universityoflies

roasting marshmellows in phd hell

Archive for October 2012

The state of things.

with 8 comments

I think about this blog often but haven’t been able to make myself hit ‘publish’ on any of my thoughts lately.  Mostly because they’re just repetitive whiny crapnuggets about the following:

1. I haven’t looked at my thesis in weeks.

2. I’ve been waiting a few weeks for my adviser to get back to me, so I’ve been using that as an excuse to not do any work.

3. Teaching is getting me really depressed and I feel like I’m becoming a person I hate.

The last thing is probably the worst for me right now because I can’t shove it in

You won’t want to mess with me in the alternate Biff Towers future.

a drawer and pretend it doesn’t exist.  I am constantly telling grown adults to wake up, pick their heads up, put their cell phones away, and that it isn’t appropriate to leave class and come back 20 minutes later with lunch.  I feel like some 1950s school principal.

I know it’s more traditional to think of college as the place where you take a midterm and a final, and the professor doesn’t know or give a shit if you show up at all in between.  And that probably works at big universities with lecture halls with 300 people.  But when there’s 30 of them in a small fucking room (or more frequently these days, waaay less than that), excessive absences and douchey behavior are like flares in the jungle.

I tried to be all laid back and shit about this stuff at the beginning, and that was my big mistake.  I’d never taken that approach before but I don’t know what the hell was different this time.  I guess I was in this mental zone like, my ‘real’ job is finishing the shit out of my phd, and this is just a side gig so I don’t need to be World Police- if any shitbird doesn’t want to pay attention or do the work, they’ll get a bad grade at the end probably and it will all work out.  I didn’t think ahead to see that bad behavior is like the spanish fucking influenza and that things would quickly get out of control.

So I’m back to being World Police.  I don’t like it.  Pull my string and hear me nag you to keep your eyes open, head off the desk, phone away, no seriously put your damn phone away.  I don’t get the mindset.  If you want to do that shit, stay at home or drop the class.  I don’t care.  But why should I give someone credit for being in my class, when the syllabus stresses that its a small fucking class where discussion and participation are integral to the whole fucking thing, and say, ‘ah well he slept on the desk/chatted on fb the whole time but at least his body kept the chair warm for an hour (minus the 25 minute trip to the nearest cafeteria)?  If someone wanted that kind of college experience, they should have gone to an enormous university where they could fade into oblivion.

Why am I so mad?  They probably aren’t giving all this a second thought.  What really gets me is that something important gets lost in this whole power struggle.  The fucking material.  I have had to dumb stuff down so much that I am embarassed and horrified, and students still say to me ‘hey can you tell me again what’s happened so far bc I don’t remember.”  I can barely get them to keep the actual literal meaning of the text straight, so don’t even fucking ask me if I’ve gotten to any kind of closer look at language or interpretation of the ideas contained within.  I feel like some kind of sell out/prostitute/babysitter person.

And the best part- that I’m getting a phd so I can (somehow) be even more qualified to dilute literature to homeopathic remedy levels.  Good thing I have been suffering through grad school for this!!!!!!!!1

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Important Announcement: We Are Now Post-History

with 6 comments

I haven’t written in awhile because it’s been a struggle to think of  blog posts that weren’t me just complaining.  Then I realized if my criteria for posts was so narrow, I wouldn’t have a blog, would I?

So here’s an interesting thing that happened in class the other day.  Before looking

Steampunk Abraham Lincoln’s Advice: screw history! and don’t go to the theater.

at a new text, I give a brief background/introduction to the genre and author, providing historical context where needed.  I mean, you wouldn’t get too far with When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d if you said nothing about Abraham Lincoln, right?

So before I began, a student asks me the following:

Student:  Why do you always tell us stuff about the writer’s background and the history stuff? Isn’t this going to bias us when we are looking at the text? Like, we are going to be thinking about the writer’s life experience and what was going on and thinking about that too much?

I responded by saying that I thought it was important and sometimes necessary to know a bit about the writer and what was going on in the world when the text was created.  And you can take that information or leave it, but it’s  a good idea to be aware because it usually helps you understand more about the text itself  (of course I was ‘trained’ by new historicists, but there you go).  And then ze was either satisfied by that answer or did not give a shit- the blank stare I got in response was all Angela Lansbury wrote.

But my student’s comment is indicative of a more general attitude towards history that I’ve noticed.  If it isn’t happening to them and it isn’t on facebook, it didn’t happen.  I guess if you aren’t interested in the news, history is going to be even more irrelevant.  I’m not a history teacher and I’m certainly not an expert, and I know it isn’t my job to preach or brainwash or do gymnastics in a risque outfit to lead them to whatever the hell I think the ‘right’ answer is.  But I do find it depressing.  How could it be a bad thing to be armed with more information?

Also, I’m saying, “consider this,” not THIS IS THE ONLY RIGHT WAY TO INTERPRET SAID STORY/POEM/PLAY/WHATEVS.  I encourage my students to come up with new interpretations and as long as what they say is supported in some way by the text, I am all for it.

(Also, I do realize that the whole ‘this generation is the dumbest/worst/most evil thing evar!!! is not exactly a new complaint.)

So I will keep on keepin on with my pointless historical context.  As long as I’m having a good time, amirite?