Monday, December 31, 2007

Job Search, Phase Two

I don't actually know that this phase 2 of the job search--I'm sure that I could break down the application process into at least half a dozen mini-phases--but we'll call it that, because once again I'm in the waiting stage. Ugh. Last year somewhere I compared the job search to trying to date in junior high: waiting by the phone even though you know perfectly well that there's no actual chance that your great love, that dark-haired boy who rides your bus and plays second violin in the school orchestra, is going to call you, since you almost never even say hello to him (despite having all of your classes together) and anyway at the last school dance he slow danced with K like three times, and their elbows were bent, meaning that they were actually standing within about a foot of each other, so clearly there's something going on there although of course in your heart you're going to deny it because he's just so cute. But yeah, he's probably not going to call, at least not right now, and yet that doesn't stop you from leaping up with heart a-flutter every time the phone rings. This is what phase 2 is like. It's what phase 1 is like, too, for that matter, because that's when you're waiting for the interviews to be scheduled in the first place.

I've already been rejected (very kindly) from Very Good School, which is a bummer, but I've processed it and am okay with it. I also really appreciate being told so early that I won't be on the short-list. Rejecting rejected candidates nicely and promptly is a good thing to do; it's kind of like the guy who's not interested in you but manages to not get all weird even after your stupid best friend lets him know that you like him (to continue the middle-school analogy).

Friday, December 28, 2007

Interview Iditarod

It's been quiet around here, I know. But I don't like to blog from my mother's house--it makes me nervous; also, the cat and dog hair infiltrates my keyboard in nasty ways, and the dog tries to put his nose on my screen, and I was doing a lot of drinking, and I have various other excuses. Okay, yeah, I've been lazy, all right?

Anyway, here I am, deep in the trenches: 60% through the MLA interview quintifecta. (I don't know if that would even be the right word, if it were a word. I'm tired.)

A blinding snowstorm hit Chicago today, making the trek back and forth between hotels all the more exciting. Everything is now rather soggy. But since I got my current job after an absurd late-night interview with many mitigating distractions, I like to think that I work well with logistical difficulty. The interviews were fine, anyway, I think. By the last one I was feeling a bit wound up and rambly, but I didn't say anything identifiably crazy. One thing that I really like about interviewing is how nice everyone is, though. The interviewers are all talking up their schools and asking interesting questions about my research and, as conversations, they're pretty fun. Fun conversations do not necessarily translate into jobs, however, so one must be circumspect. Cautious optimism remains the order of the day.

(I have the feeling that I'm malapropping and mixing metaphors all over the place. "Malapropping" probably isn't even a word. Feh. I've used up today's brain allotment, okay?)

Before I trundle off to a long nap, I will add that last night's blogger meet-up was lovely and fun; my only regrets are a) that I was incapable of imbibing much at all and had to go to bed early, and b) that there were a couple of bloggers that I didn't get to speak to at much length. However, I did get to speak to several others at length, and really it was the aforementioned bed-going-off-t0 that kept me from talking to the others. So I'm hoping to run into a couple of them during the rest of the conference.

In the meantime: Happy MLAing, everyone! Good luck with papers and interviews!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Book Meme

Both Medieval Woman and Belle tagged me for the meme in which one lists five of the best books that one read in 2007. Luckily, 2007 was a year in which I reread several favorite novels, and I'm happy to promote them. So (in no particular order), here goes.

1. The Day on Fire, by James Ramsey Ullman. I know that I've mentioned this book at least once on this blog, but it's truly great, and I reread it with pleasure last winter. A fictionalized biography of Arthur Rimbaud, Ullman's novel is an engrossing account of the poet's wanderings (mostly on foot) through France, Italy, and North Africa; his time in Java; and his relationship with Verlaine. Of course, it's fiction, and Ullman fills in the blanks in creative ways, but it's really well written and just an absorbing book. Out of print, unfortunately, but readily available online.

2. Ada, or Ardor, by Nabokov. I reread this when I was in Europe last spring. I originally read it in about 1997, when I was a fresh young thing just finishing college, and I loved it--but I don't honestly think that I understood it all. Didn't think that I understood it, in fact. I confess that I picked it up again with a hint of trepidation: I barely remembered the novel, and I was afraid that it was going to be a lot of Nabokovian smoke and mirrors (although I've yet to meet the VN novel I didn't at least like). But no, it was terrific, and I loved it, and I highly recommend it. All kinds of weird musings on time and space, and it takes a really long time to figure out what world the novel is even set in, if that makes sense. And it's just incredibly satisfying to grasp it all, in the end.

3. Pride and Prejudice. I read this over the last week or two because I'm going to be teaching it next semester, and you know, I just think that Jane Austen is fun. I didn't used to like her much, but as I grow older I find myself appreciating her more and more.

4. The Time-Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger. Two people gave me this book within the space of a couple of months. For a time-travel book, it's surprisingly satisfying. One thing that I particularly liked about it was the way in which the horror of time travel is evoked. Time travel always seems like such a neat idea--but I suspect that if spontaneous chronological displacement actually happened, it would be the way it's portrayed in this novel: suddenly finding yourself naked and afraid in an unknown place. Not too good.

5. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. I first read McCarthy about 11 years ago, and I steered clear thereafter: Child of God freaked me out but good. Then, this fall, the student group of which I'm a sponsor decided to read the novel as a sort of book-club thing, so I read it, and it's pretty damn gripping. What I found most interesting about it was the way it made me think about the importance of human community and how, in the total absence of community, life itself would seem pretty close to meaningless. Definitely drives home the whole social-animal part of our makeup. Plus he's just a fantastic writer. I don't want to go see that new movie, though.

I'm not going to tag anyone in particular because I don't know whom to tag. But I'm interested in reading recommendations from everyone out there who reads this blog, so consider this a Blanket Tagging.

(By the way, the phone interview went fine. I think. As far as I could tell. Definitely better than the Interview of Doom, and I have a pretty good feeling about it. Of course, I've had pretty good feelings about interviews in the past, so I'm not putting too much stake in my subjective experience of the affair--but hey, at least I don't think I bombed.)

Temporal Displacement

I have a second phone interview coming up, and I just realized that, owing to my difficulty in grasping time differences, it's two hours later than I thought it was going to be.

Which is fine, but these things make me nervous and I'd rather do them earlier in the day.

It also kind of gums up my highly tentative afternoon plans, but that's not at all important.

Mostly I'd just like to do the interview now so that I can stop being nervous about it.

I'm also vaguely worried that I am not in fact wrong about the time, because I wrote it in my day planner like weeks ago, and it seems improbable that I could have had it wrong way back then. I don't know why this seems improbable. Clearly I could have had it wrong. But somehow the fact that I wrote it down makes it seem less wrong. You know? So I don't know. Agh. Shall I describe my current research to the walls one more time?

Friday, December 14, 2007

And so why are you interviewing me, exactly?

--is the question that I would have liked to ask about midway through last night's phone interview.

So this was my seventh academic first-interview ever (the other six were last year, ranging from MLA to eleventh-hour phone interviews for one-years), and it was by far, BY FAR, the worst. All the other ones seemed fine, actually, although five of them yielded nothing.

The Interview of Despair basically comprised a series of extremely detailed questions about how I would put together courses I've never taught before. A couple of the courses they wanted to hear about were entirely reasonable, and I was prepared for them. But then we went off down a Dark and Dangerous Path that actually crosses the Terrain of Another Field Entirely, Terrain that I in no way, ever, anywhere, implied that I knew anything about. I was able to wing the first question or two, but when we got into highly specific theoretical approaches, I had to say that I just didn't know.

In that moment, I smiled to myself and thought, Well, they can only keep me on the phone for another 10 minutes or so, right? And then I thought about the bourbon awaiting me in the kitchen.

I was also a little disappointed that I'd spent all afternoon rehearsing my research and teaching answers, thinking about difficult teaching situations I've been in and how I elicit discussion from recalcitrant students, and didn't get to mention any of that. No! It was all course planning. Very specific course planning. As in, Why isn't Author X on this syllabus? What is this book that you said you'd use about? Weird.

Oh well. I just wonder why they even bothered to call me--they can't possibly think that I do the stuff that they evidently want someone to teach, can they? Whatever.

Monday, December 10, 2007

An Observation

It takes me much, much longer to comment on and grade papers on the computer than it does to do it the old-fashioned way. I write a lot more, for one thing (despite my best intentions). And also I'm distracted by things like the internet. (I'm in the middle of grading a paper right now, in fact!)

Back to it. Six down, twenty-nine to go.

Slow Blog

I realize that I've been pretty quiet lately. A lot of that has been due to busyness--last week was absolutely crazy, what with finishing up classes, grading all my final comp projects, and then foolishly leaving Field Town for the Metropole a mere two days after I finished teaching. My lit students are submitting their papers to me via email (and I really need to get going on those...).

I also haven't been blogging much because I'm trying not to write about how the job market is going. I haven't been checking the wiki as obsessively as I was last year because I've just had too much other stuff on my mind, but I think that I can safely say that I'm doing OK on the market this time around--better than last year, anyway. I'm cautiously optimistic. But I've been avoiding blogging about it.

I'm breaking my vow of silence, however, to report my delight and astonishment at receiving a call this morning from a Very Good School. Probably one of the top 5 jobs in my field this year, in fact. (Not the #1 job of the year--medievalists, you know what I'm talking about--but I probably would have exploded if I'd heard from them.) This is the first time that a VGS has expressed interest in me. It's a little scary. But good.

And now, I grade. Thirty-two eight-to-ten-pagers to go (assuming they all reached the minimum requirement, that is!).

Saturday, December 8, 2007

End of the Term

"Dear Dr. Mihi,

Will it hurt my grade if I don't get to the required page length [= 8-10 pages]? I only have three pages written and I'm almost done, but I really want to get a good grade.

Your Student."

That's me, speechless.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Meme, Glorious Meme

I have been tagged, not once, not twice--but thrice, yes, thrice for the Seven Things meme. It all started with Maude Lebowski, and then not a day later I was hit by squadratomagico, who was followed in short order by Kermit the Frog. So okay, people. I will do the meme. Enthusiastically!

First, the rules:

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

All righty. Here goes:

1. In 1998-99, I worked as an artist's model (of the naked variety). The odd thing about it was that my mother actually got me into it--pressured me, some might say--and booked me my first job. I was working full time at various other jobs during this period, but the modeling was a reasonably lucrative sideline; my most profitable month scored me about $400, which was close to my rent in those days (and in these days, come to think of it).

2. In high school I had that hair style which I've heard referred to as a "hessian"--you know, long on top but shaved in the back and sides, up to about the temples. The rest of it was usually colored with manic panic; "rose red," a kind of flaming magenta, was my favorite. Oh yes, I was one bad-ass honors student. All of my friends at this point were conservative girls who wore turtlenecks and loads of hairspray; I must have looked funny next to them, with my hair and my black eyeliner and the whole grunge ensemble (this was the early 90s: think flannel shirts, cut-offs, combat boots, the occasional fishnets). Or maybe the turtleneck-and-hairspray look was the funny one?

3. I didn't have any cavities until I was 23, and now I've had four. The fourth was filled this afternoon. Huzzah!

4. When I was about two years old, I thought that I would probably be a football player when I grew up. I already had a white bicycle helmet, so I was, I reasoned, halfway there. I imagined myself being carried out onto the field in someone's arms; evidently I was still at an age where I was carried most places. (This fantasy of mine is among my earliest memories. I have no idea why I thought I'd be a football player. My dad watched football back in those days, so I guess I just had the idea that this was something that grown-ups did?)

5. I intensely dislike having the blinds shut during the day. To me, it feels like not brushing your hair or staying in your pajamas--sloppy and squalid (although, funnily enough, I have no problem with staying in my pajamas, hair unbrushed, well into the middle of the day. So maybe that's not the best comparison. Well, I ain't changing it now, honeys).

6. Also when I was two years old, Jimmy Carter patted me on the head and said that I was a very cute little girl. This, I don't remember.

7. I didn't wear a bra for most of my college years. At times, I fervently wish that I could go back to those earlier ways, but I cannot. It is unimaginable to me to go out in public without a bra (unless I'm wearing some hugely bulky coat and just running to the grocery store or something). This saddens me, as I despise the accursed things, with their straps and their totally unnecessary (in my case) "support" and little poky lacy bits. Ugh. Ugh!

And that about does it, I think.

Oh right! The tagging. Since everyone seems to have been tagged at least once by now, and I'm highly self-conscious about tagging anyway (it seems like such an imposition), I shall do what all the other slackers are doing and let anyone who wants to be tagged consider him/herself such.

Friday, November 30, 2007

And Yet, I'll Miss Them

Things have been better since Weirdly Hellacious Wednesday. Yesterday, in fact, I was able to have a long nap in the afternoon--I can't remember when I last did that on a weekday. I felt like I was playing hooky or something, and kept getting a weird panicked feeling that I'd forgotten to go teach a class. But no, I actually just had some time to relax.

Teaching has been good lately, too. Dante is kind of dragging down my upper-level course (myself included), but the end of the semester could also be blamed for the lethargy. On the whole, however, looking back over this semester, I feel good. And as it turns out, I actually enjoy teaching.

It might seem strange that this comes as a surprise, but the fact is that I'd had very little teaching experience before this year. Attentive readers may have detected a certain level of stress and anxiety at the start of the semester. "At the start?" you scoff. "And what was Wednesday, then, if not stress and anxiety writ large?" Fair enough, I reply--but the act of teaching itself is no longer terrifying and stressful. I have off days, of course, but most of my days are "on," and what with four courses this semester the memory of each off day rapidly gets absorbed into the general morass of what-the-hell-did-I-do-yesterday and loses its sting pretty quickly.

Right around the sixth week was when I quit being so nervous. And I've discovered a certain pleasure in performance; in my largest class, in particular, where I have a good group of funny and engaged students who can be counted on to find me entertaining, I really get into my role. (I also have a bigger audience; maybe I enjoy that? I wouldn't have guessed that I'd like my biggest class the best.) But beyond this ego-driven pleasure, I love it when I see a student's eyes light up with that sudden "getting it" look; it thrills me when one of them asks a good question that shows that she's really thinking about the text, especially when it's a question I hadn't thought of; and the individual conferences I've been having with them over the last couple of weeks have been truly pleasurable. Even the quiet and/or struggling students have something to say, for the most part, and I enjoy getting to know a little bit more about them as people.

That said, I do have some weird encounters with my students, and I'm quite sure that today's odd exchanges stem entirely from the fact that I am a youngish (and youngish-looking) female professor.

Both happened after one of my comp sections and involved the same students who inquired about my tattoo a few weeks ago. This time, the guy who had asked about my tattoo approached me after class to ask how many piercings I have. Luckily, all my piercings are in my ears, so I didn't have to navigate any problematic terrain (of course, I would have lied if things had been otherwise, but I don't like to lie, so whatever).

Not sure what he was hoping for, but there you go.

He and another (male) student then asked what sections of comp 2 I was teaching. I told them, and they asked if it was too late to switch into my class. This warmed my heart, of course, although a) I'm a little surprised that they liked comp 1 so much, since it has certainly not showcased my finest teaching, and 2) I already have 54 comp students lined up for next semester and am not exactly gunning for any more. Nonetheless I was pleased, and I told them that I still had a few openings and they should talk to their advisors.

So then the other student--not the piercing-question student, but the one who himself has a number of visible tattoos--said, "Actually, I shouldn't sign up for your class, 'cause then we could hang out next semester."

"Ah ha ha," I said. "Have a nice weekend."

I assume that he was kidding. To an 18-year-old, I am as ancient as the hills. But I'm still not sure how to read his comment, and grateful for the power dynamic that allows me to ignore it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

In No Mood

After a long but perfectly fine day of teaching and a faculty meeting, I came home to greet my computer-fixer. Short version: He can't fix my computer. I have a call in to another Fixer, one who sounds about 14 on his voice mail (and, since I've left messages with his mom and someone whom I assume to be his little brother, might BE 14), but I'm not confident. We might be taking a long, long drive to a Sony Factory this weekend. Sigh.

So then I open my email, and have the following messages.

1) Another email from a very hard-working but somewhat high-maintenance student asking for (yet) more help with citation formatting.
2) An email from a student who missed his scheduled meeting yesterday, asking me when he's supposed to meet with me. Um. Yesterday.
3) A pair of interconnected emails: the first from a student asking me to email another one of his professors to tell her that he's missing class tomorrow to work on a project for my class (I need to "confirm" it), and the second from the other professor to the student (I was CC'd), telling him to come in early to get the make-up work. I scrolled down and saw the message he'd written her; he told her that he'd have me write and explain why he isn't going to be in class. Here's the thing: This is a homework assignment that he's doing, essentially. I have no control over when it's done; I have nothing to do with it. So I wrote back to the professor, apologizing and telling her that she was under no obligation to excuse this absence, and then I explained the latter to the student, as well. SIGH. (The professor is, by the way, on the search committee for my job. Not that that changes my behavior, but seriously, impressions matter!)

None of this is exactly traumatic, but I'm aggravated about the computer situation, and here's the other thing: I am totally unprepared--as in, haven't read--for my classes for the rest of the week, and in half an hour I'm supposed to go to an informational session for students who are interested in grad school. And tomorrow morning, my usual prep time, will be totally consumed by student meetings. I could skip out on this session, but it's something that I'm really interested in doing and that I think there's a need for here, so I'd rather not.

The upshot of it all, I suppose, is that I NEED THE SEMESTER TO END. GAH.

On the other hand, my students were delightful in class today--more so than usual, in some cases. So I'll end this message--if not my day--on a positive note.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

State of Affairs

So what, you ask, has been going on at the Age of Perfection? Let's see.
  • The computer is still unfixed. I can't get a hold of this computer fixing guy, who evidently still lives with his family (I've left messages with his mom and a young-sounding fellow whom I took to be his little brother). He's the only computer fixer in Field Town, but I do have a tip about someone a town or two over who charges a delightful $70 an hour, so I might need to give him a call if I don't succeed in lassoing Field Town Computer Fixer. I am almost over berating myself for the stupidity of my computer damage (it was an accident, I know!), but not quite.
  • I kind of wish that it were two weeks from now so that my anxious hoping for the phone to ring would at least be legitimate. I must constantly remind myself that search committees did not meet over Thanksgiving. Here's the thing: the week and a half before Thanksgiving were replete with good news, as I received numerous requests for additional materials (averaging like one a day! or almost!) and scheduled a phone interview for a tt job. And now...silence. Okay, so yeah, it's only Tuesday. Morning. Before 9. I must chill.
  • Job apps are in, at least, other than a couple of recent postings that aren't due for a while.
  • My semester is nearly over! Only six more teaching days! Why is it that my semester seems to have begun before almost anyone else's and is nonetheless ending after so many of y'all's? I have lost all teaching motivation. I can't even prep for today's class. Really. Why is it that I hate prepping so much? The teaching, I don't mind. But the prep? Not so good. Especially for this class, which is 75 minutes long instead of the usual 50, and that extra 25 really throws me. I just can't deal with it.
  • Anyway, if I do the math, I only have 15 more classes to teach this semester. Hoo! And, of those, 6 require literally no prep, as they are given over to 1) an activity in which the students are entirely responsible for leading discussion (2 sections), 2) in-class preparation for a group project (2 sections), and 3) presentations (2 sections). Ha ha!
  • On the other hand, I have required about 20 students to meet with me regarding final papers, and recommended that another 15 do so. While I have been available to meet with them for the last two weeks, almost every last one of them scheduled appointments for today, tomorrow, and Thursday. Therefore, I will be enthusiastically discussing paper topics for hours and hours and hours this week. I do like meeting with students to talk about their papers; it gives me a chance to interact with them a little more personally, which in pretty much every case just makes me like them even more, and most of them have interesting ideas. But that's a lot of meetings.
  • I went swimming last night for the first time in more than a month. So that's something.
  • In further exercise news, my new indoor soccer team is playing this Thursday night (a colleague convinced me to join--it's mostly made up of very young members of his church). I still kind of need to make a decision about this. I like soccer, and the exercise is great, but my knees are not what they once were. It is, however, possible that the exercise will strengthen the muscles around the knees and therefore decrease my total knee pain. I don't know. This is quite a boring topic.
  • Why on earth did I make a response paper due in one of my classes this Friday? What on earth was I thinking? Do I not have enough grading stealing upon me with ever-less-stealthy tread?
  • It snowed this weekend. I liked it.
And that is all. Exciting times, my friends.

ETA (10 minutes later): Moments after posting this, I got an MLA interview! Hooray! My hotel room is not in vain!

Sunday, November 25, 2007


That last post was hardly in the proper spirit of Thanksgiving, so here's a shot at being--belatedly--a little more cheery.

First off, I am deeply grateful that my computer catastrophe didn't result in graver damage, and I seem to have full functionality (other than the CD/DVD player, obviously). If I can ever get ahold of the local repair guy, I hope to have this thing fixed within a couple of days.

I had a good holiday weekend. Loads of traveling, including a four-hour delay on Wednesday (because it was raining, and evidently rain is very, very dangerous), but it was good to see everyone. Also, the delay actually let me get through my reading for tomorrow and Wednesday, which I probably wouldn't have finished otherwise. I didn't spend any two nights in the same place--Wednesday at Dad's, Thursday at Mom's, Friday at the Boyfriend's, Saturday at the home of some friends of ours who were having a party and happen to live near the airport; it was a bit of a proverbial whirlwind. My flight this morning was really early and I hardly got any sleep at all (we're talking an hour, maybe? I spent most of the night doing that thing where thinking about how early you have to get up keeps you awake), but that meant that I was back home before noon. I had lunch and a 2.5-hour nap and have been mostly enjoying my evening ever since, the only damper being the fact that I've been intermittently prepping for tomorrow. From the look of the blogs, I'm not the only one who's feeling decidedly sick of the semester. Only 8 more teaching days until the break....

As long as I'm rambling on about nothing in particular, I should mention that it snowed today. That made me happy.

The weekend was too short and I miss everyone but there's something nice about being settled into the hand-me-down La-Z-Boy in my old fleece sweatshirt, thinking about going to bed in a little while.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Stupid #&$*(@

The title to this post is a self-description: at the moment I am filled with self-recrimination, for I am a clumsy and careless person. As I was picking up my laptop last night to return it from its movie-playing location to my desk, the cord caught on something; I was holding it in only one hand, like a genius, and it slipped out of said hand and onto the floor. Not a disaster, as the floor was only about 12 inches away and heavily carpeted, but in breaking its fall I somehow grabbed the (open) DVD player drawer and tore that right out of the machine. Tears and wailing and an ill-advised attempt to fix it myself ensued. Then I got online (for the computer still works, evidently) and found a local repair place.

Yes, the computer still works, but I am very nervous about it. And since I leave town in less than two hours, I won't be able to get it repaired until next week. Poor computer. And stupid self: I'd had many near-disasters when lifting the laptop in that way, and always warned myself never to do it again, because Something Bad could happen. Lo and behold! It did.

On that note: Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! No blogging until next week.

Monday, November 19, 2007

More Stress than We Need

I need to get some work done tonight, so I can have a grading-free Thanksgiving, but I'd like to take a moment to register my protest of this new job-market wiki.

I mean really, what purpose does it serve? Is it helpful to know that someone else already has an MLA interview scheduled when you yourself might not? To calculate the application-to-interview ratio of a total stranger?

The job market is competitive and unpleasant enough without our encouraging one another to undergo this kind of comparison.

I had a brief--brief--moment in which I considered posting my current stats, because my current stats are actually making me really happy (I've been getting some responses). But then I looked at that impulse, and rejected it. I could post my stats, but why? So that someone else can feel sad at not having had as good a response at this point (which is totally meaningless, of course)? So that someone else can feel smug for having had a better response?

The purpose of this new wiki page eludes me. It's just another way for this process to be hateful and emotionally destructive.

My intention is to ignore it, but I'm pretty sure that I'll give in to curiosity now and again. Still, I protest this site, and will not post anything on it.

Or is there something I'm missing? Have others among you looked at this page and found it useful/interesting/not generative of self-loathing?

Friday, November 16, 2007

Two Brief Instances of Gender Prescriptivism

1. Scene: The dentist's office.

Receptionist. Where are the toothbrushes?

Hygienist. In the closet over there. The women's toothbrushes are on the bottom shelf; the men's are on the top.

Receptionist. Women's and men's?

Hygienist. I segregate 'em: the purple and pink on the bottom, the blue and green on top. Otherwise, everyone takes the blue and green--even the women--and the men are left with pink and purple. So I just separate them to make it easier.

(I, meanwhile, am being prodded and scraped by said hygienist, which makes it impossible for me to either laugh or twist my face in incredulity.)

2. Scene: The local cafe.

Woman: They have a great playground with lots of equipment, and a costume area--the boys can dress up like superheroes, and there's a princess area for the girls.

(I actually had to stifle the urge to join in the conversation at this point. How I hate, hate, hate the "princess culture" that little girls are forced into these days! And I can say with some certainty that I would have hated it as a little girl, too--I wanted to be Luke, not Leia. Or, better yet, Darth Vader. Or even a storm trooper. I was a militaristic child.)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What Am I Doing?

I've been meaning to throw in a few words about the conference from which I returned on Sunday, but it's been a crazy scene around here, what with all the work and all. So I will just say that I had a pretty good time in general--saw some interesting panels, one not-so interesting panel (still, it was an impressive interesting-to-not ratio)--and my hotel room was fairly fabulous. Hello, first experience with room service! I made a short film about my hotel room, in fact. (By "short film," I mean that I set my digital camera to "video" and panned around the room so that I can impress TB when next I see him.) Even more splendid was the now-famous Blogger Meet-Up: I spent a good bit of time with Medieval Woman and a grad school friend, and then had a terrific dinner with the two of them and TE, What Now?, and Flavia. All good people. Flavia and I also had a drink at the hotel bar afterwards--very "Lost in Translation," indeed--and it was a pleasure to get to know her in person.

Right now, though, I'm sort of trying to write a cover letter for the tenure-track version of the job that I currently have--if writing half a sentence and then clicking over to the internet could be said to constitute "trying." I honestly don't know how to write this thing. Even addressing it to "Professor Chair" seems awkward, since I certainly don't call the chair "Professor" in real life. I have plenty of positive things to say about the job, I just don't...want to. And yes, therein lies the problem: writing this letter will involve work, whereas writing other job letters involves somewhat less work. And I don't want to work. Or, if I am going to work, I could:
  • grade 23 papers
  • read my advisee's prospectus
  • prep for one of tomorrow's classes
  • prep for the other of tomorrow's classes
  • read for Thursday (lots of Dante! Yeagh!) (Pronounce that interjection as you will: glee or disgust, it's all valid)
  • write some other cover letters
  • read and check off the final paper proposals for comp (oh yeah I have to do this tonight; can't forget)
  • finish reading the thing I'm supposed to have read for this meeting on Thursday morning
  • wash a dish
  • go to bed, for Pete's sake.
Perhaps blogging isn't the best use of my time.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I suppose that I am rather brief

William Shakespeare

Out, out, brief Heu Mihi!

Which work of Shakespeare was the original quote from?

Get your own quotes:

Happy Returns

A pleasant thing to come home to = a request for Additional Materials from an institution where you would be very happy to work.

A pleasant thing to check email to = two more dossier requests.

* * * * * * * * * *

Less pleasant ways to start the week = breaking your coffee pot at 6:30 am. And a ladybug infestation that necessitates the use of Raid, which is currently really stinking up the joint.

We can't have everything.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Where Is My Luggage?

Yes, where is my luggage?

It was not in the airport.

It was supposed to be delivered to me at my house 22 minutes ago.

Perhaps I am holding the luggage delivery person to too high a standard of punctuality, but nonetheless I ask:

Where is my luggage?

*Fuller report on the conference that I attended with said luggage to appear shortly.

Update: Luggage has arrived! Two hours late, but still well before bed time. All is well.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

A Weird Cat is Out of the Bag


After my middle class today, a couple of students were sort of lingering in the room. Finally one of them sidled up to me (I was erasing the blackboard) and asked, "Do you have a tattoo?"

"Um, why?" I asked.

"Just wondering," he said.

I glanced around and noticed that one of the students conspicuously eavesdropping was a guy who's a lifeguard at the campus pool. Sigh. "Yeah," I said, "I do."

There was a predictable outpouring of excitement at this news, One of the students has a bunch of tattoos already, and another one is about to get some; I suppose that that's how the subject came up. The lifeguard-student, who was obviously the one who had got this whole thing started, asked me what my tattoo was of (it's on my back, in case you were wondering)--I was evasive on that score. (It's a symbol of my own youthful design; nothing embarrassing, but some boundaries must be maintained! And besides, it would've taken more explaining than I was up for.)

Anyway, it confirms my fear that the lifeguard-student has told other students (I don't think these are even his particular friends, honestly) about seeing me in the pool, in my bathing suit, and my tattoo, and so who knows what other...evaluations/opinions are circulating. The freshman class already knows all about my yoga prowess (the local teacher is the mother of one of my students), so I guess they're well on their way to knowing ALL about me.

This post should be read with wry humor, not irritation; I'm really just amused. But I'm also a little worried--so far, I think, the revelations have reflected well on me (tattoos might give me some cred with some of the kids; I'm not sure about the yoga), but the mind recoils from what more humiliating things might eventually come out!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Teaching through the Sweetness

Last night the English honor society was to meet at my house for an informal book club. Only two students showed up (not a huge surprise), but I think that it was kind of a success nonetheless.

I'm low on furniture here, so we sat on cushions on the floor eating grapes and drinking apple cider and talking about the book--and other books, and movies, and whatever else came up. These two students are so bright and idiosyncratic; the conversation ranged from Bergman to horror movies to Ivanhoe. What with the floor-sitting and the snacks the whole thing felt very collegiate, and I confess to being a little startled when, towards the end of the evening, one of the students addressed me as Dr. Mihi.

I'm having good feelings about teaching--and students--in general lately. Yesterday I bumped into one of my survey students as he was smoking a cigarette; I asked him how he was enjoying the reading. He told me that he'd been having a hard time with it but that the lecture had clarified things and he loved Satan's shape-shifting in the excerpt we'd read for that day; we talked a little bit about some of the more (and less) exciting things that he'd come across in the text. And last week I conferenced with all my comp students, which at least gave me a stronger sense of who most of them are as people (even if some of the conferences were more successful than others). One of the great things about Field students is that they tend to be pretty comfortable talking to professors. Of course, sometimes this isn't such a great thing, but in general it's nice.

The thing is, I really like most of my students--in some cases without good reason, since I know almost nothing about them and they seldom speak in class. But I look out and see them, day after day, all full of their own lives and their strivings and whatever else is going on, and when I'm in a good mood I feel a peculiar kind of tenderness for them. I want them to do well and I want my classes to push them along in their intellectual growth.

That's sappy as hell, I know. Oh well. I don't sleep much lately. Grant me my emotional outpourings, please!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

A challenging meme

This is incredibly hard. Not the logistics--because I'm just following what Squadratomagico, my tagger, did--but the questions. Lord. What is "classic fiction," anyway? Okay, here's my best shot (preceded by the rules):
There is a set of questions below, all of which are in this format:

"The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is . . . ."

Copy the questions, and before answering them, you may modify them in a limited way, carrying out no more than two of these operations:

*You can leave them exactly as is.

*You can delete any one question.

*You can mutate either the genre, medium, or subgenre of any one question. For instance, you could change"The best time travel novel in SF/Fantasy is . . . " to "The best time travel novel in Westerns is . . ." or "The best time travel movie in SF/Fantasy is . . ." or "The best romance novel in SF/Fantasy is . . . ."

In addition, you can add a completely new question of your choice to the end of the list, as long as it is still in the form "The best [subgenre] [medium] in [genre] is...."

*You must have at least one question in your set, or you've gone extinct, and you must be able to answer it yourself, or you're not viable.

Then answer your possibly mutant set of questions. Please do include a link back to the blog you got them from, to simplify tracing the ancestry, and include these instructions. Finally, pass it along to any number of your fellow bloggers. Remember, though, your success as a Darwinian replicator is going to be measured by the propagation of your variants, which is going to be a function of both the interest your well-honed questions generate and the number of successful attempts at reproducing them.

Here's my genealogy:

My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is Pharyngula.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is Metamagician and the Hellfire Club.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is Flying Trilobite.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is A Blog Around the Clock.
My great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is Primate Diaries.
My great-great-great-great-great-great grandparent is Thus Spake Zuska.
My great-great-great-great-great grandparent is k8, a cat, a mission.
My great-great-great-great grandparent is Monkeygirl.
My great-great-great-grandparent is DancingFish.
My great-great-grandparent is Brazen Hussy.
My great-grandparent is Bad Ass Turtle.
My grandparent is Belle.
My parent is Squadratomagico.

Here are my mutated statements.

The best TV in SF/Fantasy is: Firefly, followed closely by Buffy. (Joss is, apparently, the man.)

The best classic hardboiled detective movie in film noir is: The Thin Man.

The best cult religion in classic fiction is: I delete this question! It is too hard.

The best high-fat food in Mexican cooking my house is: a carton of mint chocolate chip ice cream.

The best publication writing-related words I ever received from a scholar are: "Your dissertation was a pleasure to read."

The best everyday lie in academic life is: Good question--I'll cover that in our next class.

(I think you're only actually supposed to change up to 2 questions--the rule has become a little hazy. But since I can't answer any of the three questions I've changed without changing them, I'm just not going to follow that rule too closely. Oh, I guess I could leave the Mexican cooking question intact, but it's kind of boring.)
And I tag...if you're interested and haven't been tagged...Sisyphus! Dance! Belle! And Flavia!

Keep the line alive.... No pressure, though!

In which I contribute my own outraged vitriol to an ongoing debate

So I came late to the whole "debate" re. the purported "selfishness" of junior faculty who apply to other jobs, and I've made a decision not to blog about it at length--in part because so many other people have already made such strong arguments on their blogs (see Dance for links to the relevant posts), but also because I find the whole argument so shocking that I'm not sure I can respond rationally. The amount of vitriol spewed against people who feel that it's acceptable to change jobs at some point in their careers is appalling. I'm also just flabbergasted that anyone could sincerely believe that there's a moral requirement for Ph.D.s to stay, forever, in the first jobs that they get. It's so nonsensical that I don't even know how to respond to it. I mean, obviously we'd all prefer to get jobs near family/partners/friends, in places where we don't feel culturally marginalized and alone, with ideal teaching-to-research ratios and decent salaries/benefits, our first time out on the market. We'd love it. Of course. But I know exactly zero people (of my academic generation) to whom that's happened, and I know a lot of young Ph.D.s.

Everyone I know has moved. Most did the wandering VAP/adjunct thing for a while before settling down. Several went from a one-year to a tenure-track job that they didn't like to a tenure-track job that they like and plan to stay in. Oh wait--no, I can think of one person who has come out of my (pretty highly ranked) graduate program who got a tenure-track job her first time out and hasn't moved yet. But it was the only job she applied for (!!), she had personal connections in the department, and she didn't even have to move apartments. This is not typical.

I'd like to highlight the wandering VAP phenomenon. This profession, at least in my field, expects and demands that we move frequently before even getting a tenure-track job. This is financially and emotionally draining and unstable; from personal experience, I can say that moving to a strange town far from everyone you love for a one-year position with mediocre pay and no job security, where the culture is rather different from what you're used to and you can't get the foods you like in the grocery store, kind of sucks. So yes, I'm looking forward to settling in someplace and committing to my job. I want to commit to a job. But given the sacrifices that we are already expected to make just to secure a tenure-track job to begin with, it is the height of unreasonableness to then demand that we accept wholeheartedly, like, forever, whatever position the Job Market Gods finally deign to hand down to us. As much as I know that this is the career that I want, as committed as I am to the profession, I am not, ultimately, identical to my job. Our selves do not end where our jobs end. We are, in fact, full human beings, and those who would call our commitments to living full human lives "selfish" can bite me.

See? I said that I couldn't approach the subject rationally. So I'll just leave it at that.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Late this morning I emailed a cover letter and a CV to a school that was accepting electronic applications.

Early this afternoon I received a rejection letter.

I can't help but admire the efficiency of a search committee that gathers on Saturdays at lunchtime to breathlessly await the arrival of each new electronic applications--nearly a week before the application deadline, no less! Clearly, this is a marvel of dedication.

But seriously.

My application must have very obviously not fit with something that they were looking for, despite the fact that there was nothing in the job ad to indicate that. Well, fair enough; they're looking for something and I'm not it. But still, I can't help but be a little taken aback. And marginally worried that my CV is somehow tainted with an appalling, un-hire-able trait.

My only real regret is that this was one of only two schools in my optimal location that's hiring this year. Oh well. The other one looks like a better fit anyway.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Panic. Panic!

I just got an email from a school where I've applied for a job, telling me that page 2 of my advisor's recommendation letter is missing.

I got a similar email last week, from a different school. I called our dossier people. They assured me that they would resend the letter and that it was very unlikely that the mistake would have been repeated in any of my other dossiers.

Well, the mistake was repeated. I have emailed the dossier folk and will call in the morning. I have politely asked them to resend the letter to all 22 schools where my dossier was sent.

I really hope that they do it.

I mean, seriously--this could hurt me, right? When schools are just looking for a way to shift you onto the reject pile? Not that they'd think it was my fault, necessarily, but--yikes. You try so hard to be perfect, and then there are things you can't control--and that's unacceptable. Yeah, okay, that's a textbook control-freak attitude, but in this case I think it's justified. Argh! Help! How bad is this???

Friday, October 26, 2007

Long weekend, hooray!

It's Homecoming here at Field College, which means that we get Friday off. Huzzah! This is the only, yes only acknowledgment that I will make of Homecoming. I will not attend the parade. Or the game. Nor did I volunteer to serve on one of the many "faculty teams" that will be competing with students in some games of some sort, or something. I did not donate candy to be thrown at the parade (what the hell? There's not enough litter in the world? Or crap in people's stomachs?). Nor did I volunteer to throw said candy. Tomorrow's "tailgate" will proceed without me.

I confess that I'm somewhat mystified by this whole homecoming phenomenon. Yeah, we did homecoming stuff in high school, but my college didn't have a homecoming. Neither did my grad school (unless I somehow managed to miss it for 7 years, but I don't think so) (did I?) (in which case, it must have been very low-key). But it is evidently a very big deal here. There was even some kind of convocation ceremony today--it might be going on right now, in fact. Giant placards with fraternity and sorority logos have been erected all over campus, most of them decorated with American flags. It all seems a little excessive, and weirdly nationalistic.

But hey! I get a day off. A Friday, at that. So you won't be hearing any complaints from this mihi.

And what, you ask, will I be doing with my long weekend? Well,
  • First, I will be finishing the final revisions of an article. With luck, it will attain Fully Accepted status within the next week or two.
  • I am also doing my laundry.
  • Next week I'm teaching (parts of) two pretty big texts--Virgil and Milton, yes indeedy--so there must needs be some reading that gets itself done, and soon.
  • However! In comp we're doing peer workshopping and individual conferences next week: no prep! Lots and lots of student-paper-commenting-on coming up, but no prep!
  • Batch of one-page papers to grade; shouldn't take too long if I can actually focus.
  • And--the boyfriend is coming to visit, today! He'll be here in a few hours. I must therefore get started on the work, as I plan on doing some not-working while he's here.
I know I've been a little bit lame with the posting lately, but really, there isn't all that much going on. I've done some on-line shopping and now have a new coat and some pants and sweaters. The leaves are finally changing. My classes are going fine. I still need to order books--nay, figure out what we'll be doing--in my *three* sections of comp 2 next semester. I am determined to make this class fun for me; if I have to have 60 comp students, we'd damn well better be reading some good books. Right? At least I have a great lit class to round out my courseload.

And, of course, job applications. Wow. I really forgot all about them for a minute there--that's a major thing on my weekend to-do list. Yikes. Okay, I'll be busier than I thought.

(Oh! Sisyphus! You must email me your address so you can receive a present. heumihi at yahoo dot com. And if anyone else wants presents, I've got two more to give away!)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Spoke too soon?

Remember yesterday's post? Which ended on an optimistic, I-like-my-job note? Well, of course this morning I was SO

Perhaps because my downstairs neighbors awoke me at 6:15 with a dual tantrum:

Little girl (age 7 or so): AAAAAHHHH!

Mother (age, oh, 30ish): GET DRESSSSSED!

Little girl: AAAHHHHH!


Unbelievable. The parenting that goes on here. I tell you. And this went on for, oh, 15 minutes?

So yeah, I wasn't in the cheeriest of humors when I got to the office. The day was fine, though.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

There are moments when I really can't bear it

Yeah, okay, that sounds a little dramatic. When really all I'm talking about is the tedium of job letters.

For yes, today has been a day of the job letter. Having conveniently forgotten just how much I hate writing these things, I came up with quite a long list of jobs to apply for. Yay, right? Yeah, yay, I guess, except when you're spending hours upon hours going through universities' websites trying to figure out the precise teaching-to-research ratio that should be communicated in the cover letters, exactly what courses they need that you can teach, whether they'll care about your subfields or just want a pure Englishy type, etc etc etc. And then realizing that the minute adjustments made to each letter probably won't make that much of a difference--but finding yourself incapable of not making them, because after all you've come so far, and what's a little more?

Gripe, gripe, grouse. I'm not actually that unhappy about it (see "long list of jobs," above)--just a little squirmy from sitting at my desk all afternoon. And I'm not exactly overprepared for tomorrow's classes, you see.

But hey. Classes have been proceeding apace. It's kind of nice, isn't it, how the days pass and the classes get done even if you aren't knocking yourself out to get ready for them? Besides, they're going pretty well. Round about 3 weeks ago, I think, I suddenly quit being so nervous. It's funny. I think that I was pretty scared of my students for the first six weeks or so of the semester, and now--well, I'm not. And I feel much better about my classes as a result, and much less terrified of running out of material (seeing as that hasn't happened, once, in the 9 weeks of teaching--that's, hm, close to a hundred class sessions!--that I've had this semester).

And on some of those perfectly acceptable days? I had not spent three hours writing up detailed lecture notes and mentally rehearsing the transitions between each of the points I wanted to cover. Virtually no difference in my performance--if anything, I think that I was more relaxed and less "performed." Apparently I'm getting the hang of things.

So, to end this post on a note opposite that with which I titled it: Hey! Sometimes I kind of like my job.

Friday, October 19, 2007

A freshly minted plum

I hereby declare myself officially tired of the following words and phrases:
  • freshly minted, esp. in reference to Ph.D.s*
  • plum (adj.)*
  • outside the box (yes, I know, everybody's been sick of this one for years, and yet apparently some people didn't get the memo)
  • didn't get the memo
  • create a buzz, buzzing
  • student learning
  • learning environment
  • student-centered (thank goodness my teaching philosophy is already written, eh?)
(*Can you tell that I've been spending too much time on the Chronicle's website?)

Und so weiter
. There are others. Perhaps I'll add them later. But right now I really need to be prepping for the class that starts in 36 minutes, not thinking of words I hate. Do you have anything to add?

Also, please see my preceding post and sign up for presents, please.

I need to post this before I forget!

Because Hilaire will be sending ME a present, I extend the memely offer to the generalized blog-o-sphere (forgive me; I've been grading). The deal is this:
If you'd like to receive a gift from me before the end of the calendar year, be one of the first five people to leave a comment, and ye shall receive! Just email with your RL address [heumihi at yahoo]. You just have to put out the same call on your own blog, and send out five gifts yourself.
I promise to send fabulous yet absurdly inexpensive gifts, possibly ordered from one of the retailers who advertise in the back pages of Bust magazine, and therefore supporting some independent female crafty person. (Possibly. Can't be sure. Some of that stuff is expensive.)

And I assume that it's okay to receive presents from more than one person? Cause the internet circles in which I move are rather maybe you can sign up with me even if you've already signed up with someone else? I'd hate to only send out FOUR presents!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

One-Minute Dance Party

If you need a break from grading or job apps or whatever, go rock out with a dancing cockatoo.

You'll enjoy it. I did.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Oy. Just...oy.

I have done very little writing today (relatively speaking), and yet my hand is all cramped up and achy. This is making it even more difficult than it would normally be to muster the strength to grade any of the 24 remaining papers from last Wednesday (I got through 6 this evening; the target is 8. Modest, yet undoable).

I also just had one of those moments where you start to read the next paper on your pile, decide that you're in no way strong enough to make it through that particular paper, and shift it to lower in the stack. Once I start down that path, the productivity outlook is bleak indeed.

I spent most of the evening feeling gloriously on top of things. But that's only because I'm stubbornly refusing to think about the things that I have to have done for Wednesday and beyond. Readings for the two different preps on Wednesday? Not done. Reading for Thursday? Not done. Don't even ask me about Friday. Oh, and right, I'm supposed to have a prompt for a major paper ready by class tomorrow! And I have meetings for most of tomorrow morning! But this is work that can be postponed; they don't have to be done by dawn tomorrow, after all. Hours and hours of potential work-time remain. So long as I get up at 4 am, that is. (Or, realistically, 6.)

Also, I discovered today that it'll cost me more than $500 to fly home for Thanksgiving. Which means that I might not be flying home for Thanksgiving. This pains me greatly, although I have to admit that the prospect of two fewer days in airports this semester is not terribly upsetting. A whine: How come I'm always the one--the only one--in my family who has to travel for the holidays? Obviously because I'm the only one who lives far away from the rest of my family. Nonetheless, it sucks mightily.

Ugh ugh ugh. Maybe I'll call it a night. I haven't really had dinner; does ice cream count? How about if I eat it with TV?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

I might have made a mistake.

I ate some questionable tofu for dinner, and now I'm feeling a little ungood. It might just be heartburn, but it also might not.

...Okay, a confession: When I realized that the tofu was indeed questionable, I thought, "Hey, if I get sick, I can take a day off!"

Evidently I really wanted tofu. Or a day off. Or both.


Thursday, October 11, 2007

File under "Yeah, Right"

Apparently course book orders for the spring semester need to be in by October 12.

As in tomorrow.


Equally apparently, no one else has theirs together yet, either.

But I will be leaving all that behind, sort of, for a couple of days! I'm writing this from the airport: In just 5.5 hours I will be in the Metropole with the Boyfriend. Hooray! Long weekend!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Well, That's Over

So I met with the problematic student yesterday. For like 2.5 minutes. It was shockingly anti-climactic; he was totally agreeable, just said "Sure, yeah, okay," and I pretty much ran out of things to say after a few sentences. Well. What could I do, in the face of zero resistance? I told him that what he'd written was unacceptable in an academic context--not just my class, but any of his classes--and that there was no difference between this and racism/anti-Semitism/what have you. Eh. That's over.

And I'm feeling pretty much done with it, myself, so that suits me fine.

In better teaching news:

I had my students fill out mid-term evaluations this week, and I'm pretty pleased with the results. The upper-level and survey courses got generally very good reviews, and my comp reviews were surprisingly decent (not stellar, but fine--any dissatisfaction with the course seems linked to our choice of textbooks and the basic structure of the comp sequence, not to me in particular. Although I have been accused of using "too many big words." Um...k?).

There were a couple of funny comments in the reviews. Someone wrote (in pencil) "Seems very intelligent" next to the rate-the-professor question and then erased it; another student praised me for being delicate with students who weren't quite on the right track and managing not to just tell people that they were "wrong." My first thought in reading the latter was, "They're on to me!" Because I often have the sense--especially in that particular class--that I'm doing a lot of heavy damage control: putting out the Fires of Error without snuffing out the Flame of Enthusiasm. Unfortunately, Error-Fires tend to feed on the dry twigs of Easy Agreement to Score Participation Points, leading to a raging inferno that threatens to spread into even the minds of Sound Timber--I'm losing track of my metaphor--get the idea? Yeah. In plainer terms: Errors compound when they go unchecked. But I'd rather have the students correct one another than just tell them the right answers (obviously). So when someone says something that's just not quite accurate, I'll ask the rest of the class if they agree--sometimes this works fine, but at others I find us charging headlong down an obscure and troubling path--

--and, okay, I'm spending way too long describing a not-innovative strategy. Y'all know what I'm talking about.

So, hum. I have job apps to work on. I need to read for Thursday (because I'm booked from 8am to 9:30pm tomorrow). I'm not fully prepped for Wednesday. I need to figure out an assignment for Monday (no class Friday, huzzah!). And...maybe I'll just turn in early.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Teaching Query

This is probably a long shot, but has anyone out there taught That Female Poet of Ancient Greece* before? We're reading her for my upper-level course this week, and, while I have some ideas for how to approach her poetry (how we read ancient texts, articulation of desire), I'd be interested in hearing how other people have addressed her poetry in the classroom. (*Deliberately obfuscated to avoid Google searches.)

So yeah, I have some ideas, but since the upper-level course is well out of my AOS and I've only ever read FPAG (what an awful acronym) in preparation for this very course--like five weeks ago, and then again this weekend, to be honest--any and all suggestions would be welcome. I love her poetry, by the way:

I do not expect my fingers
to graze the sky,

for starters. Anyway, what I'm interested in is how we draw inferences based upon such small scraps. But since they haven't had any critical readings on this (other than the introduction to our edition), and this is hardly my area of expertise, I'm not sure how far I can go with that idea. Any resources that any of you would recommend? Other approaches to her poems?

I'll come up with something, I'm sure. But hey--y'all are a resource, and, in the Great American Tradition, I might as well exploit you. Right?

Friday, October 5, 2007

No Show

Yep, that's right: The Student didn't turn up for our meeting.

He did come to class, though--about 10 minutes late. And wandered out halfway through the hour for a while (to go to the bathroom or something; I don't know--this is unprecedented behavior on his part). When I walked up to him after class (standing over his desk, all severe) and said, "You missed our meeting this morning," he replied:

"What? Oh, right. My bad."

"11:00 Monday morning," I said.

"Yeah, okay."

Maybe someday, someday, this stupid situation will be resolved. In the meantime, I like to think that I have him on the run. At any rate his passive-aggressive techniques (if that's what they are) aren't actually bothering me all that much.

So much of my anxiety about this situation--and about teaching in general--seems to have melted away this week. I don't know why. But I'm hoping that it lasts: everything seems kind of...fine. For one thing, I'm not sweating through my shirt every time I stand up in front of a class. And I'll take that as a sign of success.

It's Friday, and I'm feeling good.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Dr. Mihi, Thesis Advisor! (And also an update on the Situation.)

So yes, I am a Thesis Advisor! (By the way, am I alone in preferring "advisor" to "adviser"? Is "adviser" really the only correct spelling?)

I'm really excited to be working with this student: she's doing a thesis on a topic WAY the hell out of my field, but she seems very bright and enthusiastic and it looks like an interesting project. And if you're wondering why I'm advising a thesis that has nothing to do with my own work, it's because the English department at Field is tiny and there's nobody else to do it. Normally, VAPs and first-year faculty aren't really supposed to act in an advisory capacity, but the chair encouraged me to take this opportunity.

I feel!

In fact, I'm having a really good week. Nothing especially good has happened; I'm totally stressed and somewhat behind, of course, but that seems to be pretty much normal and I'm learning to live with it. Maybe that's the thing: I'm learning to live with the job. This whole gig does represent a pretty radical change of lifestyle, after all, so it's natural that I'd be a little overwhelmed, or even freaked out, for the first few weeks.

Class today was great, also. I made the conscious decision--and told my students that I was doing this--to relax my hold on the discussion. This is my upper-level course, and I really want it to be discussion-based, but I'd noticed that lately my grip upon the class had been tightening, ever so the point where I was literally back behind the podium. So today I made a tremendous effort, the students had clearly done their work, and I actually didn't even use my notes. Trust me: this is a major breakthrough.

(We'll see how long it lasts.)

Now for the less cheery news: The Student. I'm meeting with him tomorrow; I returned his paper yesterday. I'm not looking forward to this meeting, but I am (obviously) much calmer now, and I think that it'll be fine. I'm going to meet with him one-on-one and start off by telling him that this is simply inappropriate, that racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. speech is not acceptable in an academic setting. Period. And then maybe I'll talk about the issues with audience and voice and whatnot--we'll see. He handed in another paper yesterday that is riddled with sexist stereotyping and generalizations, unfortunately. Fortunately, however, the latter paper in no way addresses the assignment! So, while I've written comments all over the draft (it was just an ungraded first draft) that say things like, "Evidence?" and "This is in direct contradiction to your earlier argument" and "What basis do you have for arguing that all women are like this?" and the like, ultimately the problem, for our purposes, is that he has not done the assignment. Hooray!

One rather amusing upshot of this whole situation (and by the way, this is a comp class; I think I forgot to mention the context) is that some of the other students have started overcompensating for his sexism. As you might recall, he made some unpleasant remarks in class about women (basically that we're all backstabbing gold-diggers, although he didn't use those words), so the rest of the class is aware of his views. For this last assignment--which was to critically examine a social construction (or stereotype) about a particular group of people--I received a spate of "Women are equal!" papers. No, this doesn't really address the question either, and one of the things we're going to talk about when we discuss revision is the importance of adhering to the prompt. Oh well. Anyway. My very favorite one--it made me laugh aloud--came from one of The Student's friends. He wrote about how it's a shame that women are made to feel like they have to be thin to be beautiful, or are treated as though they can't do all the jobs that men can do. Women can do anything at all, he says. And all women are equally beautiful in his eyes.

Ummm....yeah, whatever, dude. I do appreciate the effort, though, even if he is just giving me what he thinks I want to hear; at least he's thinking about his audience!

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Calm after the Storm (and before the Meeting)

So I'm feeling much, much less upset about the awful student thing. Thank you, everyone, for your ideas and support. I've now spoken with my department chair, division chair, and dean; they all had slightly different approaches to the situation, so I'm still deciding what to do.

I don't think that I'm going to move to kick the student out of my class, at this point (if he does anything else, though, that might happen). That probably wouldn't be in his or my best interests, since he has a lot of friends in the class, and he might end up just feeling stifled for having unpopular views. This is not my primary concern, but it does figure into my calculations.

The best (realistic) outcome of this whole situation would be if he were to learn that saying and writing such things is totally unacceptable and wouldn't do anything else to press these points in class, ever. Ideally, of course, he would also rethink his views of women. The latter is unlikely to happen anytime soon, however, and my kicking him out of the class is very unlikely to reform him at all--although, again, that is definitely a secondary or even tertiary consideration.

So. What to do? Well, two options. (1) I can have a formal meeting with him and another campus authority in which we take the "This is hate speech and will not be tolerated" approach. In this scenario, I wield my power like a mighty ax and emphasize the awfulness of what he's saying, how it makes people uncomfortable, etc. Or (2) I can meet with him one-on-one and discuss how what he's written is not a good example of persuasive writing, the importance of taking one's audience into account, and how such vitriol is precisely what alienated him from the article he's responding to in the first place. I could then move into talking about the effects of using sexist language in class, and how that's unacceptable and will not be tolerated in the future.

In both scenarios, he re-writes the paper.

At the moment I'm actually leaning towards no. 2, with the intention of watching his future papers and comments very closely and also of talking to his coach to make sure that this isn't part of a visible pattern of behavior (because obviously it's part of some larger pattern, unless he's really just trying to upset me, which I doubt). The upside of no. 2 is that he might actually learn something, and the fallout for me will be less: like I say, he has a lot of friends in that class. And if I present it as calmly and professionally as I intend to, then he'll be denied any satisfaction that he might have hoped to derive from upsetting me--if that was, in fact, his intention.

The downside is that I'm not sure I feel that this is a strong enough course of action. It was the one that the dean recommended, however, and she made some good arguments in its favor. (She read the paper, so she knows what we're dealing with.)

It would also be the easiest for me to carry out, frankly.

Anyway. At this point I'm calm, my rage has burnt itself out (thank God), and I'm ready to just settle this. I feel okay now, though. I was having some serious "I can't do this" feelings on Saturday night, and now those have dissipated; classes today were perfectly acceptable, and I'm not getting down on myself about any of this. I mean, one kind of nice thing is that there's no conceivable way I can blame myself for any aspect of this situation; I know that's sort of an odd thing to be comforted by, but it is a relief. My teaching is not at issue here. It's some other big scary thing instead.

Yikes. It's comforting in a rather selfish way, I suppose.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

I don't need this.

I just read a short paper by one of my students, and it's appallingly misogynistic. Appallingly. He actually says that women are inferior and that men don't need them; that all they're good for is child-bearing.

I believe that this student is serious, because he said some similar things (and other crazy sexist stuff) in class the other day, and in an earlier paper he referred to his ex-girlfriend as a whore, going into quite a bit of detail about how awful she was.

I just sent my department chair a lengthy email describing the paper and asking her what I should do--whether there's someone on campus I can go to with this, or what.

The thing is, I don't want to teach him. I just don't. I'm pretty sure that I'm not going to be able to change his views on women this semester (and how would I do that?), but by continuing to teach him--and possibly passing him--I feel that I'd be endorsing, or at least permitting, his view. I'm on the verge of tears writing this; his paper was so hateful and insane that I'm not sure how to cope with him. (He's always decently polite in class, by the way, so it's not as though I've had problems with him in the past.)

I just feel shocked and appalled and--attacked, frankly. And I'm afraid that, even if he stops writing this kind of horrible garbage, he'll still be thinking it, and I don't know what to do about that.

And with that, I just might stop working for the night. Where's that beer?

Oh, the Things I Need to Do

5:00 might be a little late for a to-do list, fine. FINE. But here it is anyway, because this must be an Evening of Productivity. And possibly of Beer, As Well.
  • finish grading comp papers
  • prep one class (just one! The other's getting done tomorrow)
  • fix a healthy dinner, for God's sake
  • making a few minor revisions to the CV and book proposal--nah, just the CV (hey, how do you cross things out in Blogger?)
  • read one article
  • (maybe) rough out revisions to the Conditional Article
Today was not as productive as it maybe could have been, though I seem to have kept busy. I did, finally, do several important house things, like make granola and repot a plant, and I got through a small amount of reading. But a colleague organized a Grading Party at the local coffee shop (a small Grading Party--just the three of us new folk), and that was less productive than humanly possible. I got through a lot of papers, but not four hours worth of papers. Oh well. I suppose it's good that I occasionally speak to people on the weekends.

Boring post, sorry. But that's the view from here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Conditional Triumph

My article has been (conditionally) accepted! I have some very minor revisions to make and one or two issues to sort out, and then that annoying parenthetical can--I hope--be deleted. Huzzah!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Much Better Now

Yeah, I don't know what was going on with me this morning. Or last night, either. I was in some kind of blue place: feeling very vulnerable and alarmed. About everything. By mid-day today, though, all was well again, and I can't remember what I was so freaked out about.

No, I'm not on top of my grading (I'll get through it this weekend) and yes, I have a really difficult class to prepare for tomorrow (with a virtual guarantee that half of them won't have done the reading--it's hard, and papers are due--and that those that have won't understand it, so, you know, eck), but it's okay. Everything is just fine.

You know what's funny? I think that that expressionless stare I mentioned in my last post has something to do with my improved mood. In the first weeks of class, I was pretty unnerved by any and all discipline issues (nothing too major, but I have some whisperers in one section and a couple of jokey, noisy students in another). For a long time, I didn't feel comfortable telling them to knock it off or otherwise being stern. And, well, I'm pretty much getting over that. I'm also a lot less panicky about those students who consistently just say things in class that are way the hell off. At first I would try to salvage some meaning from them ("Yes, there is a sense in which Beowulf really just wants to be loved"--okay, I never said that, nor would I ever, but you get the idea), but at this point--hey! I'm the professor! And, well, you're wrong! Next!

(I'm gentler than that, obviously. But my Strategies of Redirection are definitely improving.)

One thing I'm trying this year is keeping a teaching diary. So after every class, more or less, I write a little paragraph about what I did, how it went, my thoughts on my performance, and any issues with students that came up. It's still pretty early in the year, so I haven't reread any of this yet, but it's helping me to think of the development of my teaching skills as a process--something that will change and (presumably) improve with time. It's also nice to reflect on things that worked. Such as having a great discussion on X topic (I try to note the topic), or really feeling confident and in control of the material, or actually having fun now and again. I think that this diary will be a good tool down the line, too, and will help with all kinds of things, such as answering teaching questions in job interviews or remembering how in the hell I've taught Spenser in the past. Also--while I don't think that this'll be an issue--in the unlikely event that I have a real problem with a student, I'll have a record of any questionable interactions with him/her from the beginning.

(No, I haven't had any questionable interactions yet. But I'll write them down if I do.)

So yeah. It's a challenge. It's a challenge, quite frankly, just having a proper job: In grad school, I never had this many obligations--of the kind that have to be met immediately, with dire consequences if they aren't. And I'm learning. It'll be fine, just fine. All shall be well and all that.

In stark contrast to my previous post

Not much to report. Just checking in to say that I'm tired. And a little cranky. And somehow behind in my work, only two days into the week, after a solidly productive weekend. What the hell?

Grumble, grumble. Too much to do today and all I want to do is sleep in....

But okay, I think I know what's going on. We're in the middle 1/3 of the semester (it's the 6th week, after all), and, as Porpentine recently said, the honeymoon is over. A good number of my students don't seem to be keeping up with the reading. Some of the freshmen seem to have become more relaxed with one another and simultaneously less concerned with impressing me. And I, I am tired. I need an actual day, or even just a half-day, entirely off: when I can be thinking about things other than classes and not dwelling on how much work I'll have to do later, once the non-working is over.

In better news, though, once Wednesday is finished, I always feel as though the weekend is almost upon me. Each class just meets one more time, and then I get two days away from campus! Hooray!

ETA: Coffee helps--as does the realization that there might be a hormonal element to my particular despair (much as I hate admitting to that as a cause). I feel much more capable of dealing with the world now. And today, we are talking about what kinds of claims can and cannot be defended--even though technically that's supposed to be the focus of Comp II. Whatever. Today, the stick bears down.

(--In the mildest possible fashion. Seriously, I am not a scary teacher. Although I am working on a certain expressionless stare that seems to be effective in dealing with the more rambunctious elements....)

ETA2: Another thing that's probably stressing me out? I should be hearing back about an article any day now. I'm very nervous and hopeful; somehow I've convinced myself that my entire future rides on this thing (which it doesn't! it doesn't!).

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Last night, as I was tossing about in bed getting ready to sleep, I noticed quite a bright light coming in through my blinds. As I live in the middle of the fields and there usually isn't a lot of ambient, urban-type light around here at night, I got up to look out the window and see what all the brilliance was about. And no, it wasn't some brand-new street lamp grinning in the window, but the moon--a just-past-half-full moon visible beyond the black branches of the tree in the side yard.

I've always had a thing about moonlight. I remember the first time I really noticed moonlight: I was twelve, and I'd got up to go to the bathroom. On my way back to my room, I saw a strangely bright, bluish light striking the wall above the stairs that went down to the first floor. There was a semi-circular window high up above the front door--we had one of those two-story foyers that were all the rage--and its shape was perfectly replicated in blue-white light. Intrigued, I went down a few steps until I was standing right in the gleaming half-disk. Before me, framed in the window, was the full, white moon. I stood there for a while in a kind of awe. I was a kid who loved fairy tales and fantasy, and the moon had some kind of resonance for me--This is what they're always talking about, I must have thought. The bright white moonlight. A moon so bright you can see by it.

I've noticed the moon here, often--almost every time I've come home after dark, in fact. I'm amazed at how clearly it lights up the yards and the houses, the shadows it casts through the trees. The moon always fills me with a weird kind of yearning: that's the word for it, yearning. I don't know what I yearn for, exactly, when I see the moon, but a powerful desire for something comes over me, a desire mingled with a nostalgia for a time I can't remember. If I had to guess, I'd say that I'm yearning for a life in which the moonlight matters, if that makes sense. In which I'm aware of it on a daily basis, and it makes a difference.

So last night I opened my blind, and then lifted the screen so that I could actually put my head and shoulders out the window and see the sky more clearly. The stars were out, too, though somewhat dwarfed by the brilliance of the moon. It's more than a little trite, I know, but it's easy for me to imagine the vastness of the universe when I look at the stars. I find them somehow reassuring. The world is big and wide and the moon is high and cold; the stars burn on and on and on. I knelt there for a long time, looking at the moon and the stars and the blue light on the grass, the black branches against the sky. When I finally went to bed, I left the shade up so that the moonlight could rake across me in my sleep.

Attention to such things: it's something I've usually lost--or never had, more likely. Not with any kind of consistency. Mindfulness, awareness of the existence of your own life, starts in such long looks. I also spent fifteen minutes last night watching a tiny bug that I had rescued from drowning dry itself off in the palm of my hand. Perhaps I needed these moments last night. Watching the bug slowly uncoil its antennae and reach a trembling limb out to the tip of my thumb, or the spinning of a leaf black in the white of the moon, I felt a kind of connection with things outside of myself (and my job). I slept well and dreamed vividly in the moonlight.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Ho Hum

It's Saturday night, and the plan is to watch a movie I've had sitting on my desk for lo these many (3) weeks. But my to-do list for the weekend is so long that I feel I have to do some more work before I get into that. Also I haven't done the dishes yet. The truth of the matter, however, is that I don't want to work any more. And so I'm mucking about on the internet, instead.

Today I have:
  • read and prepped for 2 classes
  • read for a third class
  • ordered books for some down-the-line course prep
  • graded 9 mid-length papers, 5 one-page papers, and two batches of a quick homework assignment (this grading, in toto, took 2.5 hours--my hand hurts)
  • gone to the grocery store
I really feel like I did more than that. I mean, I worked pretty steadily all day. One course reading/prepping session took about three hours, so I suppose that that slowed things down--but still. I must grade the rest of those mid-length papers this weekend (six to go!), and there's a whole bunch of job stuff that I need to get a handle on immediately. And I need to prep the third class--although that should be quick, since we're actually reading excerpts from a text that I did significant work on for my dissertation, so I can very easily give lots of contextual stuff and whatnot.

Weekends are just too short, though. I'm not at all used to this kind of schedule (o graduate school! how I miss thee, already!), and the weekdays just pass in a blur with no time to do anything outside of what's immediately required. Then there are the meetings, of which there are a lot more than I would have anticipated--departmental meetings, all-faculty meetings, new faculty meetings. And I've agreed to advise a student organization, which shouldn't take up too much time, but they're getting their year started and are meeting rather a lot at the moment. Oh, and yes, I'm trying to get some exercise a few times a week, since my new location doesn't give me the long daily walks that I'm used to. It's astounding how little time there is for anything else--even things like cooking and keeping the apartment reasonably clean--once all of that stuff is added up.

No, this isn't one long whine, although I know that it looks like it. I'm truly just amazed at how busy I am this year; I knew that I'd be busy, intellectually, but I don't think I'd quite absorbed the reality. (I've used that phrase hundreds of time in my life, I think. No wonder my dissertation had to do with experience as a means of gaining knowledge, eh?)

Meanwhile, a small mystery:
I received a yoga DVD in the mail the other day, with no note. The Boyfriend didn't send it to me; neither did my mother. There are a few other suspects, but I haven't fully investigated yet. I assume that I'll eventually figure out where it came from, but in case I don't, I would like to extend my appreciation here--thank you, anonymous sender! Even if you never read this (and unless you're a particular one of my suspects, you probably never will), my gratitude and pleasure is hereby publicly broadcast.

Friday, September 21, 2007

For Some Reason

I don't know why, exactly--maybe I'm just tired--but this morning I want to stay home and hide.

Well. It's the last day of the 5th week of the semester. We're officially in the middle of things; perhaps that has something to do with it--the need for a break? Last weekend, while wonderful, wasn't exactly restful. It's true that my weekend to-do list is appallingly long, but at least I'll have two whole days to work on it.

All right: I need to pull myself together here. Everything is going to be fine. I even have a fun activity planned for my last class of the day; I mean, okay, it's seriously nerdy fun, so I'm not sure that all my students will think that it's as great as I do, but whatever. I'm looking forward to it.

Happy Friday, everyone!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Trying to Work, and Failing

I need to prep for tomorrow--we're talking about Plato, for Christ's sake--but I'm having some problems focusing. Why?

Some theories:
  1. The relatively huge number of jobs in my field this year. (Twenty-five straight-up medievalist jobs on the JIL so far, by my count. And that's not including all the "early English" and "Medieval or Renaissance" jobs.) And some of them would be amazing--of course, these are jobs I almost certainly* won't get, but I do love the dreaming part.
    (*The "almost" has no business in that sentence, obviously. Nonetheless....) (See? The dreaming at work!)
  2. One of the jobs that's posted is a job I had an MLA interview for last year. Why might this be? And what are my chances this year? During market-season I develop a highly idiosyncratic system of statistical calculation; it's time I get back into that.
  3. I dunno. I'm tired. Got in at about 10:30 last night after a solid 11-hour journey (door to door). The Metropole is too damned far away. Not a place to go for a weekend. This makes me sad.
  4. I just went to a "tenure and promotion" info meeting. Of course, I'm not on the tenure-track here, but there's a chance that I could be eventually. So this was somewhat interesting.
  5. My two comp sections continue to be dialectical opposites. Intriguingly, however, they have switched poles: the formerly-sluggish is now lively and fun, while the other one has gone from happy and talkative to downright mute. Ech. (But the lit classes are great! I love them!)
  6. I have promised myself that I can have a beer when I'm done prepping, but I really want a beer now, and thus I am not prepping.
  7. I have been very stupid in the arrangement of my Netflix queue, to my aggravation. So I have a stack of movies I don't want to watch (or don't have time to watch), and the TV shows I enjoy will not come until I have watched them. Why do I do this to myself? Oh, why??
Okay. I want that beer. Reward system, I command you to work!

Friday, September 14, 2007

2pm EST? Are you kidding me?

Argh! So it's entirely likely that, what with my travel plans and all, I'll get through the entire day without seeing the new JIL. After the months of waiting!

Responsible Mihi says that this is probably for the best, given that I'm not exactly over-prepared for today's classes (this seems to be a regular Friday phenomenon). But Responsible Mihi has been getting too much airtime these days, says Irresponsible Mihi. Sigh. It doesn't matter which Mihi is in charge. It's out of the Mihis' hands.

At any rate I won't be blogging or blog-reading during my Metropole Weekend. Rest up, y'all, and I'll see you on Monday....

Thursday, September 13, 2007

J to the I to the L

The fun is about to begin.

Anyone want to join me in a rousing chorus of "One Day More"? (Yes, I sing tunes from Les Miserables whenever they can be even remotely linked to the events from my life. Who's asking?)

I am not sick!

It was option no. 3: allergies + lack of sleep. Last night I slept for 9 hours with the windows shut, and today I am right as rain (whatever that means). Hooray! The trip to the Metropole will not be tainted!

I do have an awful lot of work to do today, though. I must:
  • comment on 9 more papers
  • prep two classes
  • read for one of these two classes
  • figure out what on earth we're doing in the other class next week
  • teach one class
  • meet with two colleagues (about different things and at different times)
  • laundry
  • get ready for my trip
Um. This is looking more than a little daunting. And I'm pretty sure that there was something else...but what?

Seriously, I can't remember the last time I was as busy as I have been this month.