La Lecturess

(But our beginnings never know our ends!)

Email: lecturess[AT]gmail[DOT]com

Recent Posts Archives Things I Read and/or People I Like

Late Spring To-Do List

  • Read scholarly book #1
  • Read scholarly book #2
  • Catch up on professional journals
  • Administer evaluations
  • Grade seminar research papers
  • Write two final exams
  • Grade final exams
  • Compute final grades
  • Order books for fall
  • Find apartment in New City
  • Attend INRU Commencement!

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Happy blogiversary to me

Today marks the one-year anniversary of this blog, and also its--I don't want to say "conclusion," but let's say--"transition" into a new space and a slightly different form. It's probably true that it takes a while for any writer to get comfortable with a new genre, and I'm a little embarrassed to read back over my earliest posts--but I'm generally satisfied with the shape of this blog and the voice I've developed. I wish sometimes that I were a different kind of blogger (more on that in an upcoming post in my new space), but I'm just not, at least not right now.

I'm moving, then, not because I want to change anything significant about this blog, but because the title I've given myself and my blog will soon no longer be applicable. However, I'd also like to branch out a little bit in my new space, dealing more explicitly, at least occasionally, with subfield-specific issues. We'll see how that goes.

For now, what I really want to say is a big THANK YOU to all my readers, who number more than I ever would have expected and who have become, in many cases, friends. At my commencement activities last weekend I often caught myself telling my grad school colleagues about various "friends" who had had this or that experience in teaching or going up for tenure--and only belatedly relizing that I didn't know many of those people in real life, or in some cases even their names! And yet it's absolutely true that many of you ARE my friends, and I'm so pleased that I've had the opportunity to get to know all of you and to receive such frequently overwhelming support and encouragement as I've moved from thinking of myself as a grad student to assuming a new identity as a professor.

So consider this an open invitation to come on over and party with me at my new place, Ferule & Fescue. See you on the flip side.

Vital stats for La Lecturess

Days of existence: 366
Number of posts: 324
Number of site visits: just over 36,000

link | posted by La Lecturess at 3:14 PM | 8 comments

Thursday, May 25, 2006


Best news: it didn't rain!

Is anyone surprised that my advisor didn't show up? I know that I shouldn't be, but I still am, kinda. GWB's advisor, however, stood in for her in the photo below (those are his hand and ear):

[Image redacted]

A totally spurious contemplative moment:

[Image redacted]

Updated to add: Sorry to those who missed the photos...

link | posted by La Lecturess at 9:46 AM | 23 comments

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Service announcements

Limited blogging ahead: George Washington Boyfriend and I are off to spend the next few days in INRU-land for commencement, partying down with assorted members of my family and his family--it'll be the first time that our parents will have met, so. . . wish us luck with that. And pray for dry weather, while you're at it.

After that, I'll be hanging with my folks for a day or two here in the city, and then I'm off to New City to apartment hunt. If you're lucky, somewhere in the midst of it all I might post a photo of myself in my regalia, at least for a few hours.

Impending relocation: What with my rapidly-approaching 1-year bloggiversary and my graduation and new job and title and all the rest, I'll be moving to a new blog-home and taking on a different pseudonym by the end of the month. I expect to leave this blog up, however, and you may expect clear and easy directions to the housewarming party at my new place. BYOB.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 11:42 AM | 6 comments

Friday, May 19, 2006

A query

Am I the only person who, when reading a journal article, writes in the margins things like, "so WHAT?" "this is totally bogus" and, "yeah, no shit"? Or is it just a sign of my immaturity and inability to respond in some more profound and scholarly way?*

Just wondering.


*Immature or not, I do take unkind satisfaction from the fact that this particular article is such bullshit, given that the woman who wrote it is apparently working on a book project that overlaps with my own.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 8:38 PM | 16 comments

Sign of the times

I just finished reading a famous work of literary criticism. It's some 35 years old and still brilliant, but one thing really irritated me about it.

Every time the author refers to the works of another male scholar, he refers to said scholar as, simply, Lastname (e.g., Smith, rather than Mr. or Dr. or Professor Smith). On the relatively rare occasions on which he has occasion to refer to a female scholar, she is always Miss Lastname or (still more rarely) Mrs. Lastname.

I'm sure this was standard in the late 1960s, and it may even have been the publisher's house style rather than the author's own preference. But my God, it's annoying, and such a surprising reminder of how few women there once were in the academy--or in professional positions, period.

I'm not sure what the rationale behind this formula was: was it considered impolite to refer to a woman simply by her last name? Was the name, taken alone, seen as rightfully belonging to her husband or father (and thus the title situates her in relation to him)?

Whatever the reasoning, what a practical nightmare that must have been. Imagine: every time you wanted to quote a female scholar, you had to go find out whether or not she was married, so you could refer to her properly! And how demeaning for the woman to have that be the first and most pressing inquiry made about her: not what else she's written or where she teaches, but what her marital status is.

And here's the thing: this book was reissued by the publisher just a few years ago, in a new edition (properly speaking, the only thing new about it is the introduction--the rest of the volume looks as though it was set by simply photographing the original pages), and I'm sure it's still a good seller. Without an electronic file, going back and eliminating those titles would be expensive and time-consuming for the publisher, I know--but leaving them in dates the work in really unattractive ways.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 12:06 PM | 8 comments

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Course design and the writing process

This fall I'll be teaching three courses, all of which I've already taught some version of. (The schedule was set up long before I even interviewed with DRU, with the intention that, whoever the department wound up hiring, they'd be able to slide into these classes with ease): Period Survey, Author Survey, and a composition seminar. The comp class will require the most revision, since I'm adapting the course that I taught at INRU two years ago, parts of which were designed to take advantage of the fact that 2004 was a presidential-election year. However, I'm switching some texts around in my other courses and generally trying to learn from my teaching experiences these past few semesters.

And it occurs to me that my approach to course design, or at any rate lesson planning, is weirdly similar to my approach to writing. As I've discussed, I'm a drafter. I write draft after draft after draft, usually into the double digits, of everything I write. I used to find this exasperating about myself--why can't I just call it done? Why can't I be faster at this?--but I've come to accept and often even to enjoy my own rhythms; in a way, it takes the pressure off to know that, okay, I'm going to have to be writing nearly every day for a month rather than screaming through a project in a week and a half--but on any given day I don't have to produce something brilliant, or even produce that much. I just have to plug away (at least until the end, when I do get truly crazy and obsessive).

I think I've now come to have a similar attitude toward teaching, born more of necessity than of nature. Teaching a 3/4 load this year was a shock, especially since each semester involved two new preps and I was on the market and I was still finishing my dissertation in the fall. So after the first few weeks of overpreparing, I learned the value of "prepared enough." I'd do the readings, type up any handouts or quizzes the night before, and then do all my lesson planning on the train into campus, scratching out big themes, lines of questioning, and important passages on a legal pad. To my surprise, this worked really well in the classroom, although I did always feel that I was perched on the edge of total disaster and might tumble into it at any moment.

In my period survey this spring, in the interests of time, I mostly just adapted or outright repeated what I'd done in the same class in the fall--sometimes using the exact same handwritten notes. I didn't love the straight repetition (one feels rather like a jukebox spitting out the same old tune), but I liked it when I had the time to think through a slightly different classroom strategy or to build on what I'd noticed from the previous semester. I also started occasionally scratching notes in the margins of my lesson plans as I was teaching, indicating things that worked well; things that needed more time; things to be scrapped.

Now that the term is over and I'm looking ahead to the fall, when I'll be teaching two of these same classes all over again, I'm also in the process of typing up my lesson plans based on these handwritten ones. My intention is to create a Word file for every text I teach, which I'll adapt and add to each year. Any given semester, I'll print out the document and then mark it up by hand: yes to this, this, and that part; skip that bit; try something else here.

We'll see how it plays out in practice, but I really like this as a way of thinking about teaching a given text or a given course: as a process with many stages and many drafts, and always with the potential for one more round of revisions.

And when I teach two brand-new classes in Spring 2007? Yeah, I'll put plenty of time into designing the syllabi and doing background reading--but the actual lesson plans will, I expect, be scratched out on legal pads the night before.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 2:47 PM | 9 comments

Tuesday, May 16, 2006


This afternoon I finally received the three bound copies of my dissertation that I'd ordered from UMI.

This morning I called up Sallie Mae to consolidate all my student loans. Given that I owe well over $60,000, I'm projected to be in repayment for the next 25 years.

Talk about your vanity projects.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 7:03 PM | 10 comments

Monday, May 15, 2006

Interpretative Dance Theocrats

Check out this "crib sheet for Christianity" (more additions in the comments section, so scroll down).

Here's a taste:
The Protestant Reformation
This is the name historians give to a major labor dispute that erupted in Germany in 1517 when a group of monks hammered a proposed union contract to the door of the pope's house, requesting a 95 percent pay raise. The pope refused to negotiate with the monks union until it agreed to pay to have the door fixed, and the result was the world's longest-running strike. For nearly 500 years, a huge portion of Christians have been on strike from being Catholic. . . . Currently, the matter is in arbitration.

This theory was worked out by the French theologian and fashion designer John Calvin Klein, who argued that some people are predestined to be glamorous while others are doomed to be plain. America was founded by Calvinists, who sought to establish a country where they could pursue their belief that buckled hats were fashionable.
Unfortunately for the author, it's not just the non-religious who know fuck-all about Christianity--it's Christians themselves. Many of them my students.


(Link wantonly stolen from my brother's blog. Thanks, bro!)

link | posted by La Lecturess at 3:18 PM | 5 comments

Belated but appropriate Friday poetry blogging

Westron wind, when wilt thou blow?
The small rain down can rain.
Christ, that my love were in my arms,
And I in my bed again.

link | posted by La Lecturess at 11:19 AM | 1 comments

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Après le déluge. . . we shop!

After a manic 48 hours of grading, I finally finished up around noon today and ran down to FedEx to send in the course grades for my last two classes (they're due by 10 a.m. tomorrow, and I was damned if I was going to make the trip to deliver them in person). Then I spent the next few hours wandering slowly back in the direction of home, ducking into nearly every enticing shop along the way.

Like Ragey, I believe in rewarding myself for tasks accomplished. Unlike Ragey, I don't tend to plan ahead, and so these treats are not necessarily in the budget even if they're relatively inconsequential. And it must be said that I tend to believe that I deserve such treats rather often.

Here's how I spent my money today:
  • Designer sunglasses (purchased at a discount department store, thus a mere $19.99)
  • Lingerie (purchased at the same location, thus 50% off retail)
  • A huge vintage cocktail ring--sterling silver, nearly an inch in diameter, and with a big blue topaz in the center.
  • A bottle of Campari. Because as much as I love the gin and as much as I love the whiskey, summer just isn't summer without Campari.
So as that list may suggest, I've decided to give in and just go ahead and declare the rest of May a holiday. I have a few scholarly books that I plan on reading, and I'll probably work on updating my syllabi and transferring my (handwritten) lesson plans from this past year to computer files--but if I don't, I don't, and I'm not even going to pretend to do any research until June 1.

What will I be doing instead? Well, I'm hoping that this past week--minus that whole grading interlude--will provide a template: in addition to the poker party and the housewarming party previously mentioned, I've also done some more afternoon drinking with Bert (a five-hour stretch at that same bar, which included several impromptu dance breaks on the bar itself); I've had a lovely dinner with an old college friend who lives in the metropolis that surrounds Big Urban; and then this weekend several of us are trekking out to the Ch√Ęteau Fergusberg for one last bash before they sell the place and move north. Oh, and I also have a ton of cleaning to do.

Laissez les bons temps roulez!

link | posted by La Lecturess at 10:15 PM | 9 comments

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