Friday, February 22, 2008

a funny story

Because there has been ENTIRELY too much doom-and-gloom on this blog lately:

First papers in the Shakespeare class are due on Monday. It's a pretty standard close-reading assignment: pick a speech of at least ten lines, make an argument about how the language works and why the speech is thematically important, no sources allowed except the OED. A student, one of the best in the class, stopped by this morning with a draft that she wanted me to look at. Awesome. She picked Puck's epilogue from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and she's making quite a sophisticated argument about the layers of illusion and reality in this play, and how the audience fits into this equation. Doubly awesome.

Then I hit the paragraph about the line "And Robin shall restore amends." She's making the claim that the word "amends" could refer to singing in Shakespeare's day. And, of course, because she really is a fabulous student, she spins this out into a complicated bit of analysis about music and harmony.

"Really?" I said. "I've never heard of this meaning for 'amends'."

"That's what it said in the OED."

So I go to the library web page and look it up in the online OED.

"Uh, Laura*? That stands for 'singular'."

"Oh no! There goes my whole paragraph!"

(By way of comforting her, I told her about the time we read The Bloody Brother, in Malone Society facsimile edition, in one of my graduate seminars. I became fascinated by a Richard III-esque scene in which the title character, having killed his brother and usurped his throne, forces the crowds to acclaim him.

"How great a prince is this?" says one of the bystanders. Question mark.

"How just?" Question mark.

"How gentle?" Question mark.

So, of course, I wrote a page or three about Subversive Punctuation and The Popular Voice in The Bloody Brother, and gave an energetic report on the topic in seminar. A week or two later, I was browsing through the library stacks and noticed a book called Punctuation and its Dramatic Value in Shakespearean Drama. Hmm, I thought. Maybe I'd better see if there's anything useful here.

This is how I found out that question mark = exclamation point in Renaissance facsimile texts. Ah, don't you hate it when the facts get in the way of a good argument?)

*Not her real name

Sunday, February 17, 2008


It's official. I am the VAP who didn't get the tenure-track job. There isn't much else to say, really. (Well, actually there is a hell of a lot I'd like to say, but it's better said in a less public venue.)

I saw this coming, as you've probably gathered from my last post; I saw it coming as soon as I saw the course eval numbers from last semester, actually. But it still stings like nothing else has ever stung except the breakup of romantic relationships, and I don't date any more precisely because I'm lousy at dealing with the emotional fallout. Apparently it is possible to get exactly the same fallout without actually having sex. Whee.

Going to fill out job apps now. And drink.

Friday, February 15, 2008


-- First of all, I hardly know how to say this, but my condolences to the NIU campus community. There are a lot of people out there thinking of you.

-- More bad news, though fortunately not THAT bad, from the Beloved Alma Mater. I don't want to blog about it too specifically, for fear of becoming even less pseudonymous than I already am, but Alert Readers can probably figure it out. I will say that I'm disappointed and angry, though unfortunately not surprised, at Recent Developments, but proud of the response from the current crop of students. And I really need to e-mail some of my old professors...

-- One of my students from last semester talked me into participating in the staged reading of The Vagina Monologues that she was organizing. I was a little dubious at first, but it ended up being a really neat experience, and we had a totally packed house (by tiny-little-liberal-arts-college standards) and raised $100 or so for the women of New Orleans. Cool.

-- Another student dropped by my office this morning with her copy of The Merchant of Venice. "I haven't quite finished the reading for today, but I have what is probably a really stupid question ... is this a comedy?" Heh. Not a stupid question at all. I think we'll be talking about it for the next week. The Shakespeare class continues to be awesome and delightful. I can't believe they pay me for this. (Of course, both comp classes have just turned in their first set of papers, so by the end of this weekend I will know exactly why they pay me for this.)

-- Resounding silence on the job-search front. I had three campus visits, the last of them almost two weeks ago, and from what I know about the timelines of the various searches, I think it's now a safe bet that I'm not anybody's first choice -- including New SLAC's. And it is probably time to start applying again now that spring jobs are being posted, but ... I SO don't feel like it right now. Sigh.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Translations, Part III: The Campus Interview

In lieu of actual news...


"Oh, sure, there are direct flights to East Podunk."

Once a day, at five o'clock in the morning, on Billy-Bob's Discount Airline and Bait Shop. You might want to double-check and make sure your seat is bolted down.

"You'll be staying at the Dewdrop Inn in West Podunk, and one of the faculty members will meet you for dinner at the hotel restaurant."

We try not to let the candidates actually see East Podunk until after they've signed a contract.

"Teaching demonstrations will be held in Professor Sawyer's class."

Professor Sawyer has just discovered a great new way to get his fence painted.

"You should prepare a fifty-minute lecture for an audience of students and faculty."

No students will show up. But that's OK, because you'll find out that our faculty can slouch, roll their eyes, and fall asleep in class with the best of them!

The Itinerary:

"Prep time for teaching demo"

One of the faculty members will let you sit in his office. By way of being friendly, he will also keep up a steady stream of small talk, which will force you to think up appropriate replies. This will continue until someone takes you to the classroom, precisely fifteen seconds before the demo is supposed to begin.

"Lunch with students"

Brush up on your campaign promises.

"Open Q and A session with faculty"

Stealth job talk.

"Chapel service (optional)"

You are not only expected to attend, but to brush up on the appropriate responses for the denomination with which the college is affiliated.

Small talk:

"Our best students here are as good as the best students anywhere."

Both of them. We try not to think about the others.

"The cost of living in East Podunk is great!"

There is nothing to buy and nowhere to go, so the university doesn't bother to pay us anything.

"What do you like to do for fun?"

Quick, name a hobby that isn't too weird and can be conducted in the middle of a mud flat! Cooking is good if you're a man, but probably too gender-stereotypical if you're a woman. Um, how's your chess game?

Talking with Administrators:

"Here at Podunk Land-Grant U., we are very oriented toward student satisfaction. I think it's very important to have a quantifiable way to assess satisfaction, don't you agree?"

If your evals drop below 4.8 out of 5, you're out.

"Have you thought about the possible impact of quantum physics upon Shakespeare studies?"

I am a physicist.

"What do you think of Stanley Greenfunkel?"

Look at me! I know all about the big names in your field!

"Er ... Stanley Greenfunkel?"

I am an idiot. I don't know the big names in my own field.

"Er ... Stephen Greenblatt?"

I am arrogant. I don't hesitate to correct the Dean.

Driving to the Airport:

"The committee was SO impressed with your research and your teaching demo! You're such an amazing candidate! I'm sure you'll be getting lots and lots of offers!"

One of them won't be from us.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

not dead, in case you were wondering

Just exhausted. And slammed with work. And in that post-interview state of paralysis where I'm afraid to breathe too hard for fear of upsetting the delicate balance of the universe. (And I have stories, but I can't post them now since members of the search committee[s] involved will immediately know who they are.)

Good luck to all who are in the same boat, and good night.