Thursday, March 29, 2007

K'zoo meet-up query - updated

I'm a little behind on blog reading, but Medieval Woman asked me if anyone has said anything about another blogger meet-up at K'zoo. If no one is already trying to organize one, I'm happy to do it again, but only if you all put in pre-orders for my book at the book exhibition.

Tehee! Just kidding on that last bit.

Seriously, though, two questions: 1) Has anyone started organizing this yet? And 2) If not, do you want to start thinking about it now?

UPDATE: OK, there's some stirring of interest in thinking about this now, and I'm happy to be the organizer again. First things first: Who's going to be there and who's interested? When would you like to meet up? Last year we did it late afternoon/early evening on Thursday, I think, and that conflicted with a least one group of people who always have a meeting then. (Oy, I should look this up. I will later.) Anyway, because of that, someone suggested that this year we think about a breakfast meeting. How do you feel about a breakfast meeting?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Students surprise me sometimes

Just checking in from 'grading jail' to tell a brief little story about something that intrigued me in class the other day.

I was taking class period to talk about why and how we do research, and how to judge secondary sources in doing research. (This is but one of three class sessions I devote to the "how to's" of research in a class where I'm having students write a research paper. This is the first time I'm doing this at the undergrad level. Keep you fingers crossed for me.) Anyway, I started talking about things like presses and journals and peer review, all rather dry stuff, especially on a day like that day, when the heating was still on in the windowless room even though temperatures outside had become spring-like. But for some reason, the students perked up when I talked about peer review. Frankly, a whole bunch of them seemed fascinated with the process. They asked all sorts of questions, including:

  • How many reviewers does a book or article typically have?
  • What happens if one reviewer likes it and the other doesn't?
  • What happens if one person's advice contradicts the other's?
And so on and so forth. I think I missed a "teaching moment" there, because while I answered all their questions about peer review and more, I think what they were really fascinated by was the fact that we professors still get "graded." And those "grades" can have some of the same issues as their grades -- one reader/teacher might have different expectations/idiosyncracies/peccadillos from another. And then what do you do? I should have realized this at the moment, so that we might have had a desmystifying conversation about grades and assessment.

Then again, maybe they were actually fascinated by peer review. Maybe the students asking the questions were thinking about academic careers and wanted to know more "behind the scenes" information. I have no idea what their motivations were, frankly. But I have to say, it was kind of funny and cute that they were so fascinated. Even the lone grad student in the course noticed this and she thought it was odd, in a good way, too.

Remind me next time students become fascinated with some little detail of a lesson or text or conversation to ask why. Maybe then I'll learn something.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Dog tired

I know how you feel, Wiley. I know how you feel. It's hard sleeping on the floor of my study for days on end while I work non-stop from waking until sleep for week after week, isn't it?

OK, for those of you keeping track, here's what I've accomplished in the last two weeks. Note the passive voice -- I don't feel like I've been doing anything very actively:

  • Book proofs have been corrected, FedEx'd to India, and received there.
  • The book index has been written, e-mailed to India, and received there. It remains to be seen if they send it back to me, telling me it's an incompetent piece o' crap and that I might as well have said "see entire book" for most of the entries.
  • 25 Shakespeare essays have been graded.
  • 30 short close-reading exercises on Marie de France's Lais have been graded.
  • Classes have been taught -- some well, some not so much.
  • The Master's Exam has been written (1/2 by me; 1/2 by Victoria) and proctored (by me); all 11 exams have been carefully read; and as of today, the fates of these 11 souls have been determined.
  • The graduate committee has met and decided on the major round of admissions and funding for graduate students next year.
  • Offer letters have been drafted.
  • Students with incomplete files have been contacted.
  • Many miles have been run.
  • Guidelines for student research projects in the medieval class have been written and distributed.
  • Feedback on failed application for an NEH Summer Stipend has been requested and received. Grumbling has been done, followed by realization that the feedback is actually very useful, even if it doesn't come with $5000.
Things remaining to be done in the next week:
  • Grade 30 essays on various medieval subjects turned in on the 15th.
  • Grade 30 close-reading papers on Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.
  • Contact and give feedback to 11 souls who did or did not pass Master's Exam.
  • Send out offer letters to admitted grad students.
  • Run 20 miles tomorrow.
  • Celebrate 38th birthday on Saturday night or Sunday (the actual day) -- if there's time and energy to do so. At least open presents. Thank people.
  • Buy cards and presents for April birthdays.
  • Write to recommenders for NEH Stipend to tell them I didn't get it. Feel like loser even though the feedback was really useful.
  • Dammit, reserve hotel for K'zoo already!
  • Buy airline tickets for summer London trip before prices go up to $1500 instead of a mere $1200.
  • Once again start pulling my weight on things like cooking, cleaning, and grocery shopping.
  • Take Wiley to the park on Sunday if weather is gloomy (because that means fewer other dogs and fewer instances of me having to restrain an insanely barking Wiley).
  • Sleep. Maybe.
  • Continue teaching classes, perhaps with more energy. Try not to let discussion of I Henry IV suck as much as discussion of King Lear did. Try not to let enthusiastic but odd dude dominate discussion with bizarre theories. Write blog post about such students and what to do about them.
  • Watch final episodes of Rome (forever! boo-hoo!) and Battlestar Galactica (thank god it's just a season finale, not a series one).
  • Shut down computer for entire day tomorrow for Shutdown Day.
  • Catch up with blog reading. (OK, how on earth is it that Dr. Crazy has some 30-odd new posts that I haven't read yet? UPDATE: Good god, it's actually 40-almost-50-something new posts! 49 at the moment, in fact, and that's just in the last 20 days!)
  • Drink lots of wine.
  • Collapse.
But now I'm going to run out and buy some Gu energy gel for my run tomorrow, and *then* I'll get started on the rest of that list.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Attention! Important Announcements! Read This NOW!

OK, now that I have your attention...

First, sorry for the silence. Chatter will resume shortly.

In the meantime, here are the Very Important Announcements:

  • The Pastry Pirate is blogging again! All hail the Pastry Pirate! And note that she's got a new URL.
  • If you don't regularly read In the Middle, or, if you're like me and fall way behind on blog reading at regular intervals, then you may have missed this announcement about a Very Special Episode of In the Middle planned for April. You know, April, with his shoures soote... when longen folk to find out the secret identities of very popular and funny psuedonymous bloggers. I have a theory and evidence to go with it. I think I'm right. I should put some money on this. UPDATE: OK, I was doing some "wishful reading" here. GC is not revealing his secret identity. However, the writer behind GC's blogging persona is going to write in his 21st century guise, albeit anonymously. Still worth watching for (or adding In the Middle to your RSS feed so you don't miss it).
Substantive blogging will return shortly, probably with a post about what to do with that student who always derails discussion.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Endurance editing

It's a good thing I'm marathoner, used to pushing through exhaustion to get through that last stretch of miles, because that's how I feel about correcting my book proofs and writing my index. It's like I've got 3 miles left to go and it's all I can do to keep one foot moving in front of the other, or in this case, not to get all glassy-eyed.

  • Miles 1-23 = Correcting the proofs and drafting the index -- DONE!
  • Miles 24-26.2 = Editing, polishing, and formatting the index -- still chugging along.
Of course, a marathon only takes me 3 3/4 to 4 1/4 hours (depending on how well I've trained). I've been working on the damn book stuff for about a total of 50 hours now over the course of the last 7 days. And my back and legs are just about as sore as after a marathon as a result. (Or maybe that's the result of my 20-mile training run yesterday. Who can tell at this point?)

I've got until Friday to finish up, but I've also got teaching -- oh yeah, that! -- grading (sigh), and grad director stuff galore this week. So send me some virtual "You can do it!" and "Almost there!" and "Looking great!"* cheers this week. And be patient with me if blogging is light for about the next week.

*Yes, people really call this last one out to marathoners in the last few miles and it never sounds sincere. In a good race it makes me laugh [ETA: because I wouldn't call dried sweat-salt on my face, visible chafing, and a plodding run "looking great"]. If I'm having a bad race, it makes me want to punch whoever is saying it. [ETA: But I wouldn't do that, of course. I know they mean well, even if I look like crap and feel miserable. Though it would be funny if someone shouted, "You look like hell but hey, you've just run 23 miles!" Te-hee.]

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Man, even the Library of Congress thinks I'm a historian

I'm back from my conference trip and hard at work on correcting my book's page proofs and writing my index. It's a good thing they left me 24 pages for it, because it's going to be close to that when it's done. I'ts ridiculously long because I went and wrote a book with overlapping categories of concepts that need separate lists as well as cross-listing. Damn me for being complicated. And can I just say that for some of the index entries I really, really want to say, "see the entire frakkin' book." Te-hee!

Anywho, now that I have the proofs, I can see the Library of Congress number I've been assigned. And it's an HQ number, putting me in the cultural history category that is indeed, a major subject of the book. But I think of it as first and foremost about a particular genre of medieval literature. That designation, according to the Library of Congress, however, comes second among all the categories listed. (Well, at least someone doing a search by LC subjects in literature will still be able to find it by the appropriate category.) Maybe being in the HQs will bring me readers I wouldn't already have -- people browsing the shelves in that subject of cultural history -- but I'm kind of bummed I'm not with my literature peeps in the PRs.

And I'm having an identity crises. Blog categorizing sites think this blog is a history blog, and now the Library of Congress thinks my book is primarily a work of cultural history. And meanwhile, I'm finding that a lot of what's been written relevant to my newest project on a certain manuscript and its owners is done by historians. (Hello, Dr. V., there's a reason why it's called the history of the book! Duh!) And at this weekend's conference, the two keynote speakers were both historians, but their work seems awfully close to the kind of stuff I do and think about. Hm. Sure, I do have a new historicist approach to literature, but I thought I was a literature person first.

Maybe I'm the academic equivalent of an adopted kid, and I'm now just realizing that my "parents" aren't really my parents! This is all rather shocking. I mean, I'm sure my "real" parents, historians, are great people and all -- heck, maybe they're cooler than the literary people I thought were my parents -- but who am I?

You know, next time our admins give lipservice to how it's the age of interdisciplinary work and we need to be doing it (without, of course, any institutional structures to support it), I'm going to pipe up and say, "Well, I'm in an English department, but everyone thinks I'm a historian, so there you go."

And PS -- Just out of curiosity, where do you fall in terms of the "a historian" vs. "an historian" usage?

PPS - This is my 300th post, just so you know.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Miscellaneous mentionables

I'll be away for the weekend at a conference and visiting with some friends, and I won't be back until Tuesday, so don't be alarmed by my silence here. Posting may be sketchy for the next few weeks after that, as well, since I'm getting the book proofs this weekend and have two weeks to write the index (and yes, I'm writing it myself -- there are good reasons why). The good news is that we're on break next week, so the index can be my full time job for the moment.

In the meantime, if you haven't already seen this announcement on other blogs, go check out News for Medievalists, a great compendium of recent news articles of interest to medievalists both academic and independent. The host of the site, Peter Konieczny, also edits the site for De Re Militari: The Society for Medieval Military History.

And now you have the time to read my monstrous post on the process from dissertation to book!

Have a good weekend everyone.