Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No cause

As I am wont to do when nursing a broken heart, last night I opted to watch something far more tragic than my own pathetic love life.  Boy howdy, did I pull that off: I found the Trevor Nunn production of King Lear, starring Ian McKellen, in my Netflix.  Since I had the evening open – it requires a real time investment – I queued it up, mixed myself a bourbon and ginger, and pressed 'play'.


I have never, ever in my life cried as hard at a film as I did while watching King Lear.  I'm not really a weepy film watcher.  The problem here is that, while King Lear certainly took my mind off the girl who broke up with me, it brought up other, much more painful issues.  Anyone who has read the play can guess about those.  I already knew the play reasonably well, having studied it closely in college, and I've seen the Peter Brook film with Paul Scofield.*  That version looks pretty cool, but left me cold.  This one, though, punched me right in the guts.  I was doing all right until Act IV Scene 7. 

Be your tears wet? yes, 'faith. I pray, weep not:
If you have poison for me, I will drink it.
I know you do not love me; for your sisters
Have, as I do remember, done me wrong:
You have some cause, they have not.
 No cause, no cause.
And I just about dissolved.  I couldn't even see the screen for a bit.  There's just no comparison between reading Shakespeare and hearing/seeing it performed.  If I ever work up the courage to see King Lear live, I'm going to bring my own pack of tissues, and hope that I'm not the only blubberer in the theater.

*Side note: man, that was an awesome Shakespeare class.  I am eternally grateful that I got to take that course. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

A small dose of intense self-pity

Fuck.  There really is nothing I'll be leaving behind here in Ghosttown.

"What she's done, you can't give it a name
You got to make it rain, make it rain" 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Brief update of reassurance

I haven't fallen down any manholes.  The end of the semester has slowed things down considerably.  It's the quiet, impoverished time of summer now, in which I must construct a daily schedule of Things I Should Be Doing in order to avoid wasting away entire days doing nothing useful.  So far, this effort is a near-total failure.  My productivity sucks lately.

Meanwhile, this is beginning to look like a problem.  I have a book review to write, due in about a month, and I should be frantically reading pseudology textbooks in order to cobble together a workable syllabus for Introduction to Libel and Slander.  Am I doing any of this?  Not really.  I sort of hit a point of apathy towards everything work-related after I uploaded final grades.  I feel like I want/need a vacation, although, given how careful I need to be with money this summer, it would be more of a staycation.  At the same time, this stuff isn't going to sort itself out.  I need some self-discipline.  Can someone lend me some?

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Reader report 1

A few days after my prospective book editor sent the first reader's report to me, I finally opened and read it. 

The reader suggested many revisions, some stylistic, others more substantial.  But at the end, hir advice to the press was to publish my book.

I'll take it!

Now to sit tight and wait for the second reader's report.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Brief update

GRADES ARE SUBMITTED!!  I have finished my first academic job!  On to my summer of transition/unemployment!

*races off to the beer store*

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Well, fist me in the a** and call me Foucault

I got an email today from one of my soon-to-be-colleagues at Cute-as-a-Button University, asking to confirm my teaching assignments.  I looked over it, and it all seemed good.  They even list old syllabi of the intro course written by other professors, which come in very handy for gauging what people expect, and what sorts of texts and assignments are favored.  In the process of reviewing these syllabi, I noticed and then slooowwly realized that I was being assigned not to teach my usual intro – call it Introduction to Pseudology – but the other intro course for the department.  I will have to teach one section each semester of Introduction to Libel and Slander.  This is a much more, well, sciencey kind of pseudology, one that is very far distant from the broad segment of the discipline that I usually think of as the whole.  And, uh, I'm not well schooled in it. 

Last time I took a course in Libel was 1997.  It was an undergrad course.  The intro course, in fact.

Last time I took a course in Slander was, oh, MOTHERFUCKING NEVER!!  FUCK ME WITH A CHAINSAW!!!!!!

I'm trained in Pseudology, for heaven's sake!  You know, the non-sciencey pseudology!  This is one of those situations in which one's CV can unintentionally raise a bid that one meant to stand pat on.  Technically, I have taught several semesters of Intro to Libel in grad school, but really, I was a TA in an excessively computerized course.  I was more of a computer lab monitor than a regular TA.  And sure, I had to read the textbook, but I really had to read it, not just review and skim.  And probably half the information that I learned (and forgot) has been made obsolete by later findings anyway.

The closest I've ever gotten to Slander is in having some good friends and drinking buddies in grad school who are trained Slanderers.  Couldn't tell you too much about their work, but I can state on good authority that they can hold their liquor.  Somehow, this seems inappropriate knowledge to impart to freshmen. 

And, because I a) put all that on my CV, b) I blithely agreed in my campus visit to teach this course because I'm a fucking idiot, and misunderstood the course as broad enough in scope to use an adjusted form of my current intro syllabus, and c) I've accepted the job and have no intention of backing out of that, I've gotta string together something.  My entire current intro syllabus, which I have crafted and smithed over the course of three years, is completely useless for this purpose.  Virtually all of my theory knowledge, never mind my methodological training, is irrelevant to this class.

I think I have a lot of reading to do this summer.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Terminal master's comps

Time for a little shop talk.  I've noticed that my current-but-soon-to-be-former pseudology department imposes comprehensive exams on our grad students, even though we only have a terminal MA program.  This context is new to me, since I was an undergrad at a little college with no graduate studies at all, and then a grad student at a ginormous R1 university that had full PhD programs in a huge variety of disciplines. 

(Sidebar: the spell check in Blogger is annoyed by my use of 'pseudology', but seems to accept 'ginormous' without complaint.  Huh?)

Since no one consults me about any of this stuff here at Ghosttown U., I'll open a dialogue about it with my blogging colleagues.  What, precisely, is the point of comps for a terminal MA program? 

Within academia, pseudology generally requires a doctorate for serious work, and in the private sector, jobs for pseudologists tend to hire for a specific skill set rather than comprehensive theoretical knowledge.  My own experience is not universal, since I went through a full-suite MA/PhD program, but my professors presented comps to me as something that I had to do at the doctoral level as preparation for the research I would later tackle.  Following the usual pattern at DOU, I took the comps during my first year of doctoral study, immediately after I had earned the MA.  Each grad student developed a personalized set of theoretical and methodological questions, in consultation with hir committee members, that were specifically intended to lay the foundation for their doctoral research.   No two people had the same set of questions, for the obvious reason that the questions were always tailored to the student's project.  (I would think that it's relatively common for PhD programs to tailor the comps questions at least a little for the students, since the entire discipline of pseudology is a leviathan, and no human being will ever be even passingly familiar with every last subfield in the manner that the phrase "comprehensive exams" implies.)  Once the student survived the comps, zi was supposed to use the essays zi wrote and hir advisors' comments thereon to structure hir prospectus.  In my own case, a lot of stuff that I wrote during my comps not only went into my prospectus, but thence into my dissertation.  While I don't believe that any of those passages has carried over into my book manuscript, I am sure that the thinking I had to elucidate in my comps helped clarify some ideas that I have drawn upon ever since.

At Ghosttown U., students can't earn a higher degree in pseudology than the MA, which means that those students wishing to pursue a PhD had to go to some other university which, almost certainly, would require them to take that university's comprehensive exams.  Right away, that suggests to me that the MA-level comps are a waste of time and effort, since they would not be recognized as any sort of qualification by a PhD program.  Moreover, I've seen enough of this stuff in process from my TAs to know that all the grad students are given the same general – dare I say boilerplate? – questions, based on the two or three subfields of pseudology that this place is able to teach them. 

The upshot of this is that the grad students, who must all take their comps at the same time this week, are currently in a lather about passing these ridiculous exams that do not demonstrate anything other than the fact that the students have been forced to cram a bunch of fiddly details about various kinds of lies in which pseudologists might specialize.  It does not demonstrate acquired mastery of the basics of the discipline — certainly not as I understand my own discipline.  It does not demonstrate depth of knowledge in the few subfields that these comps even touch upon, since no one has taught our students anything in depth, and they sure as hell don't understand this material in depth.  (I have talked with my current and former TAs enough to know that.)  It does not qualify them to skip the comps if they go on to doctoral studies at another university.  It does not make them any more qualified than they already were to apply for private-sector pseudology jobs.  The entire idea of students wielding any sort of 'comprehensive' knowledge of the field after a single year of courses on a mere fraction of the fundamental subfields is utterly laughable.  Why do this to the poor students? 

From my perspective, these MA-level comps are simply gratuitous torture.  In the experience of my readers, is this categorically true of MA-level comps?  Or, as the case may be, is Ghosttown U.'s pseudology department just incompetent at designing useful exams?