Friday, January 28, 2011

The Weight of Comp

So, as I briefly mentioned in a previous post, this is the first semester of my teaching career in which I have not taught composition (by which I mean a class focused on argument that includes the research paper). It's a fluke of scheduling and loading and will, likely, never happen again.

But I have noticed something. Everything about teaching feels so much lighter. Which leads me to a question: Does teaching comp have to feel so heavy? Does it have to feel like such a slog for me and the students?

Granted, we are dealing with some pretty heavy-duty skillz, and since I'm at a CC, many students aren't prepared. But, still. Does it have to be so, well, hard? And it's not just a matter of grading quantity. My Intro to Lit students write a lot, and the sections have higher enrollment. But the grading experience in Intro to Lit is definitely different--it does make my brain hurt so much, and it's not nearly as depressing.

I know some people who teach comp and argument through literature. Typically, I have rejected that approach since I think teaching students to argue various issue-related topics better prepares them for what they'll need throughout their lives as academics, professionals, and citizens.

But maybe I'm wrong about that. Maybe teaching a lit-based comp/argument class would teach them the skills just as well. And would it be less weighty for teacher and students alike?

I love the feeling of this semester, and I'd be so happy to find a way to carry it through, back to Compland. Please weigh in* on this issue. Tell me how to be free.

*Do you like my mixed and unstable metaphors?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Back in the Swing

So I've been home for a week, trying to overcome jet-lag. I feel like I've been hit with the sleepy stick. Tuesday night, I was so painfully tired that it took everything I had to stay awake long enough to get kids in bed. I managed to get myself bed with lights out by 9:15 (I'm usually an 11:00pm kind of gal). Woke up the next morning at 7:30 still tired. But today I feel a little bit more normal. Hoorah.

Also started classes this past week, so that was a bit of a shock to the system, three days after returning from my lovely trip. But classes are good, and I am having a strange experience this semester. For the first time in my life, I do not have a comp class. I know. Weird, right? Makes things feel so light and care-free! I don't have to drag a bunch of unwilling students into the land of the RESEARCH PAPER.

The highlight of the week was a visit from Cousin Louise, otherwise known as The Thirty-Something Bride. We had time to wine-taste a little, eat good food, chat, hang out with family, and spend some time at a shop that had all kinds of vintage goodies for T30SB's DIY lovelies. Mostly, it was just great to spend time together.

Now, it's time to get my head back into the teaching world! And the student learning outcomes world! Oh, for the days of afternoon tea and research . . .

Friday, January 14, 2011

GEW at the BL

So here is what I just saw:

The only extant manuscript of Beowulf
A manuscript of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight
A manuscript of The Canterbury Tales (1410)
A King James Bible, 1611
A first edition of Robinson Crusoe
The only manuscript draft (excerpt) of one of Jane Austen's novels
A handwritten manuscript of Finnegan's Wake
And so much more that I can't even remember it all.

It's all in a fantastic exhibition at the British Library.

Not a bad way to end the trip. Tomorrow morning, I'm homeward bound!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

It must be the wine, or cheese, or olives, or missing the children, or Joey, or . . .

I'm in my hotel room, my second-to-last night in the UK, eating goodies from my favorite food place in the whole world, watching the episode of Friends when Joey tells Rachel he's in love with her.

For many reasons, I'm crying just a little bit.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Plan for Completion

I spent more time with my PhD supervisor this morning, and we determined the following plan:

The thesis will have five chapters of about 15,000 words each.
The introduction will be about 8,000 words.
There might be a 4,000 word conclusion.

This is my current progress on each of these:

Introduction: Some of this is written as part of an existing chapter draft, but most of it will be written from scratch.
Chapter 1: I will combine two existing pieces for this chapter. I know the argument, which was the core of the paper I presented last week. I can safely say the drafting of this chapter is 2/3 complete with about 9,000 words done.
Chapter 2: No work done on this. Still need to read primary sources.
Chapter 3: 3,000 words complete for a conference paper I did last year that will cover part of the topic.
Chapter 4: 10,000 words complete.
Chapter 5: No work complete. Still need to read some of primary sources.
Conclusion: Nothing, of course.

This is the new timeline:

Article from conference paper drafted by April, 2011
Chapter 2 drafted by August, 2011
Chapter 3 drafted by January, 2012
Chapter 5 drafted by August, 2012
Full draft (and I do mean *draft*) complete by December 2012
Polished thesis complete by December 2013


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

First Supervisor Meeting

Today, I had my first meeting with my primary supervisor. The good news is that she sees unity in the work that I've done so far, work that I have worried is fragmented. The bad news is that there seems to be no way around the fact that I just have so much stuff to read and write. The other good news is that she really thinks I'm doing something original. The bad news is that my argument has some grounding in philosophy, but I don't know that much about philosophy, so I need to read a bunch of it so that my argument will have a scootch of credibility. The good news is that I find all of (or most of) the material interesting.

The other good news is that I found a nice restaurant for dinner. One of my challenges when traveling in the UK is to find places to eat that have friendly service. It's not that the Brits aren't friendly, but they aren't like Americans when it comes to service. We are a service-with-a-smile culture, especially outside of big cities.

But tonight I found a charming little Italian place. Comfy decor, fireplace. And I was served by the owner, who was nice and friendly and funny. As he was collecting my money, he said he didn't want to be rude but could he ask me a personal question. I said "sure," thinking he would ask where I was from. But no. He asked about my Kindle. Within a few minutes, I was checking to see if it had books by his favorite author (Wilbur Smith), showing him how the pages turn, showing him how easy it is to read the Kindle while eating, showing him the book prices, etc. I think I might pop back in there for dinner on Thursday.

And my dinner was made even better by the book I was reading on the Kindle while I ate. It's The Sherlockian. The game's afoot!

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Laundry and the Library

Today, I found a tiny laundrette around the corner. I love doing laundry when I'm on trips. Two loads, and all of my clothes are clean! It's all so organized and manageable.

But then I went to the library and was immediately reminded how unending and unimaginable this PhD seems.

As least I'll have clean clothes in the process.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I spent the morning on the Tube, going to Heathrow and back, taking my mom to the airport. It was sad to say goodbye to her, partly because we had such a good week, and partly because I felt sad that I wasn't going back to California, too, to see my family.

But then I spent the day on the train to Wales, reading The Hound of the Baskervilles, which was a great diversion.

Now I'm in my hotel. I haven't stayed at this one before, but, so far, it seems promising. I initially booked a single, but they gave me a complementary upgrade to a double with a sea view. It's in a restored, old Victorian building, and while the room is small, it seems comfortable. In just a bit, I'm going downstairs to check out the food while I read more of the Baskervilles.

Tomorrow, I think I need to do some laundry. Then, it's time to hit the library and let the work begin.

Parting note of something overheard from a woman to her husband at the British Museum, in the Ancient Egypt room, while she was looking at the amulets that were buried with the dead:

"So why do you think they felt the need to create such a load of rubbish?"

Saturday, January 8, 2011

I like London

Want to know why I like London? Because it's the kind of place where I can spend the whole day at the British Musuem, looking at tons of cool stuff (understatement), and then walk back towards my hotel to a pub where I can get this for dinner: ale, nuts, olives, fresh-baked bread, fish pie, chocolate truffles, and port.

I mean, really.

Extra bonus? I got to do all of this with my mom to celebrate her b-day.

Now, we're like beached seals in our hotel room. Beached seals with iPads.

Tomorrow, I'll ride with her to Heathrow and say "goodbye" as she heads back to California. Then, I'll head back to the hotel, grab my bags, and catch a train to Wales. I'm excited for the next leg of the trip--the PhD leg--but I miss the kids terribly. I can't believe it will still be another week before I see them. Hubby says they have been operating in a state of denial. I feel bad that they are trying to contain the sadness in their little bodies. But I'm sure they're fine, right? After all, they have their Daddy, and Daddy isn't exactly chopped liver.

Ahhhhhh. Now it's time to digest my dinner and set every alarm I can find so that we're on time to the airport tomorrow.

Friday, January 7, 2011


Am now in London in my favorite Bloomsbury B & B. It's great to be here, and it's nice to be able to show my mom around my typical stomping grounds in the Cartwright Gardens neighborhood.

Tonight, we had dinner at a little Italian bistro around the corner. Tomorrow we have two goals as we celebrate mom's birthday (it's a big one*!). Enjoy the British Museum and have a good pub dinner. Aren't they good goals? They make me want to reconsider my typical goals and resolutions. Perhaps New Years resolutions should read like this:

Enjoy museums
Don't stress about grading
lounge around with the kids
go on more dates with hubby

Those sound better that my typical resolutions.

But speaking of kids, word from home is that everyone has been sick. First the boy, and now hubby and the girl. I'm so sorry that I'm not there to snuggle with them and take care of them. but I know hubby can handle it, and he has been sweet enough to tel me not to worry--that they'll be fine.

See why I encouraged him to go to Colorado to see his buddies for nine days in December? Makes for a happy, generous, and understanding hubby.

Now it's time to do a bit of pub research.

*It rhymes with eleventy.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Paper? Have done.

This morning I gave the paper, and it was well received. Comments suggested it was "persuasive" and that it offered a "whole different way" of reading the text (both of which were my intentions, so YAY!).

In other news, I have found these British academics to be very friendly and modest. The most arrogant presenters have been other Americans.

And Oxford is stunning. I will write more later. It's been long day, and I'm not accustomed to my iPad keyboard, which is, currently, trying my patience.

Tomorrow it's off to London, and Saturday my mom and I will celebrate her b-day at the British Museum.


Monday, January 3, 2011

In Oxford

After some tearful goodbyes, some bumpy flights, and two train rides, I'm safely stowed in my warm and charming Oxford hotel. But I'm having technical difficulties that I'm too jet lagged to overcome. So, more to follow.