Sunday, February 27, 2005
Now there's a big question of what happens to Shorty's husband. My aunt and uncle (their son) are already housing my grandmother (mom and aunt's mom, who suffer's from Alzheimer's) with them. Shorty's mate has suffered from some sort of dementia for years. It's uncertain if he was even completely aware of the death when it happened.
The whole situation only stirs up another family conflict about what to do with Grma alzheimers. She can't live by herself any more. My parents think she should go to a nursing home; but my aunt can't bring herself to send her. The problem is that whenever my aunt gets tired and needs a break, she can't really get one. My folks refuse to take Grma in for the weekend; they say they can't handle her; they don't have time with their jobs, etc. Very difficult situation, and more complicated than I'll explain here and now, but the worst part of all of it is this: Grma won't be around for much longer, but her daughters will; and it's very sad that this situation is driving a wedge between them. I suppose these conflicts aren't unique, especially in this country, but that's no real consolation at all.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Friday, February 25, 2005
- from a paper on homelessness: "Many people dress as [if] they are homeless, just to get extra money for themselves. They might even live in million dollar mansions and still feel it would be nice to have more than what they need..... Greed is one of the seven deadly sins. It says in the bible that all sins are bad but greed is one of the worst."
- from a paper on the Rwanda genocide: "The fact of the matter is the death total by the time American troops would have entered Rwanda to the time we left would have been likely to be just as high [as the number of Tutsis killed by Hutus]."
- Most troublingly, this from a paper about racisim in the United States: Freudian typo? "In reallity I have friends of all racists and view them all as human beings but some of the actions of the African American Race have lead me to believe that people play the race card too much."
And then there's my decidedly anti-feminist Shakespeare student... Today we were discussing an early modern ballad in which a man tames his wife by beating her bloody and senseless and then wrapping her in a salted horse hide. According to my student, this was an appropriate punishment-- after all, that wife was being pretty bitchy. I'm totally boggled. I can understand those women who, because of their religious upbringing, etc., believe that "wives should submit to their husbands" hooey, but to hear a woman claim that domestic abuse is not just fine, but desirable.... What the fuck?
In one of my MLA interviews this past January, I was asked about the experience of using travel writings in my early English literature survey-- the interviewers were surprised that students would "get into" that kind of reading, but they did, and it was such an exciting class. I think undergraduate students are sometimes terribly underestimated. They can in fact handle a good dose of new historicism in the classroom. They can use so-called non-literary texts to comment on a work of literature, and they can do it well, too. I'd never heard of new historicism before I got to graduate school, and I'd never really seen it in practice. I can still remember how excited I was by the first classes I took in grad school-- it was as if an entirely new world had been opened to me. And I also remember how much I resented never having been introduced to this way of looking at (and using) texts while I was an undergraduate. It seems I'm trying to give these students the education I wish I'd gotten. I don't tell them this, but maybe I should.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
The tree in which they sit is huge-- I'm in a 5th floor office, and there's plenty of tree still above them and me. And that tree seems to be aching to burst into bloom-- there are plenty of buds, but right now they look spiky and closed. Springtime's been interrupted, but we keep waiting.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
I'm not sure what I want to happen-- I think I'd be happy either way at this point-- we've been talking about trying to start a family soon (maybe planning for a summer birth in 2006) & in the meantime I'd decided to take a bunch of my students to the U.K. for a summer course. I'm not sure if I can imagine that happening while I'm 5 mos or so pregnant, though, so it'll be one or the other, but not both and hopefully not neither.
Monday, February 21, 2005
P. is working on his dissertation, still, in mathematics. And watching him these past few weeks has rekindled some of my own dissertation stresses, even though mine is completed and deposited. I've yet to get copies to my adviser and committee, though P. very graciously had them bound for me last week. The mere thought of contacting my adviser again, even to say "Here's my dissertation-- thanks for everything" makes me anxious. She's one of the giants in my field, and I admire her work more than I can say. I knew when I asked her about directing my thesis that she'd be tough, but I had no idea how emotionally draining the experience of working with her would be. Near the end, part of what inspired me to finish the diss was just to be free from interacting with her... but even now that's not really the case, is it? I'll still have to approach her for recommendations if I move on from this job, and I probably should work on maintaining friendly contact with her well before then.... but it's hard. I don't think anyone has ever had so much power over my own self-image as she did. When she approved, it was a rush. When she got annoyed, frustrated, or snippy, it was devastating. P. has more even-keel advisers, praise be. At least he has that.
(edited to add that the transition from my thesis director to shrews is fortuitous, but wasn't intended)
Shakespeare was okay today, even though some students are still not reading (or bringing books to class, grrrr). I put them in groups and we had a few mock debates on the relative merits of wife and servant beating according to some early modern preacher-folk and as represented in The Taming of the Shrew. One of the groups was given the task of creating a 12 (or whatever) step program for wife-taming as the character Petruchio might have written it. It goes something like this:
Step one: Learn to see your wife is an object. Be master of what's yours.
Step two: Show up badly dressed to your own wedding. Come late. Curse in church. Embarrass her as much as possible. Leave before she has a chance to enjoy the reception.
Step three: Beat your servants (hard!) in front of her. It's a great way to make your wife aware of how strong you are without having to lift a finger against her.
Step four: Watch your wife (or have someone watch her) constantly. You may not be your brother's keeper, but you certainly are hers.
Step five: Starve her at will. Make her come to depend on you for sustenance.
Step six: Deprive her of sleep. This will make her less likely to resist you.
Step seven: Refuse to let her dress fashionably.
Step eight: Justify doing all of the above because you love her and want what's best for her.
Step nine: Keep using these strategies until you can get her to agree that the sun is the moon, old men are young virgins or whatever other whimsy you might desire. The important thing is that she no longer thinks for herself or questions your authority.
A fun assignment, but also a bit creepy. If this teaching/studying lit. stuff doesn't work out, we could all go on to write for the Promise Keepers. Here are a few gems, gratis NOW:
More disturbing yet? At the end of today's class, a female student approached me with some worries she's having about her first paper. She's concerned that her ideas may seem a bit "unconventional" by the rest of the class's standards-- she believes in defined gender roles, she says; she likes being dominated. So I tell her that her own views on the subject shouldn't really affect her ability to do well on the paper-- that it's asking her to describe the ideology she sees at work in the poem (The Rape of Lucrece), not to defend her own. She seemed satisfied with that answer-- but, woman! It'll be interesting to see what she comes up with.
Promise Keeper Tony Evans stated "I am not suggesting that you ask for your role back, I am urging you to take it back. There can be no compromise here."
A young woman at a recent "Chosen Women" Rally, a female counterpart to the all-male Promise Keepers, stated "Our job is to submit to our teachers and our Professors...even if we know they are wrong. It is then in God's hands."
Thursday, February 17, 2005
1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions.
5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.
Here's Lady Elizabeth Clinton, in The Countesse of Lincolnes Nuserie (1622) on why she didn't breast-feed but thinks that every mom should:
I knowe and acknowledge that I should have done it, and having not done it; it was not for want of will in my selfe, but partly I was overruled by anothers authority, and partly deceived by somes ill counsell, and partly I had not so well considered of my duty in this motherly office, as since I did, when it was too late for me to put it in execution.Failing to breast-feed when one's not sick, lunatic, or desparately poor, it seems, is sinful. And wet-nurses can't be trusted--indeed, the countess blames "dissembling nurses" for the deaths of two of her own children, and tells her readers that out of all the nurses she'd ever had for her 18 (!) children, only two were "thoroughly willing, and carefull."
So, take heed, you moms and moms-to-be. You just can't be too careful.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
I loved my early English lit. survey last semester-- I'd never felt so excited about a class, and I felt I did a better job teaching than I ever had before. And while in some of the comments, students complained about the quizzes or my "unrealistic" expectations, I also had comments like these, the first of which I'm hanging on the wall next to my desk.
- "Dr. Z is a tough professor. She doesn't indulge in any uneducated whining and when we haven't read the material, she notices and marks us off for it. I probably learned more in this class about thinking critically than I have in three years of taking similarly structured survey courses. For this reason, Dr. Z is amazing. She sometimes says unintentionally hilarious things that I write in the margins of my lit. notebooks. I have a long-established and pronounced disdain for the subject matter of this class, and it may have been my favorite all term. (!) Dr. Z is creative, brilliant and difficult to please. It was a wonderful challenge."
- "Dr. Z is a complete joy. She is very knowledgeable and entertaining."
There were a lot of other nice ones, too. My confidence is up, a lot, today, and I'm feeling not-so-nervous about addressing the not-reading problem in today's class. I can be tough, raise the bar, and force them to meet it, while still keeping a positive attitude and a sense of humor about it. I think I can turn this around.
Looking back (it's now later, after class), it feels a bit strange to read some of these comments... some of them, like the last one above, seem very Roger Ebert-y (ebertesque?): " A complete joy!" "Knowledgeable and entertaining!" "Creative, brilliant and difficult to please!" I'm not sure how I feel about that-- even when the comments are affirming instead of soul-shattering. More on this in weeks & months to come.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
Monday, February 14, 2005
This is my first year out of grad school. I'm one of the lucky ones who landed a job my first time out... but it's a 4-4 load with 3 preps. Last semester was tough... I spent a lot of time just trying to keep my head above water. I came from a Research I state school to a small liberal arts college, the kind of place I've been wanting to teach since I began graduate school years ago. But the students I have here are so different from what I was expecting... the writing classes last semester were a definite shock... but so are these problems I'm finding in some of my upper levels, where the students (majors!, many of them) just aren't reading. These students are needier, and, horrible as this sounds, sometimes they seem to have such a sense of entitlement. I had this romantic notion liberal arts students would want to learn, not just get a degree, but that's just not the case for the majority of them... State U. kids were much more independent, and a lot less whiny. I thought once I started teaching courses in my major field, things would be exciting. I do have good days, when I come out of the classroom feeling invigorated, but I'm having more disappointing days than I'd like. In short, I'm having a very hard time doing my job when the students aren't doing theirs. And some of my anxieties about this situation and teaching in general are waking me up in the night. What's wrong with me?
I need to come up with something next time that will stick.... a way to encourage them to think about the class as a collaboration, in the same way that theater itself is. I'm half a mind to ask at the start of the next class who's done the reading and then to tell everyone else to leave. Can I do that?
Long, drawn out deparment meeting this afternoon--we went nearly two hours, and it seemed to take ages to get even the smallest things taken care of.
I just want to go home, but sinceI forgot to bring a house key today, I'm stuck at the office until P. arrives home, whenever that may be.
on a happier note, a student told me she liked my writing class today.
Friday, February 11, 2005
I think gender, too, plays a part here. I wonder if there are more pseudonymous academic women blogging than there are men. Discussing pregnancy or childbirth or finding time for either are practically taboo subjects in the academy. Say too much and they just might not rehire you. Say anything about wanting to start a family soon and the deparment might start making plans to replace you. Of the female profs under 40 in our department, none have kids (yet). Of those over 40, I've only heard one talk about her children. I know more about the male profs' kids. Bizarre, but commonplace.
Thursday, February 10, 2005
This morning was a rush, though, 3 (and at one point 4) of us in the office, all the professorial fascades (at least mine) laid aside. These are people I'd hang out with outside of work. Maybe I should.
Tuesday, February 08, 2005
It doesn't help that I've not really formed friendships with anyone at work yet, let alone in this small town. I feel like crying.
To all of them. Thank you.
Monday, February 07, 2005
It's the strangest thing. When I taught this novel last year, somewhere else, it went over really well-- we had great discussions, everyone was engaged. This year-- they like the novel, but for some reason or other, can't talk about it. Something's just... off.
Meanwhile, I'm have a wonderful time with this Shakespeare class I'm teaching. There's a core group I can always count on to have something to say about what we're reading. They respond to me well, they're interested and intrigued, they ask questions, they try out new ideas. One third of the class seems to be just floating along, though-- don't or won't talk... and several aren't bringing the book to class. These are juniors and seniors... and yet these few seem to think that"the book's too big to lug to class" or "I haven't gotten the book yet" are valid reasons for not participating in class or completing assignments. I've been focusing on the engaged folk, but I'd like to draw the rest of them into the conversation, too.
I'm rambling, and in a way that may or may not be that useful, since I'm hesitant to reveal to much on the off chance that some student stumbles upon this here blog. I expect I'll become more daring as this goes on. But having had the experience of stumbling upon the blogs of some of my students-- one which even mentions me by name-- I'm a little more cautious than I might have been.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
At any rate, it's gotten harder and harder to hear my own voice in my head. It's gotten harder to slow down. I need to stop these frantic movements of body and mind. I need more time to just listen and to hear myself think.