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.