Thursday, April 24, 2008

RBOC: Headers!

End of Semester
  • So far this semester, I'm staying on top of the end of the semester work, having cleared out my grading cache on a pretty consistent basis. But wait until the ill-fated May 8, when I collect final papers from all of my students, and must turn them around very very quickly.
  • The real challenge has been keeping up with the reading on my own graduate syllabus, not because I assigned too much reading, but because every piece I read that I assigned, I feel compelled to go off and read four or five other things that I didn't assign, but that might be useful for class, or more importantly, are useful in shaping my reading for the book project.
  • Attrition has often been a problem in my undergraduate survey courses, often with a 25-35% drop off in attendance. This semester has been marked exception to that rule though: of the 33 students on my initial roster (one of whom never showed up), I returned 30 exams last class. In fact, on a beautiful, sunny day in April, discussing a novel that would not be on any exam, 28 students showed up. Something's in the water this semester.
  • Over the course of the school year, I put on 10 pounds of the 25 I had lost, but I realized yesterday that that's not all yo-yo weight. Since I've been doing more weight-lifting than cardio this winter, I'm clearly putting on some muscle weight, which I suppose is fine, though not an actual goal. The point is, I had these great chalk-stripe black linen trousers that last summer had been one of my markers of the weight-loss, and yesterday I wore them, and they fit just fine. So while I've been feeling glum about the body work, some of that is in my head. I may try to post more about that in the next few weeks.
  • Speaking of weight-lifting, I worked up to a set of squats yesterday at 195 lbs. which is 15 lbs. above my body weight. I felt awfully good about that (which is odd, since actual weight lifted has never been a big deal to me), because there's something comforting about knowing that I could lift a full-grown person on my back if I needed to. You know, for all that full-grown person lifting I have to do as a professor of contemporary literature.
Theatre and the Arts
  • One of the things I love about being connected to a university is college theatre. In almost three years here, I haven't been very successful about getting connected with the folks in theatre (some exceptions, of course), but I did just see a really wonderful production of a Brecht play this week, with puppets, mask work, and in-the-round staging. The theatrical vocabulary was risky, really, since the production was hardly a brechtian purist's dream, but it was imaginative, and really quite effective in many places. Moreover, the director did astonishingly good work drawing out a range of great performances from the actors. I quite enjoyed it.
  • Willow and I also had intended to go see a show by a local company last week, but our sitter got sick at the last minute, so we had to cancel. Bummer, really.
  • I'm re-reading Winterson's Written on the Body to teach this week. There are so many reasons to love this book, ranging from the really savvy way that it approaches the constructedness of gender to an oddly compelling way that it invokes both a specific period of my own life and a kind of historical moment in the early and mid-90s. It always makes me think of that line in the James song "Laid": Dressed me up in women's clothes / Messed around with gender roles/ Dye my eyes and call me pretty.
  • Also reading Calvino's If on a Winter's Night a Traveler to teach next semester. I do adore this book, both its playfulness, and its serious approach to that play, that somehow the stakes of reading itself are enough to drive a narrative plot.
  • Finally, I'm making my way through Marc Bousquet's How the University Works, which I owe a review on this site, as soon as I'm finished. I will say, its critique of univeristy labor practices and the complicity of TT and tenured faculty in holding this up is pretty compelling. I'm working right now on the chapter on composition programs and the way they abuse labor. Having been on both sides of that equation, I'm finding it very interesting reading indeed.
  • Finally, I'm reading two essays for our faculty research group: one on the poetics of SPAM and another on a 19th century anti-feminist novel by a woman. Good stuff indeed.
Random bullets of RBOC:
  • I am a co-best man in a wedding this weekend. It is the first wedding in which I've ever been attendant, which has always been a bit of a sticking point for me. But then again, this particular friend has never gotten married before.
  • I really really love Spring. Allergies are worth it.

There's more to say but I gotta do some work. Stay tuned for a longer on precisely that topic.


Sisyphus said...

all that full-grown person lifting I have to do as a professor of contemporary literature.

But of course! You have to do some real heavy lifting in a contemporary lit class --- destabilizing master narratives, carrying the weight of tradition, shifting the canon... all that stuff. I would be surprised if you got to haul something as light as a person in one of those classes!

Andi said...

I love this post. So many things happen at this time of year - particularly in the teaching realm - so it's great.

I'm with you on the grading - caught up until yesterday when the research papers started flowing in.

But in terms of attrition, I wish I had your stats. I had 8 of 19 yesterday and expect the same today. . . you must be good, very good.

Mo said...

Allergies ARE worth it. I tell my kids it's "the good sickness" (as opposed to the bad sickness, which involves food poisoning and trips to the expat hospital for anti-emetic therapy).