Self-Reliance

“There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried. Not for nothing one face, one character, one fact, makes much impression on him, and another none. This sculpture in the memory is not without preestablished harmony. The eye was placed where one ray should fall, that it might testify of that particular ray. We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents. It may be safely trusted as proportionate and of good issues, so it be faithfully imparted, but God will not have his work made manifest by cowards. A man is relieved and gay when he has put his heart into his work and done his best; but what he has said or done otherwise, shall give him no peace. It is a deliverance which does not deliver. In the attempt his genius deserts him; no muse befriends; no invention, no hope…”

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Ralph Waldo Emerson

Horror!

No, not just for the number of emails in my inbox (although that is horrifyingly substantial!) but because I begin the summer intensive course on horror film. First feature today: “Bride of Frankenstein”! Isn’t this a lovely photo of Lanchester?!

Along with a lot of the Universals I’ll have a few other things to show the early era, but with only twelve class periods altogether to convey the whole of horror film history, there are going to be holes. Massive holes! There it is.

More later — Kalamazoo wrap-up, upcoming events, but at present haste precludes verbosity!

I should have known better…

Yes, I was a glutton — three medieval classes in one term. I should add, I’m teaching three medieval classes with at least two different textbooks, so I am teaching some of the same texts in different translations (as if conveying the complexities of different parts of the Middle Ages were not hard enough!).

I can’t tell if it’s more perplexing to teach the same text at the same time with very different translations and aims (medieval lit for non-majors v. gender in medieval lit for sophomore majors) or the same text at different times — so I always catch myself saying, “Did we already talk about this? No? Oh, well — let me explain…”

My third class of the day — the upper division one — bears the brunt of this exhaustion and inevitable confusion. I’m always making them laugh as I get stuck stammering on a word, because suddenly I’ve lost the one following it as my mind races to check:

1) is this the right text?

2) have we already covered this?

3) am I confused because I said something similar in the previous class?

4) or was it in this class last week?

5) and now they’re all staring at my sputtering and thinking I’m crazy!

I generally recover quickly (I can always vamp on just about any medieval topic for a fair space of time until I recall where we’re supposed to be) but I’m beginning to think the Medieval Texts on Film class thinks they’ve signed on with a lunatic. Fair enough.

Nonetheless, it’s better to have this embarrassment of riches (teaching the field I love and have been trained for) than to be stuck with the dread thousand year survey. In my last position, I had to cover the class that lumped together everything from early Anglo-Saxon heroic poetry to transitional Anglo-Norman texts to Chaucer and the late Middle Ages to Elizabethan drama to the English Civil War to Restoration drama and the roots of early journalism. In a semester!

It’s like having a huge banquet and a half hour in which to eat it. You can cram your mouth with stuff, but you won’t digest a lot of it and you won’t even get to taste some of the signature dishes (I am so not going to teach Spenser! Just not qualified). You get the academic equivalent of heartburn.

Why do it? Often it springs from a desire to teach ‘foundations’, the explicit recognition that all writers stand on the shoulders of the giants who have come before. But it also devalues those foundations with the suggestion that a mere semester of running through that thousand years will sufficiently acquaint students with the complexities of these wildly varying texts and cultures. The often unspoken assumption is that the students can then be ready to move on to the ‘important’ (i.e. post-1800) texts — argh! Medieval literature is not just ‘background’ for modern literature.

Albacon & Fall Colors

Ran out to get a hair cut yesterday and decided I needed a little color too, so voilà: Purple highlights! Thanks, Joy. She’s so good that she matched the color to the jacket I was wearing.

We had a short night at Albacon — one panel for me on writing flash fiction. True to form, we cut the panel short (hee hee!). But I sold two copies of Jane Quiet at the end of it (slight upward blip in whuffie), so whoo hoo! We had some tasty ice cream at the ice cream social, but having both slept badly the night before, we went home early and watched the news before collapsing. More today at Albacon — should be fun. There’s free wireless in the hotel, so updates to Facebook likely.

The corset did its job: despite being on my feet all day and driving (a stick) for the first time in a month, there was very little swelling around the ankle. Yay! I even managed to find something to Sanrio-fy it, so that’s good.

Fiction/Non-Fiction

From the official Empire State Building site:

Narrating the tour is Tony, a fictional, but nonetheless authentic, native New Yorker born 50 years ago in Chelsea, an area of Manhattan not yet the hot, trendy neighborhood it is today. The tour is written from Tony’s point of view and is filled with his colorful, amusing and informative observations about his favorite city . . . and his favorite building.

Huh? I think I might like to be fictional yet authentic. Maybe I am — who knows?

Fabrications

I’ve decided the true story of my injury is very dull. I need suggestions of tales I might tell others, including my students whom I will be seeing tomorrow.

Any ideas?

The bruising is getting more colorful, as it tends to do. Will have to get another picture soon. Still no word on the x-rays, sigh.

Adding insult to injury: my essay on Tideland just got booted from the anthology it was supposed to appear in. Waah.

One Down

I don’t know why it was particularly difficult to return to the regular business of the academic year, but it was today. I suppose knowing the day would end with a meeting cast a bit of a pall on things, but I was having a hard time adjusting back to the public sphere of the classroom after spending so much time writing this summer. Maybe that had something to do with enjoying myself less at Pi-Con, too. I just wasn’t ready to be in the midst of the swirl after a week of solitude at Domus Crispini.

But the schedule I chose for this semester threw me right into the thick of it. Two classes back to back, a slight break (which will be office hours after today), then the third class and department meeting. It’s always a little nerve-wracking to walk into the first class of the semester but today I felt especially ill-prepared and lacking in confidence. It comes back — that’s the good thing, I suppose — the song and dance, the re-telling of the stories.

I had to go through the introduction to Anglo-Saxon England with my Powerpoint slides (including the Simpsons and Angelina Jolie) twice today. As usual, my voice was giving out by the third class, despite two thermoses of tea. My final class is the one with the most potential for participation (what makes a class energizing rather than draining), although the other two might prove to have some liveliness. But the upper division courses tend to have students who are more independent and likely to want to have their say. Fingers crossed.

Tonight, we relaxed with the Joe Strummer documentary (review coming soon). Tomorrow I’ll need to actually get the schedules spelled out on Blackboard (our support software for the classes), a tedious process that I avoid for as long as possible. I have to plan my work schedule, too. Teaching takes a big chunk of time, so it’s important not to let the writing get lost in that process. Goals and deadlines are essential, otherwise you look up and suddenly it’s the end of the semester.