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!