Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Call for Submissions--Women's Caucus of the Modern Languages Awards

The Women’s Caucus for the Modern Languages
welcomes submissions for its annual awards.

The 2013 Florence Howe Award
Each year, the Florence Howe Award for feminist scholarship recognizes two outstanding essays by feminist scholars, one from the field of English and one from a foreign language. Each recipient receives $250 and is honored at an event hosted by the Women’s Caucus at the annual MLA meeting.
To be eligible for consideration, essays of 6250-7500 words, written from a feminist perspective, must have been published in English between June 2012 and September 2013. Applicants must also be members of the Women’s Caucus.
Please send submissions and inquiries to: Kirsten Christensen, Associate Professor of German, Department of Languages and Literatures, Pacific Lutheran University at
Deadline for submission: November 30, 2013.

The 2013 Annette Kolodny Award
The Annette Kolodny Award is presented annually to a graduate student member of the Women’s Caucus who is scheduled to give a paper at the MLA.  The recipient receives $400 and is honored at an event hosted by the Women’s Caucus at the annual MLA meeting.
To apply, please send electronic copies of your CV and abstract, as well as information on the MLA session in which you are scheduled to present, to: Kirsten Christensen, Associate Professor of German, Department of Languages and Literatures, Pacific Lutheran University at
Please note that applicants must be members of the Women’s Caucus.
Deadline: November 30, 2013.

For further information about these awards and about the Women’s Caucus for the Modern Languages, including membership, go to:

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Normally, I'd title this something about a new semester or new school year, but this was such an eventful summer, that it more feels as if the newness of fall semester is more an outgrowth of my summer activities, rather than a new chapter.  Despite my intentions to be less busy than I was last summer, there were so many opportunities this summer that I struggled with figuring out which I should pursue and which to let go of.

I think I made good choices.  After a whirlwind tour for my birthday (friends, family, mountains, and spending my birthday covered in bubbles dancing to My Life with the Thrill Kill Cult), I taught a five-week course in Southern Women Writers, did research in the new Dorothy Allison archive at Duke, and spent a week in the redwoods of Santa Cruz, immersed in the Dickens Universe

There are way too many stories to tell to even begin telling them here.  However, the end result has been, weirdly enough, that I have adopted a lot of new, incredibly different, weirdly healthy habits after all of these adventures.  Before this summer, I tended to work upstairs, in front of the tv, staying up until two or three in the morning, and sleeping until afternoon if I could.  Since I've been typically teaching after noon, I could sleep as late as eleven on teaching days, even.  I'd go to jazzercise two or three times a week.  I drank three or four diet soft drinks a day, and ate a lot of sweets. 

Some combination of new environments and challenging (yet thoroughly enjoyable) schedules and--what, magic?--has had the end result of completely resetting my habits.  Since I've been home, I think I've slept as late as ten once.  Mostly, I get up between eight and nine, make some cafetierre  (which I think sounds much fancier than "French press") coffee, and start the day working.  I work much better now downstairs with music, rather than upstairs with television.  I have at most one soft drink a day, if that.  I'm working out five times a week.  And the only sweets I have now are part of my bedtime ritual--chamomile tea and two Biscoff cookies, and I'm ready for bed. I've very quickly pavloved myself into feeling sleepy after this nightly ritual.

I've had similar responses to retreat-like experiences in the past--I quit smoking after one, and made the commitment to finish my bachelors and go to graduate school after another.  It's definitely increasing my productivity, which I'm quite pleased with.  And which is a good thing, as the threat of the job market and finding fifth year funding is looming large at the moment--I need all of the productivity I can get!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Today's research

I arrive in Durham yesterday (yay US Air!  So much better than Delta!) and went to the Rubenstein Library today, where I started my week long research in the Dorothy Allison papers.  I'm here through the generosity of a Mary Lily Research Grant, for which I'm quite grateful.

The archive is a gold mine so far.  There is so much already that speaks to my work. 

Seeing her sequence of manuscripts for Bastard Out of Carolina has also been incredibly inspiring and impressive.  So. many. drafts.  And so much tightening up, and moving things around, and cutting entire scenes.  A big reason why the novel is so good is that there is a hell of a lot of work in it.  Good writing really does come from process--and commitment to that process, and feedback on your process--so much writing that never made it to the page. 

The other day, when I reached that block in my writing, where I hit a question that I didn't know the answer to, a lot of my online writing community encouraged me to try to write through the block--and while I know that sometimes works, it wasn't the right answer at the moment.  I was having an emotional reaction to hitting the block, and as long as the frustration was there, the block was going to remain.  Instead, I got up and did something else for a while--and then I wrote in my dissertation notebook about the frustration, and then I was able to return to my chapter.  (So I guess I sort of wrote through my block, but what was more useful was taking the break to let the emotion simmer down a bit.

Tomorrow, back to the archives.  Duke is so lovely--and today was really something, as I don't think I've ever been in a special collections library that had so many people!  I had to share a table for most of the day.  I'm very happy to know that the collection is so appreciated.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

My First Literature Class*

I just finished teaching my first college literature course during the five-week intensive summer semester.  What a blast!

It was a section of English 2025, Introduction to Fiction; I had made my section a themed one on southern women writers.  We met Monday through Friday from 12:40-2:10.  The weekend before classes began, I had forty students enrolled in the class (plus a waitlist).  However, another instructor's course fell through, so the night before classes started I got an email that my class had been split into two sections, and that half of the students would be assigned to the new section. 

That meant that ultimately, I ended up with 17 students enrolled in my class--an aspect of the class that I think has a lot to do with what a wonderful experience the class was for me.  With 17 students meeting five days a week, I knew everyone's name much faster than ever before, and the class quickly became the kind of classroom community that I hope for each semester.  While I continued to break students up into smaller groups to encourage discussion (and mix up the groups, so that they worked with different people), pretty quickly most of the students were piping up in the full class discussions--what's more, I often had students responding to each other in the full class discussions and even disagreeing with each other.  Being able to stand back while students discuss the text among themselves was just delightful. 

It was so difficult to narrow the readings down--class daily for five weeks meant that I was even more limited in what I could assign.  One realization I had when planning was that I didn't have to assign the readings chronologically--as an intro to fiction, and not a survey class, I didn't have to be comprehensive.  That helped immensely.  With this realization, I started the class with Ellen Douglas's brilliant Can't Quit You, Baby (a novel that pre-dates The Help by a couple of decades and addresses similar themes in a much more thorough manner)--I'm quite pleased with this choice.  Can't Quit You, Baby set up most of the themes I wished to address in the class; throughout the course, students referenced the Douglas novel in comparison to subsequent readings.  And, though I didn't realize it when making the course schedule, many students found the novel's style--the narrator's direct address of the reader, the changing points of view, and the role of the imagination in narration--to require some adjustment, so it also started the course off with the sense that students were going to need to put forth some effort.

I put a lot of credit for the course's success in my "QHQ" assignments, which I did as a student in a graduate seminar and which a colleague reported having success with in teaching an intro to fiction course.  I had students submit online one per week, with a 500-word minimum.  Though at the midterm (i.e., two and a half weeks in) students across the board said they liked them and found them helpful, in the course evals at the end of the semester, many students complained that they were too lengthy.  I'm wondering if perhaps this fall, I might have them be 300 words.  Regardless of the length, I really like like them as an assignment--they lead students through a bit more structure than a more open-ended response paper.  I especially like the kind of thought that ending on a question leads to. 

Plus, as summer students, the students tended to be extra-motivated.  I love all of the readings I assigned.  Students consistently surprised me with insights totally new to me--even of texts like Flannery O'Connor's "Good Country People," a text I thought I knew backwards and forwards. 

We started with Can't Quit You, Baby, and ended with The Color Purple (two texts which several students reported crying over, along with Kay Gibbons' Ellen Foster).  I'm really pleased with the arc that these two texts anchored, and I'm feeling a bit annoyed that I haven't found similar anchors for my fall literature class (which I've themed "The Many Souths," but keep having the problem that all of the texts I want to teach are set in Mississippi!).  Still, I'm really pleased (and a bit relieved!) that my first experience in the college literature classroom was such a positive one.  I hope that I can carry this positivity over to my fall class, and find ways to form a tight community in a class that's got more than twice the number I had this summer!

*Well, technically my second, counting last summer's Shakespeare course at Davidson for the Duke/TIP program, but that was three weeks of even more intensive coursework with gifted seventh and eighth graders, which was a unique experience

Friday, June 14, 2013

More ugliness

Once again, there's another blog post speculating about the importance of an author's appearance on the reception and success of their work.  (Jonathan Franzen still hasn't let it go, either.)  Jeffrey Meyers, however, doesn't limit himself to just one author, however--he composes an ugly list of 26 authors!  (As well as one of "handsomist" authors for comparison.)  And, unlike Franzen, he considers both men and women as ugly, instead of just singling out one author for his disdain.  (Also, I don't get what his methodology is for deciding whose last name is sufficient for identification, and who requires a first name--other than all of the women have first names (because it would be too confusing to figure out which writer with the last name "Schnackenberg" he was referencing?).)

Meyers explains his "admittedly subjective judgment" as including "the homeliest, obese, and sometimes even disfigured" authors.  Further, I'm pretty sure that no one on his "handsomist" list is non-white (and in my subjective opinion, I disagree with many of his assertions--I mean, Kingsley Amis?  Really?).  Meyers agrees with Franzen's basic premise--in Meyer's words, "Physically attractive authors make their work seem more appealing.  Their lovely faces provide tangible evidence--beyond their creative talent--that they are superior beings, have become sacred icons and are themselves a work of art."

Rubbish!  Do people actually believe this?  That meeting certain physical characteristics genuinely makes people superior beings (let along the "sacred icon/work of art" part)?  Why does phrenology keep such a strong hold on the imagination?

Meyers observes that "though unattractive women are taken more seriously than great beauties, neo-Platonic authors believed that beauty reveals inner goodness and ugliness suggests evil."  Evil!  Really!  I suppose that, if nothing else, Meyers is reinforcing what I expect the last chapter of my dissertation to be about: female characters in southern literature who, to whatever extent, choose to be ugly.  For many of them, this choice is a signal of allegiance to seriousness, to the intellectual life, the kind life led by those spinster, schoolmarmish women which W. J. Cash referred to as "horse-faced" and attributed to ugly Yankee spinsters.

Even though Meyers includes men in his hot/not lists, his commentary is primarily reserved for the women (excepting his odd aside about Hemingway claiming that F. Scott Fitzgerald wasn't all that).  I fail to see the purpose of the continuing production of such essays, other than to annoy me.  Their judgements are subjective and prejudiced, their assumptions are flawed, and their conclusions are insulting.  Dear Internet: KNOCK IT OFF.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Last summer was intense--I presented at a conference in Italy. We drove across the country for a wedding. I taught an intensive Shakespeare course for gifted junior high students. In one week, I went through seven time zones. All this while reading for exams, which I started the week before school started in the fall. I swore this summer would be different. And yes, I'm staying in the country, and I'm teaching here. Today, however, I was trying to figure out when to schedule my trip to Duke to do research in the archives there, and realize that I don't have a lot of weeks free. My best bet is to go the week before I go to the Dickens Universe, because I know that that week will be exhausting, and when I get back, there's only two weeks until school starts.  Before that, I'm teaching for five weeks, I'm presenting at the Southern Writers/Southern Writing conference (finally!  I'll get to go to Oxford!), and this week I'm leaving for a week and a half to do a grand tour of friends and family, hitting Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Ohio.

Plus, you know, dissertation writing and job market preparation.  Is this just some perverse quirk of mine, that I can't stay still?  I would say that I can't say no, but I've said no quite a few times lately.  After having been president of the WGS grad student association this year, I switched positions with the VP for next year.  And I don't have any position in the English grad student association.  For my summer class--which is an intensive introduction to fiction which meets five days a week for five weeks--I just cut a whole novel and two short stories from my original plan.  Surely, this is progress?

It's not as though I'd want to say no to any of the things I'm doing this summer.  I'm hoping to think of them as rewards along the way to keep me writing and working on my bigger projects (ie, dissertation and job docs).  That, at least, is my plan for now.  Stay tuned to see how it actually pans out.

(However, I will observe that last summer, though I was tired, was quite a success.  I did accomplish all that I set out to do--so perhaps I should recognize that the more I do, the more I'm able to do, generally.  So perhaps I should focus less on how daunting the summer seems, and instead focus on how much fun it promises to be.)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

End of spring break

Spring break is often late here, because we get a long Mardi Gras weekend. Spring break doesn't occur until after Good Friday. I was so ready this year! My intention this past week was to balance work with rest. It wasn't until yesterday that the ton of bricks hit me, probably after spending Friday working straight from 10 in the morning (on a writing date with a friend) to six at night (preparing for our big presentation to the Governor's Commission on anti-bullying initiatives). Yesterday, I collapsed--some sort of combination sinus/migraine headache, terribly sore neck, and nausea. I was so terribly whiny. I stayed in bed until midnight, when I had a miraculous calm in the storm--Mark made me some scrambled eggs which I devoured. Today I was down for the count again. I'm eating, though, and feeling less nauseous. The pain is less, though it's still there. I'm dreading tomorrow--though I'd already planned to spend most of class this week showing a documentary (POV's Stonewall documentary--so good!), but tomorrow I'm on a panel for grad students about communication. Ugh. That's going to take an extra big coffee. And then Tuesday's the presentation. I got the minimum done this week--student paper proposals responded to. Writing done. Started thinking about summer and fall syllabi, and requested a couple of desk copies. The couple of small assignments the professor whose RA I am this semester are done. I've still got bits and pieces to grade, but I'm okay with that. As usual, it shall be a sprint to the finish. I'm thinking I may last until the end of Masterpiece Theater, and then back to sleep.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

MLA 2014 CFP--Deadlines extended!

Deadlines have been extended to *March 19* for proposals for MLA 2014!! Alt‑Academic Feminism I: “Teaching Outside the Classroom through Digital Humanities, Women’s Caucus for Modern Languages at the MLA, Chicago, 1/9‑12/2014. Amid Fembot Collective, Black Girls Code, MOOCs, Abrogrammers, new collaborations, how are women teaching, learning, connecting (or not) via DH? 250‑word proposals to Teresa Mangum ( We invite you to propose a topic for this 2014 guaranteed session, a roundtable in which 4‑5 participants offer provocative comments to inspire lively discussion. Alt‑Academic Feminism II: “Theorizing Collaborative Action Beyond Classrooms”: Community‑based, integrative, and service‑learning as recognized high‑impact practices but also vulnerable programs; what are models/risks of framing activist work as teaching/research/service responsibilities? 250‑word proposals to Jessica Ketcham Weber ( Alt‑Academic Feminism III: “Feminist Vulnerability on Post‑Feminist Campuses.” Success, support, problems, or backlash in developing programs/curriculum, equity in policy (e.g., FMLA, harassment), personnel (e.g., representation/workload), and hiring (e.g., contingent labor). What does it mean to live on a post-feminist campus with a pre-feminist workload? To have colleagues or administrators behave as though activism on policy, guidelines, or hiring is passé when women have “taken over”? What are the best practices to assure that workplaces support gendered issues? 250-word proposals to Michelle Massé (

Sunday, March 3, 2013

MLA CFPs--Women's Caucus of the Modern Languages

The Women's Caucus of the Modern Languages is issuing its calls for proposed panels at the 2014 Modern Language Association convention.  Please share these CFPs widely.   And, as we say here in Louisiana, throw us something--preferably before March 15!  And, whether or not you send us something, come to the party at next year's cash bar! 

Alt‑Academic Feminism I: "Teaching Outside the Classroom through Digital Humanities, Women=s Caucus for Modern Languages at the MLA, Chicago, 1/9‑12/2014. Amid Fembot Collective, Black Girls Code, MOOCs, Abrogrammers,@ new collaborations, how are women teaching, learning, connecting (or not) via DH? 250‑word proposals to Teresa Mangum ( by March 15, 2013. We invite you to propose a topic for this 2014 Aguaranteed session,@ a roundtable in which 4‑5 participants offer provocative comments to inspire lively discussion.

Alt‑Academic Feminism II: "Theorizing Collaborative Action Beyond Classrooms": Community‑based, integrative, and service‑learning as recognized high‑impact practices but also vulnerable programs; what are models/risks of framing activist work as teaching/research/service responsibilities? 250‑word proposals by March 15, 2013 to Jessica Ketcham Weber (
Alt‑Academic Feminism III:  "Feminist Vulnerability on Post‑Feminist Campuses."  Success, support, problems, or backlash in developing programs/curriculum, equity in policy (e.g., FMLA, harassment), personnel (e.g., representation/workload), and hiring (e.g., contingent labor).  What does it mean to live on a post-feminist campus with a pre-feminist workload?  To have colleagues or administrators behave as though activism on policy, guidelines, or hiring is passé when women have "taken over"?  What are the best practices to assure that workplaces support gendered issues?  250-word proposals by March 15, 2013 to Michelle Massé (

Monday, February 11, 2013

Grading Pipedream

I don't know that I can fully express my gratitude for the four day Mardi Gras weekend I'm current enjoying.  Given how completely jammed full my schedule has been lately, it's been wonderful to get this small break.

It also allowed me to finally catch up on my grading, with which I had fallen woefully behind.  I'm not quite sure what my problem has been, other than fatigue--and then I would think about how much I had to grade, and not do it.  As with much procrastination, it had grown quite monumental in my mind--thank goodness I had this long weekend to catch up.

But you know, once I started, it wasn't terrible.  It took two sittings--one in which I tallied up participation and graded the short response papers, quizzes, and in-class writing from, oh, the last couple of weeks (it wasn't actually as bad as I thought).  The second sitting, I graded individual presentations--I had already made up a rubric, and had made notes during the presentations, so I pretty much just had to fill out the rubric.  Again, not so terrible.

Why am I so resistant to grading?  Sure, it's not as much fun as watching Downton Abbey, but then, what is?  Part of my hesitation, I think, was worrying what I'd actually find--for example, seeing just how many/how few students are keeping up with the reading.  In a class of 40, I have my usual suspects who speak in class, but it takes breaking them up into groups to get anyone else to contribute.  And truly, when I did go through the quizzes, there were a number of them that, rather than answer the questions, instead were confessions of not doing the reading, with a variety of reasons and excuses given.  Anymore, I don't have very much patience with most excuses--while I think that students write these long epistles in an attempt to garner sympathy or gain credibility, long stories involving family weddings/traffic/travel/whatever simply make me impatient.

(And what is it with the number of students involved in family events that conflict with class?  My parents would have never allowed me to skip class for anything!  I never know what to make of such excuses.)

I realized, though, that once I was done, I felt a bit chagrined by how painless grading had been.  I was reminded of how capable I am of trying to talk myself out of going to work out, and how glad I am when I'm unsuccessful at doing so.  In my grading fantasy, I find some sort of way to remind myself of how actually painless grading usually is, and how glad I am when I'm done with it, the same way that I've tried to condition myself to not let myself get out of going to work out.  The thing is, I actually enjoy the process of working out--when I'm at jazzercise, I actually have a good time, and feel fantastic afterward.  With grading, while it's never as painful as I dread, it isn't nearly as fun as jazzercise is. 

Tonight, my reward for finishing all of the grading was making cinnamon cookies.  That certainly amplified and reinforced positive feelings about grading.  But is that the only trick, to just come up with better rewards for grading?  Or other there others, that might make me dread it less?

Monday, January 28, 2013

CFP: Edith Wharton Society at South Atlantic Modern Language Association (Atlanta, Georgia, November 8-10, 2013)

The Edith Wharton Society invites papers that engage with this year's SAMLA conference theme: "Cultures, Contexts, Images, and Texts: Making Meaning in Print, Digital, and Networked Worlds."  We are open to a variety of interpretations. For example, what meanings emerge when we consider Wharton's work alongside the "networked worlds" of her various homes and travels?  How has the rise of digital humanities and new forms of communication fostered new scholarship and approaches to Wharton's writing?  A range of responses to this topic is welcome, including examinations of her travel writings, other non-fiction, fiction, and poetry.  By May 17, 2013, please send a 300-500 word abstract and one page CV to Monica Miller, Louisiana State University, at

Monday, January 21, 2013

Throwing like a girl, communicating like a graduate student

I have a hazy idea of what I want to say here--there's something which is irking me, but I can't quite articulate it.  And I feel like I've sort of been part of the problem myself.  So bear with me.

As the professionalization chair of the English grad student organization this year, I'm trying to organize some professionalization workshops for grad students this semester.  Publishing is one of our students' biggest concerns, and I'm going to ask a faculty member if he would do a repeat of a well-received workshop he did a few years ago, about what makes a journal article appear "grad student-y."  I'm not sure exactly what he covers in it, but I heard good things about it.

I've also asked the DGS to do a workshop on professional communication and networking.  There are two big things I'd like her to cover.  One, I'd like her to talk about things like, how to strike up a conversation at a conference/other networky place with a total stranger.  Or how to talk to a scholar you admire without sounding like a total fangirl.*  The other thing is more basic things, like that many faculty members take offense if you call them by their first name, or many of the other habits--especially in email--that I've heard faculty members complain about.

However, something's been irking me about a thread that's running through these requests, and I realize that it has something to do with the idea that we need to learn to not sound like graduate students.  It occurs to me that when most academics use the phrase "like a graduate student," they generally don't mean it as a compliment.**  And perhaps that doesn't bug most people, but there's something that smacks of other observations like, "You throw like a girl!"  When I first heard that one, my first response was, well, yeah, I am a girl.  Oh, you mean that as an insult?

And I suppose what I'm feeling right now is something like, well, yeah, I am a graduate student.  And I'm kind of getting tired of that label being used as a negative.  When I was trying to articulate this to my husband, he observed that that's kind of the problem with a hierarchical system such as academia, that those lower down on the learning curve do make mistakes and bumble things which those more experienced generally make less often.  And to be frank, I am aware enough of my own place on the learning curve/food chain, and my own ignorance of the often complicated, not-quite-visible politics going on--as well as the countless examples I've seen of other graduate students stumbling in their attempts to seem professional or assertive--that I understand why the term so often used as an adjective to mean unprofessional or ignorant of the big picture.

So, should I just suck it up and stop taking things so personally?  Or is there a conversation to be had about the derogatory and pejorative uses of the phrase "grad student"?

*Seriously, I worry sometimes about turning into Chris Farley: "You that time when you wrote Dirt and Desire?  You know, and you asked, like, what would happen if we replaced William Faulkner with Eudora Welty at the center of the southern canon?  That was awesome!"

**At a conference recently, I was stopped by a total stranger who congratulated me on giving a good conference paper presentation, and when they discovered I was a grad student, continued their compliments with, "Wow, you don't present like a grad student at all!"

Friday, January 18, 2013

Happy first week of school!

One week down, and a lovely week it's been.  It certainly helps that general exams are behind me, I'm not enrolled in any courses, and I'm teaching Introduction to Women's and Gender Studies, a class which I loved the first time I taught it.  This semester--at least the first week--promises to be just as enjoyable.

This semester I've had the course certified as Communication-Intensive, with verbal and written modules.  I didn't really have to change much from the first time I taught it--I already comment on student drafts, and they do plenty of writing in class, and they have group presentations.  To fulfill the requirements, I've added individual presentations, and a "drafting" process to the group presentations, which will require students to film their presentations ahead of time, and submit them to me for feedback before their final presentation.  This is the first time I've had students record themselves--it'll be good for them (as well as me!) to become more comfortable with such technology.  I'm looking forward to seeing how feedback affects final presentations.  It certainly has an effect on written communication.

And class so far!  Though the roster continues to be in flux (there are three people who have yet to show, though we've had three class meetings, and I've got at least one still on the waitlist), both Wednesday and today I've had some great participation.  Discussions are so interesting in WGS courses--and though I feel a bit guilty saying so (because I really am committed to the importance of teaching composition (so much so that I try to incorporate a lot of it into my other courses)), it was such a breath of fresh air to be in this class last week, after so many comp courses.  A big part of it must be the self-selection of the students--even though many of them take it because they need the humanities credit, there are other courses they could have chosen.  And unlike the previous sections I've taught, this semester I have quite a few young men (before, I had two per class, tops), and they've been contributing to class discussion quite a bit.

We started this week with a short unit on privilege, as a way of emphasizing the idea of intersectional analysis that I try to emphasize throughout the class.  We start by reading Peggy McIntosh's class Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack and John Scalzi's Things I Don't Have to Think About Today.  I really love using Scalzi's work in the classroom--I've used his Being Poor before, too, quite successfully.  I really like both of them, as they really emphasize the invisibility of privilege, and how--contrary to what the word "privilege" makes it sound like--it refers to unearned privileges.  On Wednesday, I started class with some basic vocabulary, including words like "ideology" and "institutions."  After some discussion about the Scalzi piece, I asked what this idea of privilege had to do with the vocab I'd given them earlier--and I got some really astute answers!  Yay, students!

Today, class started with the first individual presentation, which was on the McIntosh piece.  Again, pride in students.  Good presentation, good student responses, interesting ideas.  It occurred to me that that is so often what's missing in my comp classes: interesting ideas.  I think there must be ways to make the subject of conversation in composition more interesting, but I just haven't found that many yet.  It occurred to me today that I could probably kick off comp classes with this unit, with a focus on privilege, and how different modes of writing are related to reinforcement of privilege.

So, next week: historical background!  When I first was planning this class, it was so had not to just make the whole class about first wave feminism.  There are so many fascinating women to learn about!  I'm surprised that there hasn't been a film about Victoria Woodhull alone--she's fascinating.

And now, a three day weekend for a reward.

Friday, January 11, 2013

My first MLA

After three weeks traveling (and one week in bed spent coughing, sneezing, and recovering from said travel), today I felt well enough to venture out into the world and keep my hair appointment. (Sure, sitting in a chair for two hours isn't that challenging, but three days ago, my coughing and sneezing wouldn't have allowed it.)

And, I'm feeling well enough to reflect upon leg of my travels: my first MLA conference.  It came at the end of pretty much three weeks of holiday travel: one week at my mother's in northern Georgia; home for Christmas eve; back on the road Christmas afternoon (because it's cheaper to fly out Christmas than to wait a day) to Cincinnati and Dayton to see my brother and his family and my friends and the many children who call me Aunt Monica; then on the road (literally) from Cincinnati to Boston with a dear friend (even dearer as he did the driving), stopping the night in Erie, Pennsylvania, to the MLA conference.

By that point, I was sniffly.  The combination of kid germs and cold weather is debilitating.  I wouldn't trade any of it, however--getting to sled with my nephews was totally worth it.  And though the temperature was 15 (Fahrenheit!) when we got to Boston, I admit to really savoring all of the cold weather I experienced on this trip.  Probably because 76 degrees on Christmas Day (what I left) does not feel right to me--I like wearing coats and jackets!

Not that there was much reason to go outside at MLA--the conference hotel was attached to a mall, which attached to many of the other hotels.  I really only went outside once, on a much-too-long walk to get Indian food (not my favorite), which my friend Katie and I cut short by deciding to ditch the rest of the group for a lovely-looking French restaurant which appeared as the others were swearing it was just a few more blocks.  It was a brilliant decision--we splurged on a lovely three-course meal with pate' and wine and fabulous dessert.  And conversation which didn't involve either of us having to explain our projects. 

Actually, one of the highlights of MLA for me was getting to see so many people I like in one place.  It's one of many reasons I'm glad I chose to go to MLA before being on the market: I got to actually enjoy the conference--attend panels, even!--without the stress (or disappointment) of being on the market.  I did have legitimate reasons for being there--the Women's Caucus for the Modern Languages had their business meeting and cash bar, and I had the opportunity to take part on a search committee for my university (that experience in itself was invaluable!).  In general, though, I'm glad I got a chance to see it first-hand--while I don't have any true MLA horror stories--thank goodness--I did see one audience member interrupt a panel to tell them that they needed to keep it snappy, because they were running short on time, and I certainly saw more "this is less a question than it is three comments"-type Q&A remarks than at many other conferences.

And, I rescued a lost black beret which I found on the floor.