Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Dead Lines

I've always found the term "dead-line" so morbid, so fixed, so unalterable, so threatening. No wonder it's a modern (rather than early modern) word. Good little historical materialist that I am, I much prefer my lines to be plastic, alive, unfixed.

What exactly is a dead line? Is it a condition of modernity?

According to the OED, the first use of "dead-line" as a kind of boundary (1864) described a circumference of safety drawn around a soldier. Outside the "dead-line," the soldier was liable to be shot.

Deadlines are also the early 20th century term for guide-lines "marked on the bed of a printing press."

In the second decade of the 20th century, "dead-line" came to be associated with the time limit for submitting a piece of writing to a journal or newspaper publication.

This last definition is the one that obtains today. It suggests that if the piece of written work isn't turned in within the given time limit, it will not be given literary "life" in publication, thus it falls outside of the invisible time line, and "dies." Of course we sometimes internalize this and worry that if we miss a deadline, a part of us- like an opportunity at posterity, prolonged literary life - will die too.

But for most academics (fellowship, job and conference deadlines excepted), deadlines are more like guidelines. Nobody wants us to turn in or be held responsible for publishing shoddy work, so we ask for a reasonable amount of extra time to get it right. How much time we request depends on the work we are doing. And, in general, the more prolific and well-known we are, the more that deadline, like gold to airy thinness beat, is stretched out.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Anthropologie, Eat Your Heart Out

As part of their "College Issue," the Sunday New York Times Magazine today ran a series of photographs of professors who "make academia look good." One is a dear family friend, who is pictured looking smart and debonair (as usual).

Check out the slideshow here: Class Acts

Though I wonder how many of them actually own those clothes, it's still a delight to see professors looking and acting cool and awesome (though of course it might be more fun to see them letting down their hair and totally rocking out). I'm convinced that some of that awesomeness contributed to my decision to become one myself, superficial though it may be.

Postscript: a rapid e-mail communication between my mother and our family friend revealed that not only did they not get to keep the clothes, they didn't even get to choose them. You can sense some of them gently disapproving in the accompanying text.

Do you think they were nominated by their students, or by their colleagues?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Found in Translation

If only this room actually existed and we could send writers there.

This is from Sometimes the paradoxes of Engrish (mis-translated English) reveal odd, wistful truths. As in this rather Existential example:

Not all Engrish derives from mis-translating Asian languages into English. Some of it is found in British and American English as well:

Thursday, September 11, 2008

OMG- Anthro Update

In the comments section to my annual back-to-school-clothes post on Anthropologie's "Archive Trousers" (second generation "Tenure Trousers") the wise and delightful Renaissance Girl archly said she'd "like to see the adjunct trousers."

Well, here's something that comes close: The "Visiting Professor Cardigan."

I swear I don't make these things up. But they're too good not poke fun at (and surreptitiously consider buying).

This is a cardigan anthro has had up for sale for the past two years, and I've always wanted one.

Its haphazard buttons make me think of Robert Herrick's lyric "Delight in Disorder" ("A sweet disorder in the dress / Kindles in clothes a wantonness"). But by the time it gets cold enough around here for me to consider the exorbitant cost of what really just looks like a sweater buttoned up the wrong way, it always sells out.

$198. Because of course a Visiting Professor can afford to look artfully shlumpy.

Feel the irony, people.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Early Modern Show and Tell

My upper-level undergraduate Renaissance Poetry course is the most fun I've had teaching- EVER. And why? Because one of our rare books librarians decided she wanted to collaborate with me on the course. I said "yeah, sure, why not?"- I already bring my students up to rare books several times a semester. It might be nice to bring the rare books to them for starters. So long as she let me lead the discussion. And it's working really well.

Every day she brings a different old book to class, sometimes 2. Her choices always tie in to our discussion and reading.

Last week we read "Astrophil and Stella," and for our second day with the sonnet sequence, for a discussion on Sidney's "school-boy writer" persona, she brought along a 1591 edition of the poems, plus a 1627 book of grammar-school rules. When I suggested we read a few of the sonnets aloud, we passed around the early modern book, and the students got a chance to struggle with reading from a 16th century text. Which generated quite a few giggles, but also brought the experience down to earth. Pretty soon, they were volunteering to read, which is rare at a place like this (maybe rare everywhere? Except for the peppering of theatre majors in most upper-level English classes).

Anyway, teaching's fun this year. Every day, actually. I highly recommend that everyone try this out- if you haven't already. I'd be interested to read in the comments section about some of your own experiences with collaborative teaching. Did it work? Did it backfire? (I'm still a bit worried that the students will remember the old books but not Sidney).