Monday, June 25, 2007

On a Roll

For much of the past two months, I've felt like I was behind--the major article revision took too long to get started and too long to finish, and so I've been playing catch-up throughout June. But in the past week, I've gotten on a roll.

On the 15th I finished the draft of the article, and got it to three good readers, two of whom have already given me great feedback, the kind that actually makes me confident about the article and want to get back to it already. In the meantime, my co-editor got started on a good draft of a section of our introduction, and I turned around revisions and my contribution late last week. Yesterday, I completely overhauled the proposal for the collection, which now feels very close to being submittable, and today, I read closely the crucial parts of the book I'm reviewing and drafted a review that I'm very happy with. Once I leave for the conference on Wednesday, I'll be more or less away from my desk for serious writing purposes for almost three weeks, so i'm really glad that I got this last burst of productivity.

In other "on a roll" news, my diet and exercise plan has slimmed me down by 12 pounds since May 1, and last evening, I came to the exciting and scary conclusion that some of my professional wardrobe (particularly suits) are now too big--not WAY too big such that I can't wear them, but many no longer look as well-fitting as they used to. Perhaps someday I will reward myself with a new suit. Perhaps tomorrow.

Toddler Jokes

First was the repeating of the famous Carnegie Hall joke that rambunctious heard on a Sesame Street video "Howda get Carny Hall prakissprakissprakiss!" which he didn't "get" but understood was funny because it was treated as funny (a burgeoning class clown this one).

But now, the twins are beginning to master the rhythms of the knock-knock joke.

Just not the actual humor part:

Imperia: Knock Knock
Willow: Who's there?
I: Boo Who.
W: umm...Boo-hoo..........Who?
(long pause, a mixture of confusion and forgetting)
I: Don't cry!


I: Knock knock
W: Who's there?
I: Orange.
W: (Knowing that a few steps have been skipped here) Orange who
I: Are you glad I didn't say lemon? (uproarious laughter)


Thursday, June 21, 2007

Writing Projects in Process

When I initially posted the idea for the graduate compendium (which seems to be a big success-thanks everyone!), it was an excellent idea for procrastinating from the writing tasks I have in front of me, or rather, surrounding and swallowing me whole. The two main projects are fundamentally related: an article and a co-authored introduction which are both only partially in my field of expertise.

The article made its first appearance as a 12-page conference paper delivered last summer, the most productive writing summer of my academic career. It wasn't perfect, but as conference papers go, I'll go on record as saying it was pretty darned good. For this article, I took the conference paper apart, reorganized it, and bulked it up to about 32-pages. This is only a draft at this point, and I think it's pretty good as a draft, but I just finished that draft last Friday, about 2 weeks behind my desired schedule. Three readers currently have it: Willow (an amazing reader), a colleague on campus whose field is the other field my article engages, and my co-editor. It'll need to be finished by the end of the summer, and hat will definitely require some work.

The introduction is the piece that's currently paralyzing me, and co-authorship here may be a blessing and a curse--the co-editor has a very different process than mine. She drafts freely first, and cleans up later; I prewrite and outline and organize obsessively so that the first full draft is usually pretty close to a clean one. The thing is, neither of us individually is an expert in this field, although together we can cobble what seems to be a competent body of knowledge. Sure, I know more about this subject than virtually anyone in my immediate acquaintance, but no one in my immediate acquaintance would be a potential reviewer for the book. Still, while my individual article gives me very firm ground to stand on (even if some of my research is well outside my usual territory), the introduction has nothing to do with drama and performance studies, or at least, uses none of the methodologies of those fields.

We are co-presenting a few pages at a works-in-progress symposium late next week, and while it is a very low-pressure even, I am totally gripped about the process. Academic fraud syndrome is setting in hard, coupled with general writing anxiety. My co-author is a cool customer, but instead of letting her cool help calm me down, I am just worrying more that my writing neuroses are irking her. Sigh.

Oh, and I've got a book review due in 10 days--immediately after I return from the symposium. My last review was composed in a single sitting in my MLA hotel room, so I'm developing a nice little trend of writing book reviews while conferencing other work. Double Sigh. The good news? Well, if I can hit all of the deadlines of the next 10 days, then I've got enough time in the remainder of the summer to work through the rest of my plans--editing articles, revising my article, finishing the introduction, polishing up the book proposal for the (already very interested) series editors, assembling two new course preps...A cinch, really.

So anyone got any other major blog projects I could take on to help me procrastinate?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Required Reading: A Compendium of Links for Graduate Students

Required Reading is a collection of indispensable posts on the process of surviving graduate school. It's a one-time carnival, a blog anthology, if you will. The heart of the collection is divided into five parts:

A few notes about the collection here. It is currently (and likely permanently) skewed toward the humanities almost exclusively, and largely toward English. Contributors are graduate students and faculty alike. The collection here, though is not itself set in stone. I will add, and in some limited cases, perhaps even get rid of links as new discussions pop up, online identities shift, and the conversation continues. Please do tell me if I've forgotten posts: I can already think of some I've missed.

I should also note that much of this conversation continues in a more textured, frontline, and ongoing fashion at the invaluable Carnival of GRADual Progress, a resource that readers here should know and use.

The easiest way to link the whole collection is to link to the label, Grad Compendium, which should put the whole thing into order. Feel free to add links in the comments section, and comment at will. If you find broken links or what have you, do gmail me those so I can correct them.

In the meantime, what follows is a huge trove of information, advice, and experience to help the aspiring academic.

Required Reading: To Go or Not To Go

Among the most crucial decisions (or at least, the first of many) surrounding graduate school is the decision to even start. Here are the thoughts of several academic bloggers considering the decision from many points, as potential student, recent student, and advisor.

Howzerdo at Gully Brook Press talks about the decision as it's being made.

Though she writes largely about the experience of professional music, Terminal Degree's perspective at Metamorphosis Complete, applies broadly.

Dr. Crazy, currently at Reassigned Time and formerly at The Chronicles of Dr. Crazy, considers, considers and reconsiders her experience, and her take on the advice to go to grad school.

Finally, Bardiac offers a useful list of things to know and consider, items which are useful for surviving graduate school as well as making this initial decision.

Updated 2008: Undine offers these considerations.

Required Reading: Selfhood, Identity, and Enculturation

Dr. Crazy, at Reassigned Time, offered up the post that kicked off this whole endeavor, and so I'll begin this section on the processes of identity formation, selfhood, and enculturation into academia by linking her three consecutive posts on the subject.

Readers will perhaps note that I have included no posts of my own here, and thus far, I've had little to say about graduate education. But let me lightly shape the below links by noting that for many many of those who do graduate degrees, the process of developing an academic identity is at least simultaneous with the process of developing a fully formed adult identity. While in the call for posts, I think I suggested that this could be a crushing process, I think most of us would agree that the years from, say age 22-32 can be crushing in many many ways, and that academia simply gives one shape to the ways that identity formation and enculturation happen, a shape that I'd argue can usually be pretty amenable to letting foibles, quirks, and any number of other lovely little curlicues of personality develop freely. All that said, the posts that follow will help the reader see some of the shapes--crushing, infuriating, and even liberating as they may be.

First, Negative Capability at Mansion of Many Apartments describes the academic life cycle.

Next, a collection of posts on midsets for surviving: Sisyphus at Academic Cog offers the knife and spoon metaphor.

Undine at Not of General Interest coins a motto: Catch Up, and then reminds students that even those with whom you're catching up sometimes have feet of clay.

At her old blog, Dr. Crazy ponders "thinking outside the box" as a recipe for success, but also recommends the very useful "Growing-the-fuck up."

Jane Dark at Rome-Colored Glasses offers up a slightly less snarky extension of this line of thinking, and considers the hybrid student/professional status of the graduate student (for more, see the below post on professionalization).

Lumpenprofessoriat gives it to us straight with horror stories.

Significantly, La Rebelde at Suenitos de Una Rebelde reminds us of the vectors of culture and identity that crisscross any graduate experience with struggle.

Finally, two responses to Dr. Crazy's opening responses about becoming an academic, both laced with hope. JB at Age of Perfection remembers to love reading, among other crucial realizations in this little rambling gem, while at Practica, Tiruncula's excellent series of posts on her very positive experience of growing into academia leave us with a note of optimism that even the most successful academic can reach that place without the crushing angst that seems to lurk at the edges (and for some, at the center) of graduate school experience.

Required Reading: The Hoops

The work of graduate school, ostensibly at least, is the completion of a course of study, which, following classroom time (mostly covered in other entries) comes to a climax in a series of hoops: a qualifying exam, maybe a prospectus defense, a dissertation. Some advice on those processes:

First, Psyc Girl asks about tips on studying for comps, and gets some good feedback in the comments.

Of the entire process, much has been said about working with advisors, and while other great posts on the topic certainly exist, some excellent nuggets of wisdom can be found here:

Claire Potter at Tenured Radical considers the virtues of the "good-enough advisor".

Undine at Not of General Interest has a bit of a cautionary tale about how much power advisors do and don't have.

Meanwhile, Dr. Crazy at Reassigned Time considers the role of mentoring more broadly.

Of course, one must also consider research and writing processes, and Undine offers some fantastic advice on researching, while EA at The Grand Improvisation rants usefully about her own processes.

Finally, while many have written on the writing process itself, few do so as eloquently as WWWMama at Working, Writing, Wailing Mama. Here are three posts that give glimpses into the dissertating life.

Required Reading: Professionalization

While many of the above posts discuss the transition into graduate school, many students are already looking beyond the hallowed halls of their own degree programs. In fact, a great deal of discussion about graduate school concerns the degree to which graduate students can and should be preparing for academic careers beyond the PhD program. While faculty are intimately familiar with the Teaching / Research / Service division of labor, graduate programs often offer uneven preparation on this balancing act. The following posts (some of which themselves link to excellent posts) offer plenty of food for though on the process of professionalization.

Dr. Virago's post at Quod She on professionalization, like the posts with which she is in dialogue, is notable not only for the insight of the post, but of the excellent discussion that follows in the comments.

Similarly, Lisa Chase offers her considered input.

Both Flavia of Ferule and Fescue, and Dr. Crazy at Reassigned Time offer up excellent advice on networking .

Dr. Crazy also offers up an important take not just on teaching (for which advice is abundantly available) but on learning to teach as a graduate student and as a professional.

And finally, Barnet Bound asks us to consider that bastard stepchild of the whole balancing act, service, as it fits into the larger picture of graduate student education.

Required Reading: The Job Market, Academic and Otherwise

For many graduate students, particularly in the humanities, the job market represents (perhaps even more than earning the degree itself) the culmination of the graduate school experience. Advice abounds on the subject, and perhaps if folks know of purely informational websites on approaching the humanities job market, I can post them here as well). Undine at Not of General Interest offers a few additions to the conventional wisdom with these thoughts

In the meantime, the rule of thumb for sanity's sake is to approach it with as much good humor as one can muster. In this spirit, Oso Raro at Slaves of Academe offers this advice.

For what happens after that, Earnest English seems to be collecting posts on the process from grad school to TT job. Keep your eyes peeled.

While I imagine that useful advice on the job search may accumulate here over time, I believe it to be crucial to balance these narratives with other narratives of the end of grad school, alternate careers, and leaving gracefully.

Here, Adjunct Whore at Narratives contemplates alternate careers.

Flavia, in a previous guise as La Lecturess, remembers those who left academia for other paths.

And finally, and powerfully, is Scrivener's thoughtful and hopeful post about his decision to stop work on the dissertation.

Though this is the first post chronologically, it will appear to be the final post in the Grad Compendium, and I close with Scrivener's narrative for many reasons. Many, even most, graduate careers end in ways similarly unexpected at their outsets. And few who have gone through this process, whether they found tenure track jobs, toil as adjuncts, leave academia altogether, or somewhere in between, do so with such grace. And while many go through this little gristmill for the mind, it is the rare gem who manages to do so gracefully. it is my hope that the reader who is at an early stage of their process finds ways to do precisely that.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Compendium Update

The forthcoming post that we will call "Required Reading" now has a lot of great links--keep 'em coming. Of course, I decide to do this while in the middle of a major article overhaul, and an impending trip to my parents' place for much of the rest of the week, so it may be next week before a finished product is up. But...BUT! it will be great.

Light blogging ahead...

Friday, June 01, 2007

Call for Posts: Required Reading for Graduate Students

Dr. Crazy has a great post today about trying to demystify the kind of identity loss process of graduate school, the full scale annihilation of self that has inspired and still inspires the worst sort of imposter syndrome in each of us.

As I read it, I thought, Man, I wish I had read this about ten years ago. And then I recalled having said that to myself about fifty times over the last four years since I started blogging. So it occurred to me that maybe we should keep some kind of compendium of required reading posts for surviving graduate school, a kind of edited one-time carnival.

So, if you wouldn't mind, dear readers, could you complete as many of the following tasks as possible:

a) Check your archives for as many posts as you think would be useful for such a collection.
b) Think of posts you've seen at other sites that would be good submissions.
c) If the mood strikes you, compose such a post.
d) Maybe announce and link this post so your readers (since my readership is comparatively small).
e) Keep this post in mind if in 3 months someone else posts an essential post on surviving graduate school.

So copy post addresses in the comments, or just gmail me at delightandinstruct . . . if I get enough good references (and I'll poke around for them, too), I'll put up the results ASAP.