Saturday, March 30, 2013

Holy Moly, I'm actually writing!

Amazing what a deadline will do for your productivity. I mentioned the project I had committed to? An article-length piece for a special issue of a journal? I committed in a qualified way, meaning that I reserved the right for the damn thing to run a bit short. I may or may not come in short (I think of "article-length" as around 8,000 words), but I like to have that bit of pressure taken off.

Anyway, the review-ready draft is due on July first.  But I am going to be out of the country for most of the month of June. So guess what that means for my deadline.


But... This week, spring break started. And in the Hallelujah! spirit, I feel like my writing program is being resurrected from the dead. But maybe with less miracle and more zombie-revenant, because I'm pulling lots and lots from other places, slapping it together, and worrying about sculpting and polishing later.

Not too much later, though, because: deadline.

Welcome to day two.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Loving and hating the independent study

One of the things that has been making my life nuts and my blogging light this semester is the fact that, in addition to my regular course load (10 units) and my undergraduate advising, I'm teaching two independent studies this semester. And honestly, I can't settle on how I feel about that.

Let me give you the context: For those of you just tuning in, I teach at a regional M.A. comprehensive university, which means that we have a large undergraduate population, a small cohort of M.A. students, and no Ph.D. program. We teach anywhere from three to four regular courses a semester, the majority of these in the undergraduate program, and our per-semester student load per tenure-track faculty member [1] can range from 60-120, depending on the particular courses, and the fields.  With a load like this, independent studies are rare, except for M.A. students preparing for their exams or working on their theses.

And, like everywhere else (I think): these classes are taught as an overload, don't count towards our contractual obligations, and are strictly unpaid.

Yet this semester, I find myself teaching two of them.

Here's the situation: one is for a graduate student. Due to a combination of poor planning and circumstance, she finds herself near the end of her program, but needing one more content course in the field to graduate. And the fact is that I don't *have* more courses in the field. So we're doing an independent study. The other is one of our rare undergraduates who has been accepted into our departmental honors program. Part of the "honor" is that you get to take three extra content courses *and* write a 40-page senior thesis. And this last bit is done at the end of two semesters of one-on-one coursework with a faculty adviser.  And I have to admit, this one I asked for -- literally: I asked the student to apply, because he was (a) very talented, and (b) interested in my area of research.

So, here's the bad part: instead of working on my own reading for my own research, I'm adding an extra 100-200 pages (give or take) a week for these two classes. And we haven't even got to the bit where I have to grade stuff. It's a lot of work. In fact, even as I type this, there's a book on my coffee table that I need to finish today.

But -- and here's the cool thing -- the reading is fascinating. In one case, it's in an area very closely related to what I do, and something that I really should know more about, but in fact only have the most basic textbook knowledge. In the other, it has nothing at all to do with my work, but it's stuff that I've always wanted to know more about.

You know how sometimes you develop a seminar syllabus and add in two books you haven't read yet but want to, on the principle that assigning them will force you to read them? Yes, well: multiply that by two entire syllabi, and you've got my situation, for both good and for ill.

In the end, I'm still not sure if this was a good idea. It's a huge challenge, especially with two in a single semester. But dang, I am learning a lot.

Now, If you'll excuse me, I have a book to read.

[1] Lecturer student-loads are eye-poppingly huge, of course.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Well, crap -- this is enough to make me post something

Sound the bells!

Okay, so as I noted, this semester I have three regular courses, two independent studies, and am acting undergraduate advisor. Plus I committed to write an article. I'm dumb. And also not blogging.

Not that there haven't been blogworthy things. Oh my, yes. This semester I have:
  • ...gotten verging-on-shouty with a colleague. In the hall. In front of students.
  • ...refused to sign off on a thesis before some revisions were made, and gotten into it with the thesis chair about that.
  • ...been on the receiving end of a couple of really weird personal interactions that have formerly comfortable situations suddenly awkward.
  • ...sprained my ankle.
  • ...gotten my credit card hacked
May I note that all of the above happened within a ten-day period?  Yeah, it was the most emotionally exhausting week and a half I've had in ages. And other than the ankle (healing well, thank you), I really can't blog about any of it. And though I could blog about the last two, I just haven't had the time (see above), nor does what I have to say (both things suck righteously) do much to embiggen the human spirit. So I forbear.

But... the Steubenville verdict. And, more importantly, the media reaction to it.

There is no shortage of commentary flying about the internets about this one, so perhaps you won't want to read my thoughts on this.  I'll keep it short:
  1. Ew. Gross. Beyond gross.
  2. I've seen this movie before. Like, 600 years ago.
Here's how it worked in the Middle Ages (and please note that this is coming from a Certified Historian of Medieval Women and Gender Who Wrote a Whole Damn Book about This):
  1. Patriarchy exists. Boo. 
  2. Patriarchal gender system sorts you into two categories, and if you're in the "female" category, then your sexuality is closely monitored and heavily regulated -- sometimes by your parents, sometimes by your spouse. If you're an adult single woman, then technically you're supposed to do it yourself, but in reality, you're in for some heavier-than-usual scrutiny by your entire community.
  3. If you're going to be sexually active outside of marriage, you need to keep it under control -- limited partners, and preferably one that you're going to marry, and soon. This means you are a Good Girl, and entitled to protection when someone commits a crime against your property or person. You are also entitled to Special Protections for your Vulnerable Femaleness.
  4. Step outside those boundaries, though (Where were those boundaries, precisely? Yeah, we don't really have a firm consensus on that, but we'll let you know), and you've in essentially done an opt-out on being a woman. This means that if you are beaten, raped, or otherwise harmed, you really don't have a case, because, by opting out of the gendered limitations on your behavior, you've also opted out of the gendered protections. You did this to yourself, missy.
  5. And no, you can't opt for "human" protections; that would mean that there is an "outside" of patriarchy, and that's just plain silly. 
Okay, I have to go to work, so I need to be done. Have at it.