Thursday, August 27, 2009

It might be awesome

The subject line refers to the feeling that I have about this semester's advanced seminar. Truly. Rockin'.

I have 5 students (maybe 6, but I'm actually suspecting that the sixth has absconded). I know them all from previous classes, and have a good rapport with four of them; the fifth had some troubles in my class last semester but has been working hard and seems on board now. So that's a good start. One of my absolute favorite things about Field College is these seminars where I already know nearly every single student; it makes such a difference and we tend to have a lot of fun in class. I'm lucky that I get to teach one of those pretty much every semester.

And I am so excited about the topic--so excited that I might sabotage the course, because I keep thinking up new assignments and cool stuff that we could do, and I'm afraid of overloading them. The topic is related to book history but from a literary perspective; today we spent most of the hour looking at various book-like documents and talking about whether we thought they were books or not, and why. (The answers were complex; there was much disagreement.) I have them performing an experiment wherein they need to observe and document how they read one book--in detail--and how the physical form of the book affects their reading. We're going to read a bit of really tough theory, and an Onion article, and some cool pomo novels. And Chaucer. Of course, Chaucer!

And we have a course blog. (See what I mean about overloading?) It will be awesome. I hope.*

Anyway, I'm pretty thrilled about this class, and we didn't even get through half of what I had planned for today. Less prep for Tuesday--I love being behind!

*If you know me and would like to take a look, email me and I'll send you the link. Sorry to be a little exclusive about this; I'm leery of sending it out to people I don't know, partly because it will reveal my Mysterious Identity, but mainly because my students are on there, too (or will be soon).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


1. My office is in a pretty neat historic building.
2. Said building, being historic, has no elevator.
3. Nor has it any plumbing.
4. My office is on the third floor.

5. My body carries its anxiety in the digestive system.
6. Although I did not feel nervous this morning, the first day of classes apparently made me anxious.

No fewer than three dashes from my office, down two flights of stairs, across a green, and into the nearest plumbed building in the seventy minutes before today's first class.

(More than you needed to know, I know. But the mere fact that I'm sharing it with y'all indicates the extremity to which I was pushed this morning.)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Semi-Annual Time of the New Leaf

Here we go again, here we go again. Classes start tomorrow.

I'm a little shocked by the extent to which this has failed to sink in--as in, I'm not really prepped for my classes, although the syllabi etc. are printed. (And there's a huge giant error on the 36 comp syllabi: I left in a note to myself and forgot to change a due date, so it no longer makes sense. I shall manually correct these tomorrow. I do not want to ask my students to cross out the note to myself.) But, you know, I'm not too worried. Two years ago I was terrified. Last year I was resigned. This year: Hey! I'm teaching a cool new seminar! Comp sort of maybe makes some sense, and I've already written a lot of the prompts! I've done Brit Lit I twice now, and know it pretty well! No worries!

We also have a new dean who seems pretty awesome so far. I think that that will make a difference in the feel of the year. Our (two-day, mandatory) retreat had a much more optimistic feel to it than last year's; I think that even the skeptics, including many of my dear friends, are convinced that things are looking up. There are a lot of cool new ideas bouncing around; I'm having colleagues do guest lecture-type things in all of my classes; the Honors program that I run might get to do some really exciting new stuff. It looks good.

But the real point is that, again, I have pledged to have a sane year. I've changed my blog sub-heading for the first time since I picked this thing up (and this is post no. 400, by the way): Instead of "do thi werk," a quote from The Cloud of Unknowing that sounds rather resigned (although it's not, really, in the original), I am now committed to Living Well with a 4-4 Load. Damn straight, y'all. I'm gonna own that 4-4.

However: I'm not entirely sure what that involves just yet. Eating well. Exercise. Not completing most of my work in a frenzied chaos of panic. Staying on top of things. Taking time off. And finishing that accursed article.

It's going to be a busy year: on top of the usual, I'm giving a major lecture on campus in mid-October and will soon have the book proofs to deal with. (I am blocking the word "indexing" from my mind until the time actually comes to do it.) The aforementioned exciting new ideas will take a good bit of work if they're to get off the ground, too. But, well. I like my work. Maybe if I can just do my work calmly, the rest will follow.

So, it's a new leaf.

I have a memory of making little boats out of leaves when I was a child, and casting them off into the overfull gutter outside my grandparents' house after a storm. The water glinted in the light and swept down the street swiftly and smooth, like a shining ribbon.

Maybe I'm mixing metaphors for no reason, but off we go: the new leaf is about to set sail.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Well, so, the wedding

--was lovely. Truly. Just what we'd hoped for. After a week of anxiety and tension headaches and a variety of things that almost went wrong the day of, including:
  • major water-line construction right in front of the church;
  • the discovery that, when you enter the church's address into a GPS, it takes you to a town fifteen minutes away; and
  • the next-door neighbor's announcement that he had an excavator coming to level his backyard exactly during the time that our backyard reception was going to take place.
But: the construction was done by four o'clock (our wedding time), we called everyone who might have had a GPS and they all showed up on time, and the neighbor agreed to reschedule his construction.

The ceremony itself was lovely. I enjoyed it even more than I'd expected; I think that I'd imagined feeling embarrassed and a little uncomfortable, up there in the front of the church, but instead I was just happy. Our friend--who is also an Episcopal priest (but mostly a professor) (this is what you get when you marry a minister, by the way)--performed the wedding itself and did a magnificent job, despite its being her first wedding. It was very hot in the church--no air conditioning--and I could feel the sweat running down my arms and legs; woe betide the men in suits, for I was this warm in only a light cotton dress! But despite the heat, I felt wonderful: strong and confident and beautiful, not at all how I thought that I would feel, as goofily self-conscious as I usually am. Maybe having my sister-in-law and her sister gush over how BEAUtiful! GORgeous! I was for an hour before the ceremony had a salutary effect. TM had tears in his eyes. It was, all told, even more moving and joyous than I had anticipated.

(I was also very pleased with my last-minute bouquet decision: I had bought some gerbera daisies and a few regular, white daisies at the grocery store that morning, and my stepmother wrapped them together with a bit of raffia and purple ribbon. The bright simple colors of the gerberas against my white dress (cotton, as I've said--it was a sundress from J. Crew) looked really nice. I'd also picked out a yellow daisy for TM's boutonniere and wore (fake) yellow and white flowers on a barrette in my hair. In the few pictures that I've seen so far, it was visually all very clean and cheerful.)

The reception was in my mother's backyard, and we (along with my family, who were enormously helpful) worked all week to get it ready. My brother was the sound and lighting guy; he actually gave us, as a wedding gift, this gorgeous stereo, which he made himself:

He taught himself electronics, a fact that continues to astound me.

The yard itself was very cute, with lots of flowers, white helium balloons, odd sculptural things (my mom's an artist), and prayer flags:



We'd had a big pizza dinner the night before, which most of our guests had attended; this took a little of the talk-to-everyone pressure off of the reception itself. Still, my one (inevitable!) regret was that I didn't get a chance to spend as much time with ANYone as I would have liked. Oh well! Now my desires for various trips to visit friends and family is only renewed.

Enough dilly-dallying for the morning: Classes start Wednesday. Am I ready? No! So I will leave you with one picture that will disappear in short order (but it's one of my favorites, so far--we've only seen the pictures that my parents took):


Friday, August 21, 2009

Married Life

I now own a lawnmower.

(Electric, in case you're interested.)

Monday, August 10, 2009


Off to get wedded. See y'all on the flipside.

(Tuesday-ish, that is. Just one day before the faculty retreat! Do I know how to do honeymoons, or what?)

(Of course, I may need a therapeutic blog-sesh sometime before the "Big Day" (how I hate that phrase), so this is not set in stone.)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

The Therapeutic Effects of a Blogging Community

Thank you, everyone, for your comments on the last post or two. I am heeding your advice and entirely ignoring the very semi-existence of that accursed article.

And hey! It's quite pleasant. I'm doing the housework and wedding prep that needs to be done, and the rest of the time, I'm doing...whatever I want.

What a funny sort of life this is.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Laziest Scholar Struggles with an Article

Maude has asked for tales from France, but I'll put those off for a bit, because I feel that I should at least gesture towards some sort of scholarly content on this here blog. I know. Blog as source of guilt? Wacky, huh?

Anyway, here's the problem with this article. Or the two problems, more precisely.

1) I quite simply do not feel motivated to work right now, and frankly I think that, despite my extreme non-workiness over the last week, that this laziness is somewhat justified. I do have a book contract, after all. Have I mentioned recently that I'm the first person at Field to have such a contract in, oh, forty years or more? No? Well, here I go, mentioning it!

1b) Oh, and I am GETTING MARRIED in nine days. Shouldn't I be doing something about that?

2) While I think that I do have some interesting ideas that I'd like to develop in this article, I started it a really long time ago. Thirteen months ago, in fact. So I have this draft, which I think sort of sucks, and some interesting ideas, and I am not the sort of scholar who decides to rewrite things, so I'm stuck with attempting to revise in my new, interesting ideas. During the course of "revising in" I typically wind up rewriting, but I don't like to think of it in those terms. So I have this 33-page lump of text into which I occasionally inject a couple of sentences before shutting my laptop in despair.

Allow me to walk you through the genesis of this "article."
  • In working on my dissertation, I read a bunch of visionary texts and lives of medieval visionary women. I come across this one, about whom not too much has been written, and, while the narrative in itself didn't captivate me, there was an interesting paragraph in the prologue where the biographer essentially tells his readers that they'd be crazy not to trust him. This paragraph winds up in my last chapter as an example of a phenomenon. It is not discussed at length.
  • This chapter, because it's about Chaucer, becomes the basis for a conference paper and a couple of job talks. Interesting Paragraph is mentioned in all of these later incarnations.
  • I see an interesting conference CFP (Hi, MW!) and think, Hey, I could write a paper for that, and use IP as an example there, too! In the course of writing the paper, I re-read the Vita in question, and ultimately it becomes the focus of Conference Paper 1: the phenomenon occurring in Interesting Paragraph occurs elsewhere in the text, too, and I'm interested in that.
  • Months and months go by. Last summer I decide to write an article based on CP1. I read the Vita for the third time. Phenomenon might be part of a larger technique for structuring how the audience reads the text. An article (which I actually think is okay at the time) gets drafted.
  • Then I get readers' reports on my book MS (in September), and the article languishes. In the meantime, however, I submit a proposal for a Leeds paper on the Vita and a much more famous quasi-saint's life.
  • Months and months go by.
  • In June, I finally write the Leeds paper. I am ashamed to admit that I do not read the Vita for a fourth time. The paper is largely drawn from the slovenly article draft (I no longer find it to be quite so okay), although I manage to refine and develop a few ideas somewhat in the process of writing it up.
  • On the plane from Paris to Leeds, I decide that I really ought to reread the Vita in case I get any questions or anything. (I don't. Get questions, that is. Or at least, no questions that require an in-depth knowledge of the text.)
  • Obviously I do not finish the Vita before my paper. I wind up reading it (fourth time!) in France and when I get back. I finished it over the weekend.
  • This time, I see LOADS of interesting things. All kinds of stuff about reason and unreason, inner and outer experience, harmony and conflict between body and soul. Fascinating asides. I start thinking that I could, like, theorize something here about subjectivity and the divine. Fantastic!
  • I start revising. I write about two sentences. I read blogs.
  • I start revising the next day. Work well for about an hour. Am confronted with hideous block of text.
  • Open document the next day. Hideous block of text remains intact.
  • Repeat yesterday.
  • And today.
  • Yuck.
  • Can I just work on syllabi, or something?
And, you know, I really don't want to read this Vita again. I mean, it has interesting stuff in it. But, like all Vitae--and these seem to be my main focus of scholarly interest from now until forever--it is frankly rather dull. At least, I think so. I find them simultaneously fascinating (conceptually) and deadly (in the details of the reading). Does this make me a bad medievalist? Or is it a sign of Scholarly Character that I only work on books that I don't actually enjoy reading? (I do enjoy thinking about them, however. I'm not so dreary as all that.)

I did fall in love with a visionary Vita-type text, once. Book 2 of Gertrude of Helfta's Legatus Memorialis Abundantiae Divinae Pietatis. But I was a green young prospectus-writer back then.

On the plus side, I took really good notes this time around (insofar as I ever take "really good notes")--so maybe I won't have to slog through the whole thing again anytime soon. Maybe?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Owoo pity me.

You want to know about the best thing that I brought from France? Seven bottles of wine and calvados, neatly packed into a small, foam-lined suitcase. TM brought another seven or so himself. We are set for a while with the nice wine.

The worst thing I brought back? Two GIGANTIC RED EYEBALLS.

I am having a bout of conjunctivitis. I think that it started about two weeks ago; I stopped wearing contacts, and it seemed to be going away. Wore the contacts yesterday for a yoga class, and whooo--GIGANTIC RED EYEBALLS. Way worse than they were before. Obviously the contacts had become contaminated, and I re-infected myself.

I did go to the doctor this morning, and I do have medicine. But the medicine hurrrrts me. And my eyes hurrrt now, worse than before, what with all the Slaughter of the Bacteria that's going on on their surfaces. And I think my pupils are dilated or something because I'm not caring for bright lights, much.

Owoooooooooo ow. I know, a minor thing, really. And it should be all cleared up in a couple of days. But until then, I intend to exploit fully this excuse not to do anything too visually taxing. (And my glasses are driving me nuts because the screws really need to be tightened--they keep falling off my face. My problems are HUGE.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Whither Incentive?

School starts three weeks from tomorrow. A week from today, I fly back East for my wedding. So time is, as they say, of the essence.

And yet it is unspeakably hard to finish this damn article that I drafted last summer (and which remains an ungodly mess), or to polish up the details of my syllabi, or to finalize readings for my classes, or really to do any damn thing at all. Uck. How're y'all doing?