Saturday, December 31, 2011

Intentions for the new year

I don't say new year's resolutions--perhaps it's my basic curmudgeonliness, or perhaps I just don't think that they work.  New year's resolutions just mean that it's hard to find an exercise bike at the gym in January (I say, sounding as if I go to a gym regularly.  I used to--but January always put me off it).  Instead, I usually make resolutions at my birthday the end of May--it's a much better time for me to assess and set goals.

However, there are some changes I'd like to make, and have decided to take advantage of the calendar page turn to do so.  To that end, here are the two intentions I have:

Three times a week, I intend to get an hour's worth of exercise.  This includes drumming.

Six days a week, I intend to actively do something not school-related.  By active, I mean not passive (ie, tv watching or web-surfing).  Knitting, playing music, sewing, sun salutations in the morning, something. 

I think these are doable goals toward balance.  Do you all have similar intentions?

Friday, December 30, 2011

More specifically

My last post was rather chatty and all over the place.  Having spent several hours last night filing away teaching and class notes from summer and fall, I'm a feeling like I'd like a bit more focus now. 

One area I'd like to focus on is the idea of motivated students.  In my last post, I expressed regret for returning to teaching composition after having had such a wonderful experience with two sections of women's and gender studies.  Though that class counted as a gen ed credit, for the most part it was a rather self-selected group of students who were generally interested in the subject matter--if they weren't interested in WGS, they could have taken sociology or psychology or something.  I had one student so inspired by Peggy Macintosh's "Unpacking White Privilege" that she changed her major.  Class discussions were usually interesting.  My students wrote really insightful final papers on a variety of pop culture elements.  And when my director came to evaluate me, she noted how surprised she was at the attendance of my class--I normally ran at around 85% in a class of 35.

This semester, I'm back to second year composition.  I keep saying that I'll put together a themed course (like I did at UT), but I keep not having time to.  Well, and I keep hoping that I'll get to teach a class in fiction, too.  Teaching composition is so often felt as a form of punishment at worst, or something that has to be got through at best.  Perhaps I'm exaggerating here--well, I am exaggerating to some extent, but it's important to note that most of the people who teach composition are literature or creative writing people, and not those whose studies focus on rhetoric and composition.  Of course we're going to be disappointed when, once again, we're teaching how to write an argument paper instead of Shakespeare.

Admittedly, I do get to teach Shakespeare this summer.  And between thinking about that and reading Peter Elbow's new book, I have enough ideas I want to pursue with my writing students that I should have the kind of enthusiasm which students pick up on.  My random ideas include:
  • Using Wordle during the revision process, so students can see what their language use looks like
  • Incorporating even more reading aloud in class (maybe of work other than their own?  To see what other people's writing feels like to read?)
  • Moving around.  I'm not sure yet what this means, but I want more movement in class.  I may even try class outside (eek!).
  • Though I typically do freewriting every day in class, I want to see if I can find a way to shake up freewriting even more.  This summer, I had student freewrite and then exchange papers, respond to the writing, and then write again.  I think I may try even more of these interactive assignments.  And find a way to pair students up with different people--this summer, one person confided that she had trouble with the person she sat next to and always ended up paired up with, as he never had any useful feedback for her.
  • Maybe, then, I should work on what providing useful feedback is like?
Lots of things to keep in mind.  My syllabus is for the most part done, with due dates and stuff, but I will continue to tweak the actual schedule.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Smack dab in the middle of winter break

I gave myself the Christmas present of absolute laziness today.  Yesterday we went to New Orleans to exchnage presents with friends--one of the presents was cookie cutters, cookie dough, and accountrements for the kids, with whom I then spent the afternoon making cookies (so, a gift for all of us).  We had planned on going to see the bonfires on the levee after that, but were pretty worn out from Christmas cheer (and rather tired), so we skipped it, planning on going by the store and getting some cold cuts for dinner--who knew that everything closed on Christmas Eve at 6?  I have no interest in stores open at 4am the day after Thanksgiving--I'd much rather have a grocery store open the night before Christmas.  Mark ended up getting McDonald's.

The semester came to an end--I gave exams on Wednesday and Thursday of exam week, got on a plane Friday and flew to Columbus, Ohio, where I then drove an hour through snow to Marion, Ohio, which was half an hour from where my dad's wedding was held the following day.  I made it through the wedding and stuff, grading exams in between, and had a blast playing with my nephews in Dayton for the rest of the weekend.  The rest of the week, I was in Cincinnati, where I blew off a ton of steam--at one point, finding myself playing backgammon with a friend, I was struck by how lovely it was to be playing backgammon and not working on anything school-related. 

I also danced a remarkable amount--in addition to dancing at the wedding reception, there was dancing Thursday and Saturday nights until 3.  Saturday was particularly amazing--as "Warehouse Reunion Night," it was basically the feeling that I wanted from a high school reunion and didn't quite get.  Seeing my friends on the dance floor while Ministry and New Order played was such fun.

My body, however, wants to know exactly what I think was doing.  My right knee is still complaining--so much so that I got a brace today to wear on it.  And last night, my left had started complaining loudly about all of the knitting I've been doing (close lace work on a shawl from the "Jane Austen Knits" magazine I've been waiting about a month to start playing with). 

While I was out of town, I applied for the position of "communications officer" for the Women's Caucus of the MLA, and interviewed for a summer job teaching gifted junior high students.  The WCMLA application was rather straightforward, though I did put a significant amount of thought into the cover letter.  The TIP job wanted to set up a skype interview, which turned out to be impossible on my travels.  We scheduled a phone interview for Wednesday afternoon, which they managed to forget, and had to reschedule for Friday morning.  It's a good thing skype wasn't available, as I was out until 3am dancing the night before.

The interview went very well--the woman I spoke with started out by saying that the writing instructor positions I had applied for filled up rather easily, but she was interested in hearing more about my Drama in Stratford and London course, as she thought it made me a good candidate for teaching their "Shakespeareance" course at Davidson.  We talked for 45 minutes--it was a lot of coming up with things on the fly, as I hadn't prepared for an interview about teaching literature, but it went very well, and she said I should expect an offer in my email that day.  And indeed, I had one. 

The WCMLA position came through, too.  So, I've now got a stack of books from the library on web site maintenance, and on teaching Shakespeare and drama games, all of which I need boning up on.  I also sent in my registration for the Wharton in Florence conference, which is the beginning of June; Shakespeare is three weeks in July.  I'm quite excited about all of it.

This was a tough semester, but tough because there was so much work (much of it hitting the end of November), not because I didn't like the work.  Unlike this time last year, I'm not seriously considering trying to transfer programs.  Now, I'm officially done with coursework (hooray!) and bearing down on studying for exams.  I picked up Philip Roth's American Pastoral this week, after putting it down out of boredom once before.  I admit, I put it back down after Peter Elbow's new book arrived--I love this work, and this one is about the connection between spoken and written language.  I'm intrigued by the importance of the body on speech and writing.  I'm happy to feel excitement about teaching writing, because it's going to be tough to go back to teaching comp after the wonderful experience I had teaching women & gender studies this past semester.  It was so wonderful to have the kind of committed, enthusiastic students that I had last semester.  I hope I'm able to have similarly enthusiasm this semester.  Of course, going back to teaching 23 students (rather that 68!) will be nice. 

And being done with coursework, it will be very nice to not have response papers and things due. 

I'm also working on cutting an article that I had submitted to the Southern Literary Journal--they responded that they've changed requirements, and would be happy to read my article if I'd cut 1,000 words.  So, I cut.  It's better than a flat out rejection, like I got from the Mississippi Quarterly.  I've got a to-do list for winter break, but I hope to make it leisurely.  My body is insisting on it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wish list

As I slowly work my way through these revisions for my Gaiman chapter, I'm taking a quick break to make a list of all of things I want to do over winter break which have absolutely nothing to do with school:
  • Go dancing
  • Make Christmas cookies with various children
  • Re-read A Little Princess
  • Watch Live Aid 
  • Watch The Homecoming and The Minister's Wife
  • Practice Italian for my trip to Florence in June
  • Decorate for Christmas
  • Finish The Marriage Plot and read Joan Didion's new book
  • Get my nails done
  • See all of my fabulous Ohio friends
  • Find out my nephews' current theories about Santa Claus
  • Go to the gym
That's a good start.  Sigh.  I feel a bit better, writing that down.  Back to feminist readings of Neil Gaiman.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Smacked in the face by the end of the semester like a two-by-four

I felt a momentary relief to have that presentation behind me, but now face Friday's deadline for revising this paper on The Messenger.  I've done major revisions and more research to supplement my claims.  My wonderful professor is being quite helpful in making recommendations for other work to look at, but the quickly approaching Friday deadline is making me feel anxious.

All of the quickly approaching deadlines are making me feel as though the end of the semester is smacking me in the face with a two-by-four.  (Though that may be exacerbated by my forehead still hurting a bit from where I smacked it on the overhead compartment Sunday.)  We've got one more reading next week for my southern class, and then conference papers start the following week, with seminar versions of those paper due the end of the semester.  I've got to put something together for my independent study.  And I've got to write and then grade my classes' finals; I give finals Tuesday and Thursday of finals week, and then have to be in Ohio for my dad's wedding that Saturday.  Grades are due the next Wednesday.  I don't relish the thought of dragging two classes worth of blue books with me on the plane.

I got a flat out rejection back from the Mississippi Quarterly on my Welty paper which my adviser said would be "easy to publish."  That's not helping my feelings of usefulness at the moment.  At least my readings for teaching and for class right now are enjoyable reads--we start Alison Bechdel's Fun Home Thursday in WGS, and next week we're reading a post-apocalyptic South book called Go-Go Girls of the Apocalypse, which you've gotta love just for the name.  It takes place in East Tennessee, which makes it an enjoyable (albeit weirdly nostalgic, as I keep missing Tennessee a lot lately) read.

I don't like feeling incompetent and behind.  I will now have some lunch and read read read, something I can do, which I hope will make me feel a little more capable.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


Even if the conference had sucked, the fact that my flights to and from Atlanta for this conference left and arrived on time and without incident would have made it noteworthy, given how terrible my flying experiences in the past year have been.  I got there, my suitcase was one of the first out, and I loaded $5 onto my MARTA card and followed the directions from the Midtown MARTA station to my hotel.

That was Thursday--I had scheduled library day for my WGS classes, as they're working on their research papers and most of them are rather clueless about academic research and writing papers.  The librarian seems like she did a really thorough job--she sent me the five page handout she gave all of them!  That should be a good basis for a quiz on Tuesday, I'm thinking, along with some questions about the assigned reading.  We're reading Neil Gaiman's short story "Changes" for Tuesday; I hope it goes over well.  I think it's a really great story.

So I got to my fancy hotel room around 4:30 on Thursday (a tv in the bathroom!  separate shower and bathtub!  robes! your choice of two textures of toilet paper!) and was hungry--checking out the room service menu, silly me assumed it would be cheaper to go down to the restaurant and get food, and the cheeseburger with smoked gouda sounded perfect.   However, they weren't open when I tried them at five, so I tried again at six--only to realize once I was seated that they were much fancier than the room service menu.  No cheeseburgers here.  So, I went ahead and ordered a fancy dinner--spinach and arugula salad (with caramelized bacon dressing and really sharp bleu cheese) and a fried chicken dinner that came with mac and cheese that tasted like it had smoked gouda in it (so, I did get the smoked gouda).  I was so full that I didn't even get dessert.

I made it to the 8am panels in the morning (despite being in EST time and not being able to sleep that night, from anxiety and a lot of coffee)--the 8am one was about publishing, and there was a lot of good nuts and bolts advice.  I introduced myself to the associate editor of the Mississippi Quarterly, who seems like a nice person.  I then went to a panel on Susan Glaspell, about whom I know very little, and quite honestly, that was one of the panels that just seemed like words words words to me.  My session was the one after that, so I probably would have been like that regardless.  I did see a friend from Tennessee there, whom I was quite glad to see. 

My panel had two other panelists, a panel chair, and three audience members.  Friday, there were concurrent panel sessions all day, with no break scheduled for lunch.  So, despite being the Flannery O'Connor Society panel, I think being scheduled for 11:45-1:15 means that most people went to lunch.  Sigh.  I played my clip of "Jesus Built My Hotrod" and gave my paper, and afterward had some good questions that I was able to answer.  No one asked about The Violent Bear it Away or any of the other O'Connor texts which I haven't read that I was afraid they would ask about.  (Though this fear isn't unfounded--Eudora Welty Society and Edith Wharton Society people were all asking questions about this particular letter and stuff--my fears weren't completely unfounded.)  I was quite relieved to get through that--and am really glad that I've now had the experience of standing at the front of a conference room and turning my boom box up to 11 as industrial music plays.  I sure wish I could go back in time to 1991 and show myself this image.

I had a lovely lunch with my fellow panelist, saw UT and Ole Miss people I like, and met several people who went to LSU, several of whom had the same adviser as me.  Their success gives me hope.

It really was wonderful to get my presentation  over with and enjoy the conference.  After having lunch, I returned to panels until 8 Friday night; I made to the 8:00 panel on Saturday, too, and went until about 6, ate dinner, and then went to the music performance that ran from 9:30-midnight that night.  As the alarm clock went off (I even dug the alarm clock--it had a choice of alarm noises, and I'm now a fan of waking to cathedral bells) Saturday morning at 7, my urhg I don't want to wake up was quickly replaced by--ooh!  Edith Wharton panel at 8! which got me out of bed.  I realize how few people this would work for.  I am, indeed, a dork.

I came away with three distinct ideas for papers/articles.  One, I'd like to expand my conference paper, interview the musicians I referred to, really explore the connection between the "masculine technological sublime" of Wise Blood that so appeals to this particular group of Wax Trax musicians.  Perhaps expand to include Deliverance, as Al Jourgensen also samples that, and Corrosion of Conformity, prior to their song and album Wise Blood, had an album called Deliverance.

Two, I was inspired by the Appalachian lit panel (besides reveling in hearing people who sound like my relatives), in which someone defined Appalachian lit in terms of its connection to land--I think there's something to be considered in what Appalachian studies can contribute to southern studies and its confusion over place versus real estate versus can we ever escape the Agrarians?  Most of the Agrarians who wrote about place and the idealized farmer never worked a plow--however, I think a lot of Appalachian writers are in fact writing about what they know.  I think the southern rural/urban split is not as binary as it's been claimed--even rural people now make regular trips to Walmart.  And tend to love Cracker Barrel.

And three, I was thinking about what a good introduction the anecdote that Kaye Gibbons told about going to wire her daughter bail money from the Berry Southern Women Writers Conference and asking herself, "What would Eudora Welty do?"  Thinking about her orphaned character Ellen Foster, when compared with Welty's ophaned Laura McRaven in Delta Wedding, I'm curious as to what happens when you put them side by side.  Do they diverge?  Did Gibbons ask herself WWEWD? when she was writing Ellen Foster, and, if so, did she then do the same thing or something different?

I'm pleased with these ideas.  And then last night, Knoxville musician R.B. Morris played along with an amazing fiddle player from West Virginia--between that and the mountain accents, I was in heaven.  Two hours of fine mountain music.  I felt so, so homesick that I'm thinking of taking my mother up on her offer of a mandolin for Christmas.  There's definitely still a time for drumming in my life, but I'm thinking mandolin music might be medicinal, too.

Now, on to another big week.  Right now, I'm scheduled to be at school every day.  We'll see if that actually happens.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Teaching Philosophy

The last few days I've participated in discussions about teaching both in person and online.  As I'm working on updating my teaching philosophy (or rather, writing a new one from scratch) for a teaching award, these discussions have been quite timely.  Once again, I feel quite grateful to have had the teaching prep at UT-K that I did--even if my pedagogy class was not my favorite thing I've ever done, having such a close cohort and so many different kinds of training before I was in charge of my own classroom prepared me for teaching so much better than I might have been at other places.

One aspect of teaching which continues to bother me is how much animosity there seems to be in the classroom.  Reading this today was quite synchronicity, after last night talking to friends about the rampant feelings of frustration felt by teachers which often seems to come out as lack of respect for students.  Certainly, it's frustrating to try to teach college students who often will send emails or write papers containing sentences so poorly spelled and constructed that sometimes I have to ask my husband for his best guess at what the writer intended.  And the plagiarism and excuses and half-assed work can certainly lead to suspicion, fatigue, and offense that students would actually think they could get away with some of the shenanigans they attempt.

(I started feeling myself getting curmudgeonly there, so I just decided to dive right into the curmudgeonliness with a word choice like "shenanigans.")

I also realize, though, that none of these things have to do with me personally.  When students try to cheat, or turn in poorly-executed assignments, I realize that they're not actually thinking, "That'll really piss off that bitch!" about me.  More likely, they're sleep-deprived, or freaked out about a relationship or a test or their job or any of a hundred other things.  In the middle of grading sixty-some assignments, though, or noticing someone texting in the middle of class, it can be easy to lose sight of.

With all of this in mind, I rewrote my teaching philosophy to submit for this award.  Suggestions?

In all of my classes, my ultimate goal is to engage my students in the material.  I begin from what scholar Kevin Porter describes as a pedagogy of charity, one which assumes that students are rational beings who come to the classroom with an intention to learn and be successful.  While I am not na├»ve enough to imagine that every student who enters a first year composition class is excited about writing an assigned position paper, I work to present material in myriad ways, so that students of differing learning methods will find ways to engage with the material. My fundamental commitments are to having a process-oriented and student-centered classroom, which means that I’m interested in my students’ expectations and needs, and I’m not afraid to change my methods in order to better meet my students needs.  At the same time, however, I expect a level of engagement and participation from my students which I feel is necessary for their own success.

As I teach composition and general education level courses, I realize that my students represent a variety of backgrounds, competence levels, as well as levels of interest, and I take it as a challenge to implement a variety of teaching methods to engage my students at whatever position they arrive at my classroom from.  I structure assignments to emphasize learning as a process: in this way, I’m not only ensuring that my students are never sitting the night before a major assignment is due staring at a blank page.  This also reinforces a more basic principle that academic success is best achieved through regular study and work, rather than last-minute cramming and all-nighters.  

Whether I’m teaching a composition class or a more content driven general education class, I ultimately want my students to learn the skills of analysis and research.  In the classroom, I use a combination of lecture (with PowerPoint presentations to highlight key terms) along with video presentations, classroom group work, and in-class writing and revision.  Even in larger general education class, participation counts for ten percent of students’ final grades; this reinforces the value I place upon student engagement in their own learning process.  Additionally, I encourage students to find research and writing topics about which they’re excited already—the best student writing occurs when students are excited about their writing.  And such excited translates into an interest and a willingness to expend the necessary effort to take their work to the next level.

Even in more content-driven general education classes, I work to make the material relevant to my students.  In every class, I begin the semester with a larger discussion of the purpose of the humanities in education, in order directly address the concerns or resentments of students who might be resistant to requirements which put, say, engineering majors into a poetry class.  I start classes by acknowledging that while not everyone may go into a class sharing a love of the content, the skills and content of such class do translate into a critical consciousness which is necessary not only for higher education in general, but educated citizenhood in general.   This not only provides an opportunity for students to vent their own frustration (and often their own passions about the subject, too), but it also gives my classes a foundation of honest communication.  I strive for transparency to my teaching methods and desire a reciprocal candor from my students, and have been generally pleased with the learning environment such openness can result in.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Moebius To-Do List

After a weekend during which I valiantly struggled to accomplish things, while my body staged giant protests (I went to be Friday night and slept for seventeen hours), everything is packed and ready to go for a big day tomorrow.  10:30-12 is the EGSA grad student panel presentation, where I'm getting to do a practice run of my Flannery O'Connor paper looking at Wise Blood together with the Ministry song "Jesus Built My Hotrod" (which samples dialogue from the film).  At noon, I professor I admire is speaking, and then in my class at 3 I'm presenting on Selah Saterstrom's The Pink Institution.  Once those are done, I can cross more things off of my list.

Sort of.  The O'Connor paper is a dry run for the Flannery O'Connor Society Panel at SAMLA, the primary reason I wrote the paper, which is the first weekend in November.  I wrote the abstract as a bit of a lark--as SAMLA's theme this year is poetry, it looked like the O'Connor Society was having trouble getting proposals (I assume, as they extended their deadline).  Since seeing the movie and realizing where the "Listen--get this: No one with a good car needs to be justified" bits from the Ministry song came from, I've toyed with writing up something about the juxtaposition of the two.  Who knew they'd actually say yes?  And that I'd have to come up with a coherent argument in only eight pages?  (As time goes on, the small scope of a conference paper seems more and more difficult.)

But, I've written something now--thank goodness for my discovery of the "technological sublime," as well as the weird phenomenon that a lot of punk musicians seem to have a thing for the novel.  I'll be glad to give it a go-through in front of other people and see just how many of them just stare at me as though I'm high.

And then in class, I picked a rather experimental/metatextual/nothing's been written about it novel to present on.  I'm not too terribly worried about it, as I've come up with some things to say.  I turned in a response paper about it, too, which means I've written the required number of response papers for the class.  And, as this is my last required course, it means it's the last such short assigned paper I'll do for school.  Weirdness.  I mean, I'm auditing a course next semester, but I won't have to do response papers if I'm auditing.  It's a nice, small milestone to recognize. 

In the midst of all of this to-do-list-crossing off, however, I got news that an article I wrote on Maria Montero's The Messenger was accepted for publication pending revisions.  Revisions are due in three weeks.  One of the requests from the readers was more secondary sources, which means read read read!  Happily, the wonderful professor (who is speaking tomorrow) already responded to my email with suggestions for reading.  I haven't actually looked at the drafts they sent back--after my talks tomorrow, I'll look at them.  I have to be on campus Wednesday for reading group and a student meeting, so I'll officially start tackling the revision then.

I'm still feeling occasional anxiety attacks, but between the days of sleep this weekend and the drumming I did today, it currently feels under control. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

A better day

After my less-than-stellar experience presenting Wednesday, Thursday I started the day by having my teaching evaluated.  (I might add that this was not automatic; I requested the evaluation.  Since I've been at LSU, no one besides my students has seen me teach.)  The new director of Women and Gender Studies sat in on my 10:40 section of Intro to WGS.  Though I enjoy both of my sections,  there are many more engaged, participatory students in my 10:40 class than there are in my noon one. 

Class went so well.  Tuesday I had handed out the final paper assignment, in which students will do a researched analysis of some sort of pop culture product; Thursday's reading was about gender construction in pop culture.  In introducing the concept of the "male gaze," I showed a short clip of Ripley in her underwear in Alien, and contrasted that with the scene in Firefly where Captain Mal is completely naked.  As I think the concept of the "male gaze" can be overused and a bit abstract, I was quite happy with how distinctly different the camera work is in these two different shots.  Ripley's body is panned over slowly, or framed in a voyeuristic way, or the camera focuses on her crotch or her midriff.  Mal is seen either from the waist up, or when we see his entire naked body, the camera is still, just including him as part of the shot.  That he interacts with other people while naked takes away any vestiges of voyeurism the viewer might feel in checking out his clearly visible tattoo.

And, by yesterday afternoon, Dr. Bratton had sent me a glowing evaluation for my perusal and revision.  The only revision I suggested was that, while I enjoyed reading her reference to "Dr. Miller," I'm not there yet. 

I'm glad to have ended the week on a positive note.  And I finished a book on both my independent study and gender exam lists today, and posted a write-up of it on bellatricksy, which is a nice feeling of accomplishment.  I realized today, though, that I haven't plowed through my independent study list as much as I'd like to have, so that's definitely moved up on my priority list.  Next up: Susan Bordo's Unbearable Weight--and the two presentations I'm making Tuesday.  Happy weekend!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's a CV line, right?

So often, that's supposed to be the incentive to do things in graduate school.  At this point, though, I have lots of things on my CV (I probably need to do some pruning, though I really hate to take the performance poetry off), so I'm trying really hard to focus on doing things that are genuinely beneficial.

Today should have been one of those things.  After my column on plagiarism was published on Inside Higher Ed's website this summer, the department chair asked if I'd like to do a talk for the department about it.  As there's no longer money to bring in speakers to the department, they try to draw on the resources within the department for informative talks; this would be another one of those.  A couple of weeks ago, I attended a talk by a professor about the necessity for and the future of the humanities, which was well-attended, fascinating, and prompted a nice exchange during the session.

I put a lot of thought and practice into my talk today; the thought of presenting something department-wide was daunting.  Alas, I needn't have worried: five people attended.

The professor who organized the event was quite apologetic and seemed rather pissed.  There were two professors and three grad students present.  I knew that several of my friends would be in a class which conflicted with the time--that professor, along with my own adviser, sent their regrets that couldn't attend.  But only two professors on a Wednesday afternoon? 

I admit that it's not surprising--people in this department (as well as the university in general) simply don't interact in the ways that they did at my last university.  At orientation, grad students were told at the university-wide orientation for new GTAs that the university has a "culture of absence"--though they were talking about class attendance by students, I think that the description could just as likely apply more generally.  A surprising (to me) number of grad students and professors live in New Orleans (an hour and a half away) and commute to LSU.  Even those who live closer don't spend a lot of time on campus.  One of the frustrations I faced last year was the discovery that for many professors, it's necessary to confirm that they'll actually be at their posted office hours, as unless they are expecting a student, they'll skip them.

More and more I appreciate and miss the much more community-oriented, collegial atmosphere at UT.  More than anything I miss the reading groups, the established faculty/grad student groups which met regularly to discuss important works in various areas--critical theory, Americanist studies, 18th century lit.  Attending the feminist studies reading group from the start of grad school was crucial to my success there--not only did I meet other students who shared my interest, but it was a low-stakes environment in which to meet and interact with faculty members.

Here, there are faculty writing groups, and I've been involved in a few informal reading groups, but it doesn't seem the two overlap.  I've started a reading group in WGS here, and our first meeting we had one professor attend.  It's a start.  But this evening I'm feeling frustrated that there's not more interaction on campus--and this is probably exacerbated by my frustration at still feeling isolated, after a year, living here.  It's quite difficult to have a social life as a graduate student if you enjoy neither bars nor drinking nor sports. 

None of this is new, and it is certainly slowly improving.  And today I did have an opportunity to give a presentation on a topic which is important to me, and got some good feedback from the people who were present.  And Tuesday is yet another presentation, a dry run panel presentation sponsored by the EGSA which will give me an opportunity to try out my weird Flannery O'Connor paper that I'm presenting next weekend for the Flannery O'Connor panel at SAMLA.  Even if five people attend that, I'll get a chance to practice and perhaps some feedback whether my pairing it with the Ministry song that samples dialogue from Wise Blood makes any sense whatsoever. 

So, in the larger scheme of things, today was a blip.  But still an annoying blip.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

This blog's purpose

The tagline for my Bellatricksy blog has been "Books as I read them and other adventures in grad school."  However, I've been only posting my responses to books on there so far, and have liked being able to track my progress there.  I've decided, however, to start another blog, one where I can post about things other than reading, though still mostly school-related. 

I was inspired by this post on Hook and Eye, however, that reminded me that I tend to work this way too--the more I do, the more I do.  The more my head is in writing mode, the more I'm going to be able to write.  I think having a place to informally reflect on what I'm doing may ultimately be useful as I go along.  Especially after this semester, when I'll be done with my commitments to coursework (though I'll be auditing a class in the spring, because how can I miss a class in the queer South?), it will be good to have an outlet to go blah blah blah about school.  

And surely, with a name that has both "hegemonic" AND "bulwark," it will surely be brilliant.