Monthly Archives: May 2015

“El secreto está en dejarse la vida en ello”

That is the writing advice given by a journalist in this schlocky film. It is very different from the advice about forcing yourself with alarm clocks while holding it all back in a combination of anti-perfectionism (anything is good enough) and decorum (say something that will be confirm the convictions of the editors) that the professors give.


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On close reading

Close reading shapes how I teach in decisive ways. In order to help students find topics about which to write, I let them read texts closely. Not only do I teach the critical thinking skills discussed above, all of which rely on close reading, but students practise these skills regularly. Before most class meetings, students read at least one new text. I guide their reading in the form of worksheets uploaded to the IVLE workbin two to three days before class. Each sheet provides a clear outline of the aims and objectives for the class concerned, and situates the class in terms of the module while providing context to the readings for the day. The sheet further poses questions concerning the reading and requires students to pose their own questions on it. Thus students are constantly required to engage closely with the texts they read and justify their reading of the texts. This forms the basis of all class meetings, which in turn are linked to their paper assignments. Close reading of sources (whether texts or real-world phenomena being studied) is thus fundamental to my teaching. It serves not only to equip students with the ability to observe closely and ask critical questions, but to produce well-crafted and persuasively argued essays. Far from fetishising close reading, this is merely an acknowledgement of its centrality in the process of independent inquiry.

Here is the entire article. I am not always up on everything and it has come to my attention that close reading went out of fashion as “elitist” and is now coming back in. This is how I should teach the introduction to literature, but I might also want to have creative projects. Perhaps ONE creative project. I used to not believe in these, for various reasons I am sure you can guess at (ask if you are not sure), but I am starting to wonder whether they might not be a good idea.


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Transitional figures

“Always in history it is the pioneers who suffer for ultimate victory.”


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The disintegration of the university

“There is no community, but there are still gangs,” someone said.



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That One Faculty campaign

I understand why the AAUP is promoting this, and there is no other viable position to take, but I have been being exhorted for decades about how I should support newer or contingent faculty and my question is, when are they going to support me — not me personally, but any academic values, and anything but the administration?

Seriously. When I organized TAs and RAs into a union, many who are full professors now would not support due to fear of not getting jobs, they said. Now, contingent faculty and administration are united against research. So on what planet should I have to put them first?

In graduate school I put recreation aside to organize for health insurance for people who were too cautious for ask for it on their own …  why should I now put my research agenda aside so as to organize on behalf of rights for contingent faculty that they do not understand or want?

My contingent faculty, by the way, are people without the terminal degree, but with full time employment and benefits. And offices with phones and computers in them, and business cards where they can call themselves “Professor” if they want to.



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This is Pandoc, and I need it.


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All those threats

Before college: Anything you do that is your own or that is expressive of you causes your mother to suffer the greatest of tortures. Be still.

Before graduate school: You cannot do anything and must get married so someone will support you, but you will not of course be able to marry anyone who loves you or will treat you well.

In graduate school: Do not develop teaching confidence, or any serious interests outside research and writing. You will not be a good researcher and writer so you must put extra time and effort into this, as it is the only thing that counts.

In professordom: The only thing that counts is basic teaching. You have too much research skill, you write too easily, you are too outspoken and you have too many friends outside our circles.

Later: Please do not leave the academic fold! Do not abandon us! And I thought: Anything you do that is your own or that is expressive of you causes your mother to suffer the greatest of tortures. Be still.

I woke up this morning with my mind stayed on freedom.

1/ I was always told not to be a professor because it was a bad business. I also knew that graduate school was the only thing I could do at the time, and that it was good for me. And it wasn’t true that I did not want to be a [certain kind of] professor.

I had just had it so ingrained in me that to be a professor was a sign of failure as a person, and that it was also impossible to achieve. These things made it hard to commit.

2/ I do not have a “writing problem” but as a professor I quickly learned to feel guilty and scared about time spent doing research. I hear people screaming at me that I am selfish and should be spending this time caring for others. I hear that if I do not repress my own work and dedicate myself to such care, I may be thrown out on the street and left to die.

I will be gravely wounded and without resources. It will be a slow, painful, abandoned, desolate death. People will kick me as they walk by. I hear that I should be reading more superficially and faster. “Cut corners, dear.”

3/ Nowadays every problem I have has to do with lack of research / writing time and of autonomy. There is also the instability of the university and of my department. There is the malevolent faculty atmosphere — and the majority of students who do not care about a great deal. (I went to a thesis defense the other day and it was so different.)

What can one do about this: insist upon as much autonomy as possible, maintain integrity, fight on one’s own side and ruthlessly put research first every day. Research may not be the only thing that counts but it is the only thing that sets the bones, or that guides the river into its own course.

The malevolence. Having so often had to deal with unsafe elements in the house.


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