Friday, May 30, 2008

Sometimes it's hard to think

I have a headache. I think it may be due to the sudden change in the weather. It's much warmer and much more humid today that it has been yet this year. Those sorts of barometric and other meteorological changes always seem to give me headaches.

Anyway, it's making it awfully hard to think about things like miscellaneity and mercantile masculinity -- the kinds of things I'm thinking about these days. It's especially hard to read articles and other texts with lots of manuscript descriptions and list of contents and lists of colorless and unmemorable manuscript numbers and other rather dry information. (You know, if I pursue the giant miscellaneous manuscript project that I'm thinking of pursuing -- one that will take me across two centuries of miscellanies and commonplace books and god knows how many archives and libraries -- I think I may start giving the manuscripts my own names. You know, like Fred. Or Rita. Or Gertrude.)

So I'm going to take some ibuprofen for the headache, and forge through some more note-taking for a another hour. And then I'm taking off early and joining "the girls" for a ridiculously frivolous girls'-night-out of pedicures, cocktails, and the Sex and the City Movie. I'm not even a big fan of Sex and the City, but I'm strangely looking forward to this -- I've even got a good outfit to wear, though the pedicurist is going to be horrified by my marathoning feet. They always are. I definitely do not have Manolo-worthy feet.

OK, back to the scholarly stuff for now. And then, frippery and finery!

Yes, I have been more open about what I do in this post than usual. That's the confidence of tenure talking there. That's about as "out" as I ultimately decided to get on this blog.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

A silent epidemic

It's time we started a internet-wide conversation* about a silent epidemic that is killing productivity across the country -- certainly at my university, and I presume at yours, too.

What is that silent killer of time? Reply-All [cue melodramatic music]

Seriously, when an administrator sends out to the entire university-wide faculty mailing list an invitation for a casual, drop-in coffee hour, do I really need to know if so-and-so from the business college is coming? Or even when the chair of a large committee sends out a message saying we need to meet, and asks which of the three following times works for the members, do I need to read everyone's reply in order to make up my own mind? Does the chair need for every member to know every other member's choice?

Ack! People! Stop hitting reply-all! I have enough e-mail and junk-mail to wade through as it is!

*The conversation isn't really necessary. I feel better now that I've ranted. Feel free to rant in the comments.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Grad level teaching bleg: journal articles wanted

Hey all you literature types, across the historical spectrum, I need your help.

In my 'intro to grad school and literary research' class in the fall, I want to do a couple of practical and analytical assignments focused on journal articles. Indeed, the central theme for the class is the journal article -- what it does, what it's for, who reads and writes one, how to model graduate level papers on one, what rhetorical moves it makes, etc.

I could choose a handful of articles from medieval and early modern studies that I know, but that might get kind of dull, especially if we revisit the same articles over the course of the semester. I'd rather have a small collection of articles from across English and American literary studies, even if it means new reading for me. At least that will keep things interesting and allow me to make different assignments with different articles, and allow students some variety in their choices.

So here's where I'm asking for your assistance, oh wise and learned readers. Help me put together a collection of journal articles that I can use again and again in my intro to literary research class. Here are the criteria:

  • I prefer more recent articles (last 10-15 years, depending on how fast your field moves), but "classic" articles that everyone still cites and that are still part of the conventional wisdom are good, too.
  • The literary text(s) addressed should be commonly anthologized, taught, and read works -- not just from a specialist point of view, but from a generalist one. That way, if the student hasn't read it, at least they'll recognize it and likely recognize that they should read it.
    • For example, in late medieval, I'd likely go for an article on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight over Sir Orfeo, and definitely over Havelok the Dane, as much as I love them all (and might teach all in a medieval lit. class). Or in Shakespeare, I'd choose Hamlet over Titus Andronicus, even though, like Bardiac, I find the latter utterly fascinating.
  • The articles should be, on some level, "must read" works. Either they've been greatly influential, or you think they exemplify the best in a lucid and persuasive argument, or you think they could show graduate students how new critical and scholarly interventions can still be made in long-held critical conversations.
  • The authors need not be superstars.
  • Don't shy from articles that are difficult in their assumptions about their audience's knowledge of either theory or literary-historical contexts. Students have to learn how to deal with the unknown whenever they're doing their own research, so they might as well deal with it with these articles.
  • I prefer journal articles to essays in collections, but I won't rule out the latter. But since I'd like essays that are complete in and of themselves, I am ruling out chapters of monographs.
  • Coverage of every period and movement in English and American literature isn't necessarily the goal. A range of choices is enough. As long as it's not all medieval and early modern Brit Lit (as it would likely be if I were doing this alone), that's OK.
So tell me what your favorite articles on well-known works are. And if you don't know the whole citation, if you can give me enough to find it in the MLA bibliography, that's OK.

Monday, May 26, 2008

New look

So I followed through on the suggestion to re-design the blog around Pippi, or at least her coloring. I fiddled with the old template for awhile and then decided that it wasn't working with the new colors. But then I found this template, changed a few things a bit, and added the background picture. I know I don't work on things ecclesiastical or monastic, but the picture, which I took in the ruins of Battle Abbey, goes so well with the template colors, and I just like its lines. I've especially always liked the way vaulted roofs like this look like plants sprouting out of their support columns. And hey, it's medieval.

What do you think? Any suggestions? I think I might change the post titles to something darker and richer -- maybe a dark red. They're a little washed out now. Done!

The quirky kindness of my colleagues

After the crankiness of the last post, I thought I should write something nice about my colleagues. One of the benefits of being somewhere relatively small in size, at least in faculty terms (smaller than we should be given our 20,000+ students), is that faculty in other departments and colleges notice what you're up to. And then they send congratulatory notes and little tokens of appreciation. This is totally weird to me, but it's kind of nice. I feel a bit like Liz Lemon when she visited Cleveland on 30 Rock -- people are being nice! Strangers make eye contact! I'm *pretty* in the midwest! Etc.

Anyway, here's what I mean. As you'll recall, I won one of the university-wide teaching awards this year. This a big deal at our university; despite our status as a metropolitan research university, the faculty take teaching seriously, and a teaching award is not the kiss of death that it might be at an R1. The whole award series -- for teaching, research, advising, and outreach -- is taken seriously, and a big spread is done in the news that comes out of the public relations office. And the rest of the faculty read that thing religiously, it seems. I'm still getting congratulatory e-mails and comments and so forth.

But what I want to especially comment upon are two congratulatory notes I got from faculty in other colleges, both professional schools. One of them sent me a hand-written note on his personal stationery. Inside was taped a piece of paper on which was written "Open and see greatness!" Inside that was a print-out of my profile and picture from the spread in the online edition of the above-mentioned spread. Too funny! And then more recently I got another card from the dean of one our science-related professional schools, and inside was a *laminated* version of my picture and profile from the print edition of the news spread, made into a bookmark! This is totally not the kind of thing that would have happened at the big R1s where I went to college and graduate school, so it's a little bit of a culture schock, but ultimately I find this all kind of charming. And it gives me some hope for the future of this university, that the kind of work that I do matters in some way to my colleagues, and that they see it as valuable and worthwhile.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A cranky medievalist

Things are making me cranky today, despite the glorious spring holiday weekend Sunday that we're having. And everything that's making me cranky is doing so because I'm a medievalist. It's making me wish I'd been a modernist after all (once upon a time that's what I thought I wanted to do).

First, there's this article skewering the Medieval Congress at K'zoo, which Dr. Nokes has posted about and partly criticized, rightly. It's probably better that he do so than I, since as you can see from my comments there, the thing gets my hackles up in all sorts of ways that don't bother him.

But as if that weren't enough, I also had a colleague forward the article to me, assuming that I'd *share* her viewpoint -- he thought I'd be one of the people, like the writer, tsk-tsking the use of cultural studies and the papers on excrement. (Clearly he hasn't even looked at my CV -- not even when I was up for tenure??? -- and also doesn't know my love of fart jokes.) And he thought the article was a fair and sympathetic assessment! (As if he'd know. He's never been to the Congress -- he's an Americanist!) It reminds me of how my dad used to always send me clippings of conservative critiques of all the leftists in academia and tell me to be careful or I wouldn't get a job. Apparently, my colleague, like my dad, thinks I'm a conservative. My dad thinks so for complex psychological reasons I don't have time to get into (he also thinks I'm still a practicing Catholic and a virgin, and he doesn't know I live with Bullock). But I think my colleague keeps assuming that I'm a political conservative because, I guess, I study the Middle Ages. Why? Why assume that? Can someone fill me in here? [Edited to add: it's the act of assuming that bugs me most. I'm sure said colleague would be annoyed if someone assumed he was a liberal just because he's an English professor. When smart people assume, it annoys me.]

And *then* I get another e-mail, this time sent to a large list, from another colleague (apparently my colleagues have no lives and spend holiday weekends writing e-mails) in which he attached a letter to an editor defending what we do in the liberal arts. OK, nothing to get cranky about, right? Except that in a moment of misplaced, annoying cutesiness, he referred to scholars at RBU who teach "Olde English." Ack! OLD-E ENGLISH! I do NOT teach Old-E fraking English. Way to denigrate what I do into some cutesy Ren Fest attraction. Not to mention the fact that it's not even grammatically correct in Old or even Middle English. But that's besides the point, since who would give a class title for a serious class in an American university in anything but modern English? Argh! Bullock managed to alleviate my annoyance a little bit though, when he told me I should write to my colleague and tell him to "go to the shoppe and buy a clue." Hee-hee.

But seriously all of this is making me tired of being a medievalist at the moment. I'll recover, I'm sure, but for once it would be nice not to specialize in a period that gets so abused and misunderstood. I should go commiserate with Victoria -- Victorianist are probably second to medievalists in their impatience with the (ab)use of their period by the general public. And I know Will, our Shakespearean, gets sick of Shakespeare being used as a weapon in various fights about the humanities. And if I studied early American, I'd likely get sick of the abuse of the term "puritanical." *Is* there a period of English or American literature that's free from popular misunderstandings?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Designer dog

In the comments to the post below, Karl suggested that if I redesign the blog, then I might want to consider making Pippi part of the design element. Hm. There's a thought. In fact, maybe I should design the colors to match her. After all, she already matches my home decor:

No, I didn't get a Brittany to coordinate with my decor. Honest, I didn't. It just happened that way.

RBOS: Random Bullets of Summer

  • Hm. Random Bullets of Summer sounds like a gansta rap album title.
  • Thanks to everyone who offered congratulations and huzzahs and woo-hoos in the last post. And Karl, that David Wallace as anonymous blogger joke never gets old with you, does it?
  • I have made my summer UK travel plans. I will be at the NCS in Swansea -- I have trains and planes arranged -- then visiting a friend in Yorkshire for a few days, and perhaps catching up with a former student who will be completing her MA in Medieval Studies at York. And then I'll be in London from the evening of July 27 just through the 30th (I leave the morning of the 31st) to look at a couple of manuscripts at the BL, and maybe out at St. George's Chapel, Windsor, too.
  • Get this: in order to get in to the library at St. George's Chapel, I have to pay for admission to Windsor Castle. Hm. I haven't been there since I was a kid -- maybe I'll do the touristy stuff, too, when I'm done with my manuscript.
  • For those who want to know, you can book train tickets through only if you have a UK mailing address to post them to. They'll tell you you can't use a non-UK credit card, but I did. (They also claim you can't even register with a US address any more, and I seem to have done so. But then I remembered I already had an account from back in 2004, and logged in and purchased my tickets with that account.) The AmEx has been charged and my Yorkshire friend should be getting the tickets any day now.
  • I decided to stay at The Euro Hotel in London, partly on Mike Drout's approval of it for what it is, and partly because it seemed to be the only cheap place available of the places really close to St. Pancras and the BL. I like the fact that it's on a little crescent street and it's relatively cheap for London -- 55 GBP for a single with shared shower and toilet (the online reviews say the showers are very close, clean, and never busy). I'll let you know what I think after I've stayed there -- or even *while* I'm there, as they have free wireless (another attraction).
  • So I think I may fiddle with the blog design. It's summer -- I have time. JJC finds it too soothing after my old template's screaming orange. (Though was it really that screaming? I always thought of it as an autumnal '70s rust, and so went with a complementary color with the new design.) He also tsk-tsk'd the flowers at the bottom. OK, so it's a little genteel and froofy, but I love English gardens (the picture was taken in Cumbria). But he has a point. It's not very Virago-like. Any ideas?
  • Pippi is also getting ready for summer. I took her to the groomer today. It's the first time since we've had her that I've handed her over to strangers and walked away. It was very traumatic for *me*. But for her? Nah. Her attitude was all "ooh! new people to love me! new scents! other doggies! let's go!" Sigh.
  • So you know what I just realized now sucks about being tenured -- aside from more service work? Now I only do a dossier every five years, so I have to be super-organized and save all the proof of what I've been up to in research, teaching, and service for five long years. D'oh.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

NOW it's official

I finally got my letter from the president saying that the Board of Trustees has approved my tenure and promotion to associate professor.

Woo-hoo! Let the feasting begin!*

Now I'm going to go change my e-mail signature line.

*Bullock and I are talking about a celebration party inspired by medieval feasting -- with medieval recipes, but not sit-down. We haven't decided about forks yet.

Monday, May 19, 2008

You might be an academic grown-up if... go to a major conference in your field and no longer care about whether people are looking at the affiliation on your name tag because you and they are too busy actually engaging each other in conversation.

... and you have no anxiety whatsoever in the book exhibit.

... and while there you talk to a big-shot about hir work, and ask if ze's read such-and-such work obviously related to the project, and ze hasn't. And you realize you know something ze doesn't.

...and you ask a smart, useful, 'big stakes' question of another big-shot at hir panel...and then get invited to lunch afterwards, where the conversation continues with the panelists and others.

...a different big shot asks you to read hir work in progress. hear yourself cited and quoted in *two* different papers (OK, granted, both speakers are friends...but still). feel confident in turning down another big-shot's dinner invitation because you have other plans. give a paper and afterwards numerous people from the fully packed audience tell you that you've changed the way they understand the subject. have a moment of raging envy when you find out you lost the big book prize in your field to someone who wins everything, but then you pick up hir book and realize, yeah, it's pretty freakin' impressive.

And that, my friends, was my Kalamazoo.

And in a related subject: you might be a blogger if...

...people know they know you but want to call you by your nom de blog.

...and your dog is mentioned in a paper. (Yeah, no kidding. Pippi got cited at her first K'zoo. Took me six of 'em to reach that stage.)

O Fortuna!

This one's for the Pastry Pirate. Hat tip to Another Damned Medievalist.

Btw, here are the actual words to "O Fortuna," in case you want them.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

UK travel bleg

Since all you netizens and web-dwellers were so helpful last year when I was planning on spending a month in London for research last summer, I thought I'd ask for help again. Two updates below.

Query/Problem #1

I'm going to the UK for two weeks this summer from July 17 to the 31 (already have my round trip plane ticket from Big Rust Belt to Heathrow). On the 17th I need to get from London to Swansea, Wales. Advance train tickets are only 12.50 GBP, and the train is direct and takes less than 3 hours. That's great! Except for one thing: it seems you can't buy tickets online unless you have a UK address. Grrr. And I believe it's a UK *billing* address the online booking agency (Trainline) wants. It really shouldn't matter since I'm trying to purchase the ticket to pick up at a self-service kiosk, but apparently, it does. Same day tickets are now 61.00 GBP -- a big difference! -- and by the day itself they could be more.

Meanwhile, after Swansea, I'm going to Leeds and then from Leeds back to London. Were I able to purchase of all this right now, online, it would only cost me about 45.00 GBP. Now, I may be able to get those second two legs at Paddington when I arrive there, and thus still get some kind of advanced fair, but it's subject to availability.

So here's what I'm asking: is there any way a US resident can purchase advance train tickets online?? Am I missing something?

Update: Using a UK address and choosing the first class post option on solved my problems. If I didn't have a friend in the UK to receive the tickets I'd be SOL, though. It's totally stupid that choosing the electronic kiosk method requires a UK billing address. I've written to customer service about it. Oh, and as one commenter points out, if you call the appropriate train company directly, you can order the cheap advance tickets over the phone, to be picked up at the self-service kiosk. So why you can't do it online is beyond me -- especially since National Express, the coach service, has e-tickets you print out from your own printer! (If hadn't been for the fact that the coach tickets are actually *more* expensive *and* slower, I might have gone that route.)

Query / Problem #2

I need a place to stay in London for the nights of July 27, 28, 29, and 30. I know about Goodenough Club and actually stayed in one of their student rooms last summer. But I'd be surprised if they have a student room available this late -- though I've written to ask -- and the club is a little pricey. Yes, I know it's London, but does anyone know of a decent B&B near the Kings Cross/British Library area that's under 100 pounds a night? Given how much I may end up spending on train travel, I want to minimize expenses on accommodations.

Update: I'm still looking for suggestions here. Also, does anyone know anything about the Euro Hotel, the Alhambra Hotel, or the Wardonia Hotel? Along with the Penn Club, suggested by Rebel Lettriste, these look like possibilities, especially the first two.

All leads and advice appreciated! Thanks!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Nuns on the run! (Well, ok, on the walk)

In lieu of a substantive Kzoo post (or any post for that matter) for the moment, I give you Medieval Congress attending nuns:

Monday, May 5, 2008

Bagpipes? Really?

Someone in our neighborhood is playing bagpipes. Poorly. S/he's clearly only just learning, so I shouldn't pick on hir, especially since generally speaking I *love* bagpipes. But weirdly, s/he has decided to learn the US National Anthem first. Is there some kind of Scots-American celebration coming up? I take all that back now. Clearly s/he was just warming up. Now s/he's playing traditional music and s/he's not the best I've ever heard, but not bad. It's kind of nice, actually. Like I said, I dig the bagpipes.

Ah, Rust Belt in the Spring, when windows are open and music is in the air.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

My graduate students crack me up

Two of the grad students from my Chaucer class are very close friends, and one of them told me they jokingly refer to each other as "rivals." So get this: for their final papers in that class, one of them wrote on the Friar's Tale and the other wrote on the Summoner's Tale. Ha! Even cooler -- we didn't read these tales in the class, so they discovered the Friar-Summoner rivalry all on their own.

I love it when papers amuse me in surprising and positive ways -- it always makes the grading process easier.

Friday, May 2, 2008

My childhood home

Want to see the house in which I spent 18 continuous years of my life, plus a few assorted summers?


View Larger Map

Google Street View is kind of creepy.

It's also wrong. If you click on the "larger map" link, it will tell you I grew up in toney Leawood, KS. Although 66206 is largely a Leawood zip-code, I grew up in more modest Overland Park. If you have a Sprint cell phone, you have perhaps heard of it (though it shows up on Bullock's AmEx bill as Roverland Park, which cracks me up -- Dog Park, KS!).

Oh, and btw, my porn name is either Emily (first pet) Windsor, or Marie (middle name) Windsor, neither of which sound at all porny. Indeed, they sound like distant members of the royal family.

Speaking of Englishness, the street behind us was Canterbury. Yeah, I was destined to be an Anglophile and a medievalist.