know what second job worthy looks like. What I mean is, maybe "second job worthy" is utopian at this point.

There were lots of early modern jobs and it is fairly early in the listings game, all of which makes me glad for my friends on the market. But of those 5 pages of advertisements only two jumped out at me as highly desirable. And I'm not counting the famous place that rarely tenures its junior faculty (what the hell is a "tenure-track associate professor"?).

I peeked into the big spooky room of missed chances and I feel fine.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Blissed out

I'm sort of following in the vein of Flavia on her post about signs that the semester is off to a good start. I have to rave about the students in my upper level Shakespeare class.

First off, there are 27 of them. And it's a seminar because is upper level and a requirement for the major. So it seems like it might be difficult to give everyone a chance to contribute to the discussion. Secondly, last year I had to teach it in a lecture room with raked seating and me in the pit at the bottom. This made discussion even more difficult, partly because the students couldn't see one another very well. And for some reason it made me lose my confidence which is really strange because I LOVE being on stage and performing and I love lecturing. But this course wasn't really supposed to be a lecture course. Anyway, half of my evaluations said I lectured too much and the other half said not enough.

So this semester I made sure the class was put in a smaller classroom. Colleagues and secretaries looked aghast at me, but they allowed it. Yes, we are all crammed into the room, but we managed to make a staggered circle with the desks. Being literally on the same level with the students makes so much of a difference. Plus, everyone can see everyone else.

Yesterday was our first day with a play, and the discussion of speech and language in Richard II was so stimulating, so exciting, that some of the students followed me into my office after class to continue the line of thought. At least 20 out of 27 students spoke, and everyone had something interesting to say. They also began to piggy-back on one another's observations. In the middle of the discussion when we started talking about flattery as a speech act, I read them some quotes from early modern anti-flattery tracts and when I was finished, about 10 hands went up in the air- they assimilated the historical information very quickly.

I was wrong- even though I'm a poetry person, I do like teaching Shakespeare's drama. Maybe I should write an article on Shakespeare and become a semi-Shakespearean.

The best thing about this group of students is that on the first day a number of them mentioned that they were fascinated by language and Shakespeare's use of puns. I've actually got some budding philologists in my class: Whee!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Advisor

[Boethius, La Consolation de la Philosophie, 1477, British Library]

I'm a freshman advisor this year. That means helping 10 new first year students plan their schedules and edumacating them about core and divisional requirements.

It's all very foggy to me, especially because my own undergraduate experience had no such requirements. We were free to take whatever we chose.

But I did have a great freshman advisor, a very distinguished scholar and public intellectual who nonetheless made sure her seven advisees were in her Friday 3pm discussion section, a time when most distinguished senior scholars are nowhere near campus. This advisor didn't even live in the college town, but 60 miles away in a larger city, if I recall. Her lecture met MWF at 11am, and I vaguely remember that every day after class she would leave for lunch (and lots of intense philosophical arguing, I imagined) with a dashing political science professor who waited worshipfully for her on a bench outside on the main green.

I'm racking my brains trying to remember what excellent advice she was able to impart to me and trying to figure out how she made me feel at ease. But all I can remember is being impressed by the vast number of books in her office, many in stacks on the desk, by the fact that she offered me a cup of coffee, and by the seriousness and focus with which she listened to me and approached my schedule. I hadn't been able to get in to the "Intro to Brit Lit" course that is a requirement for the English major and didn't know what to do. Without that course, I couldn't take any more advanced courses. So she steered me towards a comparative literature course, one that ultimately set me on the path to Renaissance studies.

Aside: I only learned later that there was a mutual dislike between my advisor and the professor of the Renaissance course. The fact that she said such fine things about him as a teacher and scholar and somehow knew the course was ideal for me is a wonderful thing.

I should add that much of what I remember of this advisor has been filtered through my mother's interpretive lens. She is a professional undergraduate advisor at a Big Ten school, so naturally she heard all about my experiences as a freshman and how this advisor saved me from transferring to a smaller school by engaging me academically.

I was miserable during Orientation. Really miserable. I was stuck in the basement (the "0- zone") of a giant hotel complex or army bunker dorm full of artsy, pretentious kids from New York who did drugs and slept around and were so cool and I felt really lost. But once I sat down in her class on the first day, all that changed. I was found. And some of the artsy kids were lost and confused and complaining about all the reading. And some of the artsy kids asked really smart questions and left class deep in conversation with me. And some of them played in a quartet. Ha, I thought! I belong here after all. Incidentally, my mother liked what my advisor did for me so much that she wrote her a letter and the famous advisor wrote back, citing her own experience as a mother with an academically inclined daughter. How cool is that???

Sometimes I wonder if she was so helpful only because I was so eager. I think she had appointments in three departments, so this course might have been designed to get me interested in one of her areas. I was probably also simply dazzled by her star power. If she hadn't left in my sophomore year, maybe I wouldn't be in English at all . . .

So what can I do tomorrow through Sunday when I meet with my advisees? Listen, maybe? And perhaps the best thing I can do is to suggest something they haven't thought of before.

Friday, August 03, 2007

My Daemon is a Tiger

Not that I'm in the least surprised. Excuse me a moment while I preen and reach for my favorite Angela Carter story.

Find your demon here:

(That's Northern Lights for you Brits).

And if you haven't read His Dark Materials yet but promised me you would, you have exactly four months.

Friday, July 27, 2007

More Petticoat than Freudian

This blog is getting really frilly. All I'm blogging about these days are cats and home decor. I won't even mention the perfect loaf of bread I baked today (thanks, Minimalist!). But here's the latest on my settling in: my dining room with the vintage table and chairs (no they are not a set, they just go well together- thanks, Craigslist!) and the infernal pain-in-the-arse chandelier from London, which cost $60 to be rewired and took nearly three hours to install and a great deal of improvising on the part of the electrician. But now it works and it looks beautiful. And I will never, NEVER buy a chandelier in London again unless I already live there.

Here's a picture of my new beautiful living room rug, a kilim that my parents bought for me in Istanbul, helped by our wonderful, tasteful and wise Turkish friend. Look closely and you'll glimpse a guilty pleasure:


I know, I know, two weeks in a row of cat blogging. I promise I'll stop. But it's really difficult to photograph a black tortoiseshell cat with a digital camera, and in this photo Saffron looks like a Miyazaki character ("My neighbor Saffron"). When I write at home in the kitchen, this is her spot. She's kind of a spirit guardian of the laptop. More likely, it's because her food is located under the table.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Belated Friday Cat and House blogging

I'm in the midwest visiting my parents for a long weekend and I miss my cat. I almost never cat-blog but I have a cute photo of her in my new apartment and I miss her fuzziness and her little face appearing around the side of my laptop screen when I'm trying to write. The house is also gradually taking shape, so here's a double feature: cat photo and living room at night.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Little People

I've just discovered a new thoroughly addictive street art blog, which is feeding my procrastinastion. But I wanted to share it with you because it's so funny and because it's a great way of remembering London. It's called "Little People" and describes itself in a subtitle as "Little handpainted people, left in london to fend for themselves" and it's here.

See if I'm not right.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Still a Freak after all these years

The first time I took the Myers-Briggs personality type test I was 18 and heading off to New England for college. It told me I was an INFJ- Introverted-Intuitivite-Feeling-Judging. I thought I'd take the shorter online version just for fun. I felt I had truly become much more extroverted and rational and would probably become an ENTJ, fitting in more easily with the general population.

But I was WRONG! Thirteen years later and I'm still an INFJ, still part of the tiny .5%. I don't know whether to be happy or sad (that's the "Feeling" part kicking in), but I will say this: the test never lies.

Here's what it told me:

Your Score: Freak- INFJ

33% Extraversion, 60% Intuition, 20% Thinking, 66% Judging

"Well, well, well. How did someone like you end up with the least common personality type of them all? In a group of 100 Americans, only 0.5 others would be just like you. You really are one of a kind... In fact, I do believe that that's one of the definitions for the word "FREAK."

Freak's not such a bad word to describe you actually.

You are deep, complex, secretive and extremely difficult to understand. If that doesn't scream "Freak!" I don't know what does. No-one actually knows the REAL you, do they?

You probably have deep interests in creative expression as well as issues of spirituality and human development.

You've probably even been called a "psychic" before, because of your uncanny knack to understand and "read" people without quite knowing how you do it. Don't fret. You're not actually psychic. That would make you special and you'll never accomplish that.

You're also quite possibly the most emotional of them all, so don't take this all too hard. Nevertheless you most definitely have the strangest personality type and that's not necessarily a good thing. "

This mini-analysis is just there for acerbic silliness. I don't know about any hidden secrets or being hard to read- usually I'm told I'm gullible and guileless and that my thoughts and emotions write themselves all over my face whether I want them to or not (I usually don't want them to!). I'm not psychic, but I do tend to respond more to people's emotional states than to what they may be saying. I do sometimes have dreams that seem to reveal that my unconscious has been picking up on others' unspoken emotional states.

And I always thought I was easy to understand! Maybe only by other INFJs and by myself, though. Of course the part that may not fit with INFJ is that, no longer a pianist or actor, I still have a desire to perform. I'm not sure whether this falls under the category of extroverted or not, since performing for me involves intense focus and reaching a state I call "the zone" where time stands still and one is both communicating and retreating inside oneself. But everyone who knows me even a little bit would surely agree that I am not a "quiet leader" as INFJs are frequently described. I'm pretty outspoken, both a blurter and (on good days) a firebrand. Perhaps it's best not to give too much credence to Mmes Myers and Briggs, though it's fun like figuring out one's astrological signs. Speaking of which, I'm both a Piscean and a Fire Dragon, which seems contradictory to me. Hmpf. Go figure.

Take the test yourself:

Wednesday, July 04, 2007


Can't . . . move . . . arms . . . anymore. And this even after hiring "Two Men and a Truck" (that's the moving company's name) to cart the heavy furniture on Monday. All that remains are books to unpack and pictures to hang.

Saffron has adapted quite well to the new place, lounging around on the floor, testing the stability of the dresser by jumping on top of it from the bed, sitting in the living room window at twilight and making tiny cackling noises at fireflies.

Here's a sneak peak at the interior as it stands now. Vintage dining table on its way.

I discovered a fig tree in the front garden with at least nine green nubby figs on it, hopefully more by the end of the summer. Yum and yay! There is also a little stream and water-fall fountain fed by a pump that meanders under the stone path leading up to the front, constructed by previous landscape designer tenants. My landlord has promised to set up the pump for me. In the picture to the left you can see a dark crevace near the center of the photo. That's where the stream runs under the flagstones. It then curves around to the left, behind the japanese maple, and continues down to a little stone pond. The pump sends it back up through the garden to the top.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

One Day Left!

I'm sorry if I've been out of touch for the past week- I've been gradually moving into my new house. It's so wonderful having a car and moving somewhere so close to home. It's much easier than the last four moves I made over the past four years, changing countries each time. I've made five trips with the hatchback packed full of material goods. I did manage to weed out some things I do not need and will be donating to Habitat for Humanity, but I still have so much "stuff" I think Marx would cringe. Still, it's quite nice to have carted and unpacked the entire contents of my kitchen, bathroom, closets, wall and window hangings. I feel mostly moved in- the only things left are books and furniture and kitty things.

So now please permit me to wax rhapsodic about my new house. And to gush about spending money on beautiful things I don't really need that nonetheless make me very happy. It is beautiful- I had the dining room and the sun room painted and both turned out really well. The dining room is a deep slate blue (Benjamin Moore's "Evening Dove") which looks charcoal grey at night and twilight blue during the day. The sunroom is a velvety cocoa brown with purple undertones (Benjamin Moore's "Desert Shadows"). Both rooms are matte which I think makes the rooms seem bigger and the color deeper. I'm sort of focusing on the dining room first because it is the focal point of the house. It's in the center, between the living room and the kitchen. The bedroom, study and bathroom are down a little hallway off to the right of the dining room. But when you walk through the front door, you're in the living room and your eyes are drawn to the dining room, though you can see all the way back to the kitchen. I'm not going to post pictures until after the furniture arrives (tomorrow), but here's a photo of the funky chandelier I bought for the dining room. Try to imagine it hanging in a slate blue room, the poppy colored kitchen just visible behind it.

I have also gone on a vintage furniture hunt. Last year I found four bentwood chairs by Thonet. I just purchased the perfect Heywood Wakefield table to go with them (hooray for Craigslist).

So imagine, if you will, a slate blue dining room, the poppy kitchen behind, the chandelier to the right hanging from the ceiling, and blond wood dining table and chairs (with a darker patina) in a lovely simple mid-century modern style. Decorating obsessed? Who me? I tend to work best surrounded by beautiful surroundings. So I'm only doing this to enhance my overall creativity, of course.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Muse of Muse

Yes, the muse has to have her own muse. Er, mews. A regular florilegium is Saffron: She never fails to fully digest the flowers I bring home. Currently she has one cabriole paw curled over the top of the laptop screen and is winking down at me as I type.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


Today I have PLD (Post London Depression). I don't know if it is brought on by the jet lag, or by the stifling heat of the Southern summer, or perhaps by the sheer emptiness of this place this time of year but it feels dead dead DEAD everywhere and I want to go back.

Thankfully I ought to have my hands full with packing and schlepping and moving. And writing. But for some reason I haven't schlepped or packed a single thing, and I've only written a few hundred words.

Maybe I'm experiencing urban withdrawal and need another week to adjust. Maybe I just miss my friends and don't know when I'll see them again. In any case, I'm sad and lonely and bored here, and I'm not due for another visit to Montreal until August.

Time to write the book. Because there's really nothing else to do.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


I've been in the UK for over a week now and have gotten completely assimilated. Life here would be lovely, temperate and blissful- If I only had twice as much money, or more. And didn't have to work. I'm currently in Oxford with my friends Dearest B and the evil twin, enjoying a much needed visit to planet academia with people I haven't seen in a year and a half. Soon I'll have tea and catch up with faustus. Apparently everyone is on facebook but me, where they throw sheep and soup at one another contentedly.

In London I've seen two Mozart operas, two shakespeare plays, and two early modern manuscripts at the British Library. I've also eaten the best curry in my life and some very good Turkish food, and encountered people who have actually heard of the university where I teach, which, in London and Oxford is a miracle in and of itself.

More proper blogging later, I just wanted to post a quick update and let everyone know all was well. Please send money.

Monday, June 04, 2007


I leave for London the day after tomorrow. At the moment I'm drawing up a research and writing plan: I need to figure out what to do with my first chapter, whether I want to toss it and rewrite it entirely with a new argument about the same old text, or whether there are salvageable bits; I need to finish researching and writing my final chapter.

But the reading rooms of the British library aren't open all night long and they're closed on Sundays. Plus it can take up to half a day to get the books I need and I can only look at manuscripts until 5pm.

So I'll have some time to do a little exploring. I've spent lots of time in London, but I always stayed out of the way in Crouch End with my family friends. This time I'll be in Bloomsbury. I don't feel as if I know London particularly well. It's so big. The only place in the UK I know really well is Oxford, and that's because I lived there for a year and then dated someone there for almost two years. But back to London: I'm planning on doing some London walks, and already have plans to see an Opera with my mom's best friend, visit family friends, catch up with Oxonians and catch Othello at the Globe. And a pilgrimage to Ormonde Jayne, my favorite perfumer, which has a tiny shop in the Royal Arcade between Albemarle and Old Bond street and makes otherwordly scents out of black hemlock and violet and coriander, and of course I'll hang out in Islington and the East End. But I was wondering if any of my loyal readers (do you still exist?) who have much more London knowledge than I do, might want to make some suggestions of places off the beaten path for me to explore whilst there. Am I missing anything great? What are your London secrets that you don't mind divulging? Where is the best curry? What's your favorite pub? Which parks are hidden and beautiful?

Monday, May 28, 2007

And the Livin' is Easy

So I've been traveling a little bit this summer. Immediately after grading I dropped everything and headed off to Montreal for a week. It was relaxing and, well, at least there were two days of good weather! I saw lots of old movies and plasticized corpses and I ate really well (the advantages of dating someone with a newfound cooking obsession) and generally had a very nice time.

I returned to get everything in order here before going to London for two weeks. No fun- research only. I keep saying this again and again hoping that maybe it will come true and I'll actually get a lot of work done there instead of spending a lot of money I don't exactly have at the moment and pubbing it every evening . . . I'm really looking forward to it though. Haven't been to the UK in a year and a half and I miss the green and pleasant land terribly, along with all my friends there. I've also got a large number of academic pals who will be in London and Oxford whilst I'm there, including my closest colleague friend, who will actually be staying in the same B&B as me. No fun- research only. No fun- research only.

Then I'll return June 20 and begin packing and carting my things over to The New House. Once I'm settled there, I'll divide my time between planting lovely things in the garden (roses, rosemary, lavender, thyme); hunting for mid-century modern furniture, and cranking out my manuscript in my office on campus. Probably mostly cranking in the office, hopefully not sans manuscript and articles.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007


Done with grading. The summer awaits. Not thinking about the book and the articles. Not thinking about the book. Maybe thinking a little about the articles. Mostly thinking about sleep.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

House Love

Yeah, you know you want it. You feel the love. Rooms you want to paint in Benjamin Moore "Evening Sky" and "Incense Stick." Arts and Crafts furniture you want to purchase and place in the rooms. Rose bushes you want to plant outside the bedroom window. Ooh, baby. Feel the house love.

I'm moving there in two months. I sometimes stay awake at night decorating and redecorating the rooms, adding a back patio rose garden and purchasing countless imaginary kilims for the back sunroom at imaginary Ottoman bazaars (don't forget to bring me back some from Turkey, M&D! Just because I can't go to the wedding there doesn't mean I don't deserve kilims!).

Here's an old picture of it from last summer before it was painted (now it's light green with white trim). The previous tenants were landscape designers who practiced in front and on the sides of the house. They ran a little stream through the front like a brook that is really a pump-fountain. I can turn it on if I like. The backyard is huge and hilly and unfinished. I wonder how much it would cost to cover it with daffodils. In the living room there is a working fireplace with the original iron "summer door" which will keep out the drafts and birds and also the cat. I can burn logs there in the winter and roast marshmallows even.

I can't wait.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Shakespeare Authorship Question

Some time early in the semester I was randomly contacted by William Niederkorn to complete an online survey about the "Shakespeare Authorship Question" in my teaching. I duly completed the survey and have just received a follow-up e-mail with a link to the survey's results in The New York Times.

It's not particularly interesting. 82% of us (295 randomly selected Shakespeare professors at colleges and universities) think the authorship question (did Shakespeare write Shakespeare?) is irrelevant to the study of the works, and only 6% thought there was a good reason for discussing it at all. 11% said that possibly there was good reason.

What bothers me is not the fact that this poll tells us what we already knew, but that the New York Times didn't really do or say anything new or thought-provoking with the survey. The article ends with an anonymous Shakespearean wishing more people were as interested in the plays as they were in the authorship question, evidently a sentiment most of us echoed in our responses.

But why do a survey like this anyway, if you're just going to conclude that "Professors believe in him"? The tin echo of the language of religious faith aside, what's the point? It would've been far more interesting to interview professors about their pedagogy and methodology- how do they teach Shakespeare to undergraduates? To graduates? The authorship question has never been taken seriously by most of us, but the stability of the body of work known as 'Shakespeare' has already been toppled by scholars of material textual studies, and that some 14 years ago.

Do we all combine history and research in our teaching? Do we talk about "the genius" of Shakespeare in our 100-level courses, push students to discover textual contradictions (perhaps put there by Shakespeare himself) in our upper-level undergraduate seminars, and then ask our graduate students to accept the fundamental instability of the material text and the consequent loss of 'Shakespearean' identity? Has anyone been able to present a consistent picture of Shakespeare scholarship to their students of all levels? I think we are constantly lifting 'Shakespeare' up and breaking him (or it) down in our teaching, and also in our scholarship. I would have liked the New York Times survey to have done something more with its assessment: It's not simply that most of us don't think the authorship question is relevant; it's that we're asking our students to engage with the text in (frequently contradictory) ways that will seem new and exciting to most armchair Shakespeareans. Shame on this article for not articulating that.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Stuff I Learned in English Class

It's that time of year again. The time when students write silly things in their papers and I feel guilty for pumping them full of insufficient and erroneous information.

Today I learned that:

"Raping women was common in medieval times. Men would frequently rape women as a means of expressing their power and demonstrating their dominance over women."

I also learned that:

"When I say romantic love, I mean a love that hits you like a brick wall when you first see someone."

More coming up . . .

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Pick Yourself Up

This is my all-time favorite number from Swing Time (1936), my all-time favorite Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie. And it is here, on Youtube (though you have to click on the box above twice and watch it on the Youtube site but it's worth it).

Why do I love it so much?

- Because Fred mischeviously pretends he doesn't know how to dance

- Because she's a terrible teacher

- Because when they finally dance it's like they just discovered that they speak the same language

- Because of the art deco dancing studio with the little white fence

- Because they make it seem so easy and so egalitarian

Poking my Head Up Briefly

I'm buried under a mountain of final papers and exams. Oh, about 90 of them by the end of the semester which is in about two weeks. I also have two students defending their MA theses this week and I only got the theses last week and weekend. When did MA theses become like dissertations? 153 pages, 4 chapters, a scholarly introduction and it will be longer when she adds all the footnotes she's missing. Oy, Gevalt!

Ok, that's enough for now. I must return to my little house built out of papers.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Postscript: Pseudonymous Cat

In a conversation last night at the hotel bar, another blogger asked me what my cat was called.

"Saffron," I replied.

"Oh, so it is Saffron," she said.

"Yes," I replied, looking at her quizzically.

Then we both laughed because of course she thought I might have come up with a blog pseudonym for the cat, the way we do for our friends, colleagues, partners and institutions.

"An Antic Blogsposition": On Playing a Part, Disguise, and Being Funny

I'm at a big important annual conference. And I am having a wondeful time.

Perhaps it's because I'm surrounded by Shakespeareans, but I'm thinking about plays and players today. One of the best things I've discovered about blogging anonymously (though most of my dear readers know I am much less anonymous than those blogs I love to read and support), is that it is rather like play acting. One takes on a new identity that permits a liberty of language and expression only associated with performance and with assuming a role. In the same way that Rosalind-as-Ganymede really begins to relish the rhetoric, wit, and play of her newfound pants role, and Hamlet is able to transcend class barriers by insulting Polonius and ceding the platea to the grave-digger's joke routine, blogging under a pseudonymous identity permits a certain freedom and jouissance.

Which makes me think about a discussion I had over lunch yesterday with a gentle and sage senior professor at a small obscure university who expressed such a delight for our profession that it momentarily humbled my vaulting ambition. We were talking about Shakespearean clowns. He laid out his theory that clowning and "clowniness" is transferrable from character to character on the Shakespearean stage. Wit is, in other words, infectious, and easily picked up by characters surrounding a clown. He cited Viola's playing with Feste in Act V of Twelfth Night and of course Hamlet and the Gravedigger.

Since I have been investigating the philological and cultural impact of "antic/antique" for some time, I brought up the connection that Margreta de Grazia makes between Hamlet's "antic disposition" and clowning, that to have an antic disposition means to play the fool on the Renaissance stage (and to play the medieval vice character on the Renaissance stage). He concurred with me very graciously.

But what my research on "antic/antique" has also uncovered is that "antic" frequently meant "disguised" in the Renaissance, so in many ways it's not just about clowning but also about the way an assumed identity allows for a freer circulation of wit, humor and social critique.

Which is precisely what pseudonymous blogging at its best is all about. And that is the reason why it has to continue. At the conference, I may or may not have privately "made discovery" of a number of pseudonymous bloggers I greatly respect and depend upon for their humorous critique and celebration of the profession. However whether this is true or fabricated, I shall vehemently refuse to "delate" on them. Also, if wit is indeed transferrable, perhaps some of it might rub off on me.

In order for the academic blogging community to survive, we need to maintain their antic dispositions: Let them be well used, for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of our time. And they are also very funny.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Spring is Here

Spring arrived yesterday. There are blossoming trees, soft green grass and chartreuse buds everywhere creating a kind of green haze in the air. Or maybe that's just the pollen.

Spring Break was deliciously relaxing and fun, full of cooking, hiking in the nearby foothills, and watching Lubitsch, Godard, and Murnau. Although we learned that rabbit shouldn't be roasted, and that quick rising yeast is not the same as Fleischmann's instant, I still enjoyed the best Italian meatballs and tomato sauce made from scratch I've ever tasted, pulled off a pretty decent creme caramel, and our morning crepes outdid any crepe I've had in Montreal.

No matter how hard we looked, we couldn't find a "comfort station" of any kind near the parking lot on our second mountain hike/clamber unless you count the poorly stocked bathrooms and the 65 cent soda machine from 1981. We did, however, find some pretty amazing barbecue in a local joint furnished with an excellent jukebox playing the Orioles, and decorated throughout with vintage tin advertising signs including one very old and rusty sign for the emerging "Goody" aspirin brand that read: GOODY: "They are good."

After bidding farewell to my dear visitor - who didn't believe we had a "Billy Graham Parkway" until we were actually driving down it - I took off for the exhausting and disorienting (disorientating, for you brits) conference. I don't think there is anything that leaves one feeling quite so uprooted and repotted than taking off for a weekend of intense and heavy conferencing and returning to teach three classes and hold office hours Monday morning. I felt as if I'd stepped in to understudy an actor in an unfamiliar play at the last moment and had somehow lost the script.

Thankfully, the library book sale redeemed me at the end of the day. I purchased an old 50-volume set of seemingly randomly labeled literary "classics" that don't seem to be quite so canonical anymore for $10. What made the editors decide to follow Smith's "The Wealth of Nations" in with Vergil's Aeneid, and Vergil with Cervantes? For $5 I also got a possibly complete (lacking only "The Two Noble Kinsmen") Yale Shakespeare, adorable tiny faded blue clothbound editions of the plays and poems edited in the 30s. It's fun to see what earlier editors have done without explanation, but of course more fun to fill my mammoth floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Now my students will think I'm smart and educated.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

RSA Annual Venting

This was quite possibly the poorest organized RSA conference I have ever attended. I was stuck out in the boonies near the Miami airport in one of two "overflow" hotels that somehow cost more than the rooms in the conference hotel, despite being farther away and very close to a major highway not to mention low flying planes. I may have depleted my cash supply in my current checking account simply to pay for the cab rides back and forth to the conference, and this even includes cab rides split between two and three people.

Then there was the difficulty of getting to the beach, the ash-strewn South Beach (or so I heard-- I never actually managed to see it) populated by loud, hormonally challenged undergraduates.

Yes, there was good food to be had in South Beach. There were also beautiful Art Deco hotels. And $12 mojitos, which were good, but not $12 good. It was also ridiculously noisy. Maybe I'm just getting too old for that sort of thing, but half the time I could barely hear what my friends were saying.

Most of my gripes have already been stated with more panache by my colleagues (collblogs?) over at Blogging the Renaissance, so I won't prolong the vent.

But I will say this: We Renaissance scholars are not generally a bunch of complainers. We usually neither cant nor rant. Ok, we do a lot of both, but when we go to conferences, we like to forget about all we have to cant and rant about. We like to stimulate our minds, share our work, and enjoy good food, good company, and good wine.

Most of us, when provided with some basic comforts, find this relatively easy to do. This year it was much more difficult. Because of this, I would like to propose that some changes be made for the safety of future RSA conferences:

1. Don't name panels silly things like "Perspectives on English Literature IV" and "New Technologies and Renaissance Studies I, II, III, IV and V: Exploring the online Archive"

2. Don't stick Stephen Greenblatt's panel in a tiny side room that seats 10.

3. Don't make us pay $3 for crappy Starbucks coffee and $1 for a teaspoon-sized muffin.

4. Don't make it impossible for us to print out our papers without paying $5 to use your crappy computers in the business center. Don't cut off my internet connection every three minutes, crappy airport hotel! I'm trying to write!

Needless to say, I doubt I'll be at RSA next year in Chicago and I'm sure SAA in San Diego can only be loads more fun. Or at least loads more comfortable. At least I think it may be so in Denmark . . .

Despite the monumentally crappy organization of this conference it was still nice to see my dearest scholarly friends and to make new ones. And I met those I'd wanted to meet, who turned out to be generous and kind and silly and fun. And I may have solved a little mystery I wondered about.

So it really wasn't so terrible. But 50% of the time, I really rather would have been at home with my cat.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Spring Break Woo-Hoo

It's "Spring Break Woo-Hoo!" The campus has entirely emptied out, and I've got plans for a much needed drink with three of my gal pals this evening.

So why am I still here, you might ask.

Well, my friends, I am still here because I have thirty Shakespeare midterms to grade and another thirty revised first papers to mark from my writing seminar. Those I don't have to return immediately after spring break, but I don't want them hanging over my head.

Yes, I am that good. I will stay in my office until all of the midterms are graded and most of the papers are re-marked. Then I will go out with my friends. Then I will go home and sleep, getting ready for The Big House Clean. I am soooooo good. Then I will have a visitor from the Great White North for a whole week when it will finally be "Spring Break Woo-Hoo." We plan to sample off-the-beaten-path barbecue, wander around the artsy-fartsy, hippie-dippie mountain town, and partake of that oh-so-forgotten-American-diversion, the drive-in.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Once More unto the Thirties

31 today. Officially into the Thirties. And a prime number. That has to be worth something.

It's been a good birthday. I don't know if it's because 1) I'm an only child with parents who miraculously are still together, 2) I'm just ridiculously optimistic sometimes against all odds, or 3) I'm self-centered and spoiled (refer back to 1) but in 31 years I've never had a bad birthday. Kinne hurra.

Today has been no exception. The wind and the rain raged last night, turning off the power and causing some trees to fall. But I awoke this morning to a cloudless blue sky and the sun glinting off tree branches laden with buds almost ready to open.

It is also Saffron's birthday today- she's 5. We celebrated at breakfast: I had a cupcake; she had salmon flavored hairball remedy.

In addition to Saffron, two of my closest friends share my birthday and one of them is my evil twin. We were born half an hour and 1500 miles apart on the 2nd of March, 1976. Both friends are brits and oxonians. Happy Birthday, you two! Maybe some day we'll spend our birthday drinking one another under the table in a pub in Jericho. I'll lose.

When I got to work and turned on my computer today I received another unexpected birthday gift: a letter from the university president. And no, I am not being sarcastic, which I normally would be. There is to be a salary increase. Remarkably, it will affect me, and may indeed be more than 10%:

"With regard to faculty increases, we must consider carefully those in the assistant professor ranks, where the greatest salary disparity exists between us and a group of peer institutions. I have encouraged the Dean to give special consideration to those departments whose salaries lag furthest from their peers at other institutions."

Yay, yay, YAY!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

New Perspectives

We're almost all done with our tenure-track hiring in my department. We did pretty well-- we made four offers and three of our top choices accepted. The fourth one turned us down for a bigger research institution in a really cool city and who would blame her? We had another person out just this past week and the department split along generational lines for the first time. All the junior faculty and only two of the senior faculty voted overwhelmingly enthusiastically to offer this person a job. The remaining senior faculty had already made up their minds and refused to be swayed by our attempts at persuasion. It was kind of fascinating to me, because it marked the first time we were unable to reach a consensus as a department despite everyone's attempts to understand one another. It was as if we were speaking different languages: They could not understand why we were so excited about this person's scholarship, and we could not understand why they were not. It was the first time we really disagreed, and everyone-- both generational camps -- felt a bit morose at the end of the day. It's a good thing the weekend appeared to give us some distance and perspective. And in the end, we did really well. We managed to agree on our first four candidates and to get three out of four, three really phenomenally good scholars and teachers from the top universities and programs in the country. And it's kind of heartening to know that even though we couldn't see eye to eye on the last candidate, there was a general sense of sadness that this happened, rather than anger or resentment. I'm sure this kind of thing happens in every department, especially in one like mine at a school that is in the midst of redefining itself; it's a sign of the times.

This weekend I'm buried in fellowship applications for summer research and I've got to write my SAA paper and book flights to Miami and San Diego for conferences and New Orleans for a wedding. I also have to study the state driver's manual and get my state license. I've put it off for too long and my license expires next week. There was so much to do I felt a bit nauseated and overwhelmed yesterday. So instead of jumping in to it, I cleaned house. It was warmish so I opened the windows and aired it out. I vacummed and swiffered and laundered and scrubbed. I baked cornbread and made Assam tea. I bought a bunch of fresh parrot tulips, emptied them into a large mason jar and plopped it on the dining room table. And I rearranged the furniture in my living room. Which is possibly the best thing I could have done because it feels fresh and new and has given me a subtly revised perspective. I now have to orient myself in this space in a different way. It's oddly mind-opening. After all the cleaning and re-organizing I was finally able to sit down with a clear head and pound out my research proposals without feeling a single palpitation or stomach somersault.

The daffodils are up and it's raining which is turning all the tree-trunks and limbs green-brown. The power just went out on my block so I've lit candles. It smells like cocoa, tuberose, red amber, and lemon basil. Spring break is in two weeks and my birthday is in six days.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Lagging behind in blogging

Dear Readers,

I'm sorry I haven't been posting much lately. I'm tired. Exhausted, in fact. I've got over 60 students this semester (no, those of you at big research institutions are not allowed to mock me with your laughter-- you don't have to mark 32 "composition" papers every other week, composed by students with little command of English). I'm teaching three days a week, and on the off days I'm required to attend all these job talks, lunches, dinners, and interviews with our job candidates (three searches) as they plough through their campus visits.

Time for my own work, you ask? Ha! The best I can get in is a stolen hour here and there in my office between classes and meeting with students. But it's better than nothing, I suppose.

End of sob story. I'm not asking you to pity me; I'm just explaining why I haven't had much time or energy to blog.

March and April will be full of conferences and a wedding, all in warmer climes. Summer will hopefully follow with trips to London and Montreal, and maybe a move to a new abode -- a craftsman style cottage with a beautiful garden I've been coveting since my friend moved there. Now she's got a job at an Ivy, so the house will be vacant in June. I know my current apartment is no hovel, but it's rather isolated and the place I want is near the Art School and a beautiful park. It's also got a wrap around porch, jewel-toned rooms, and a working fireplace with an original antique iron door (useful against adventurous kitties).

Monday, February 05, 2007

A Charmed Life

Sometimes I think I'm leading a bit of a charmed life (poo! poo!-- that's me spitting over my shoulder to avert the evil eye. I'm also rubbing my blue eye bead and muttering kinne hurra and im sh'allah).

I recently made the hour and a half drive to Prestigious Research Institution to attend a mini-conference. There were a number of well known invited speakers, including one of my former dissertation advisors. Although I wasn't greatly inspired by any of the talks, I miraculously managed to relax and have a nice time. And for the first time I wasn't nervous about making a good impression-- in part because I was so exhausted from the week before, teaching 3 classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and courting and evaluating three job candidates (with 3-5 more to go), not to mention reviewing all their materials.

Lunch involved trading silly stories and going for a walk with senior scholars who have majorly influenced my field. They were all very easy-going and kind.

After the closing reception, I began to say my goodbyes but suddenly found myself pulled along to dinner-- a catered dinner in a private room in a very fancy restaurant, arranged just for the occasion of the conference. It wasn't until the pause between the second and third courses (chicken breast poached with squash and currants and flourless tea-scented chocolate cake with meyer lemon ice cream), and long after the appetizer (lobster and white bean soup), that I suddenly realized I was the only person at the table who hadn't been invited to give a talk or chair a panel. I was also the youngest, but that probably doesn't matter.

The main thing was that somehow or other these good people opened their arms (and their restaurant) to let me in. And I didn't plan for it. But now I've got some new friends and colleagues at Prestitgious Research Institution, and equally important, an active community of early modernist scholars with which to correspond and share work.

I spent the remainder of the weekend with a good friend who lives nearby and works in medicine at Important State Research Institution. We wandered around the charming college town and she took me to her favorite coffee house, which has a glassed-in terrance and sits in the middle of an overgrown garden. And there I ran in to an old accquaintence from grad school who has been teaching at Important State for three years and loves it and loves the area. It was serendipitous (I'd forgotten he was there) and delightful. I felt as if I could finally breathe.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Clapping Baptists

A small anecdote about Life in the South.

A friend of mine here was dating a local boy this past fall. One evening, as they walked along a relatively quiet downtown street, they stopped to kiss.

A large white van drove by and the people inside of it made a loud noise clapping their hands together sharply: "Smack! smack! smack!" The people in the van stared straight ahead but continued to rap their disapproving palms together, jolting my friend and her local boy out of their embrace.

My friend asked the local boy what on earth had happened.

"Oh, they're probably just ______ Baptists," he replied. (She couldn't remember what kind of Baptists he said they were).

Welcome to the South. Where your romantic moments might once in a while be disrupted by Clapping Baptists.

Job Candidates

I haven't been posting very frequently because we are inundated with visiting job candidates this semester. Two searches, and we are hoping to hire two of each, so really four searches.

It's interesting sitting on the other side. Not so long ago I was a job candidate, trying not to appear nervous fielding questions, trying to precariously balance professional expertise with deference and modesty and passionate interest, when all I could think about was how desperately I needed a job.

So far we've had three candidates visit. They've all been brilliant. They are all talented and professional and generous and all of them had the most amazing letters of recommendation from the top scholars in their fields, possibly the top scholars in THE ENTIRE WORLD. In a word, I was jealous.

And I know it's silly because they are coming here because (I think) they want a job here. And I already have a job here.

But I'm still struggling with getting my own work done let alone getting it published, and I'm still struggling with a department in flux that seems to be losing and gaining people right and left, and I'm coming down with a cold and missing people who are all over the world anywhere but here, so forgive me if I'm not thrilled that the next few job candidates got articles published in Representations as graduate students.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Best Kind of Motivation

So today I was just sitting on my ass, drinking tea and reading the Sunday Times, when I decided to check my e-mail.

And in it was a message from a scholar I'll call Primary Influence, with whom I correspond rather less frequently than I'd like. It should be more frequently, and that is my fault-- she's incredibly warm and inspiring and has always taken an interest in my work.

She wanted to know where my Quixotic Old Warrior article was being published, so that she could cite it in a book chapter that explores many of the same issues.

This prompted me to spend the next five hours fine-tuning the piece to send out again this week. I'd done some work on it last semester and then basically put it aside, too fearful to take it out and risk rejection yet again. But suddenly my lost enthusiasm and focus returned with this lovely e-mail.

And so I wrote back to her right away. And for the rest of the afternoon, we e-mailed back and forth as I edited The Don, polishing his armor and readying him for battle once more.

I've got to get it published, otherwise I'll be footnoted in three pieces before any of my own work is out! I mean, I guess she could just footnote the dissertation, but it would be so cool if my first important piece were footnoted in Primary Influence's Next Great Book. Then I wouldn't have to hem and haw as much when people asked me how my work differed from hers (this was what Dream Job That Got Away asked me at my MLA interview two years ago).

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


First day back! It's a very jolly department. The sun is out. It's a bit chilly compared to the apocalyptic weather we've been having (trees in bloom, crocuses and daffodils up. Yes, spring comes early to the South. No, not this early).

In between classes. Two sections of writing and one big Shakespeare, this semester. Shakespeare went well, even though I was nervous. When the students introduced themselves, I discovered they were a very sophisticated bunch. At least 10 had just returned from a semester abroad in London, Dijon, Paris, Rome. They are also the best dressed group of students I've seen on this all too preppy campus. After class, a student in a mod all black ensemble complete with booties and maroon dyed hair came up and complimented me on my Katherine Hepburn widelegged trousers. Apparently she has the same pair. I don't know whether to be flattered or intimidated. Hopefully my knowledge of Renaissance scholarship will make up for the fact that my students have surpassed me sartorially.

Off to teach a writing course organized around fairy tales.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Bonne Annee

Some Highlights of my vacation in Montreal:

New Years Eve. I made another Pear tarte tatin, wore my red silk Marc Jacobs dress ($31.95 on Ebay!), played celebrity heads, got deliciously tipsy on Asti and Rum Toddies, and got kissed.

Wandering through Chinatown and discovering a tiny interactive art gallery.

The “brainball” game in said interactive art gallery: two players sit opposite one another across a table. They affix metal sensors to their foreheads and attempt to beat one another at being relaxed and lowering their brain activity. On the table, a little ball moves back and forth across a track, scoring a goal on the opponent’s side if and only if you manage to relax your mind enough to let it go. Another exhibit was a little bar rigged up with a cup on a conveyor belt programmed to fix a drink based on one’s brainwave function. Apparently I was thinking too much because the minute I attached the sensors to my forehead the cup made a beeline for the Cointreau.

Julie Taymor’s “Magic Flute” live from the Met on a movie screen for the first time in broadcast history.

St. Viateur bagels, coffee from Little Italy, Marche Jean Talon, tagines, tea, Truffaut and von Sternberg, a cuddly cat, Sleeping In, Reading all afternoon, abundant freudian slips and a crazy man with long shaggy hair wearing a mink coat, gesticulating with an umbrella and shouting at the top of his lungs on New Year’s Day.