Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Commodification of Literature

mr. delagar and I are off to a conference, about which I admit I could be more enthused. I used to like going to conferences, I think. Apparently not anymore. I haven't even actually written my presentation yet, though I mostly know what I will be saying.

Oh, well.

The *point* of this story is that the kid will not be going with us -- she is staying with a friend (she's delighted, since the friend has a new kitten) and mr. delagar last night presented the kid with a notebook.

"I want you to keep a journal of what you do while mama and I are in St. Louis," he said.

The kid looked dubious. "Okay," she said. "But I don't think that will sell for very much."

Sunday, March 23, 2008


I realize I have been a very, very bad blogger lately -- Spring Break combined with a wicked cold/flu thing -- but not to worry! Twisty over at IBTP has been blogging BRILLIANTLY


and you can hop over and read what I would have written if I were half as gifted as she is.

Go! I'm serious!

Here, it is all muddle and hammentashen (Purim coincided with that Christian holiday of Easter, so we had nice poppyseed filled cookies, and I also dyed eggs for the kid anyway, b/c why should she not enjoy pagan bits of other culture's holidays, even though this makes mr. delagar squint his eyes up and mutter about cossacks) and me being moody because tomorrow it is back to the classroom and I have yet to finish grading midterms.

Here is a query via the midterms, btw: what do you think -- is it okay to grade down a student just because that student dots her i's with little hearts?

Or am I being sexist?

It's a grim question indeed.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring Break

Spring Break and I'm broken -- some sort of evil cold or flu, plus it is raining buckets: thunder and a deluge.

Luckily the kid is with her grandparents so I can take to my bed and ingest mass quantities of Nyquil.

Yum, Nyquil.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Them Mouthy Girls

I taught The Dead last week, in my WLIT class, the last two class sessions before Spring break began (oh YAY Spring Break, can I add?).

My students always resist Joyce, which puzzles me. I could understand resisting Joyce if I made them read Finnegan's Wake or the more annoying bits of Ulysses (Uselesslys, I like to call it) but Dubliners, the stories from it, well, they're lovely, and no denying it.

And the Dead is as near to perfect a bit of fiction as you'll want to read.

Anyway, once I have convinced them of that, which generally doesn't take more than ten or fifteen minutes, they warm up to the story. (I just have to show them how the story is working -- they come in insisting the story isn't "about" anything, how "nothing" is happening: I take ten minutes and show them everything that's actually in the story, and once they get their teeth back together, they're in love with the story: very nearly every time.)

But: this time, and it's this class, I swear -- "I just don't like this Miss Ivors," one of the women objected.

It really could have been nearly any of the women.

"Oh?" I said. I had been half expecting it. I have been getting this from this class through the semester. "Why is that?"

As if I did not know.

"Well, she's just not very...respectful to Gabriel."

Nor they ain't kidding, either, my women students.

One of them commented, in her midterm essay, that while she was all for feminism, women needed to remember that men are the superior sex -- God did create them that way, after all.

Rude of women to talk back and correct men, you know. Act like we're equals or that.

I have assigned Woolf's Room of One's Own for after the break. As I sent them out to go read it I asked, idly, if any of them noticed how many works we had read, so far this semester, by women?

They gazed at me, puzzled.

"Oh, yes," I said. "This will be the first, won't it?"

They kept frowning.

"Wonder why that is?" I said, and waved them good-bye.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Off the List

Bardiac, over here, asks an interesting question: is there anywhere you'd refuse to teach for moral or political reasons?

This is a question close to my heart just now, as mr. delagar is ABD, and I have always sworn to him that when he gets his Ph.D. I will (scout's honor) become the trailing spouse and follow him to his job. (He has, for the past 15 years, followed me around the country, after all.)

So we're looking at places he might apply, and taking places off the list. Both of us can do this, it turns out.

We take places off the list for moral and political reasons -- I won't consider taking jobs in South Carolina, for instance, or Texas, and Mississippi is right out -- as well as environmental and financial reasons: mr. delagar won't consider jobs in Alaska or Idaho or Wyoming, and I hold that jobs in the East would be impossible, we'd never make a living. (He argues otherwise, so those aren't off the list yet.)

My students frequently won't consider any place that isn't Arkansas -- even any place that isn't within fifty miles of Fort Smith. If it's not here, it's off the list.

So I'm wondering -- when people say they can't get jobs in the Academy, do they mean they can't get jobs on their list?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

In which I am careful to say little

Sleet and snow here today, my favorite sort of weather. I am drinking coffee and trying to write, after a deeply unsatisfactory class this morning.

This is the writing class I took over mid-semester, which that's part of the issue -- adopting classes is a bit like adopting an older child, or an older dog, probably. They're already someone else's kids, they resent you, whether they say so or not, for usurping their beloved teacher (mama), everyone has issues.

Plus I totally usurped everything -- overturned everything that had been established, razed the former class to the ground, redid the entire course, remade it in my own image (all this with the former professor's blessing: she had to leave due to illness, I didn't steal her class or anything like that).

The point I set out to make is I have mostly won the class over -- I showed them in the first weeks that I knew a thing or two about the craft, that they could learn some skills.

Not everyone, though.

Well, you don't get everyone to love you. That's something I learned early in this business: not everyone will love you. It's not your job to get everyone to love you. (The other thing I learned was not every class has to be a great class.)

And not every issue is my issue -- students can have issues too.

Still, it's wearing.

I'm practicing wu wei, or trying to. Be like water. I'm no one's mama, really, and it's not my job to bring them up. It's my job to lead them to the knowledge. It's their job to learn.

And we'll just breathe awhile.