Thursday, February 26, 2009

It happens so fast

Dear Students,

I fear that we have reached a certain point in the semester. You might have seen it coming, or you might have been so blinded by my encouraging smiles that it will leave you scarred and trembling beneath your desks, unable to complete your midterm papers. Those of you who've had me before, however, you know what's happened: We're at the point where I turn from a kind, cheerful, helpful teacher to an imperious bitch who hates your wretched, slimy, excuse-generating guts.*

To the student who's two and a half weeks late handing in a form:

What the hell is your problem? I see that you read my emails--the shiny red about-to-explode-with-urgency emails, the emails that tell you to PLEASE email me because I CAN HELP YOU with whatever is holding up this process. WTF? Why aren't you answering them? What is the problem, nutso? Don't you realize that not replying to me is absolutely the worst thing that you can do in this situation? You can't avoid me. I direct this program. Answer my goddamn emails al-fucking-ready.

To the slacker who sent me several emails asking for unreasonable extensions, and who replied to my lengthy explanation of why those extensions were unreasonable with a terse, "I'm sorry that my requests upset you,"

Good lord. You didn't "upset" me. You irritated me, and your sense of cheerful entitlement was rather perplexing, but I'm not "upset." Now, of course, I am a little more irritated than I was previously, so perhaps that will make you feel better? Anyway, as I clearly stated, you had plenty of time to do these assignments--and maybe if you gave me any indication that you had even acquired the books for this (literature!!!) class, I'd be more disposed to help you out.

To the 90% of my composition class who is not currently in the "A"-range,

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, READ THE FUCKING ASSIGNMENT SHEET. How can you complete an assignment if you don't know what it is? What the hell are you writing in your drafts, anyway? And here's a tip: If I say in the prompt that you cannot use websites as sources, then you can be pretty confident that I won't accept websites as sources. Who do you think grades these papers, anyway? What's your damage? Jesus! I write out a full page (longer than most of your actual papers, btw) explaining how to complete the assignment, and all indications suggest that fewer than half of you even get through the first paragraph. My prose isn't that tortured. You can do it. One page! READ IT!!!!

And, as a special bonus, let's excoriate IT while we're at it! Dear IT,

What have you done to my webmail? Why is it so slow? It makes me want to kill myself. Really. If I am found dead, it will be your fault. I hate everything. And you did this to me.

All right.


Most of you are fine, really. But if you want to take any of these characters outside for a little beat-down, be my guest.

*I don't, actually. In case a reminder was needed. But this is the point where I get pretty damn irritated, and I fear that my carefully polite emails to students might reveal the rage that I, in my careful wording, am working so hard to conceal. Here, however, in the interest of therapy, I am writing the emails that I would really, truly like to send (but I'm pretty sure that I'd regret it in the morning).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


There are many ways to take the following anecdote, but I've settled on the most personally flattering.

Provost candidate is on campus. My chair is chairing the committee. They're having an informal chat the evening of the candidate's arrival, when Candidate says,

"I've been reading about your faculty. Tell me about this Heu Mihi."

Chair says that yeah, I'm pretty great. Natch.

Ze names my undergrad and graduate institutions and says something (again, natch) about how awesome I must be. What is someone like me, hir point is, doing at a place like this? And how do they keep me around?

Chair agrees that this is one of the challenges that the college has to face--figuring out what kinds of support new faculty (me and others like me, e.g. TM) need to be happy here.

Candidate agrees that this must be a priority.

So either this is hugely complimentary--that the candidate singled me out for accolades--or a pretty shabby statement on my job market success/lack thereof.

(Of course, all ze could have gleaned from my blurb was where I went to school and my two accepted/published articles; I can say without bragging, though, that I might stand out a bit on the website--few of our faculty have significant referreed publications, and most went to graduate schools more or less in the area. And also, Candidate is an Englishy type, so it makes sense that ze would've looked at our deparmtent more closely. Nonetheless! I remain flattered. And of course I now think that the candidate is awesome, too: proof that the system works.)


Other than feeling like my brain is banging around in my skull, I think I'm feeling better. Of course, we'll have to see how the walk to school feels--fatigue seems to be my other major symptom.

Staying home sick, while nice in that it does not involve going to work, otherwise sucks. By 3 pm I was bored, grouchy, and lonely, and my body was aching with inactivity. So I'm back to campus today--in part because I only have one class and an office hour. I can handle this. Class might be pretty weak, though. I'm working up a group discussion topic.

I keep thinking that the semester is almost over, but it isn't. Six weeks down; nine to go (not including spring break). In 10 days, I leave for vacation.

I haven't told you my spring break plans yet, have I? Oh but they're good ones. I might save it.

Man this is a boring post. Sorry. I'm just putting off prepping and washing the breakfast dishes--always a good reason for subjecting the Internet to my aimless typings!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

How Heu Mihi, the Haughty Dame of the Field, was taken ill with the same illness that had plagued her before, and of her anger thereat

Yesterday eve I was wonderly wroth to discover that the illness that had infected me before had once again opened within me, that its button was all to-brast and the soreness of the throat had returned. And I said, Thou false recreant student, whoever thou art, that hast to-give me of the illness yet again, I said, I shall find thee out and smite thee with mine sword, or if not mine sword, then with mine pen of bad grading. For though thou art perhaps a true student, I said, who meant not the harm that thou hast caused me, still thou hast had a sneezing on a paper, or it may be a coughing in the office upon the hours thereof, I said, and thou hast all forsickened me yet again, much to my weariness thereat, wherefore thou art a false recreant student and a traitor, and I would like to have thee all to-brent, but law forbids it. And thus I spent another weekend lying about feeling pitiful, and could not take my ease there at that time.

And so with great dolor out of measure I began to resort again unto mine cold medicine, and there was weeping, or if not weeping at least I fell down aswooning, for the cold medicine made me wonderly weary and I fell down as though dead and lay as a corse for many a long hour.

I'm teaching Malory these days, and I find the language working its way into my brain. Indulging its rhythms here is my solace in this time of sickness. You should try it sometime.

And fine, "Haughty Dame" is more of a Chretienism, but I couldn't resist.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


I should be prepping, but I vastly prefer checking off lists that make me look good. Thus, I bring you the BBC Book Meme, as seen at Dr. Crazy's.

BBC Book List

Apparently the BBC reckons most people will have only read 6 of the 100 books here.
1) Look at the list and put an ‘x’ after those you have read.
2) Add a ‘+’ to the ones you LOVE.
3) Star (*) those you plan on reading.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen X+
2 The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkein - X
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte X+
4 Harry Potter series - JK Rowling X
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee X
6 The Bible – Parts, of course, but admittedly little
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte X
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell X
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman X
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott X
12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller X
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare – Sufficient but not complete
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien X
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks I haven't heard of this one, actually
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger - X
19 The Time Traveller’s Wife - Audrey Niffenegger X+
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot – X+++!
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell - seen the movie, though!
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald – X
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens - X
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy – abridged! accidentally—I really thought it was complete....
25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams - X
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky - X
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck - X
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame - X
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy X
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis - X
34 Emma - Jane Austen - X
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen - X
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis X (Isn't this part of the Chronicles of Narnia?)
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin - Louis De Berniere - X
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne - X
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell - X
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - X
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving - X
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery - X+ (I read the first 3 volumes every couple of years—just got through them again this fall, in fact)
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid’s Tale - Margaret Atwood - * (I even have it on loan)
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding - X
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel - X
52 Dune - Frank Herbert - X
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen - X
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens - X
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon - X
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez - X
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov X+
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac - X
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy X+
68 Bridget Jones’s Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight’s Children - Salman Rushdie - X+
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville – X (maybe +)
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker - X
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett - X
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce X (all but the last 60 pages...twice)
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath - X
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola - X
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt X+++ (one of my very favorites)
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro - X
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert - X
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte’s Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom (not gonna happen)
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad - X
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery - X
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole - X
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare – X (wouldn't this be included in the Complete Shakespeare? I'm confused by this list)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl - X
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo - * (I started it once, in French, but didn't get very far)

Total: 56 read (if I count Ulysses but not the complete Shakespeare, the Bible, or the accidentally abridged War and Peace. I think that's fair). Two that I want/plan to read.

This is kind of a weird list, methinks, but perhaps I'm just out of touch.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Confessions of a medievalist

...I actually really enjoy teaching Brit Lit II.

Maybe even more than Brit Lit I.

It's the novels! The novels made me type it!

ETA: Really, both surveys are fun (I cannot malign my period!). But I could do without the 18th century. And some of the Early Modern stuff. Perhaps I'll feel less jaded if I teach Marlowe instead of Shakespeare next year...? And ooh! Judith! How fun would it be to teach Judith after Beowulf--totally, that is what I am going to do.

(Could I be suffering under the misapprehension that this semester is almost over...?)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

In which I would rather do anything than work on my first conference paper

Okay. So the last remaining thing on my weekend to-do list (other than prep for tomorrow afternoon's class, but since I think I have lecture notes from last year typed up in my office I might pass on that until tomorrow) is to work on my paper for Kalamazoo. Scratch that: It's to plan my paper. Since the conference isn't for almost 3 months, what I need to do right now is a) read my abstract (what the hell is this paper supposed to be about, again?); b) think about how much can be based on a chapter I already have written; c) make some notes about what I'll need to write about; and d) make a list of things to reread/look into. That's it.

And yet, it's 5 pm on Sunday. So far this weekend, I--who planned, by the way, to spend yesterday morning completing this oh-so-onerous task--have done the following:
  • read for Monday's, Tuesday's, and Thursday's classes;
  • prepared for tomorrow's morning class;
  • graded an entire batch of (admittedly short) papers;
  • started to plan a course for next fall;
  • washed lots of laundry, including sheets and towels;
  • swept and shaken out rugs;
  • cleaned the bathroom;
  • taken out the compost;
  • started a big pot of soup for the week;
  • watered my plants;
  • put cinnamon on the plants' soil to get rid of a bunch of little fruit-fly-like insects (I think that worked once before);
  • taken down the long-broken clock in the kitchen and replaced it with a couple of pictures;
  • made butter;
  • washed a goodly number of dishes;
  • walked to and from the drug store and grocery store;
  • napped, a lot;
  • balanced my checkbook; and
  • figured out my taxes.
This is even lamer than dissertating. What's my deal?

All right. New plan. Just read the abstract. That's all! Then we'll just see where that takes us, shall we?

ETA: Damn it, I don't even know where the abstract is stored on my computer. Now I have an additional barrier to completing my task!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Bad blogger

My cold is gone, but I am inexplicably weary--yet I do feel that I should post something, if only so as not to grade/prep/think about conference papers. So I'll ramble about here for a minute and then go take out my contacts, or something.

Today launches us into Week 5. Spring break is in less than a month. And, although my conference papers have yet to manifest (where the hell are they?), it's been a productive 4+ weeks. I shall regale you with a list of my accomplishments:
  • assisted (albeit somewhat minimally) in the revamping of our comp sequence, which, as I mentioned, passed at the last faculty meeting;
  • entirely rewrote Field's academic dishonesty statement. My version has passed my peeps in the Humanities, but won't come up before faculty until next month, and I anticipate contention. Why this should be a controversial issue is beyond me. All I'm trying to do (with the endorsement of the dean) is to articulate the guidelines that we're supposed to follow when we catch plagiarism and suggest--not require!--that strong measures (i.e. failing) be taken. I'm already anticipating the opposition. Sigh;
  • finished the Incomprehensible Chart of Alien Timesuckage;
  • met with all (7) juniors in the Honors program to discuss theses and substantially helped a thesis advisee with her latest chapter;
  • taught a bunch of stuff--some new, some old, mostly new;
  • practiced yoga nearly every day (accursed cold!); and
  • written not a damn thing that wasn't a) in my diary b) online c) work-related.
Other than the last point, I'd say I'm doing all right.

That last point, though--oy. I am feeling radically unmotivated when it comes to my work, and I keep putting it off. The current plan is to read ahead all week so that I can take the weekend to outline the Kalamazoo paper and revisit the texts it's on. I am stupid, though, in that I proposed a paper on two really fucking long books [medievalists: think of 2 of the longest canonical texts out there, other than the Divine Comedy--one's in French, one's in English--I'll leave you to sort it out and gloat over my stupidity], neither of which I've actually read in a long time. I can rip the framework for the paper out of my dissertation, but I won't feel intellectually honest unless I look back over said long books. Damn me and my intellectual honesty! Why can't I just slap some rambles together and get on with my life? I'm sure I wouldn't be the first.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

One Word Meme

From Belle, because I have been such a lame blogger of late. Memes are my punishment, I guess.

The rules are simple. Copy the list, changing only the word that answers the question. One word only.

1. Your cell phone? why?
2. Your significant other? cooks!
3. Your hair? there
4. Your mother? artist
5. Your father? sailing
6. Your favorite? Gawain
7. Your dream last night? forgotten
8. Your favorite drink? scotch
9. Your dream/goal? novelist
10. What room you are in? living
11. Your hobby? yoga
12. Your fear? disappointment
13. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Languedoc
14. Where were you last night? fondue
15. Something that you aren't? Icelandic
16. Muffins? sometimes
17. Wish list item? pajamas
18. Where you grew up? suburbs
19. Last thing you did? grade
20. What are you wearing? bathrobe
21. Your TV? unwatched*
22. Your pets? boyfriend's
23. Friends? elsewhere
24. Your life? changeable
25. Your mood? satisfied
26. Missing someone? often
27. Car? dirty
28. Something you're not wearing? make-up
29. Your favorite store? thrift
30. Your favorite color? green
33. When is the last time you laughed? today
34. Last time you cried? Saturday**
35. Who will resend this? inapplicable
36. One place that I go to over and over? Mom's

*And, now, unwatchable! Hooray! Or something. Really, it's a non-issue; I have watched actual TV-TV at my house for like 40 minutes since...since July of 07, I think. (We are ignoring the TV that gets watched when I visit my mom.)

*Just a little. My sore throat seemed worse when I woke up, and I was frustrated. All better now, however! --Though I'm still pretty raspy-voiced. Let's call it "sexy."

This was actually more interesting to do than I thought it would be, because I had to curb my impulse to explain. So now, sabotaging that very curbing, I can explain! It was hard to pick a "dream/goal"; for a long time "novelist" was my goal, but I'm no longer at all sure that that's what I really want to do--I enjoy writing, but it's so easy for it to become a panic-inducing, tiresome, compulsory task that I'm not sure I'd want to do it full-time. In fact, I don't think that I do want it to become full-time (not that it will), which makes me feel a lot better about the fact that it won't and that I put so little effort into publishing my fiction. (Or writing it, for that matter.) I like the structure of academia. I like interacting with people (in limited doses). I like running things.

As for "pajamas," that really was the one thing that I could think of that I want right now and am not buying. (I have pajamas; I could just use some new ones.) I'm not buying them because, while the old ones are getting none too pretty, they're still functional, and I don't really see the point of replacing functional things. It's not like they get seen in public or anything. And in general? I've just been really non-acquisitive lately. That's an advantage of living out here, I guess, especially without TV: I am exposed to no advertising, other than on the internet. There aren't even any viable stores around here. So the desire to buy stuff starts to fade.

As for "favorite": I'm teaching an Arthurian Lit course, and Gawain is kinda my fave knight. One of my students loves Kay, though, and I'm totally down with that.