Sunday, December 30, 2007


So, I'm home. And trying to catch up on four days of Internet deprivation. Random bits 'n' bobs of MLA commentary, in no particular order:

-- First off, it was great meeting so many other bloggers, although I'm a little intimidated at how smart and witty and charismatic y'all are in person (I always worry that I am not really interesting enough to have a blog, but I'm pretty sure no one else at the table had this problem). Many thanks to Dr. Crazy for organizing the meet-up, and I'm sorry I couldn't stay later, because it was quite fun.

-- I did not go to any panel sessions this year. I feel kind of guilty about this, but they all seemed to be taking place while I had interviews, or too early in the morning, or during the blogger meet-up or my grad department's party.

-- Interviews. Tolerably OK for the most part, except for the Catholic SLAC where one of the search committee members grilled me for half an hour with highly specific and argumentative questions about my dissertation description, and then moved on after he had reduced me to a gibbering wreck but before I had managed to produce an adequate response to his latest objection to something I said, and I had to keep glancing at my watch the whole time because I had another interview an hour later, so I probably came across as horribly disinterested. Those Jesuits, man, they're tricky. Actually, this was the first year where a significant number of interviewers wanted to talk about research in any depth, and I don't think I talk about research nearly as well as I talk about teaching (I've had more practice at the latter), but it was kind of flattering to meet people who seemed to be interested in my work, even when they were a shade too interested.

... Oh yeah, and there was the one where I knocked on the door too early and they were still finishing up with the last candidate, who happened to be an AP scoring buddy of mine. I think I handled it reasonably well ("He's a great guy, and if you don't hire me, you should hire him"), but it was still kind of awkward.

... And the one where I went to the wrong hotel. I mean, seriously, who the hell puts TWO Embassy Suiteses (Embassies Suite?) right around the corner from each other, and THEN calls them the "Embassy Suites Downtown" and the "Embassy Suites Downtown - Lakefront?) That's just asking for trouble, especially when only one of them is marked on the map that comes with the conference brochure, and it is the wrong one.

Apart from that, they were OK, and I don't think I really choked on any of them, although my energy was definitely running low for the late-afternoon ones.

-- I can't believe they put the interview area in an actual pit! Really, going down that second escalator was like descending into Hades. Whose idea was that?

-- Yay for deep-discounted and free books! And free wine. The book exhibit is the Best Amenity Ever. Pretty good haul this year -- I splurged on my own copy of Deloney's The Gentle Craft and Approaches to Teaching Renaissance Drama, which looks really awesome. And the freebies included advance proofs of the new Ursula LeGuin, as well as something called How Not to Write a Novel, which was hilarious (and gives me hope that my own unfinished magnum opus might not be too awful, after all).

-- The University of Basketball had its usual crowded hotel-room party (this time in a room with a mini-fridge, which feels like a step up in the world; usually they keep the beer in the bathtub). A bunch of the current grad students were there, as well as 3/5 of my dissertation committee (and let me tell you, it is weird being hugged by former committee members, especially if they are male). It's also kind of weird being asked over and over when you're going to turn the dissertation into a book, and told it would make a great book, when you don't actually have the slightest inclination to do anything of the sort. I mean yeah, it's good that they think well of my work, but I had the hardest time explaining to Committee Member Hosting the Party that I like having a job with a 4-3 teaching load and no expectation that I will ever write a book unless I feel like it, and I consider this lack-of-expectation a perk. I get the sense that they do understand I'm happy with the new job, and they're happy for me, but still slightly bemused.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

and so this is Christmas...

So, yeah. Another year, another big family Christmas. I hate watching my grandparents get older and frailer, especially since there are no new babies or children to counterbalance things. My younger cousins are all in college now, here for a flying visit before running off to pursue their own interests, and I keep feeling like I ought to get married and have a baby, or ought to have done so years ago. This is a stupid idea for an almost infinite number of reasons, but I miss having kids around, and I miss all the silly things you only do at Christmas if there are kids, such as having a big tree with garish felt ornaments and waking up early in the morning to watch them turn the stockings inside out. I miss the noise and the cheerful chaos of my childhood Christmases. I miss Aunt Anna's pierogi (she has been dead for eleven years, and I never learned to make them very well; I stick to cookies and fudge). I miss not being aware of aging and mortality; I miss taking it for granted that I will have children of my own someday, and not wondering and worrying about whether it will ever happen. Sigh. Early-thirties terminally-single angst, I guess.

Another MLA. This will be my third, and some of the excitement has worn off, although it is nice to know what to expect (mostly, that no one I meet there will ever call me again). All the same, I have to admit I kind of like the MLA, even though nobody else does. (My mom brought me to a cocktail party there when I was seven months old and she was a desperate jobseeker; I think this experience warped me for life.) Anyway, the book exhibit always throws me into paroxysms of geeky joy, and, I dunno, there's just something cool about being surrounded by thousands and thousands of English professors. I'm like, hey, these are my people. And I get to say hello to the ones from the Beloved Alma Mater, which is nice.

Uh, yeah. Warped. For life, I tell you. Mothers, don't take your babies to the MLA.

Hope to see some of y'all there!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Things I have learned from the sitemeter...

First of all, it's really easy to freak yourself out. (Oh no! Somebody from Next Town Over where a bunch of New SLAC faculty live keeps visiting this site! They must be associated with New SLAC! Oh, crap, what if they're on the search committee? Uh, wait, it's ... um, me. Never mind.

In order not to look like a complete idiot, I hasten to add that I don't live in Next Town Over, and up until a couple of weeks ago, hits from my home computer registered as coming from Other Town Farther Out.)

Secondly, I seem to be getting hits from an extraordinary number of students looking for analysis of either Herrick's poetry or "Lady Windermere's Fan." The first group will almost certainly come away disappointed; as for the second ... well, I'd LOVE to see someone plagiarize my composite essay on Oscar Wilde. Go on, lazy AP English students. I dare you. (On the other hand, those of you who are seriously interested in learning more about this play should definitely check out this fine collection of YouTube videos.)

Search strings on this topic range from the mundane to the bizarre: oscar wilde nature society passage; how does the play lady windermere's fan by oscar wilde reveal the values of the charachters and the nature of their society; odd trick lady windermere’s fan; oscar wilde highlights of life; tea orwell oscar wilde; Lady Windermere’s AP essay; SOMETHING YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT OSCAR WILDE; and, my personal favorite, farting lord windermere.

Other search strings: st. lucy with a quill; MLA interview "haven't heard" (aw, whoever you are, I'm sorry and I hope you've had better luck since then); making him a maid; harry potter custom robes; petruchio's views on marriage; the pirates have dealth with me like thieves of mercy mean; fun facts Jane Goodall blog; and, most intriguingly, research paper on lipstick.

All in all, this is quite intriguing.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Well, that was ... original?

Me: Can you tell me a little about your research process for this paper?

Student: Oh, I didn't really do any research, I just wrote it.

Me: Are you sure?

Student: Yes.

Me: I'm asking because a number of passages in your essay are identical with an essay that can be downloaded from multiple web sites. Would you take a look and compare these two paragraphs?

Student: ...

Me: How do you explain this?

Student: I have a file-sharing program installed on my computer ... maybe it took a file off the computer without me knowing about it, and then installed it on all those sites?

(Damn, if only all that ingenuity had been applied to the assignment in the first place...)

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Translations, Part II

It's been a while since I've done a job market post. The news is mostly good, but unbloggable. So, in lieu of actual information, have some pointless snark.

The MLA or phone interview:

"Tell us about your dissertation."

I don't remember which one you are, and I can't look it up because my daughter used the cover letters to line the birdcage.

"What attracts you to Podunk Land-Grant University?"

Are you fleeing a scandal, or are you just very fond of mud flats?

"Oh, I think mud flats are fascinating!"

I want a job, dammit. I don't care where.

"What are your greatest weaknesses as a teacher and as a scholar?"

Please eviscerate yourself for the search committee's amusement.

"I'm a perfectionist."

I'm a bullshitter.

"Here at Malcolm X College, we are very interested in diversity. How would you support this important value of ours?"

Do you freak out around black people?

"Here at Lars Oleson and Olaf Larson College of Minnesota, we are very interested in diversity. How would you support this important value of ours?"

Please don't be white. If you have to be white, please don't be Lutheran.

"I think diversity comes in many forms. You can have geographic diversity, socioeconomic diversity, diversity of interests and experiences. At a college in Minnesota, to take a hypothetical example, a Southern person might be very diverse..."

I am a heterosexual white person. I cannot help you. But I do know how to make red velvet cake!

"How do you see yourself fitting in with the mission and values of our college?"

Do you accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior?

"How would you teach an Intro to the Humanities lecture course, covering art, music, literature, and theater from 800 BCE to the present, incorporating multicultural perspectives, to a group of 50 to 75 remedial students who don't want to be there?"

Are YOU Jesus Christ and our personal savior?

"With a population like that, my philosophy is that you meet the students where they are, and take them where they need to be."

I'd show a lot of movies.

"Do you think all English majors should be required to take a Shakespeare class?"

The other committee members and I are on opposite sides of a bitter dispute about this. Whatever you say, it will offend at least one of us.

"What do you like to do for fun?"

Are you a weirdo?

"I do a bit of creative writing."

I write fanfiction. About my dissertation texts.

"Have you got any questions for us?"

You MUST MUST MUST ask a question! Otherwise, you will never find the Holy Grail! But it must be a safe question. Oh, and you don't get to find out which questions the safe ones are until after you're hired, but don't let that stop you.

"Tell me about your students."

I am boring, but at least I won't embarrass you in public.

"You can expect to hear from us by the second week in January."

You will never hear from us again.

Friday, December 7, 2007

because posting is SO much better than grading

Neophyte asks:

For those of you working in early periods: So. How do you feel about the Past? What does it mean to you to encounter things that are old? Do you fall on a particular side of the irreparable-alterity/abiding-familiarity debate? Do you think that debate is nonsense? Especially if you work on something not obviously, blatantly political: how do you think about the political value of what you do? When did you first discover History? What drew you to it?

Honestly? I feel like I'm going to be booted out of the academy for admitting this, but I'm ALL about the abiding familiarity.

I think part of it is the fact that I do Shakespeare & co., and if I hadn't decided in my second semester of grad school that I was not going to make it as a medievalist, I would probably be doing Arthurian lit. And I find this stuff cool because it's living literature; people are still telling and retelling these stories and making movies of them and finding their own meanings in them. And I think the fact that these texts still speak to us is important. I don't want to say that what they say to us is necessarily more important than what they would have said to the original audiences, but the fact remains that the latter set of meanings are at best only partially recoverable.

And part of it is just how my mind works. I tend to zero in on the familiar. I remember reading the Iliad in the snack bar in my second semester of college. I don't think I particularly wanted to read the Iliad at that point. I signed on for the Epic and Romance course because it was taught by my freshman Shakespeare professor, who was abrasive and subversive and hilarious and generally awesome, but I don't think I had any inherent interest in the subject matter. So yeah, there I am eating fried mozzarella sticks and reading Book Fifteen of the Iliad, and thinking, "What the hell is this?" And then I come to this bit about the Trojans kicking the shit out of the Greeks as when a little boy piles sand by the sea-shore / when in his innocent play he makes sand towers to amuse him / and then still playing, with hands and feet ruins them and wrecks them.

And then, right then, I knew what I was doing in Epic and Romance. Wow. That little Greek boy by some distant seashore was doing exactly what kids do when they play at the beach today, and some poet who may or may not have been named Homer thought it was worth writing about, and by some miracle his words survived. It was probably a silly thing to have an epiphany about, but nevertheless it did hit nineteen-year-old me with the force of an epiphany.

So I read on a few more pages, up to the point where Ajax says, Do you expect, if our ships fall to helm-shining Hektor / that you will walk each of you back dryshod to the land of your fathers? / Do you not hear how Hektor is stirring up all of his people, / how he is raging to set fire to our ships? He is not / inviting you to come to a dance." And I turned to my friends and said, "Hey, did you know that Homer invented sarcasm?" (He probably didn't. I suspect sarcasm has always been with us. But I read that bit out loud to them, and they laughed, and it just blew my mind that a 2,800-year-old joke would translate.)

It still blows my mind. It goes on blowing my mind all the time. And I think that's a big part of why I do what I do.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

you know it's the end of the semester when...

... your entire lesson plan consists of the sentence "I am the Priest."

(The one in Act V, Scene i of Twelfth Night, that is, which my students will be performing and I will be helping. This is not quite the entire class, because we have a peer-review session for the final paper, but it's about the extent of my responsibilities for the day.)

I AM the Priest. Woo hoo!

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

seven quite random facts about me

A meme that Dance tagged me for. If you want to be tagged, too, consider yourself tagged. (At this point, I think everyone has probably done it.)

1) I really, really wanted to be Dian Fossey or Jane Goodall when I was nine or ten. I'm not sure how I ended up in a sedentary profession without great apes. Nowadays I just go to the zoo a lot, although I do want to go to Africa and see some mountain gorillas in the wild someday, assuming there are still mountain gorillas left in the wild by the time I can afford it, which may, sadly, not turn out to be the case.

2) My brother has the same birthday as Harry Potter (month, day, and year) and Juliet Capulet (month and day). I find both of these facts far more interesting than he does.

3) I would much rather travel alone than with somebody else, because (among other things), if you take the wrong bus when you're alone you can sit back and enjoy the ride, rather than worrying about spoiling somebody else's day by getting them lost.

4) The oldest of my second cousins on my father's side (of the same generation as me, none of this "removed" business) was born in the 1940s. The (probable) youngest will be born in 2008.

5) The closest I ever came to the corporate world was a one-semester stint as business manager of our student-run coffeehouse when I was a sophomore in college. Both I and the coffeehouse survived, but I consider this something of a miracle, and have not been tempted to repeat the experiment.

6) I find many of the villains in Renaissance drama oddly sexy. Richard III, Edmund, Bosola, Angelo. Yow.

7) When I was a kid, my father traveled a lot on business, and he was something of a dabbler in languages -- the sort of person who would check out a bunch of teach-yourself-Hebrew tapes at the first hint that he might be going to Israel, and so on. I have inherited this tendency, but I usually end up trying to learn the language after I've visited the place, which doesn't work as well.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

All hail the sitemeter!

So I got one o' them sitemeter thingys. I've always been a little wary of doing that, because it feels a little like spying, but Sisyphus' post about weird Google search strings amused me so much that I couldn't resist.

Thus far, I have learned two things: having a sitemeter makes you click on your own site a great deal more often than you normally would; and this blog is on the first page of results if you Google "The Woman's Prize." (Just as an experiment, I then Googled the title and author of the Work That Is the Subject of Huge Chunks of My Dissertation, My Forthcoming Article, and Multiple Conference Papers, and this site doesn't come up until page 3. Which is a little ironic, as I've only read "The Woman's Prize" once and have no plans to revisit it, but I guess it's as things should be, as I'm trying not to make my RL identity too obvious.)

In other news: One more week of classes to go! (And then a whole hell of a lot of grading, but I'm trying not to think about that.) Also, both of my lit classes said they wanted to have a peer editing day for the final papers when I asked them, so yay -- thirty minutes of instant lesson plan! Plus, there will be film clips.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

wherein I attempt to weed out my library

The English club at New SLAC is having a book sale to raise money for Cool Trip That I Seem To Be Organizing This Year. (This is a little alarming, as I do not normally do organization, and my usual approach to travel is along the lines of "buy a plane ticket to City A, and another one returning a month later from City B, and see what happens in between." I suspect that Travel With Student Groups takes a bit more planning. But I digress.)

Anyway, I thought I would donate some books. I already donated a bunch of books to their last book sale, and brought a boxful to the Free Market in Crunchy Granola Town before I moved, so I'm scraping the bottom of the barrel here. And yet, I probably should not be. I have lots of books I will probably never read again. I have some that I've had for years and have never read at all, but I don't want to part with them before I've had a chance to ascertain what they might contain.

My books fall into three broad categories. There are the books I genuinely like and / or find useful for my work, which I obviously want to keep. There are books that I haven't actually read, or read long ago for an undergraduate course, but keep around in a vague hope that I will find them useful someday. These are the ones with titles like Teach Yourself Thai, Orthography in Shakespeare, and Oral Presentations in the Composition Course: A Brief Guide. I might, actually, give serious thought to donating some of these, except I suspect that undergraduates are even less likely to find them useful or interesting than I am.

And then there are the books that have, broadly defined, Sentimental Value. Pretty much all of my travel guides fall into this category, although most of them are outdated. So does the trashy paperback that I bought at the hotel when I visited the University of Basketball as a prospective student; the Shakespeare authorship conspiracy books that a friend gave me as a graduation present; and the copy of The Duchess of Malfi that used to belong to my undergrad American lit prof (whose class was memorable solely because it inspired me to write a short story about a killer copy of Moby Dick that flew around the English department clubbing boring professors over the head, but somehow those memories seem to have acquired a patina of sentiment with time).

In short, everything has sentimental value. I tried an experiment today where I chose a bookshelf at random and tried to remember when, how, and why I acquired each of the books; there were only three or four that stumped me. The rest all had stories. And I find it very, very hard to get rid of a book with a story. Sigh.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Think interview was neither great nor awful. At any rate, it is Out of My Hands, and that at least is one fewer thing to worry about.

They do not prepare you in grad school for things like having the student member on the search committee ask you questions about the class she's taking with you right now. (Actually, they don't prepare you in grad school for having undergrads on the search committee at all. I keep thinking I should do a whole post about the things your grad school professors won't tell you about interviewing at smaller colleges, except I feel like I should actually get a t-t job before I take it upon myself to dispense advice.)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Too. Much. Happening. At. Once.

I have a phone interview for the t-t job at New SLAC. Tomorrow. This is both very good and very ill-timed, as it comes right on the heels of two hours of student conferences for freshman comp, and right before New Colleague's Poetry Reading. And this afternoon, the secretary dumped a pile of writing proficiency exams that need to be scored ASAP in my lap, and the day after tomorrow, I teach Modern American Play That I Have Never Taught Before And Have No Idea How To Teach As Yet.

OK, I have known about this interview for almost a week, so I have theoretically had time to prepare, but dammit, it doesn't count as time if it's over Thanksgiving break!

Clearly, this is the crazy season, and I need to remember that the craziness lifts right around the second week of December and there is a great stillness, and then Christmas. A comforting rhythm. Interrupted by the redoubled craziness of the MLA, these last few years, but at least it's a pause for breath. I remember going for long walks during exam week when I was an undergrad, and being amazed at how suddenly all the deadlines had gone away. I need a long walk now.

Also, one of the writing exams referred to "playing bad mitten," which is one of the more adorable misspellings I have come across. BAD mitten!

Breathe. The day after the day after tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Monday, November 19, 2007

more job-searchy stuff

Whew, I'm done. Forty-one applications, I think. I amused myself during office hours by making a map of all the places I might be living next year, but I couldn't figure out how to post it without cutting off the eastern third of the country. Anyway, twenty-five different states.

I have never been to twelve of these states. Well, I've sort of been through Ohio, but not in a way that counts. You toss the dice and see where they fall, I guess.

I got to visit some interesting places last year, including one foreign country, so that was cool. Keep your fingers crossed I get to add a few more states to the life-list after this is over.

Is anybody else getting super-twitchy when they refresh their e-mail?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Comments I never envisioned writing on a student paper

"Is every paper you turn in for this class going to have a drunk angel in it?!"

... I guess some people really like drunk angels.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

VAP's Dilemma; or, Yet Another Boring Job Market Post

So, this is my third year on the market. The first time around, I had a half-finished dissertation and no clue what I was doing, so I applied to fifty-odd jobs in the hope that some of them would stick. The second time, I was in a blind panic and applied for every early modern or generalist job on the table, interviewed every which way, and finally ended up in a visiting position here at New SLAC, after one of those fabled late-April miracles.

This year is different. Among other things, they say it's easier to get a job when you have a job, but I'm not sure yet how much easier it is. Then, too, the flip side is that it's a lot harder to apply for jobs when you already have a job, particularly if that job is at a SLAC that emphasizes faculty involvement in the life of the campus, whatever that means. Do I go to the English club meeting, or use the time to revise the teaching statement? Spend the weekend being convivial with the new colleagues, or send applications?

Mostly, I've chosen to put New SLAC stuff first -- partly because I think I have a better shot at being hired for a t-t job here than I do at a place where they've never heard of me before, but mostly because it's what I genuinely want to do. I like this job and I like hanging out with the people here, and I have an uneasy feeling that this, too, is a trap, because for all I know they don't like me enough to hire me for the tenure-track position, and it's best not to get your heart set on any particular job. But I'm here, and this is my life right now, so how am I supposed to not get attached to it?

At this point, it looks like I've definitely caught the attention of a couple of search committees, both at other SLACs that look like they would be quite decent places to work, one of which is in a cool and interesting if rather troubled city. And what worries me is that I should be excited about having one MLA interview lined up and another strong expression of interest this early in the season -- this time last year I would have been jumping for joy -- and this time around I'm not all that excited about these two unknown schools, more worried that I haven't heard anything from the search chair at New SLAC yet. Last year I was all about the great leaps into the unknown, and this year it's like my inner two-year old is stamping her feet and howling "Don't WANNA go anywhere!"

Well -- things will get resolved, one way or another, and in a way it's a comfort to know that so much of the process is out of my hands. It's a bit like getting on the bus in a strange city and seeing where the driver takes you, which is the very best way to take buses, except when you end up at the landfill. (Uh, I'm not sure this analogy is all that comforting after all. Never mind. It's late and I'm tired.)

Monday, November 12, 2007

more poetry

A day late on this one, but it deserves a wider audience, especially now.

A Short Poem for Armistice Day

Gather or take fierce degree
trim the lamp set out for sea
here we are at the workmen's entrance
clock in and shed your eminence.

Notwithstanding, work it diverse ways
work it diverse days, multiplying four digestions
here we make artificial flowers
of paper tin and metal thread.

One eye one leg one arm one lung
a syncopated sick heart-beat
the record is not nearly worn
that weaves a background to our work.

I have no power therefore have patience
these flowers have no sweet scent
no lustre in the petal no increase
from fertilizing flies and bees.

No seed they have no seed
their tendrils are of wire and grip
and buttonhole the lip
and never fade

And will not fade through life
and lustre go in genuine flowers
and men like flowers are cut
and wither on a stem

And will not fade a year or more
I stuck one in a candlestick
and there it clings about the socket
I have no power therefore have patience.

-- Herbert Read

Thursday, November 8, 2007

poetry for an autumn evening

Because after this afternoon's comp class I need something to remind me why I do this, and because all things must pass (except possibly some of the comp students). Yeah, it's been one of those days that leave you feeling vaguely bruised all over, as only very bad classes can do, and I have a feeling it's too late in the semester to hope it will get better.

Sonnet 73

That time of year thou may'st in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see'st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west,
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As on the death-bed whereon it must expire
Consumed with that which it was nourish'd by.
This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

-- William Shakespeare

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.

The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.

I have looked upon these brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All's changed, since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.

Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake's edge or pool
Delight men's eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

-- W. B. Yeats

Monday, November 5, 2007

random and inconsequential job market observations

1) Is it just me, or are a LOT of the affirmative action forms this year asking candidates to identify themselves by name? So much for anonymity. I wonder if they are tracking who responds and who doesn't, or merely trying to give candidates the impression that they are in hopes of inducing more of them to cooperate.

2) If I'm not out of ink, I'm out of paper. And about to be out of envelopes. And if I'm not out of staples, I'm out of paperclips. And I left the damn binder clips at the office AGAIN. This is not a good game for disorganized people, is it?

3) Is there anything more disheartening than applying, yet again, to the school where you didn't get an interview last year? Maybe it shouldn't be disheartening, given that I have a) a diploma in hand; b) a shiny new article coming out; and c) some actual experience as full-time faculty at the type of institution where I'd like to end up, and therefore can reasonably expect to get interviews that I wouldn't have gotten last year, but still, it always feels like I've already shot myself in the foot before I begin.

4) What's up with schools that have stealth requirements in their applications? Like, the MLA ad asks for letter, vita, recs, and transcripts, but then when you go to their web site, the expanded version of the ad strongly suggests that they also want course syllabi and evaluations; or the ad asks only for a letter and vita, but it also says somewhere in the fine print that "recommendations should demonstrate excellence in teaching and scholarship," and you don't know whether to send your letters of rec or not. Or they ask for a "dossier," and you have to figure out what they mean by "dossier," and three weeks later you get a testy note from a secretary asking where your undergraduate transcripts are.

5) This business of looking at department web sites, by the way, is SO not good for those of us who are easily distractable. (Oh, look, they have a pretty building. Hey, I didn't know Edward Albee was still alive. Ooh, department Christmas party pictures! Cute baby! Huh, I wonder what this "poetry blog" thingy is. [Half an hour later] Uh, was I supposed to be applying for something?)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Ghost post

The students here at New SLAC, and some of the faculty, say there is a ghost in the building where I have my office. I have not seen or heard any signs of anything of the sort, but then I tend to be a hard-bitten rationalist about such things, and I do not have encounters with ghosts even when I seek them out.

I know this, for I sought out the one that lived on the third floor of the English building of the Beloved Alma Mater quite aggressively. She was (so the older students said) an unhappy soul who was studying in the building late one night when she was overwhelmed with a fit of despair about her studies, went into the bathroom, smashed the mirror, and cut her wrists with the shards. If you studied on the third floor late at night, and you were doing badly in your classes, she would come in and commisserate with you. But if you were going to ace the finals and knew it, she might throw a book at you.

I sometimes went up to the third floor to study when I was feeling particularly smug about my academic life, in hopes of baiting her into showing herself, because I was that sort of undergrad. But never, never did I have a book thrown at me, not even by anyone made of flesh and blood, though I'm sure some of my professors and classmates were sorely provoked. Alas.

The resident ghost at my graduate school, the University of Basketball, was a young man with a delightfully Dickensian name who was supposedly killed in a duel over a girl. He did not haunt the English building, which was a 1970-era concrete block monstrosity (the one at the Beloved Alma Mater dated from the 1920s, and was charming and shabby). He liked to hang out just off of campus, around one of the more eccentric and mysterious buildings in town. I never saw him, either.

I'm not sure who the ghost at New SLAC is meant to be -- I'll have to find out.

So, any of the rest of y'all have campus ghost stories?

skippin' school

There are a couple of campus events going on today and tomorrow that are extremely relevant to one of my classes, and which I have decided to require the students in that class to attend, so in exchange for the extra demands on their time, I cancelled class today.

So, whee! I get a morning off! Woo hoo! (And oh yes, I totally feel like I'm getting away with something nefarious.)

I think I'm still getting used to the fact that I can cancel classes. In grad school, we were never allowed to cancel freshman comp, ever, unless we were holding conferences with students. You got one of the other grad students to sub, and of course there were always plenty of people who could sub, unlike here, where there are a grand total of seven full-time faculty in the department.

I'm still getting used to a lot of things, actually. I went to see a movie with one of my colleagues -- an older man who DOES look classically professorial, whereas I could easily pass for an undergrad -- a few weeks into the semester, and he said something about how perhaps he should have invited one particular student to join us, but she might not want to go to a movie with two professors anyway -- and I remember thinking, "There's another professor here? Where?" and then, "Oh. Right. Me."

And, of course, part of me doesn't want to get too comfortable in my new role as yet, because who knows whether I'll still have a job here, or anywhere, after this year? I guess that's another reason why taking the morning off feels slightly edgy and daring -- because I'm in the middle of what is essentially a semester-long interview, and maybe I shouldn't be doing this sort of thing. But then again, the events we're attending instead do have a clear educational purpose, and besides, the students will probably regard the change of pace as a treat and may even say nice things about it on the evals, so it's just as likely to work for me as against me.

So I'm thinking about a lot of things, but mostly: Yay! Time off!

Friday, October 26, 2007

so, apparently bad things happen when you don't pay your library fines

... Like, for example, your grad school won't release your transcripts to prospective employers. Because you owe them ONE DOLLAR. Which you would certainly have paid if they had actually charged you the fine while you still lived there, instead of sending a bill which promptly got lost three months later.

Can I get a good old-fashioned job-market AAAUUGGHHH?


Am teaching Spenser. I got a "how would you teach Spenser?" question on my doctoral exams, Lo These Many Years Ago, and wrote a long response that could be summed up as "I'd tell the students all about Ariosto and how he was much cooler." (The professor who set the question was not impressed.) Much to my shock, I seem to have learned to like Spenser in the meantime. I'm not sure my students are impressed.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Still here. Not dead. Have finished the grading, except for late papers and the optional extra-credit revisions from the freshman comp students. Have also sent off fifteen job applications; am trying to work up the motivation to do a few more tonight.

More random things I ponder:

-- Why is it that all grade complaints seem to come from people who are getting some flavor of B, and the most vociferous ones come from people with a B+?

-- Why do all job ads that make extraordinary demands (all course evaluations from the past five years, video of your teaching, undergraduate transcripts, essay about super-specific topic) seem to come from tiny little colleges out in the middle of nowhere?

-- What's up with students who show up for fewer than half of the classes? I can understand skipping a class every now and again, but it seems only prudent to show up most of the time and not disappear for weeks on end. In particular, what's up with students who don't show up on the day papers are due?

I had one last year who attended a grand total of five classes all semester, but at least he wrote all the papers and showed up on the last day of classes to do his final presentation. (He was clearly talking out of his ass during the whole presentation, but somehow he did manage to scrape a B on the final and a passing grade in the class -- which annoyed the heck out of me.) Hmm, maybe they're all thinking they'll be that lucky.

-- Why don't I have any winter clothes suitable for teaching? Winter comes every year. I really should have figured this out by now.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

wherein my week from hell gets ever more hellish

Things I ponder:

-- Why, exactly, did I think it would be a good idea to eat chili with habaneros for dinner when my stomach felt dodgy to begin with? (It wasn't. On the bright (?) side, I have piles and piles of job apps to distract me from my misery.)

-- If a job ad says to include a self-addressed, stamped postcard with your application, does it make you look like more of a flake if you use a pretty picture postcard from Chester, England, or if you don't send one at all? (Assume, for the sake of argument, that going out and buying a nice professional blank postcard for the occasion is Just Not Going To Happen.)

-- What's up with ads that ask for personal statements about something very specific and eccentric? Do they think we have nothing better to do than write a custom-tailored essay for every application?

-- What the heck do you say in a job letter for a department where you're already a VAP? It seems really stupid to be telling them stuff about me that they already know, yet some of it would look equally stupid if left out.

Essays graded: 12
Blatant cases of plagiarism found: 2
Plagiarists confronted: 1
Job application packets assembled: 3

Monday, October 15, 2007

stats from hell week

Job apps due between now and November 2: 20
Job apps sent this week: 0

Papers collected this morning: 16
Students enrolled in the class where papers were due this morning: 20
Papers graded: 6
Cases of plagiarism discovered: 1 definite, 1 probable (but I won't be able to nail the second student without subscribing to a pay-for-papers site. Blah.)
E-mails dispatched to plagiarizing students: 1
E-mails answered: 0

Number of papers yet to be collected this week: 50 40. (Sometimes, not being able to count has its perks).

Yeesh. Why do I do this to myself, again?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Going a-conferencing

So, the conference is over. It was good. I think my paper went over reasonably well, apart from the bit in the q-and-a session when someone asked me a question that I really, really should have known the answer to, and I hadn't the foggiest. Apart from that it was fine. Now I need to polish it up and submit it to Proceedings of Conference while it's still fresh in my mind.

There were a few University of Basketball people there -- two professors, one grad student -- which was nice, because I hadn't seen anyone from grad school since I moved. (Which was, of course, only two and a half months ago, but it seems like an age.) Yay for familiar faces. It made me realize how much I lucked out when I chose a grad program, because they were all sincerely congratulatory about my one-year job at an obscure little liberal arts college and wished me luck in my bid for the t-t job at New SLAC. While I think my graduate program could have done a better job preparing people to interview for small-teaching-college jobs, no one on the faculty ever acted like those jobs were somehow lesser or unworthy, and in general, there was a lot of support for grad students with young children or other complicated family situations. (Of course, I knew nothing about this when I chose a grad school. I was twenty-one, and I picked the U. of Basketball because they offered me money and the people there seemed friendly. Which they were. Maybe those weren't such bad reasons, after all.)

They also fed us well, which is always a nice feature in a conference. Mmm, chocolate walnut pie.

I'm here till tomorrow, so I guess I'll do some exploring. (Not that I really need to be exploring instead of prepping for class, but what the hell.)

Friday, October 12, 2007

a Chronicle column

Mmm. I'm not given to griping about Chronicle columns as a general rule. (I know it's a favorite blood sport with some people, but I've written several, and it's a damned hard genre to get right -- besides, I always worry that someone is out there on the Net snarking at my stuff, so I want to be nice to other people.) That said, does anyone else feel put off by this column? I mean, yes, Plagiarism Is A Very Bad Thing, but some of the other stuff she complains about ... isn't, really, particularly in an overcrowded humanities field (and I do get an English-y vibe from the column, though I could be wrong). People have the right to change their minds about their career goals, yes? And in particular, I'm getting the impression that she considers any job not at an R1 to be a dead loss.

Ah well.

In other news: am at a conference. Whee! (Does anybody else feel like they're Getting Away With Something when they leave on Wednesday or Thursday to go to a conference? I know, perfectly legitimate, part of one's professional responsibilities, yet somehow it always feels like skipping school.)

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

in which I am a Corrupter of Youth

Today's five-minute in-class writing question: What do you imagine happens after the end of Othello?

Overheard after class:

"We should write Othello II."

"With a cyborg and a robot."

"And a pirate!"

"Yeah, Iago's a pirate, Othello's a robot."

"It could be a sitcom."

(I resisted the urge to tell them about Antonio's Revenge.)

Monday, October 8, 2007

twelve things to do that are not applying for jobs

1) Hold sixteen student conferences, assuming that they all show up, which isn't very likely since one has apparently dropped off the face of the earth, and another one shows up occasionally but is failing due to his extreme lack of involvement and apparent inability to meet deadlines. Explain to failing student why he's failing (if he shows up). Explain to other student that I can see him when he text-messages under the desk.

2) Ask for letter from chair. Which I should have done weeks ago, and is now much harder to do than it would have been back then. Would it look horrible if I didn't have a letter from my chair, seeing as how I've only been working here for six weeks?

3) Check to see if other rec letters are in.

4) Re-familiarize myself with conference paper that I wrote five months ago. Make handouts for conference.

5) Go to New Faculty Reception, Lunch With Library Staff, and, possibly, Music Department Concert. Gotta be seen.

6) Oh yeah, teach.

7) Go to conference. Try not to disgrace self.

8) Return home; collect fifty-odd student papers because stupid me decided to make them all due the same week. Grade, and grade, and grade.

9) Teach some more. Execute Cunning Plan by holding a class consisting entirely of film clips. Hope they're not onto me.

10) Go visit parents, as we get Friday of next week off. Probably they will not like it if I spend the whole weekend grading.

11) Teach some more.

12) Freak out, because it is now the fourth week in October and most job apps are due on the first and second of November. Eek!

I can do this, right? I've done this before, and this time last year I had a dissertation to defend, and not that many fewer students than I have now.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

on the fine art of subconscious emulation...

So I was just looking through my Norton Critical edition of the Canterbury tales (dating from undergrad, when I had Chaucer with Professor C.), I think to check a footnote or something. And I discovered that I had written at the bottom of a page (of the Nun's Priest's Tale, natch), "Bored? Get your professor to imitate a chicken!" (I can see Professor C. doing this, totally, but I'd forgotten all about it.)

We just did a read-through of the Nun's Priest's Tale on Friday. Featuring, you guessed it, me imitating a chicken.

It's always a little eerie to discover that you're turning into your old professors without actually meaning to. Heh.

ETA: Is it just me, or should statements of teaching philosophy contain the word "chicken" more often? I mean, everyone says, "I practice student-centered pedagogy" (yawn...), but how many people can say they practice chicken-centered pedagogy?

... OK, maybe it is just me. Never mind.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Yes, you really DO have to turn in the paper on the day it's due

I really think my freshman comp students are on crack. Are anyone else's freshmen on crack? Where are they scoring all this crack, and how can I get some?

Thursday, and exhausted. That is all.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

the end of the honeymoon

So, Grading is at last rearing its ugly head. I handed out the first grades in the lit classes yesterday (for a short assignment in the Brit lit class, and for the first group presentation in drama), and I should be collecting the first freshman comp papers on Thursday. Ouch. I hate this time of semester, not only because it's when teaching starts to feel like real work, but also because the whole carrot-and-stick arrangement changes the dynamic of a class in ways that I don't like. (Most of the time, anyway. I'm beginning to feel like a few of the freshman comp students NEED to be whacked with a stick or two, but that's a different rant for another time.) Anyway, I feel like this whole exercise ought to be about inquiry, not about evaluation, or at least not about the sort of evaluation that can be expressed as a single letter. I'd really like to teach at one of those hippie SLACs that have narrative evaluations instead of grades, for all that it sounds like more work.

Freshman comp is where it gets particularly awkward, because you have all these brand-new students like little snails, just starting to poke their heads out of their shells and express opinions of their own, and then you have to smack them with the Grading Stick and send them quivering back inside.

I never had a freshman comp class when I was in college. I had what was called a Writing-Intensive Freshman Seminar, taught by an eccentric Classics professor and about an eccentric topic, with short ungraded response papers every week and one ten-page term paper. No grades until after the class was over. And I had Introduction to Shakespeare, which was really Introduction to Shakespeare and Assorted Other Stuff, including anecdotes about the Soviet news service, a look at the Victorian-era illustrated Shakespeare the professor had picked up over the weekend (and musings about how the female characters were depicted, and which ones weren't depicted at all, and why), and reminiscences about the freshman humanities program at the professor's alma mater, thirty years ago and more. It was, in short, an introduction to the kind of connections that thinking people make, and I believe everyone should have a class like that in their first semester of college.

I feel like there ought to be a way to pull that sort of thing off in freshman comp -- where better than in a course that has no set factual content and is ostensibly all about how to write and think? -- but I've never been able to make it work. I wonder if the fact that comp students are openly being graded on these abilities, rather than on their mastery of a specific body of course content, is precisely what kills their drive to think and inquire and make connections. (My Shakespeare professor would assuredly have said so; he was quite vocal about his opposition to the grading system, which didn't, however, stop him from delivering frequent smackdowns-by-grade.)

Blah. There isn't really much to be done, I guess, except to make one's own reservations about grading, and the trade-offs and limitations involved, public -- which I do intend to do, as soon as I collect that first set of papers. But I have the feeling that they are not going to pay attention to my thoughts on the subject, probably will not pay much attention to the course reading for Thursday, and will pay a great deal of attention to that single letter at the bottom of their papers. And why shouldn't they? The letter is what they will have to explain to their parents and advisors and, eventually, graduate admissions officers or employers, and none of these other people are going to care what we actually did in the class on any given day -- particularly if the activity in question is something as ephemeral as a conversation. Maybe not even an honest conversation, because how often are we honest with our judges, our adversaries, our evaluators? We say what we think they want to here (or, perhaps more often in the case of college freshmen, keep silent and hope they don't call on us).

Right, these thoughts probably aren't going into the statement of teaching philosophy any time soon...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

September 19th

Ahem. :: clears throat ::

Pool! Sir Pool! lord!
Ay, kennel, puddle, sink; whose filth and dirt
Troubles the silver spring where England drinks.
Now will I dam up this thy yawning mouth
For swallowing the treasure of the realm:
Thy lips that kiss'd the queen shall sweep the ground;
And thou that smiledst at good Duke Humphrey's death,
Against the senseless winds shalt grin in vain,
Who in contempt shall hiss at thee again:
And wedded be thou to the hags of hell,
For daring to affy a mighty lord
Unto the daughter of a worthless king,
Having neither subject, wealth, nor diadem.
By devilish policy art thou grown great,
And, like ambitious Sylla, overgorged
With gobbets of thy mother's bleeding heart.
By thee Anjou and Maine were sold to France,
The false revolting Normans thorough thee
Disdain to call us lord, and Picardy
Hath slain their governors, surprised our forts,
And sent the ragged soldiers wounded home.
The princely Warwick, and the Nevils all,
Whose dreadful swords were never drawn in vain,
As hating thee, are rising up in arms:
And now the house of York, thrust from the crown
By shameful murder of a guiltless king
And lofty proud encroaching tyranny,
Burns with revenging fire; whose hopeful colours
Advance our half-faced sun, striving to shine,
Under the which is writ 'Invitis nubibus.'
The commons here in Kent are up in arms:
And, to conclude, reproach and beggary
Is crept into the palace of our king.
And all by thee. Away! convey him hence.

Happy Talk Like A Pirate Day, y'all!

Monday, September 17, 2007

JIL post, serious version

So, the good news first: this looks like another busy year in my field, even if a lot of the early postings look distinctly out of my reach. Whoo, exciting!

Bad news: I don't want to get too specific about this, for obvious reasons, but the wording of my department's ad makes me suspect they're looking to hire someone for the tenure-track job who isn't me. Better to know this sooner than later, I guess, but ... crap.

General weirdness: I'm starting to feel the isolation here. After two years on the market, I figured I was a tired and blooded veteran who knew All About the Job Search and was ready to go solo, but ... not so much, really. I almost wish I had accepted the postdoc my graduate department offered me instead of moving halfway across the country for a one-year visiting position, although I know that if I had taken it, I'd feel like I was just marking time and I'd probably be climbing the walls by now. Most of my friends had already left, and the postdoc wouldn't have given me any opportunity to teach in my field. It was time for me to move on, and I know I've made the right decision. But ... I miss grad school. I miss being surrounded by a large, friendly cohort of people who were in the same situation, and going out drinking on payday, and being able to talk about doubts and fears and things that aren't going right in the classroom without feeling like you're showing your soft underbelly. My new colleagues are very nice, and have done a lot to make me feel welcome, but still there's an age gap and a power gap, and I don't know any of them very well yet.

I guess this is normal, especially for VAPs, and it says good things about my graduate department, so I can't really complain. Still, I can't help feeling a little blue about it right now.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Translations, Part I

While we all wait for the JIL to come out (2 p.m.?!? I'm getting seriously twitchy here), I thought I'd put up a helpful guide to the lingo of the job search for the newbies. (What, you thought a job search for an English professor would be conducted in English? Sort of, but not quite...)

The Advertisement:

Our department seeking a Literature scholar who is willing serve as Assitant Porfessor of English.

Well, we certainly NEED an English teacher, but we may not actually WANT one.

We are seeking a specialist in Chaucer and Romantic Literature. The ideal candidate would also be fluent in Old Irish.

By a truly remarkable coincidence, such a person not only exists, but is already adjuncting in our department! Isn't that amazing?

We are looking for an Early Modernist scholar.

We really want someone who does E.M. Forster, but we're about to be inundated by applications from Shakespeareans. Or vice versa. Whichever we want, it'll be the one that you aren't.

East Podunk is a cosmopolitan town with many opportunities for outdoor recreation.

We have a Thai restaurant. We may or may not have houses.

Send letter of intent, CV, five letters of recommendation, a statement of teaching philosophy, a statement of research interests, reprints, preprints, student evaluations, and undergraduate and graduate transcripts to the following address...

Nobody will ever look at this stuff again, but it helps us narrow the pool of applicants to the truly desperate.

Interviews will be conducted at the MLA convention or by phone.

We're waiting to see if the Dean will give us money to travel to the MLA, but he probably won't. Actually, we might not get enough money to pay the new hire, either.

Please inform us of our plans to attend the MLA convention.

Maybe this is a typo. But then again, it might be nice if the candidate could also teach fortune-telling.

The Letter:

I expect to complete my dissertation in May 2008.

If the planets align just right, I might finish in August.

I have nearly completed my dissertation [no date given].

I've almost started.

My future research plans include...

Fortunately, plans don't cost anything.

While my primary interest is Romantic poetry, I am prepared to teach courses in British literature from 1770 to 2007...

You only think you want a postmodernist. They're weird.

I enjoy the challenges of working with a diverse population of students, and I am therefore particularly interested in the job at the Alcatraz College of Criminal Justice.

I sure hope your college is on the right side of the bars.

For family reasons, I would very much like to move to East Podunk, so I am particularly interested in this position.

My second cousin lives in West Podunk, 150 miles away. I think I might have met her once.

I am particularly interested in the job at Confused State because I would like to work at a university with a strong commitment to diversity and public service.

Your job ad is so cryptic I can't tell what you're looking for, and your web site so confusing I can't find your mission statement, but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that even if you hate diversity and public service, you probably won't say it out loud.

I am particularly interested in the position...

... because it means I might get paid! Dude, why do you THINK people apply for jobs?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

and thus yirnez the yere in yisterdayez mony

It's been nippy out these last few days. Not cold, exactly, but you can feel the cold waiting in the shadows when you turn away from the sun.

I have always liked the coming of autumn, even though I know it's completely irrational; when I was a kid, it meant another long dull year in school, and now it means that the flurry of work that comes at the beginning of the semester is about to turn into a snowstorm, and by the end of October I'll be lucky to have a free moment. Besides, I don't like winter very much. But there is something irresistible about that first hint of crispness in the air.

We've been reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the Brit lit class, and that poem always makes me think about cycles and seasons and the passing of time. One of the nice things about this profession is that there is a well-defined yearly cycle, even if it's a weird backwards cycle where summers are the dormant time and renewal comes in the fall; August and September bring new students, fresh chances to get things right, a bright bundle of promises. That might be one of the reasons why I like this time of year so much -- it reminds me of those first months when I was a freshman in college, reading Shakespeare outdoors under ancient trees and reveling in my newly discovered freedom. Except, of course, I'm not a freshman, and the new crop of freshmen are getting farther and farther from my age every year. When I started teaching they were only six years younger than I was; now it's thirteen and counting. I don't really feel the difference yet, but the chill in the air reminds me that it's there.

More practical and job-market-related posts to come, I'm sure (believe me, I know I've got only one day left before All Hell Breaks Loose on that front), but today I just like having a little time to reflect and a little breathing space.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

misc. stuff

1) Somebody sent me a free copy of The History Boys for absolutely no discernable reason! I love random free books!

2) Shoot me if I ever try to read Cardinal Newman with freshman comp students again. Ow, that was painful.

3) Heu Mihi tagged me for this meme, so what the heck.

4 first names of crushes:

Jeremie. Yeah, spelled that way. We met on a school trip when I was a senior in high school, and unfortunately I was too socially awkward to make things work, but I have nice memories of that trip.
Michael. He read Milton for fun, and I was hopelessly and desperately in love with him from the ages of seventeen to nineteen (kids, don't go to the same college as your high-school crush), but again, it was doomed by my hopeless geekery.
Tom. Studied abroad with him. Unfortunately, he was one of those study-abroad students who find Interesting Foreign Girlfriends, so it was not meant to be.
Daniel. As in Daniel de Bosola, whom I find inexplicably hot. (I'm prone to literary crushes, but I figured it would be cheating if I filled the list with fictional characters.)

4 Pieces of Clothing I wish I still owned (and/or that still fit):

My favorite tie-dyed shirt from high school
My brown sandals, which I threw away when I moved because they were worn out
The last pair of jeans to wear out, which were quite comfortable
The necklace I left at my boyfriend's house in March of 1999, right before he decided to do a disappearing act. I don't miss him, but I kind of miss the necklace.

4 names I've been called at one time or another:

"Bat," "Bucky O'Hare," and "Hey, stupid," all courtesy of my junior high school classmates
"Professor." I really hope some of said classmates are working at the 7-11.

4 professions I secretly want to try:

Travel writer
EFL teacher, someplace interesting and exotic
Study abroad director

4 musicians I'd most want to go on a date with:

John Lennon (before he died, of course)
Jakob Dylan (though mostly because I'd like to meet his dad)
Jim Malcolm, who is not only rather cute but has a fabulous accent
Any of the musicians at the Globe, circa 1600. Because that would be cool.

4 foods I'd rather throw than eat:

Egg, tuna, or chicken salad (which would be rather gross to throw, but better thrown than eaten, anyway)
Red Delicious apples
Bagels (I like bagels, but they look delightfully throwable)

4 things I like to sniff:

Autumn leaves

4 people I tag:

Anyone who wants to be tagged, can be

Monday, September 10, 2007

WTFQ, Norton?

So, it seems there is a new edition of the Norton Anthology out. I'm sure everybody in the world knew this except me, but I didn't, because I live under a rock, and in any case I drew up my syllabi for this year before I moved to New SLAC Town, and thus had nowhere to tell people to send desk copies. So I've only just had a chance to look at it.

Wait, what happened to Book 3 of the Faerie Queene? They didn't have the whole thing in there to begin with, but this time around they've totally and completely gutted it, with only three cantos left standing. Book 3 is the fun part, dammit! I don't even like Spenser all that much, but even I like Book 3. Who the hell decided this would be a good idea?

They seem to have deleted Margery Kempe's examination for heresy, too. Growf.

On the bright side, there is an online archive of deleted bits -- which is helpful, and means I don't have to do anything really desperate such as forcing my students to read about that bore Redcrosse -- but browsing it makes for interesting and depressing reading. They've deleted so much fabulous stuff over the years! Mankind! And "Sir Orfeo"! And the Franklin's and Merchant's tales, not to mention Sir Thopas. Substantial chunks of The Tragedy of Mariam seem to have appeared in the last edition and become considerably less substantial in this one; "Lludd and Llewelys" and a couple of Marie de France's fables have appeared and disappeared just as quickly.

Oh well. The Norton is eterne in mutabilitie, I guess. Now I just have to figure out what the heck I'm going to do about Utopia now that they've given the students the whole text instead of excerpts. I'd really like to teach the whole thing. On the other hand, I don't want to not teach all the Spenser I'd planned to cover, or the extra Shakespeare play, or... Yeah, too many great things to read, not enough time. (Most of my professors in undergrad sailed blithely ahead and said, "OK, we're going to read it all," and I was generally with them all the way, so I was well into grad school before I discovered that there are limits to the sort of reading load that most undergraduates are willing to consider reasonable.)

Oh, screw it. I think we're going to read it all.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

week two

Yay, good Beowulf class today! I tried a pair / small group activity that I invented for one of my other classes last year -- pulled about six provocative quotations from different critical articles, put them all on a handout, and told the students to get into pairs or groups of three and pick a quote to talk about -- disagree, agree, find other examples, wonder what the heck the critic meant, whatever. I usually like to do this later in the semester, when they've read a few more texts, but this class really needed a kick-start, and it seems to have worked.

And in the drama class, we watched YouTube, and it was good. I think YouTube might be the best resource ever -- I've already found clips from two interestingly different versions of Lysistrata up there, so I have another instant lesson plan.

And the bookstore finally got enough copies of the Norton Anthology in for everybody to have their own, and I got mine back from the student who borrowed it. I went back to my office (carrying the anthology under my arm because my shoulder bag is already stuffed with other books) and had the following conversation with the professor down the hall:

"Wow, that's a big book! What happened to it?"

"Oh." (I am used to looking at my anthology, so I rarely think about the fact that I have accidentally dyed it pink.) "Well, I was carrying it in a red canvas bag one time, and it started raining..."

"It looks like it's bleeding. Poor book!"

Right, I think it's time to get a new desk copy...

Monday, September 3, 2007

:: blinks ::

Whoa there, Inside Higher Ed linked to my post about new faculty orientation? Yeep! I feel like I should have said something more profound (and probably revealed less about who and where I am, come to think of it!)

Oh well, it's damned hard to conceal your identity for any length of time on the Internet, so I've always figured somebody would tumble to it sooner or later, and I don't really post anything I wouldn't tell my colleagues if they asked. At least, I find it hard, and judging by the number of times I've been able to spot the online persona of someone I know in real life (I once won a case of beer because a friend bet me that I couldn't), other people find it equally hard. It's funny how distinctive people's voices are; I had a roommate in grad school who, unbeknownst to me, started posting to a message board that I had told her about, and I kept looking at her posts and thinking, "Wow, that sounds so much like something [my roommate] would say," -- and sure enough, it was. It's happened the other way around, too; a few years ago I stumbled across an online journal by someone who was clearly a student at the University of Basketball, in which she wrote about signing up for a course that I happened to be teaching, and by the second week of class I had a fairly good idea which student it was. (That sort of thing obviously brings up all kinds of etiquette-and-ethics conundrums, and of course I didn't visit her journal after that, but eventually I did get confirmation that I was right.)

Anyway, I'd guess that this sort of story is more common than you'd expect, since people with common interests tend to flock together online and in real life, and the population that uses the Internet as a social venue is still fairly small and homogeneous. Still, it feels really weird when it happens.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

One week...

So, end of my first week as full-time faculty. So far, this doesn't feel a great deal harder than being a grad student; I'm teaching three courses instead of two, and there are more meetings, but on the other hand, I have about the same number of students and I don't have a dissertation to write. Of course, the job market hasn't hit yet, and neither have a lot of other aspects of the job.

I'm liking the drama class a lot, and, thus far, freshman English seems OK apart from the inevitable pacing problems and the challenges of negotiating a new program where People Do Things Differently. On the surface, the freshman comp program here seems a lot less regimented than it did at the University of Basketball, but there are a couple of very rigid requirements that I didn't know about until my syllabus turned out not to meet them. And then, after teaching six sections of the equivalent course at the U. of B., I could more or less do it in my sleep, while there are so many little things that need to be reworked here. But the students themselves seeme like a lively and friendly bunch, and I haven't run into any real attitude problems yet.

The Brit lit class still feels kind of dead, and I have no idea whether they hate Beowulf or hate the way I teach Beowulf. Or possibly they're just naturally quiet and don't hate anything. What worries me is that the last time I taught an early-Brit Lit survey, it sucked (this is not just my own impression -- the course evals said it sucked, too), and I'm starting to feel like this course is jinxed. Which would be a Very Bad Thing, because it's one of the core courses I'll have to teach wherever I end up. And this is precisely the class that shouldn't suck! Why is it that I'm fine in front of a bunch of business majors who don't really want to be in freshman comp, and fine in classes for non-majors that people are only taking to fulfill their distribution requirements, but I choke in front of English majors? Bleah. Oh well, maybe things will be better when we get to Marie de France and Gawain, and ... yikes, Chaucer in two weeks? I am so not ready.

Trying not to think about the fact that the MLA job list will also be out in two weeks. I have a feeling that the strategy for this year, my third year on the market, ought to be different from my last two times out -- probably, fewer applications to fewer different types of schools, more focus and tailoring in the letters. After all, I know more or less what sort of schools will consent to give me an interview; besides, I need to save my time and energy for my new department, which will be running a tenure-track search for my current position. On the other hand, I know the temptation to apply to everything in sight is going to hit as soon as I see the list. (Prior experience suggests that I am really, really good at getting first-round interviews, but spectacularly good at screwing interviews up once I get them, so I feel like I've got to spread a wide enough net to be sure of making it to the second round at all.)

So yeah, no pressure this semester at all.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

thus far ...

-- I like teaching Agamemnon, but then I've already done it twice, and this year someone has uploaded an entire production to YouTube. Woo hoo instant lesson plan!

-- I'm not sure how I feel about teaching Beowulf. This is my first time, and I haven't studied it since my first year in grad school. My sense is that today's class felt a little flat and disjointed, despite all the pretty pictures of items from the Sutton Hoo ship burial, and I'm still struggling to frame provocative discussion questions. (Then, too, it's damned hard to talk about the poem when the students have only read a third of it.) Those of you who have taught it before, what's worked for you?

-- There are only three men in the Brit Lit class and only three women in freshman comp. Well, there might be a fourth, but she hasn't shown up yet. I'm not sure I like either of these ratios (though two of the best comp classes I've taught in the past have had only three or four guys); that sort of thing makes a class feel unbalanced, somehow.

-- I am SO not used to the two-hour marathon comp class. Yikes, what do you do with that? Out of desperation, I ended up passing out a bunch of index cards midway through the first hour and asked the students to write down any questions they had about the class -- anonymously. Somewhat to my surprise, this worked like a charm -- all but two of them asked something, and they were mostly good questions, stuff that I'd forgotten to clarify on the syllabus. I should do this again. I hope I remember. Unfortunately, most of them said they didn't like to write (this was one of the questions I asked them to address in the diagnostic essay). This could be a very long semester indeed. Or I could convert them. I hope I convert them.

So yeah, over the hump, less than half of the first week to go.

Monday, August 27, 2007

First day of classes...

An acceptable first day. Not a brilliant first day. I probably shouldn't have decided to spend the last half-hour before class reading research about student evaluations, because damn, that stuff makes you feel like there's a lot riding on the first day. It also makes you feel totally inadequate if you're a not-very-expressive introvert who has difficulty pulling off comedy or dynamism in front of a crowd of strangers.

Right, so trying not to think about research on student evaluations, or about the thread on the Chronicle forums last week where there was a general consensus that letting class out early on the first day is Bad, Bad, Bad. Trying, also, not to think about the fact that I'm a VAP in a department that will be running a tenure-track search this year, and so this is in effect a six- or seven-month-long interview. Or about the fact that I totally forgot to tell the Brit Lit class to read the introduction to Beowulf in the Norton anthology and not just the text itself. Oh, and I lent my anthology to a student whose financial aid didn't come through in time for her to buy books, and I fear I may never see it again. Eeep.

It will get better. It will get a great deal better as early as Wednesday, when people will have actually read the texts and we can talk about them. Still, I would like for just once in my life to have a first day that isn't dead awkward and doesn't make me feel like an impostor (though I have no rational reason to believe that the students will think I am an impostor, and I need to remember that).

In other news: I dislike whiteboards. I've bought my own markers because the ones at school barely write, but really, what's the matter with good old-fashioned chalk?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Went to New City this morning with a bunch of students and a couple of other faculty to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. Apparently this is required for first-year students, part of freshman orientation. I'm not entirely down with the concept of mandatory volunteering (isn't that some sort of oxymoron?), but it is a neat idea. I didn't really have a clue what I was doing, so I just did what people told me to, but I helped plant some trees and inventory the building equipment, and put down lots and lots of sod. They were just about finished with the houses (families moving in this afternoon), so there were just the yards left to do. Amazing how much difference a little sod and a few bushes can make -- it turns the place from a construction site into a real yard more or less instantly.

Overheard, from one freshman guy to an older volunteer: "Why do people do this when they don't have to?" OK, maybe not everybody thinks it's a neat idea.

Approximately forty-two hours left until I teach my first class here. Eeep!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

New Faculty Orientation

There was free food, and lots of it. This is always a desirable trait in an orientation.


There should, however, be bingo cards. Seriously. It would be a lot easier to stay awake if you got to check off a space every time somebody said, "New SLAC is just like a family!" or "... College, I mean University." (New SLAC has technically just become New SLAU, although I'm going to go on calling it New SLAC because I'm a contrarian. Besides, the Beloved Alma Mater is three times as big and still calls itself a college, although the Beloved Alma Mater has never been one to allow minor incidents such as the American Revolution to force a name change, so it might not be the best example.)


We got to Process in Regalia for opening convocation. This is still a novelty to me, so I enjoyed it, although Lord knows those costumes were designed for medieval Europe and not the southern end of the Midwest in the middle of August. Still, there is something irresistably charming about being paid to dress up like you're at a Renaissance Faire from time to time. Of course, one could always just get a job at a Renaissance Faire and skip the Ph.D. Damn, why didn't I think of that nine years ago?


Just before convocation, in the little anteroom where people put on their robes and leave shoulder bags and such baggage, an older gentleman whom I don't know approaches me.

"Are you going to carry the mace?"

"What? Er, no. Not that I know of."

"Oh. Are you going to make a speech, then?"

"Dear Lord, I certainly hope not!" (A speech? No one told me anything about a speech. Are they in the habit of tapping junior faculty for surprise convocation speeches? Um, help?)

All Becomes Clear when the convocation itself is in session, with an undergrad carrying the mace, and another one making a speech. I guess I should have put the robes on sooner, because they do at least make it clear that I must be over twenty-seven and probably closer to thirty; apparently I can't rely on my face alone to give this impression.


Convocation began and ended with a prayer. Having attended public schools from kindergarten straight through grad school, and having no particular religious faith of my own, I wasn't sure how I felt about this; but this seems to be the right sort of Christian-affiliated school, the kind that respects its employees' freedom to believe and teach as they choose and channels its religious mission into doing some good in the world. I'm probably going to join one of the groups doing volunteer-ish stuff in the community on Saturday, and I think, on the whole, that I will like it here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

beginning-of-semester stuff

Have finished this semester's syllabi. Six pages of fine print. Five pages of fine print. Another six pages of fine print. I know this is mostly down to the fact that I've finally gotten organized and included detailed directions for the written assignments in the syllabus, instead of making them up at the last minute, but it still feels slightly excessive.

I had a vague recollection that most of my undergrad profs just handed us a list of readings and dates, but now that I think about it, this isn't strictly accurate -- or rather, they typically handed out other stuff with the list of readings and dates. Favorite Undergrad Prof Ever had a six-page document full of guidelines for writing papers, ending with a page-long rant on Why Grades Serve the System and Not the Students. I've adapted and imitated freely, although I don't think I could bring off the bits that could only have been written by an old New Yorker with tenure and an attitude ("You would have to be a fool, in any case, to think you had to tell me that Shakespeare's first name is William...") I kept the grading rant, or rather wrote my own gentler Southern hippie-chick version, complete with quotations from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Maybe it is better to front-load one's philosophy, opinions, and quirks, even if it takes six pages to do it. Students have a right to know what they're getting into.

So much for the two literature classes. For the comp class I have the luxury of actually assigning a chunk of ZatAoMM a bit later in the semester, as well as a charming article that appeared in the Washington Post in 1993, Robert Day's "The ABCs of Enlightenment." I was a senior in high school when it came out, and my AP English teacher liked it so much that he ran off copies for the whole class. (He was an older guy with a cop mustache who referred to the entire Romantic movement as "a load of crap," and he pissed me off no end by giving me a C on a paper because I said Clytemnestra was the most sympathetic character in the Oresteia. He was also the most brilliant teacher I've ever had the privilege of seeing in action. I'm not a worthy successor, and the prospect of teaching the Oresteia next week brings that home acutely. But I like sharing the article when I can.)

Anyway, some excerpts:

Alphabets. In themselves they are interesting. So is college interesting in itself: as in learning for its own sake. You don't need to go to the Career Placement Office your first week on campus. Yes, you'll want a job when you graduate. But you'll need an education first, and the kind of education that awaits you will light up the job search in ways you cannot now imagine. If you think you need to be something by the time you graduate, tell youself you want to be enlightened. If you don't know what enlightened means (exactly), look it up (do that now to get in practice for those term papers). You might also want to keep the idea of enlightenment (or the 18th-century European philosophy of the same name) in mind: It's a good North Star for any student lost in a sea of academic requirements.

In the meantime, did you know that the world "alphabet" is a combination of the first two letters of the Greek alphabet, alpha and beta -- thus, in Greek, "alphabet" stands for the whole collection of Greek letters, just as our "ABCs stands for A through Z -- not to mention a number of other concepts of completion. Language is lovely. The history of language is inexhaustably lovely. Trust me. I am your first professor.


French. Did you pick a college or university that does not require a foreign language? Then require it of yourself. Whose education is it, anyway? Bsides, how do you expect to spend August in Paris if you don't know "une fleur" from "une mauvaise herbe"? Miss Stein (at 27 rue de Fleurus) would be disappointed.


Oxford English Dictionary on Historical Principles Founded Mainly on the Materials Collected by the Philological Society. It was the poet W. H. Auden's favorite book. You might get over a fascination for alphabets, but no well-educated person ever gets over a fascination for dictionaries. Keep one open in your dorm room at all times.


Question. Of course. And often.


Why? Almost always a good question.


Zeal. Somewhere I read a definition of a student as a person in zealous and voluntary pursuit of language. That's you.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

On bread, and other foodstuffs

I went to Panera this morning. Mmm, good bread. I haven't had any since I left University of Basketball town, where we had a co-op that made terrific bread (and terrific scones, and cherry-almond tarts and ... yum.) It's funny how you take little stuff like that for granted, until it's gone.

So far, much of the stuff I miss about U. of B. Town is food-related -- milk and ice cream from the local dairy, the Middle Eastern deli where you get an enormous plate of food for $6.99, the Mexican place with six different kinds of homemade salsa, barbecue. I found another dairy here that sells milk in glass bottles, and there's a place in New City that can satisfy the falafel cravings, but I don't think there's much to be done about the barbecue. It's really the department pig pickin' that I miss, because there's nothing like sitting out under the stars with a bottle of bourbon and the smell of slow-cooking pig in the air.

Come to think about it, memories of my favorite places are nearly always intertwined with memories of food -- nothing says "childhood beach vacations" to me like corn on the cob and fresh tomatoes and a whole heap of blue crabs with Old Bay. And studying abroad? All about the paella and oranges and the Serrano ham and oh my God, the coffee. I've been back to Spain twice since then, and just going to the bar for a sandwich brought the memories flooding back. Good stuff.

I'm sure I'll miss a lot of little things when (and if) I move away from here, but I don't know what they are yet.

So yeah, food, a good thing, especially when shared with other people. Don't you agree?

Thursday, August 9, 2007


I have an office! It's all mine! It's not the one that it looked like I was going to get when I visited in June, because apparently the department has been playing Musical Offices, but this one has a view of trees too, so it's all good. They are dogwoods, and they will be pretty in the spring.

There's still a bunch of stuff left over from the previous occupant -- some files with student work, a bunch of literature anthologies and a science fiction novel that looks like it might be interesting, and a Canadian flag over the door (I may have to do something about that). The computer is his, too, and so far it refuses to acknowledge me as its new mistress. The A/C window unit is entirely too feeble to make a dent in the heat. Still ... office! My own!

I've been thinking a bit about office doors. Back when I was an undergrad, I used to like to look at them when I signed on for a class so I could get a feel for the instructor's personality. One of my favorite profs had Doonesbury cartoons about grade inflation. I went back for a visit in February and they were still there -- a little older and yellower, and they had been very yellow even when I was a freshman. The children's lit specialist in my grad department had a brightly colored poster titled "Telling About Books," with lots of happy multiracial children lounging around reading, and a list of questions: "Who was your favorite character? Which picture in the book do you like best? How did you feel about the end of the story?" Ah, if only things stayed that simple...

So anyway, I think office doors are important, for the same reason that the title of a paper is important -- you don't want your office to be the equivalent of one of those freshman essays entitled "Analyzation of a Poem" or "Essay #3." So I thought I'd do what one of my office-mates did when I was in grad school, and put up poetry. There needs to be more public poetry in the world. I've been going for a universities-and-teaching theme, like this:

In a Classroom
By Adrienne Rich

Talking of poetry, hauling the books
arm-full to the table where the heads
bend or gaze upward, listening, reading aloud,
talking of consonants, elision,
caught in the how, oblivious of why:
I look in your face, Jude,
neither frowning nor nodding,
opaque in the slant of dust-motes over the table:
a presence like a stone, if a stone were thinking
What I cannot say, is me. For that I came.

And like this:

Turning Thirty, I Contemplate Students Bicycling Home
By Rita Dove

This is the weather of change
and clear light. This is
weather on its B side,
askew, that propels
the legs of young men
in tight jeans wheeling
through the tired, wise
spring. Crickets too
awake in choirs
out of sight, although
I imagine we see
the same thing
and for a long way.

This, then, weather
to start over.
Evening rustles
her skirts of sulky
organza. Skin
prickles, defining
what is and shall not be....

How private
the complaint of these
green hills.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

And the moving saga continues!

Typing this in the library at New SLAC because as of Sunday I have furniture, but as of yesterday I don't have electricity. (Long story, involving the stupidity of the local power company and an apparent misunderstanding on the part of my landlord.) Good thing I didn't throw all those candles out before I moved. I actually did toast marshmallows this time, over the candles, because there really isn't anything else to do once it gets too dark to read or write, and if I remember nothing else from the Girl Scouts, I do remember how to make s'mores.

It's also about a hundred degrees out. Well, if I could live in a college dorm in southern Virginia without AC, I can do it again. (Of course, we DID have fans in college. Grumble. I tried sleeping with the window open, but it didn't really help.)

This sort of thing does give one renewed respect for one's ancestors, who got along not only without electricity, but without running water and matches and ice chests and all manner of things. And managed to write Beowulf and Hamlet while they were at it. (Well, OK, the vast vast majority of them didn't write anything of the sort, but after an evening of trying to write by candlelight, I'm very impressed that anybody did.)

Talking of Beowulf, I should probably re-read it before I have to teach it. More later.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

more moving notes

-- There seem to be cottontail rabbits everywhere. Hoppity hop hop. I don't know whether it's a Midwest thing, a New SLAC Town thing, or simply a consequence of the fact that my coffeemaker is with the movers and I have to walk four blocks to the mini-mart to get my morning fix. Maybe I would have seen rabbits all the time in University of Basketball Town if I had been going out for seven o' clock in the morning walks on a regular basis.

-- The farmer's market here? Many different shades of awesome. Of course it's an hour-long train-and-bus ride or a thirty-minute drive into the city, and I miss being able to drive five minutes to the Next Town Over from University of Basketball Town on Saturday mornings and get my fresh tomatoes and pecan pie. They seem to be a bit less fussed about selling only local products than they were back home. At least, I don't think pineapples grow around here, but if the vendors are going to give me free samples of pineapple I am not going to complain. Also, I tried pork rinds for the first time, but wasn't particularly impressed one way or the other. (However, I had a Ren drama prof in grad school who suggested bringing in pork rinds the day we read Bartholomew Fair, and it's nice to know where to get them, in case I decide to do that in the drama class. Assuming that we do get around to reading Bartholomew Fair, of course [it's on the syllabus, but I think that will be the play we drop if we run out of time, because I'm nervous about teaching it].)

-- One of my new colleagues stopped by on Friday and invited me to Faculty Poker Night, a.k.a. Clean the Newbie out of Her Spare Change Night. Hmm. Clearly I am going to have to improve my game if I'm sticking around. (Dammit, why couldn't it have been bridge, or spades, or Trivial Pursuit?) Regardless, they seem like very nice people, and I do hope I end up sticking around -- I feel like I really lucked into this job, because if it weren't for the whole one-year visiting thing, it would be just about perfect. (There's a certain amount of survivor guilt involved, though -- I took Ph.D. comps in Ren lit with two other people, and I think I'm the only one with a full-time job in the field right now; one ran out of funding and has yet to finish his dissertation, and the other couldn't do a full job search last year because of truly horrible, tragic personal circumstances. And I can't shake the feeling that they're both more deserving people than I am; I'm a bit of a slacker, truthfully, and I didn't really get my professional stuff together until the job market scared me into doing something. Probably better not to think too much about this.)

Cripes, how did I ever get onto that subject? Right, well, anyway, I'm settling in, and the movers should be here with some actual furniture later today.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

In New SLAC town...

So I moved out of the old apartment and flew to New City on Tuesday, bought a new car on Wednesday and drove out to New SLAC town, and now I'm camping out on an air mattress in an apartment with no furniture. I feel like I should be toasting marshmallows or something.

There's not a lot to do around here except take the metrotrain into New City, which is what I did today. I went to the zoo, which might have been something of a tactical error on a 90-degree day, but I didn't think about that until I was already there. Oh well. The penguin house was nice and frosty inside. And there was a baby elephant that was too cute for words. I got kind of lost on the way back, but it's all good because nearly all the buses go to one metrotrain station or another. I think I will go and see Major New City Landmark tomorrow and explore from there, unless the movers show up. I guess I ought to get a driver's license and register to vote and all that, not to mention checking out my new office, but the zoo sounded like more fun.

The new car is all bright red and zippy. I'm still getting used to her. The old one was a sedate old brown station wagon, which was probably -- to be honest -- more suited to my usual style of driving, which is distinctly old-ladyish.

Really weird being in a house with no books. I should get a library card, too (though I don't know how much good it will do, because the library in New SLAC Town is tiny. I've got a certain affection for tiny libraries, because there used to be several in the town where I grew up, and I spent a long hot summer when I was eighteen crushing on one of the librarians, but I hope there are some bigger ones affiliated with this one.)

More later, as I settle in.

Sunday, July 29, 2007


Went out for drinks with some of my former grad school cohort last night. Turns out I'm not the only one who's moving over the next few weeks. Would have been a pleasant night out -- beer gardens in the summer are always good -- except I had this is it, this is the last time running through my head all evening.

Also had my first anxiety dream of the season, which is a sure sign that the new academic year and the job market are only a few weeks away. In this one, one of my committee members flatly refused to approve my dissertation, only I'd somehow managed to graduate and take a new job without noticing that she hadn't signed off on it, and consequently landed in a great deal of trouble for academic fraud. It wasn't quite as good as the one last year where I was offered a job in a religious studies department and begged off because I didn't know anything about the subject matter, and then my mother, my advisor, my Impossibly Polished and Perfect Colleage, and (for some reason) J.R.R. Tolkien all came over to chew me out for turning down a perfectly good tenure-track job. That one was something of a lifetime high for my subconscious.

Ah well. Back to packing.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I am SO not cut out for this moving business

Step 1: Decide what kind of music you want to have on as you pack. This is an important decision, and should not be made too hastily.

Step 2: Decide what kind of beer you want. See above.

Step 3: What to pack? How about some plates and glasses? These will have to be wrapped up in paper, and packed in the box that says FRAGILE -- THIS SIDE UP. Unfortunately this box is crammed full of paper. Spend five minutes transfering all the paper to another box, then drag both boxes out to the kitchen. (Note that writing "FRAGILE -- THIS SIDE UP" on the second box would be cheating.)

Step 4: Wrap up some dishes in paper, put them in the box.

Step 5: Discover that seldom-used wine glasses have some kind of nasty sticky residue on them. Wash wine glasses.

Step 6: Notice that it is probably a bad idea to wrap them up in paper while they're still drying; also, have made tactical error because one of the glasses that should eventually be packed still has half a beer in it. Decide to sift through papers instead.

Step 7: Notice unpaid traffic ticket and incomplete mail-forwarding form among papers. Take care of these things.

Step 8: On way to mailbox, notice that it is raining. Stand on back patio and watch rain for a while.

Step 9: Back to papers. Discover notes and handouts from job talks last time graduate department hired Ren lit person, five years ago. Become seized with inexplicably strong desire to know what happened to unsuccessful candidates.

Step 10: Google candidates. (They both got good jobs. Also, one of them has the same name as a football player.) Also Google bottle of Italian dessert liqueur that you found in the fridge, to discover whether it would be a bad idea to drink it when it's more than three years old. Type up blog post while you're here.

Oh, this is more or less how I wrote my dissertation, too. No wonder it took four years.