Sunday, March 30, 2008


There's a meme going around, which I've seen all over, but most recently at Flavia's. The meme asks for a 6-word autobiography, which strikes me as being as difficult an exercise as determining what one's only tattoo should be.

I've kicked around a couple of teaching-oriented possibilities:
I came, I saw, I taught.
I taught, I collected, I graded.

And I worked out a few body/gender things:
Lesbian critic in the hegemon's body.
I'm ambivalent about my own maleness.

And then for a few days I've been working on something about role-playing in life:
High performers are still just performing
Authenticity is just a great performance

And then I came upon this line, in Angela Carter's The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, which I guess makes it Carter's unwitting biography of me (written originally about a character with whom I have little in common):

His performance perfectly simulated an improvisation.

Which gets me to this image, from which my little icon comes:

By the way, performance theory and one's therapist are not good bedfellows.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Spring Break: What I'm reading

OK, so in the week-plus of silence, I have neglected to blog an excellent St. Patrick's Day party with actual Irish folks (including some drunken folk songs, corned beef dinner, and a big ol' Irish breakfast). I have also omitted material on a visit from my mother, who is doing much much better (thanks for the kind wishes). I have not blogged about the conference or the plenary within it, and I have not written on the major overhaul stuff going on in the department. I haven't talked about my itchy anticipation of more sunshine and nicer weather, or the yard work that I actually seem to want to do (or at least have done). I haven't talked much about the way that next semester is shaping up so nicely (despite the load of work I'll have), nor about the trouble I am having teaching the material closest to my research.

But it's Spring Break, and if you wanna hear about any of those things above, just ask. I might pick one or two of them to post about in the next days anyway.

Instead, I'm going to talk about what I'm reading on my Spring Break. because it seems that this is what Spring breaks are supposed to be for.
  • I'm reading blogs: catching up on material from around teh intertubes that I've gotten behind on. I'm even managing to comment occasionally, though I hope to do more of that.
  • In one bathroom, I'm reading back issues of the New Yorker. Loved the Erdrich story from January, and am about to start the Alice Munro story from early Feb. Why is it that I'm always two months behind on the New Yorker, but polish off Entertainment Weekly within hours of its arrival? Don't answer that.
  • In the other bathroom, I'm poking my way through Chuck Klosterman's Sex Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, which is funny and light, and perfect for digesting in one-paragraph bites. He's such a guy though, which I always find a little off-putting.
  • By the bedside, I'm reading Angela Carter's The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr. Hoffman, which features prominently in a dissertation I'll be reading. I really really like Carter. Really. I'm just trying to figure out which Carter I'll be teaching next semester in the 200-level contemporary lit course. Probably just some stories from The Bloody Chamber, but I want to teach more! More!!!
  • Quizzes from the survey (so far purely speculative--I've so far read none of them, though they are mere inches from my left hand).
  • Response papers from the grad class. Ditto on the speculation.
  • On the coffee table: Doug Wright's I am my Own Wife, which is on the grad syllabus for next week. I like this play a lot, and am excited to teach not only the play, but accompanying criticism from my blogfriend, Nels Highberg.
  • A slew of articles and columns on college basketball on Because I am not-so-secretly a bit of a sports geek, and we've done well in March here at BRU. Plus the undergrad alma mater got to dance for the first time. So that was nice.
  • Maybe, but probably not, some further research for the plenary-talk-that-will-become-an-article.
OK, so I shall quit boring you with such details, but that's what's

Friday, March 14, 2008

Publications, Visibility, and Tenure

Dr. Virago has a post up right now about how to prioritize certain article submissions over others, with a great discussion going on. Without hi-jacking the comments, I wanted to chime in, because there there are a lot of factors for how different publications become visible, to whom, when, and to what effect.

First off, here's how I weight article submissions in terms of how I would generally submit them.

1) Keep it for my book. A couple of articles out can be great advance press for a book, but too much of the book copy already available seems to leave publishers lukewarm. I have this only on anecdotal evidence, but I have kept several articles on my desk while I work up the book manuscript. And a book at a decent press (i.e. not an academic vanity press, or one with a reputation on the verge of such a thing) will get tenure at most places, and is the kind of scholarly edifice that seems to define careers.

2) Send it out to a top-tier journal. The best journals are visible to a lot of people quickly. Project MUSE sends out a weekly email announcing newly posted issues, and I for one peruse the Tables of Contents pretty much every week, and print off and browse articles that seem interesting. Plus, now that electronic archives are becoming more and more accessible with less and less work, these articles have a long shelf life of high visibility to many readers. And if the work's good, that's very good. Tenure Committees like these, too.

3) See if a good collection cfp comes around: collections are a crap-shoot, though. Very good collections can have a great upside. Bigger name scholars attract repeated visibility, and the more big name scholars in the collection, the higher the visibility. BUT. These collections seem to be few and far between, and often invited anyway, so random CFPs are unlikely to lead to those kind of field-making collections. Still, at this institution, collection articles and journal articles are valued in the same way. This is not true of all places, which sometimes make a distinction that will privilege the top-tier journals. The other thing about collections is that you don't always know what else surrounds your work, so if you respond to a collection cfp, and are accepted, do be sure to ask to see what else is in it--just as high-visibility scholarship can have an afterglow effect on your work, if your good essay is surrounded by crap, that also reflects on you. Collections also seem to have kind of a slow-burn effect. They take longer to get into print, and take longer to reach readers, but because they do sit in libraries, they can have a long slow burn, and sometimes, artilces in collections will pop up longer than journal articles will. Although the advent of pervasive electronic journal publishing, archiving, and access may change this over time.

4) Minor journals, published proceedings, or most online-only journals: First off, there ARE some really amazing online journals out there. PMC (Postmodern Culture) is huge, and Kairos seems to be a big one in composition studies. But a lot of online journals don't have the reputation of print-first journals, even when the quality of the work is very high. I have sent shorter pieces to online journals, and am happy to have them there. But for a major article and a less-well-known online journal or print journal, these are late options for me. I only submit to published proceedings if I know that the conference-length article is the end of the writing for that argument. My one published-proceedings article and one of my online articles falls into that category. The other two online articles (one co-authored, and actually cited in unexpected places, the other forthcoming) are coming out in expanded form in a collection (full disclosure: the one I'm editing, but with the blessing and encouragement of the publisher, precisely because of the promise of expansion). Another article I have out to a minor journal, but only after it's made the rounds to the major journals who have found not to be sufficiently au-courant. If it doesn't get picked up, I'm shelving it. This is, if you remember, the article I pulled from a collection that was coming out from a suspect publisher.

All of this said, there are all kinds of other considerations, and unexpected (and impossible-to-plan-for) ways that the placement of a publication can have an effect.

-->Certain kinds of articles--high accessibility, easy access, easy-to-read articles--may get cited by students more often, which can have a strange kind of after effect.

-->Certain articles can draw certain kinds of other invitations. Of the three times I've been invited to talk without initiating the contact, two came from journals (one major, and another that used to be major, but isn't publishing electronically), and one from a collection.

-->Your institution may or may not have clear guidelines on how they value certain venues, but these may or may not be consistent for outside reviewers, whose voices really do count for something.

There are a lot of other factors that I am not even thinking of here, which is why good mentoring is important: very little of this is intuitive.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Airport Blogging

I don't really have anything to say except, you know, I'm in an airport with time to kill, and watching basketball on mute in airport isn't really doing it for me (although I am enthusiastically watching scores....).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Before Departing

All that momentum from Monday's frantic writing sprint settled a little. I had a long teaching day Tuesday--good but long--and insisted on making it to the gym this morning for a racquetball date. I had worked straight through most of my waking hours thus far this week, so the little break to exercise seemed important.

When I got home this afternoon, the thought of plowing through to the end of a draft and then revising seemed unlikely. So I spent some more thoughtful time with some edits that Willow had made, and whittled this version down to the best draft I think it can be this week. And I made a good handout (Thanks for that reminder, Dr. C!).

I will say: I'm not sure if it's that I'm a good drafter or a bad reviser, but typically (not always, but...) my final draft looks an awful lot like the first one on the paragraph/argument level. Sometimes, I'll get a really good strong critical reading, and I'll rip back into it, but most often, revision for me is more like editing than re-seeing. Even when I take time to set it aside, my revisions tend not to be huge. So it was today.

The problem is, I want to get this full argument done before it goes stale on me, and so I'm going to try to work on a full draft after the conference and over spring break. Hopefully, April will find this draft ready to send around to some friends for a last pass before sending it out. Taxes and an article by mid April? perhaps.

In the meantime, I've got a few more midterms to grade before tomorrow and the new season of Top Chef to watch in two minutes. Tomorrow, I teach and and I fly out in the evening. If I get a chance to check in from the Upper West Side, I'll do that.

Wish me luck!

Monday, March 10, 2008

My Plenary

I have mentioned as an aside over the last months that I've been asked to do a plenary talk. The talk is for the conference of a regional organization (that may or may not include my region... I can't quite tell) that is not in my field per se, but has focused their conference this time around on their field in performance, which is something I've worked on, and published some on.

This is all very odd to me, for a few reasons:

1) I'm a pretty junior scholar--how many untenured profs are asked to do plenaries out of the blue? Maybe more than I know, but still.

2) The major essay I published on this topic is, if I do say so myself, pretty damn good, and anticipates by a couple of years the boom in scholarship that has since come out on this and another overlapping genre. I have been concerned, though, that since it wasn't published in the biggest journal--or more importantly, a journal that is available online through MUSE or JSTOR--that it hasn't been referenced in a number of places where I would have hoped to have been referenced. The follow-up work I've done has been smaller in scope, and so I have fewer expectations for it. the point is, while I think it's good work, it hasn't been as widely referenced as I'd hope, and therefore, I'm surprised that it would have registered with the conference organizers as important enough to warrant a plenary spot for me.

3) There are scholars in the field attending who are much more prominent than I am.

4) Because I do performance but am in an English department, I am often in something of a networking eddy, which is to say that the performance scholars I read don't move in the same circles as those folks with whom I work, which means at conferences, I'm often networking from scratch. As such, I have a pretty slight network of contacts and colleagues in my field. I am trying to remedy that, but it goes slowly.

Nonetheless, I've known about this talk since December, and have been slowly pecking away at an idea, one I was sort of locked into, since the conference organizers asked for a title from almost day one. I like the idea, but in true Horace fashion, it is built on a theoretical framework that before 2008, I could barely describe to an undergraduate, let alone use in my scholarship. So I've been reading a lot of theory that is only foundational, but not specific to my talk. Then all of the illness stuff (improving every day, by the way) has meant that I've been able to do little other than take notes until today.

Then, last week, I found that what was meant by "30 minutes to present" actually meant "30 minutes for presentation and Q&A, which in practice means about twelve pages instead of fifteen. This would seem great since I hadn't had much time to write, but the problem is: I can write fast. But I edit slow, and the more I have to trim down, the longer it's going to take me.

So when I sat down to write this morning, I had about 2 pages of introductory material. by the end of the writing day (about 10 minutes ago), I had fifteen pages. I haven't written that much in one sitting since I was dissertating, and maybe not even then. OK, so I have to get fifteen pages down by two or three, but the bigger problem is that I have probably about eight more pages of material to go, including all of the critical caveats that make this argument, well, sophisticated. I guess I have to save all of that for the article version. Ugh.

So I sent off the draft to the conference contact, with whom I've been having a delightful conversation, with the disclaimer that he was getting a very rough draft, but he'd offered to look it over to get some ideas for questions to jump start discussion, and for revision suggestions if he had time.

I fear--and it's a deep deep fear, like the fear of fraudulence that tempers the most anxious of academic exchanges--that I am about to be dis-invited. Of course this is overly anxious, but damn, I'm anxious about this. Willow reads tonight to edit (she is an amazing editor as well as a brilliant writer), and I might try to draft the remaining material just to have it drafted later this week. Can you imagine? drafting a whole article in week when I'm also teaching? Oh yes, it does reflect in the work.

By the way, anyone in NYC late this week, I'll have a little bit of time.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The To-Do List, it Grows

We all know that round 'bout week 6 or 7 or whatever it is around here, the semester kicks into high gear, giving everyone just enough time to completely burn out about three days before Spring break. Excellent timing, that. While my joyous teaching schedule has recently released me from the worst (yet still comparatively easy) grading jail of the semester, I still have a boatload of stuff to do.

Priority 1: Nurse family back to health--this includes getting all three of the other members of my household over the flu (Willow is on Day 6, Rambunctious and Imperia are on Day 2, I've been prescribed Tamiflu as "a prophylactic."), as well as trying to get to hometown to visit mom, which is overdue and necessary, but still feels a bit like the cavalry arriving after the battle's over...

Priority 2: Write and Edit--I've got now less than two weeks to draft the plenary talk I'm giving, and while I have notes galore, and plenty to write about, the writing itself is still not done, which, as you know, is the hard part. I also have at least one MLA abstract to draft and submit by March 10. Additionally, I need to get the two harder-to-edit essays in the collection done, since the next stage of writing work on that picks back up in April. And all that work on the book I was planning to get done this semester? Well, so far that's been limited to doing all the rereading that teaching this graduate class has demanded, which isn't nothing, but it's not enough.

Priority 3: Stay on top of the teaching, which this week involves grading a few overdue graduate response papers, re-reading two plays and three essays, giving and grading a midterm, and prepping to read Prufrock in class, a class day in the survey that I adore.

Priority 4: Exercise--I've put on a few pounds of my summertime weightloss, probably a total of about 8, which isn't terrible, but dammit, I'm not going back up a size so quickly. But Spring is coming, and my exercise motivation is always that much better when I don't get a chill just putting on the workout clothes.

Priority 5: Committee work--since the search committee has successfully concluded its work (Yay!), I've only one major committee that is rolling right now, but it's a biggie, and one with a big impact on both the workings and the politics of the department, so I'm treading lightly on that count.

By Spring Break on the 22nd (only three weeks away!), I'll be looking forward to sitting back and cracking open a book (though probably one of the ones I'm teaching in April)