Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Why "Idyll"

This morning, passing through Idyll, I saw a group of children from the Montessori school (5th/6th graders, maybe) demonstrating on behalf of the Snap program, and, about 15 seconds later, an older man with a bagpipe in fully kilted attire.

Other reasons that I call this town Idyll, and the university Idyllic State:

Functionally free public transportation; an endless succession of town fairs, festivals, and markets; aging hippies handing out Bernie materials; a very strong union culture; activist students; multiethnic, multilingual children frolicking in town squares; hand-painted wooden signs for Christmas tree sales; abundant farmers' markets; "Support Local Agriculture" signs and stickers on every third car, every second restaurant window, and every university food service table; people who, when they find out that you've just moved here, enthusiastically say, "Welcome to the [topographical feature]!"; distant views of mountains in three directions; eating a cider donut on a town square and watching my son having a skipping race with a little boy he'd just met; stopping in at a coffee shop for lunch and unexpectedly getting to see a ragtime band perform; yoga studios; coffee shops; restaurants; brilliant maples; white-steepled clapboard churches in every single town; winding roads through hills; gangs of wild turkeys roaming our neighborhood and yard; chipmunks; playgrounds; concerts; lovely public libraries; fantastic public schools; a populace who wants to live here.

On the downside: very cold winters, high property taxes (which pay for great schools and libraries, so I'm actually okay with this, but it is an expense), and the need to drive everywhere. The only walking that I regularly do is the 10-minute hike to my campus parking lot (yet another downside). But at least the drives are pretty.

(Idyllic State, viewed from the library)

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Modern marginalia

In the Idyllic State U Library's copy of the Life of St. Clare, of the pope:

An otherwise dispassionate annotator gets carried away.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Haiku in the persona of a student who does not want to do the in-class activity, which is to write a haiku

I'm not doing this;
writing haikus is no fun.
You can go to hell.

(I came up with this while the students were writing their haikus, and I found that I could neither share it with them nor let it go entirely to waste. So here it is, for you.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Maybe I'm ready for the end of the semester, after all

I don't feel like we're only 3.5 weeks from exam period. I don't feel that burnt-out, sick-of-everybody Novemberishness, probably because I spend most of each day alone in my office.

But lately, what I really, really want is a day at home, alone.

No offense to my wonderful husband and son! I love spending time with them. But I haven't had a day at home, alone, since we moved into the house, and...I think I need one.

So maybe I'm ready.

On the other hand, the pile of undone work frightens me, and I want to hold off on semester's end until it's smaller, at least.

Well. Three-point-five weeks. I should get to it, I guess.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

What's New: Nothing Much

Yeah. So. Today:
  • I had an unprecedented six students come to my office hours. Of those, three wanted to talk about their midterm exams and how they could do better on the final. Oddly, never in eight years at Field College did one of my students come to see me about a past exam...although now that I think about it, I typically only gave final exams, not midterms. That would explain it. Never mind. Anyway, I'm glad to have students--especially those who aren't doing terribly well--stop by for help! But wow, that was a tiring two hours.
  • Excitingly, two of the students who came by are thinking about majoring or minoring in Comp Lit. And I signed up two new majors last week. Recruiting, yes! (Most students--undergraduate me included--don't really know what Comp Lit is when they get to college. So our major is smaller than it ought to be.)
  • Best news of all: I got my hair cut today, for the first time since July. Amazing how good that feels.
Other news.... Hm. I'm feeling pretty mentally fried and am not even close to accomplishing my overly ambitious research goals for the semester, which were
    1. To finish an article for an edited collection (done--this was pretty quick)
    2. To revise an article that has been boomeranging around for years now (done, sent to writing group; writing group comments received; now I need to read some more stuff and revise AGAIN before I resubmit it. In my loveliest of dreams, that will happen this semester)
    3. To submit an abstract for Kalamazoo (done; accepted)
    4. To submit another conference abstract (due next month; not drafted)
    5. To revise a chapter of my book draft (not started; this is my lowest writing priority at this point)
    6. To write another chapter (what on earth was I thinking? I'm working on one, but I'm about 3500 words in, and I have research to do to write this thing, and probably a research trip, so clearly this won't be written this semester. I am working on it, though, so that's something).
I do need to work on realistic writing goals.

So yeah, that's that. I don't want the semester to end too soon because then I won't be able to believe in the possibility of accomplishing All The Things before December 15 or whenever. And yet, accomplishing the Things will be easier once classes are over. So it goes.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Syllabus Impossible

I've been agonizing over a revision to a course that I'm teaching this semester--a 100-level, Gen Ed, lecture-style course.

And this morning I realized what the problem is.

In revising the syllabus, I would like to change only two or so books, and somehow achieve a perfect balance of the following:

  • male and female authors
  • authors of different ethnicities (from all around the world--so including, e.g., African-American, African, Asian, Indian, white USAmerican, European, Latino/a, etc.)
  • authors writing in different national languages
  • authors writing from, or about, different religious perspectives or backgrounds--ideally including Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, atheism, and Hinduism
All of this in no more than nine books, please!

Clearly, I have set myself an impossible task.

And so I release myself into imperfection.

Besides, I'll be teaching this course at least once a year forever. I can change it up.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Networking: Another difference between institution types

So I strongly suspect that most of my keen, incisive observations about the differences between my new (public, big, R1) institution and my old (rural, private, tiny, SLAC) institution are pretty freaking obvious, but they still keep smacking me in the face like they're subtle and earth-shattering revelations.

Well, maybe not earth-shattering.

Anyway, one that's occurred to me lately is the ease of networking at this big school, which also happens to be very close to four other schools. At Field, I was the lone medievalist of any kind at the entire college; I was also a half-hour drive from any OTHER college or university, and those others (a couple of community colleges, a state university, and two smaller private universities were within about 45 minutes) weren't really powerhouses in my field. Nor did I have any real "in" at those schools. Nor did I have a great deal of time (or, okay, desire--I'm a little shy) to cultivate such "ins." Nor am I--truth be told--any good AT ALL at networking.

For the longest time--in fact, still now, but I'm fighting it tooth and nail--my inclination, when asked about my research, is to change the subject as quickly as possible. It's probably easiest to just blame that on my thoroughgoing imposter syndrome.

NOW, however, I am in a substantial community of medievalists (from a variety of disciplines, from all five colleges/universities in the area), some of whom are very friendly and have made a point of introducing me around. And there are Events--a series of seminars, for example, that I'm involved with and that brings together scholars from a range of Humanities disciplines from various periods; at our first big meeting this last weekend, I had lunch with an art historian, an English professor, and a religion professor, from three different colleges, all of whom have interests that overlap with mine. (Also an archaeologist, which was cool but less professionally relevant.) This coming week, I'm invited to a dinner with a Big Shot Awesome Medievalist visiting Nearby College, so I will get to talk with her and the other local lit-medievalists who will be attending. And immediately upon arriving on campus I was asked to give a talk this Spring to the local medievalist group (because of a dearth of willing speakers, I suspect).

All of a sudden, I get how people wind up with those prefaces that thank twenty-five thousand people. If you're at a school with a large network of scholars, and that also invites scholars to campus, you will meet more people; you will have circles that can help you think through problems or give feedback on manuscripts; you will (eventually) be invited to submit to collections or give talks or do other cool things of that nature.

I should mention here that the acknowledgements page to my first book thanked, I believe, exactly three other medievalists: my dissertation committee. No, make that five: I also thanked the reviewers.

I still think that I'm not very good at networking. But I'm excited to see how being in an environment that facilitates networking might help me to find a (local, live) scholarly community.