Where have you been, Dr. Virago?

OK, that doesn’t scan quite onto “Where have you gone, Joe DiMaggio,” but close enough.

Well, since I last posted in March (!!), the Polar Vortex winter we had here in the Great Lakes continued unabated, giving us an April snow that killed the buds on my flowering bushes and trees. Boo! The hyacinths you see pictured survived, though:

This just isn't right

This just isn’t right

And I finished up my first semester of being Humanities Institute Director with a big talk by a visiting bigwig and a couple more Humanities Happy Hours. The latter seem to be very popular and growing in attendance, so I’m definitely continuing them this coming year. I need to work on publicity, though, especially to draw in off-campus people. I met with a couple of high school teachers this year and they gave me good advice for getting their attention, so that’s good. And I’m collaborating more with local library events coordinators. At the very least, we can publicize each others’ events.

Then after the semester was over, it was off to Kalamazoo for the annual Medieval Congress. I think we did a good job of being more welcoming to newcomers at our annual Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society meeting, and I’m hoping we continue that trend in years to come! If you’re at all interested in medieval drama and are at the Congress in Kalamazoo, please come to our business meeting and find out what we’re about!

Speaking of medieval drama, then I took a long weekend trip to NYC over Memorial Day weekend to see The Mysteries at The Flea Theatre with another medieval drama aficionado and to hang out in Manhattan and Brooklyn with my sister and one of my best friends from graduate school. It was a *gorgeous* weekend, so my sister and I walked the High Line (where I think I was too stunned by the crowds and the thing itself to take pictures) and I spent a day strolling through Brooklyn water-front parks and walkways with friends:

Lower Manhattan from the Brooklyn Promenade

Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridge from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade

I also did a dumpling tour of Brooklyn’s Chinese neighborhood, Sunset Park, went for drinks and dinner in Red Hook, strolled Williamsburg, saw the Ai Wei Wei exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum, and had a mostly Brooklyn weekend (well, except the day and evening in Manhattan). When I left NYC in 1994, that’s not something I would’ve done back then (except that I did have a friend who lived in Park Slope and did a walking tour of Brooklyn Heights back then) — Brooklyn is a whole new world compared to then, so it was like visiting a whole new city. (Even Sunset Park, which was a Chinese neighborhood back then, too, was much sleepier back in the day, as I recall.) And the High Line neighborhoods in Manhattan, too, were largely new to me — I don’t think I’d ever gone over that far west before in that part of Manhattan. And, of course, the skyline of lower Manhattan has sadly changed since I last lived in NYC, too.

And then in June, I went to Hong Kong for the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes annual meeting. It was kind of a weird conference, since, as scholars, we all work in different disciplines and subfields, but it was very interesting and largely pretty fruitful (though I would like more practical panels and sessions), and hey, it was in Hong Kong! Given the location and the theme (performative humanities), we were treated to performances of Cantonese opera and traditional music, and a poetry reading by a contemporary Cantonese poet and his translator. The reading and music performance also happened to take place during the 10-course opening feast of Cantonese food, which was *included* in the registration price. Other conferences have a lot to live up to! The conference was held at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, in the New Territories, so many of the rooms reserved were at the Hong Kong Hyatt Regency Sha Tin, right next door. Best. Conference. Hotel. Ever. This was my view of Tolo Harbor (which you could also see from the bathtub because one wall of the bathroom was also a window — though it had a shade if you wanted privacy):

Wish I could have taken this view home with me!

Wish I could have taken this view home with me!

I also wish I could have taken any of the charming Buddhas from the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery (really a temple; not a working monastery) home with me. This shrine, nestled in the tropical mountains just steps away from the Sha Tin MTR stop, was such a peaceful respite from the city and its equally busy suburbs that I went there twice. Here’s just a taste of it. I wish you could hear the deafening sound of the cicadas and the chattering of the monkeys, too.

One of the over ten thousand individual Buddhas, each with their own personality

One of the over ten thousand individual Buddhas, each with their own personality

IMG_1410IMG_1414IMG_0964IMG_1416

Nearing the very top

Nearing the very top

The ultimate Buddha

The ultimate Buddha

The view from the very top.

The view from the very top. See the red fences at the bottom, to the right and in front of the buildings in the center? That’s where I started! (The pagoda on the far right is not part of the 10,000 Buddhas monastery, but a cemetery/ancestral hall next door to the base of the monastery entrance.)

These are just a few of the over 700 pictures I took in Hong Kong, and only one of the sites I saw! I had about a day of free time before the conference started and two and half free days after, so I went to the top of Victoria Peak via the tram, visited the Hong Kong History Museum (really great, and new since I was last in the city in 1992), watched the Symphony of Light in the harbor, got a tour of the Chung King Mansions by an asylum seeker from Ghana (arranged by the conference), took a Star Ferry across the harbor, rode all the way up the “Mid-Level Escalators” (outdoor escalators! neat!), visited the Man Mo Temple (where I lit incense sticks upside-down! d’oh!), walked around SoHo and various other mid-level districts on Hong Kong Island, rode the “ding ding” tram car just for fun, and visited Lantau Island, where I saw the Big Buddha, had a delicious vegetarian lunch at a real, working monastery, wandered around the fishing village of Tai O (and felt miles away from the city), and took a boat to see Chinese White Dolphins. And the conference also organized a quick visit to Macau, though the bus tour concentrated too much on the casinos and didn’t give us enough time in the historical parts.

And *then*, in July, I went to Reykjavik, Iceland, for the New Chaucer Society Congress. Owing to a weather-related delays and cancellations of flights, I got there a day later than planned, and only had one truly free day, but also a day and a half of excursions organized by the conference. And I played hooky for three sessions. So I still got to see a lot, though I took fewer pictures because I was often in company. (I take more when I’m alone, as I was in Hong Kong.) I fell completely in love with Iceland and so intend to get back there with Bullock in tow next summer or maybe the summer after (for a 5th wedding anniversary/belated honeymoon of sorts).

My favorite parts of the Iceland trip were…well, everything! But especially a) soaking in cheap public hot tubs at public swimming facilities (no pictures of the hot tubs themselves, alas, just the sign for them); b) riding Icelandic horses in the mountains; c) spending a gorgeous day spent at Thingvellir, an awesome site of historical, political, and geological significance.

Not "bacon sitting," but hot tub soaking!

Not “bacon sitting,” but hot tub soaking!

Foreground: Saga, my horse. Yes, that was really her name. Background: a horse with a fabulous mane!

Foreground: Saga, my horse. Yes, that was really her name. Background: a horse with a fabulous mane!

The hidden waterfall to which we rode. The elf got cut out of the picture, alas. :)

The hidden waterfall to which we rode. The elf got cut out of the picture, alas. 🙂

The horses at rest while we explore

The horses at rest while we explore. Saga is in front right of the group in the center.

Thingvellir National Park, featuring the Almannagja rift, the eastern edge of the North American techtonic plate, and the "logberg" or "law rock" (the white flag pole), the site of the earliest parliamentary meeting in Europe, the Althing, founded in 930

Thingvellir National Park, featuring the Almannagja rift, the eastern edge of the North American tectonic plate where it meets the European plate, and the “logberg” or “law rock” (the white flag pole), the site of the earliest parliamentary meeting in Europe, the Althing, founded in 930

But now I’m home in Rust Belt, where I seem to have brought the cool, gray Icelandic weather with me. So where are our public hot tubs?!

Oh, and by the way, I presented a successful pedagogical paper at New Chaucer Society, which I want to write about in part soon. Now that I’ve settled back into a groove here, I will try to get back to regular posting!

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The conference job interview: time to kill it? A few thoughts.

First, some background for any readers who might stumble upon this post and not know the basics. (Academic readers in English and other fields that do first-round interviews at discipline conferences can skip the next paragraph.)

As all my regular readers know, fields in the literature and language in the US generally do their first round of job interviews for tenure-track assistant professor jobs (and sometimes higher ranked ones) at the Modern Language Association convention each year. That convention used to be held the weekend after Christmas, but has now been moved back to after the new year. This year’s convention will be next weekend, January 9-12. Department interview committees come to the conference to interview somewhere in the ballpark of 10-15 first round candidates for the job they advertised earlier in the academic year (the MLA “Job List” opens in September, but many ads get placed after that). Candidates come to the conference to be interviewed, but they often have to make travel arrangements before they’re sure they will *have* any interviews. I think that was the case for me the first time I did it, but the second time, I was lucky to be informed of at least one interview more than a month ahead, and so made my arrangements knowing that I had a purpose for being there. (A person *usually* doesn’t give a paper in the same year that they’re interviewing. First of all, there are only ever a few panels in one’s particular field, and it’s hard to get on them. I’ve given exactly *one* MLA paper, versus many multiple Medieval Academy, New Chaucer Society, and Medieval Congress — K’zoo and Leeds — papers. Second, you’ve got enough to worry about with interviews — who needs the worry of a paper, too? Third, you want to be as flexible as possible with times for interviews. But I do remember one year in which one of our candidates was giving a paper, so it’s not unheard of — just unusual.) After that round of interviews, departments then bring 2-4 candidates to their campus for the second round.

OK, that’s the background. There’s a lot of talk around the internet (blogs, Twitter, Facebook) about how much of a financial and mental stress this whole process puts on candidates, and at the present moment, I think that’s true. (There’s way too much to link to. Just trust me on this. You’ve probably already seen it anyway.) I’m not even that old in the field, but a lot has already changed since I was on the market in 2001-2 and 2002-3. My department gave some travel funding to job seekers, enough, iirc, that covered my airfare even cross-country, and I wasn’t even in a particularly rich department. The first year I shared a room, but the second year, I decided that managing my anxiety would be easier without a roommate, and I took the extra financial hit as an “investment in myself.” But as bleak as the job market was then, I could still believe in that kind of Pollyannish financial pablum. And that year I had 13 interviews, so the per-interview cost of the hotel room and other expenses was relatively low. But that is not the case for most job candidates today.

The last few years I’ve been to MLA — I went to LA and to Seattle recently — I’ve talked to seriously *outstanding* job candidates — people whose excellent work I know — who had 0, 1, and 2 interviews, even on their second and third go-rounds, with the PhD in hand. I don’t think I met anyone who had more than 3. I really felt bad for the ones who shelled out for the conference and ended up with no interviews. Even the year I had only 2 interviews didn’t feel as bleak to me as these recent years have felt — there was still a sense of hope for the next year.

Anyway, like many people these days, I’m generally in favor of moving to a discipline-wide practice of Skype (or other video) or phone interviews for the first round of interviews. Yes, both can be awkward in comparison to face-to-face interviews, but they also avoid some of the awkwardness of the latter. For instance, in a Skype or phone interview, I’ll never feel bad about the female candidate who realizes her skirt is a little uncomfortably short when she sits down, and I’m unlikely to see how a candidate’s hands shake when he’s understandably nervous. And no one will be sitting on the hotel bed! (Yes, that still happened in my interviews, but it was the committee person who had to make do with the bed, not me.)  A phone or video interview lets you ignore physical distractions (remind me someday to tell you about the committee that kept fighting over the thermostat) and focus on the things that matter. In my experience doing phone interviews as an interviewee and helping a friend practice for his Skype interviews, both are actually a little more relaxed once the weirdness of the technology is smoothed out.

I realize that there might be some technology cost associated with doing things this way, and perhaps some logistic wrangling, but surely that’s cheaper and easier for all parties than the conference, isn’t it?

And there’s a kind of democratizing and leveling out that goes along with such a practice — one that benefits both candidates and hiring departments. I still remember the interview I had with RBU. They’d picked one of the mid-level price hotels, an old grand dame hotel that probably looked *fabulous* on the web site. Indeed, its lobby was absolutely grand, full of rich woods and Persian carpets. But unbeknownst to my future colleagues and to me, there was an unrenovated wing of the hotel that still had some SRO residents in it (!). Guess where the RBU committee’s room was. Yup. It was really weird. I got off the elevator and turned down a secondary hallway where suddenly the wallpaper and carpeting changed (I think I even had to go down a step) and the lighting got very dim. It turned out to be an ice-breaking kind of thing — the committee all laughed about my finding them on the edge of doom and asking if I’d been accosted by the lady next door (who was convinced my colleagues were being visited by prostitutes!), and explained that had they known, they would’ve picked another hotel, but I very nearly had a *bad* first impression of RBU (“This is all they can afford?”). And has anyone ever had to have an interview with a committee that met you in the mass-interviewing room, the one with all the tables? I haven’t, but I always felt sorry for the institutions who had to do that. What kind of impression does that make?

And believe it or not, the practice of interviews at the MLA conference was actually begun in order to democratize the process, so the move to phone/video interviews would be in keeping with that spirit. Michael BĂ©rubĂ©, former MLA president, writes about this in a public Facebook post in which he dispels a number of myths about the MLA convention and the interviews. He’s what he has to say about the interview process:

But it’s worth pointing out that the conference-interview system was created not to discriminate against anyone, but precisely to break up the deeply discriminatory and opaque system as it existed in the 1960s, whereby dissertation directors or directors of graduate studies got on the phone with their friends at other universities and let them know that Horatio Q. Shuttlecock was completing a most excellent dissertation and would like an assistant professorship in their department. Or, conversely, department heads called their friends to find out if they knew of any good prospects among the new crop of Ph.D.s. That, folks, was the old boy network, and guess what? It was run by old boys. Back then, making the job process into a national, centralized system with conference interviews at the fulcrum (followed, usually, by campus visits for a handful of finalists) was a way of taking the whole thing out of the hands of the old boys.

I think it’s really important to keep some sense of “national, centralized system” — or at least a practice that is universal. But for that to happen, everyone has to start doing Skype/phone/Google Hangout/video-conferencing interviews at once, or at least swiftly, and it has to start with the richest, poshest, most prestigious universities. A few years ago, our administrators wanted to know why it was our department had to go to MLA to interview candidates — couldn’t we do cheaper phone or video-conferencing interviews? It’s not that we were all dying to make a post-Christmas trip (this was back when MLA started on or around Dec. 27), but we were afraid that our department would look bad to the best candidates, who would also be interviewing with richer universities at the MLA. If there’s an uneven trickle of departments doing video and phone interviews, starting with the RBUs of the world, it’s just going to make things bleaker and more confusing and more stressful all around, and candidates will be shelling out money for MLA for even fewer interviews, and then trying to schedule video/phone interviews around that. (Of course, it might make the posher universities look like bigger assholes for insisting candidates come to MLA. Still, I don’t necessarily want that for them, either.) So it really has to happen pretty much all at once — like the change in dates of the conference did.

Here’s where the MLA (and other professional organizations that run conferences where interviews are held) might be of help. I realize that their word is not law and that they don’t decree or control how interviews are done, but they could strongly recommend that departments move to video/phone interviews for the first round. As Michael points out in that post I linked above, the MLA doesn’t actually make any money off the conference interviews, so it’s of no financial consequence to the organization how these interviews are done. But at some point in the 70s, they helped create this system in order to counter the old boys’ network, so they could have some influence in creating another system now. And other influential voices could join them — other organizations, present and past presidents of them, big names that everyone knows, bloggers, etc. It might take a loud sea of voices, because the MLA makes a whole lot of recommendations that get ignored (for example, if I’m not mistaken, they recommend that committees not ask for additional materials up front — but how many committees follow that?). And individually, if we know folks who are running searches next year, *especially* at prestigious places, we could urge them to set an example.

Meanwhile, I think it’s important to keep some sort of first round of interviews. Bullock is in a field that doesn’t do them — just jump right to the top three candidates, whom they invite to campus. And guess what? The field is overwhelmingly represented by people with degrees from about ten institutions, even among profs at lower ranked universities. (He’s in a social science, and some social scientist decided the crunch the numbers and publish this finding in their organization journal. This isn’t just anecdotal.) I don’t know the numbers for English, but my impression is that this is not the case in our discipline. It’s probably still true that there’s a *lot* of overlap in the 10-15 people who get first round interviews, but I suspect that that larger number allows for a broader range of candidates from a variety of programs. And from the conference interviews I’ve done (where we interview 14-15 candidates), I can tell you that there is *always* someone who looks great on paper but turns out to be not what you’re looking for in person, and *always* someone who just made it on the interview list, but who surprises and wows you in the interview, and moves up in the list. With only 3 candidates, you might get stuck with nothing but the former, and you’re unlikely to discover the latter.  And apparently, Bullock’s discipline is starting to realize this, because some places are *adding* Skype interviews to their process now (it’s still unusual, though, he says, but he thinks it’s a great idea).

I still like the idea of the conference interview, but in practice, it does seem an awful burden on candidates especially, but also on cash-strapped institutions. And I don’t see any real negative difference between an awkward hotel-room interview and a Skype interview (though phone interviews have extra challenges and awkwardness).

What say you all? How can we help make this happen in our disciplines as soon as possible?

Update: Michael Bérubé has posted a follow-up FB post (he really should just go back to blogging!) about what a post-Skype MLA without interviews would look like. The short answer: pretty damn good. I especially like his point that departments could easily interview *more* applicants via Skype over a longer amount of time instead of squeezing in 10-15 at the conference. And, for the record, I would totally drive over to a Cleveland MLA. (He suggests smaller cities could host the smaller resulting conference.)

Happy New Year!

2013 wasn’t a bad year or a particularly notable year, though Bullock and I did celebrate 10 years together, and I was named Humanities Institute director. Otherwise, it was a kind of normal year, I guess. We didn’t quite end the year in a particularly good way, though — Bullock had a root canal and Pippi had to be taken to the vet for a foot injury, both on the last days of the year. My two gingers are recovering now.

Professionally, 2013 was solid. The anthology that I co-edited technically came out in 2012, but Spring 2013 was the first semester it was used in classes, and it did pretty well for such a specialized volume. So that’s cool. And I taught our gen-ed poetry class three times in a row (well, two consecutively) to reasonable success. Since this was the first time I’d taken on this particular class, that was good. (But I’d forgotten how much non-majors balk at having to learn technical terms. Seriously, guys, when in Rome!) Oh, and I *finally* finished the Article That Wouldn’t Die (or whatever I called it last) and submitted it to Dream Journal. This is the first time I’ve blindly submitted an article since my very first article submission — everything in between has grown out of something else (like a conference) or been invited in some way (but often still peer reviewed). Scary! Fingers crossed!

2014, however, is already shaping up to be a little more eventful, at least professionally. Here’s what I have planned so far, a list of bullet points I offer in lieu of resolutions.

  • A presentation later this month at a selective, by-application workshop for manuscript scholars that I *hope* will jump start where I need to go next on my in-progress not-quite-a-book-yet research.
  • A trip to Hong Kong for the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes annual conference. I’m looking forward especially to the workshops for directors and for the public humanities, and to being in Hong Kong! I last visted HK in the early 90s, but got sick on the way from Guilin to HK and spent the whole three days of our visit in the hotel room. So I added three extra days in the city — one before and two after — to just be a tourist. The conference and thus the hotels are in Sha Tin, which is outside of the city center in the New Territories (where the university hosting the conference is), but I’m actually kind of looking forward to getting around on public transportation and off the beaten track a bit.
  • A trip to Iceland for the New Chaucer Society. I’ve never been to Iceland, so I’m especially psyched to visit a new country. NCS has arranged a lot of excursions of the kind I might have taken anyway, so I’m only adding on two extra days for being a tourist on my own, especially since, holy crap, hotels in Iceland are freakin’ expensive in high season! Strangely, Hong Kong is cheaper. Even at the non-conference rate, I’ll get to stay in a *swank* high-end hotel with a Tolo Harbor view in Hong Kong for about the same as I’m paying for a two-star, bare basics Reykjavik hotel at the conference rate! (Yes, yes, I realize that the Yuan is artificially controlled and that the hotels in Chinese cities like Hong Kong are probably also partly subsidized to encourage tourist and business travel. But still, it kind of surprised me.) Bullock was going to go to Iceland with me, but when we realized that the two of us could take a non-work-related trip somewhere else less expensive for the cost of taking him to Iceland with me, we decided I’d go solo.
  • And I’m excited about what I’m doing/presenting at NCS, too. My anthology co-editor and I arranged a seminar (something relatively new for NCS — I’m interested in seeing how it goes) on a text near and dear to us both. And I’m presenting on a teaching panel about something I’m doing in my medieval lit class this spring, which brings me to…
  • My awesome medieval lit class this spring! I haven’t been this psyched for a class since I did that awesome ASNaC class in 2011. (That’s Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic, btw.) It really deserves its own post. Maybe the next one. Anyway, this time I’m focusing on manuscript collections and anthologies from the Exeter Book to the Morte Darthur (which I’m reading, somewhat atypically, as a collection of sorts), with a bunch of miscellanies in between (Harley 978, with Marie de France’s Lais and Fables — collections in a collection! — and “Sumer is icumen in”; Laud Misc. 108 with Havelok and Horn and saint’s lives; the Auchinleck MS; and so on). I’ve arranged the syllabus by MS collections and paper assignments are all going to be about how we read such collections (e.g., read a work not assigned for class from one of our collections and write about how it fits the whole or works in tension with it). There will be lots of digital resources, too, to give students a sense of the material book. And I think I finally figured out how to give the grad students in a “slash” course a more graduate student worthy experience — they’re going to present their research projects in the two-hour time slot reserved for the final and the undergrads will be their audience and interlocutors (something I can totally repeat in future classes).
  • And the Humanities Institute will be up and running soon! Our first event is the first of our Humanities Happy Hours. I’m still trying to get a big speaker for a major event — important people are bad at answering emails! — but I’m actually more excited for the Triple-H (as I call it) series, which will showcase *our* humanities scholars in a public-friendly way.
  • I’m also going to write and submit my first big organizational (as opposed to individual) grant for our HI. I’m going to start with a regional one and then if that’s a success, maybe aim higher next year. I’m kind of looking forward to this. Yes, I know I’m weird.
  • I’m also writing a short essay on “managing down time” for a collection of essays that Greg Semenza is co-editing as a companion to Graduate Study for the 21st Century. So, um, first I must manage my down time! 🙂  (Seriously, no big plans for the personal life — just the usual making time to relax and exercise and all that. And maybe get back to teaching myself Italian, which I started last summer and then dropped.)

So what are your plans for 2014, professional or personal, or both?

Could this be the Best. Conference. Ever?

Well, for medievalists, anyway…

Preliminary Call for Papers
The Middle Ages in the Modern World

University of St Andrews, UK, 25-28 June, 2013

A multidisciplinary conference on the uses and abuses of the Middle Ages from the Renaissance to the 21st century
Provisional Keynotes
  • Carolyn Dinshaw (New York University): The Green Man and the Modern World
  • Patrick Geary (Princeton): European ethnicity: Does Europe have too much past
  • Seamus Heaney (Nobel Prize-winning Poet): Translating medieval poetry
  • Bruce Holsinger (University of Virginia): The politics of medievalism
  • Felicitas Hoppe (Author and Translator): Adapting medieval romance
  • Terry Jones (Author and Broadcaster): Columbus, America and the flat earth
Medievalism – the reception and adaptation of the politics, history, art and literature of the Middle Ages – has burgeoned over the past decade, and is now coming of age as a subject of serious academic enquiry. This conference aims to take stock and develop directions for the future. We hope to address questions such as:
– Why and how do the Middle Ages continue to shape the world we inhabit?

– Did the Middle Ages ever end?
– Did the Middle Ages ever happen?
– Is there a difference between medievalism and medieval studies?
– Does the medieval past hold the key to understanding modern nations?
– What does “medieval” mean to non-medievalists?
– How has medievalism developed over the past 600 years?

Medievalists and modernists in all areas of the sciences and humanities, librarians, artists, curators are invited to submit proposals for papers, panels, public talks, exhibits, posters, concerts etc. The conference will be held during the climactic period of the University of St Andrews’s 600th anniversary celebrations.
Possible topics include (but are not limited to):
– the reception of the Middle Ages in literature, art, architecture, music, film, politics, economics, theology, popular culture, universities, sciences;

– periodization and the invention of the Middle Ages;
– modern misconceptions of the Middle Ages;
– the politicization of the Middle Ages and neo-medievalism;
– twenty-first century medievalisms;
– revivalism and re-enactment;
– medievalism, science fiction, fantasy and cyberspace;
– translating medieval texts;
– the legacy and influence of the University of St Andrews and other medieval institutions
– a special celebratory 600th anniversary session on the reception and representation of St Andrew himself.

Early bird proposals are welcome now to mamo@st-andrews.ac.uk to assist planning, anytime before 31 August 2012.

Organisers: Dr Chris Jones, School of English and Dr Bettina Bildhauer, School of Modern Languages, University of St Andrews.

>RBOC – Gray winter day edition

>Blogging bullets:

  • You may have noticed that I have no blog roll. That’s because it was a Blogrolling blog roll, and Blogrolling has ceased to exist. That’s a shame, because it was a handy system (though the ads on it in the last year or so of its existence were annoying). But I cut and pasted the blogroll before that happened, and when I get the energy for it, I’ll repost an updated version of it.
  • I’m thinking of changing to WordPress. Those of you who’ve made the move, how hard is it to move the archive of the blog? What do you like/dislike about each platform?
  • I’m also thinking of claiming my blog as service/outreach when I do my 5 year post-tenure review or when I go up for full professor. Any opinions about that?
  • My partner has been known as Bullock on this blog because I named him in our Deadwood-watching phase, during which time he grew a Seth Bullock-style mustache and goatee. But Deadwood is long gone and my man is clean-shaven. Plus, even though “bullock” meant “young bull” in Middle English and that’s one of its meanings today, it also can mean a castrated bull, which is not the association I wish to project for my Bullock. (Though it is kind of a funny pairing with Virago.) But it would be confusing to rename him. I’m thinking maybe of just putting a “cast of characters” in the sidebar and explaining the origins of the name. Any other ideas?
  • I have been remiss in telling Pastry Pirate fans that she has long been blogging elsewhere. First she was in New Zealand, working and exploring, and now she’s working in Antarctica. No, really. I kind of think “Baking in Antarctica” should be the title of the blog, but since it started before her life on the Ice Planet Hoth (as I like to think of it), it’s called Stories That Are True.
  • Hey, cool, I managed to blog more than in 2009. Not exactly an awesome accomplishment, since I was really lame in 2009, but still an improvement. What should I blog about next?

Work/Life bullets:

  • Our Christmas tree is up, all the Christmas shopping is done, and all but one present is wrapped (because it hasn’t arrived yet)! Hooray!
  • On Thursday, I wired the deposit for the studio flat in Belsize Park. It’s non-refundable, so this makes it official. I’m going to be living, however temporarily, in a flat in London! I’ve never lived in a flat in London before! Heck, I’ve never lived in a flat before (American apartments, yes). How cool is that?!
  • The one-week rent for the studio flat in Belsize Park (the amount of the deposit) is just over my one-month rent in my awesome two-bedroom Rust Belt Historical District apartment and only about $175 less than our monthly mortgage payment. I’ll never be able to live full-time in a big, expensive city again — I’ve been too spoiled by the low cost of living here in Rust Belt. But hey, now I can afford 6-week jaunts there! So, I may live in Rust Belt, but I can better afford life in the big city in small doses. This is what I keep telling myself, anyway.
  • OMG, my sabbatical is half over!!! Ack!!!
  • Something I realized at the various holiday parties this week: asking me “So, how’s sabbatical going?” is as crazy-making for me now as “So, how’s the dissertation coming?” was for me once upon a time. Also, faculty on sabbatical don’t want to talk about work issues. Come on, people, surely we can talk about something else!
  • Bullock is grading finals. He just said to me, “It must be Christmas time, because a student just spelled Commerce Clause like Santa Claus.”
  • Bullock and I are going to BullockLand for the holidays (with Pippi). I spent Turkey Week in Cowtown with my side of the family and starting this year we’re alternating where we go for Christmas so that we don’t have to do the crazy-making hurryhurryhurry to get to one place and then the next. That makes my going out to LA to visit Virgo Sis and go to the MLA much less stressful (so does going to MLA just to go). Of course, so does being on sabbatical, because otherwise I’d be doing MLA back-to-back with starting our Spring semester.
  • Speaking of holiday plans, in case I don’t blog again before we leave:

>Disconnecting from the social network / looking forward to social networking

>I deactivated my Facebook account today. Deactivation isn’t permanent — my profile and all its contents are still there, somewhere, but those of you who are my FB friends can’t see it. In fact, a lot of you now probably seem to be talking to a ghost in many of your threads.

I plan to return to FB Jan. 1 or thereabouts. I just got a little freaked out about how little time was left in the first half of my sabbatical and how much time FB was taking, despite all my leechblocking. See, the thing is, I have an iPhone, and on that phone is a Facebook app, and there’s no Leechblock for the iPhone, alas. And I have no self-control. I’ve been tossing around this idea for awhile now, but last night, as I was curled up on the couch with a book, a glass of wine, and Pippi, while Bullock was at a job candidate’s dinner, I realized how nice it was to slooooow doooooown and read for a good long time. And since I was reading a book set in Los Angeles, with many scenes in a neighborhood I knew intimately, I realized that there were other ways of being connected to the world than through Mark Zuckerberg’s way of doing it. Even though what I was reading wasn’t high art (it was detective fiction — though its author’s work has been promoted from the “mystery” section to the “literature” section of bookstores near you!), it felt more like a Forster or Woolf way of being connected — like the “only connect!” motif of Howards End or the thin thread of Mrs. Dalloway. Both are vulnerable, fragile, abstract connections, of course, but that’s what makes nurturing them and recognizing them important. It’s not that FB prevented me recognizing these threads or of slowing down, but the moment made me realize that I could leave FB for a little while and not feel outcast or at sea or unmoored from the world or from my past. (I haven’t thought this all the way out–it’s really just a feeling, a hunch now–so my writing about it is a little flabby and cliche-ridden. For a blogger, I’m strangely not very good at writing about our socially networked world!)

Of course, as some of you know, the irony of all this is that I took a photo of that moment with the dog and the wine and the book (and fuzzy slippers!) with my iPhone and posted it to Facebook! Of course, I think there’s something fitting that that was my last post before my hiatus. And it is just a hiatus, I promise (especially to Sisyphus, who is looking forward to beating me in our currently suspended game of Scrabble). In the meantime, most of you know where to find me at my real life, university e-mail address, and if not, there’s my Dr. Virago g-mail address (see sidebar).

Meanwhile, I’m planning to go to MLA to do some old skool social networking, the face to face kind. Virgo Sis lives on the east side of the Cahuenga Pass, so I’m going to stay with her (and arrive and leave a few days before and after the conference) and take the Red Line subway from Universal City into downtown. I’ll be going to all the medieval panels and to any meet-ups y’all want to plan (just let me know!), and presumably to my grad school’s party, if I can find out when and where it is (it’s often a big secret). I haven’t looked at the program yet, so there’s probably other stuff (besides the book exhibit of course!) that I’ll want to go to. And I promise I’ll start up Facebook again before that for easy contact. 🙂

And one other thing: I’m kind of hoping that less Facebook will mean more blogging. We’ll see if I’m right.

>Guest Post: On the Medieval Academy’s meeting in Tempe, Arizona

>Now that I’m back from my brief Midwestern vacation, it’s time to get serious again. And for starters, I have a guest post from my friend The General on why she won’t be going to the Medieval Academy of America’s annual meeting in Tempe, Arizona, in April, and why she’s not renewing her membership.

But first, let me give a little background for my non-medievalist/non-academic readers who might want or need it. In May, Jeffrey Cohen at In the Middle started the discussion of whether or not the MAA should move the meeting out of Arizona. That post garnered 74 comments and ultimately led to an open letter to the MAA urging them to cancel or move the meeting, signed by 170 people. That letter, plus discussions elsewhere, spurred the MAA to poll its members by e-mail and a web-based poll. On August 3, the MAA executive committee came to its final decision to keep the meeting in Tempe, and sent to the membership an e-mail letter announcing that decision. Karl Steel at In the Middle posted the letter here. And Inside Higher Ed followed up with a story.

That’s the background. In response, The General wrote a letter to the Medieval Academy which she also posted as a note on Facebook and asked me to post here. It’s still in the form of an address to the Medieval Academy, but it’s been slightly edited since she sent it off to them. And although she’s happy to have her name attached to it, I decided to keep in the spirit of this blog and use her pseudonym.

So, without further ado, below is what The General had to say to the Medieval Academy.

**********

Dear Medieval Academy,

I just read your recent announcement about your decision to proceed with the 2011 meeting in Arizona. I am deeply disappointed and rather stunned at your decision. As one of the few medievalists of color in the profession and on your membership roster, your decision means that anyone of color (or any shade other than white) will be under surveillance, put in the category of second-class citizen, and generally thought of as a person of suspicion if they even attend the Arizona meeting. As someone who has served for several years on a board of directors that managed a revenue stream of 70 million dollars, I understand the directive of fiduciary responsibility quite well. But I also would like to point out that your choice means that you have chosen monetary gain over human value for your organization. You have decided that diversity and encouraging students and faculty of color to go into Medieval Studies is not a core value of the Academy. Rather, the fiduciary bottom line of the endowment is more important.

Your letter states that you feel that you were not in a position to make a “collective political statement” for the entire group, but yet you have. Your decision means that a minority of your membership will be excluded, treated as alien others, and asked to constantly carry “papers” during their trip. You are asking me and every other member with a skin shade not deemed “American” or an accent not considered “standard” to accept this treatment and see it as just another political issue. When were basic civil rights a partisan political issue rather than an ethical and moral one? It would be one thing if you wanted not to hold a meeting in a state or location because it had voted Democrat or Republican; that would be a partisan “collective political statement.” But you are asking me and any person of color to walk into a state and pretend that being a second-class citizen is fine. When did basic civil rights become a partisan political statement? I was under the impression that all the members of the Medieval Academy believed in civil rights. Or had I and other members been wrong? Is the Medieval Academy still an ivory tower institution that excludes, women, people of color, and the disabled? Is the Academy not interested in supporting their members and equity? For me, these were the issues at stake in your decision. And your answer to these questions were shattering.

Your decision and letter tells me that I should find it acceptable to come to a professional academic meeting and wear a figurative star on my lapel and have my papers potentially checked at every turn. What you are saying to me and every scholar (domestic and international) of color is that discrimination is fine, that equitable treatment in our field is not a priority or an inalienable right. This is the very opposite of community building. You say in your letter that it is about the work that people have done, yet the meeting’s presence in Arizona is going to overshadow the work. I would be queasy discussing Lateran IV’s restrictions and injunctions against Jews and Saracens in a state that is enacting their own version of these laws. The conference will not be an exercise in political free speech; rather it will condone the behaviors that put members of the academy under scrutiny.

Several blog comments discussing this decision have said it would be OK to have the meeting and just organize for political action. I completely disagree because this is not “just” a political issue; you are asking people to be comfortable with other members of the Academy being stopped, asked for papers, possibly arrested, and held for questioning. You are asking that our personal rights be assaulted, abused, and trampled on all to attend a professional meeting.

You are asking too much and therefore I plan to boycott the Medieval Academy and encourage anyone else to do likewise. I do not want to be part of an organization that feels it is acceptable for me to be discriminated against.

Sincerely,
The General

>The evolution of a professional identity (or: why I had a better time at NCS Siena than Swansea)

>When I first saw my friend G. at NCS Siena, he said something like this: “Virago, I have to say, I’m a little surprised to see you here, because when I saw you at Swansea, you didn’t seem to be having a very good time.” And back in this post from two years ago, I hinted at why.

But NCS Siena was a completely different experience for me, and I don’t think it was just because it was in Siena and not Swansea (although geography does play a part in this). It was different from the start, back when we were all submitting panels and abstracts. First of all, my friend H. approached me about putting a panel together, and that was the first step in what made me feel more involved, and less of an outsider, where this conference is concerned. (I should mention that part of my outsider status is that I don’t work on Chaucer — although my current work sometimes makes reference to him — but NCS seems, in the last few iterations, to be more and more open to being about the “age of Chaucer,” as its journal, Studies in the Age of Chaucer, suggests.) And then when the panels were all arranged and the CFP came out, I felt my current work fit one of the panel proposals much more than it had last time. What’s more, I’d since met one of that panel’s organizers, so I didn’t feel as though I was sending a proposal out into the unknown quite as much. Two years ago, on the other hand, I was rejected from a panel, then told I was rejected from the conference as a whole, and then finally told a spot was found for my paper — as I detailed here. And the panel on which I finally presented — along with my friend G. — was a truly miscellaneous panel in the last time slot of the conference, and it didn’t really generate questions very useful to my project. This time around, though, I was accepted to the panel to which I applied, which was a good fit for my paper. More on how that all went — very well, I think — in a bit.

At any rate, before it even started, NCS Siena was already proving to be a better conference for me than NCS Swansea had been. And it continued to live up to its auspicious beginning. And yes, part of that was Siena — but not just because Siena is a more historically rich place with more things to do. [Digression: in defense of Swansea, the weather was better there, the opportunity for good running was better (something that was once important to me), the bay was lovely (I’m a fan of water, of which Siena has none – not even a river, which struck me as odd), and I’m a weirdo who prefers the British climate and flora and fauna to Italian in the summer (though I did like the presence of cicadas, which reminded me of home – both Kansas where I grew up and the Great Lakes region I live in now). But that’s the subject for another post.] The geography of Siena was better for my mood than Swansea’s was — and perhaps better for the mood of the conference as whole. At Swansea, there were a few people who stayed off campus, but most stayed in the dorms, which weren’t terribly comfortable. But not only that, it meant that we were too much together, I think. So many meals were taken together in the dining hall that you were too often faced with the conference equivalent of the high school lunchroom hierarchy — will I get to sit with the cool kids? And it was hard to escape the campus, situated as it was outside of the city. The edge of town was a long walk away, and the center of town was a cab or bus ride away. And so you were either trapped or, worse, stranded, if the people you knew had escaped and left you behind. But in Siena, we were in many different hotels, and the Arcobaleno, where I stayed, was lovely and comfortable — best sleep I’d had in awhile! And I had a conference buddy this time — my friend The General — which eased any and all anxieties about finding company at meals or on excursions. And even at a hotel 2km outside of the city center as the Arcobaleno was, it wasn’t hard to reach that center, and there was plenty to do there, of course. I actually regret not playing hooky a little more from the conference to be a tourist. I had the morning after the end of conference for that, but that left time only for a couple of things. Anyway, back to my main point here: I think less anxiety brews, and there’s less posturing, when the conference itself isn’t the only focus of your energies, and when you’re not always forced together. And the Siena sun and heat, which could have made people cranky, seemed to mellow people out, to slow us down — we were all in it together, we were all a little sweaty, we all dressed a litte more casually because of it (a strong effect on attitude, I think — especially with all those previously unseen medievalist man legs in shorts!) and hey, we were in Siena!

But really, what made it a different conference for me was more about where I am in terms of my professional identity and in the number of people I know (and blogging has been no small part of that, though traditional networking has helped, too). As I said to G. when he made the comment above, “It’s amazing what a difference two years and a good review in Speculum makes.” Two years ago my book was out and I had tenure, so I should have felt confidence, but I was still uncertain about whether any of it mattered, whether I mattered. The feedback we get on our printed work — the evidence of its impact — is slow to surface. And when you have a job at a place like Rust Belt University, it’s easy to think you’re disappearing, that you and your work don’t matter, that you peaked in graduate school, that after tenure you’re *stuck* rather than *secure*. But in the last two years, four positive reviews of my book came out and I started to be cited in other people’s books and articles, and my work started showing up on people’s syllabuses. And people solicited me for conferences because they knew my work. Over time I became not Dr. Virago, random drudge at RBU, but Dr. Virago, who does good work that people know about.

And this conference reinforced that effect. Here, in bullet point format, are a few really cool moments that continued to boost my confidence throughout the conference:

  • On the very first day, in the first morning break, a Known Figure whom I know and admire, but to whom I’m not very professionally close in any way (despite being FB friends with him!), crossed the courtyard to say hi to me and said, “Virago, we were just talking about you last night!” An auspicious beginning to the conference!
  • A recent PhD had one of her professors introduce her to me at dinner in town one night, and said to me, “I just wanted to meet you and tell you I’m a huge fan of your work and I’m so excited to meet you!” Seriously. I have a fan! If said person happens upon this post, I want you to know you’ll forever be my #1 Fan — I *heart* you for that!
  • One of my friends told me she kept hearing me quoted in a number of papers. Really? I told her I hadn’t heard that — clearly we were going to different panels — but she said that was a good sign: I was moving on with my work, and the work was speaking for itself.
  • The organizers of the panel I’d been accepted to told me that they had rejected papers, even after making three or four panels out of the best submissions they got. And while I feel bad for those who were rejected, it’s still nice to know you made the cut.
  • My paper went really well. I started to feel a little guilty that I kept getting most of the questions in the Q&A, but for whatever reasons, people responded to what I had to say. And they liked it and had useful suggestions (or suggestions phrased as questions). They also liked the phrase I coined to name the phenomenon I was describing, which I wish I could share with you here, but even though I fully expect people to know or figure out my real life identity, I’d still rather not be Googlable.
  • Other than some technical difficulties, the panel I organized with H went really well, too, and people were still talking about it later that day. I’ve seen at least one of the papers on it mentioned as a highlight of the conference, too, out there in the blogosphere.
  • And finally, my paper was mentioned in the one of the final round-up presentations! Woot! I don’t know if the person really *liked* my paper — she was actually maybe a bit snarky about it — but hey, all publicity is good publicity, eh? And it’s always cool to be mentioned in a summary of the conference.

Oh, and I even had a good conference as “Dr. Virago,” too. I kind of came out at this conference — although I didn’t actually name myself in the comment I made during the Q&A at the blogging session, I was happy to tell people who I was in the blogosphere. Actually, I came out in print first, in JJC‘s essay for the Chaucer blog book. And more than one person told me they were excited to know my real life identity or that they were fans of the blog. (Apparently, Dr. Virago has more fans than my real life identity. Heh.) One scholar who has always been supportive of my ‘real life’ scholarship said to me that finding out I was Dr. Virago was as exciting as finding out the Chaucer blogger’s identity! Really?

The other thing that made this conference better for me than the one in 2008 is that I know more people, and the people I know I now know better than I did then. As I mentioned above, that’s in no small part to blogging. I’m especially grateful to the In the Middle bunch for inviting me to lunch in the city the first day, when, because of the business meeting, we had more time to leave the conference site. What a lovely lunch that was! I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to join them on one of their late nights drinking prosecco in the Campo (one of the drawbacks of being in the further-out hotel). But all in all, I felt like this conference was full of fun and friends, and though I’m kind of a social butterfly and flit from group to group, I was happy in all the company I kept, however briefly.

>Dr. Virago: International Woman of Mystery and Credit Card Debt

>I’ll be traveling to three foreign countries for professional activity in Summer 2010: Canada, the UK, and Italy. The first trip, at the end of May, is for the sake of medieval drama. The other two destinations will be part of the same month-long trip from the end of June to the end of July: first, to study the early modern book in England (in manuscript and print form) at the London Rare Books School; then, to do about a week and a half of research at the British Library; and then to go down to Siena, Italy, for the New Chaucer Society Congress.

I’m very excited about all of this. The Chester production and conference will feel like the capstone of many years of work on medieval drama, and I’m looking forward to spending a weekend watching theater groups from all around North America and the UK interpret and perform the cycle, as well as to hearing people present new research on the plays at the symposium. The European trip, meanwhile, is all about new avenues of my research into manuscript-oriented studies which, like the drama, cross the medieval-early modern divide. That research is still a little inchoate, in part because I’m largely teaching myself how to work in a set of new sub-fields, including manuscript and textual studies — hence my attendance at the LRBS. It’s also a move into new genres of literature (or rather, new genres for me to do work on) and for some reason I’m presenting on that work in progress at NCS, even though, as I said, the works is still rather inchoate. Ack! But still, I’m looking forward to NCS because, well, it’s in Siena! I’ve never been to Siena or Tuscany, and besides the usual academic conference stuff, NCS – as usual – is offering excursions to villas and castles and working Benedictine monasteries! And a final dinner at a vineyard estate in the Tuscan countryside! How fabulous!

But of course, all of this is going to cost me a whole heckuva lotta money. Mucho dinero. Mega bucks. And all this right before I take a year’s sabbatical (approval still pending) in which I’ll be paid 2/3 of my usual salary. I’m squirreling away as much money as possible to pay for it all, especially for my sabbatical year. I’m saving, as usual, for ordinary summer living expenses (since we’re paid only during the nine months of the academic year), but not just for summer 2010, but also for 2011. And then, in addition to that, I’ll be putting into savings every stipend I’ve been awarded, every honorarium I’ve been given (for example, for being a peer-reviewer for a book manuscript), every monetary Christmas or birthday present I’ve gotten or will get, and all of my tax refunds. I’ve also agree to edit a number of texts for a forthcoming largish literary anthology, for which I’ll be paid a flat sum, and that will be squirreled away, too.

I applied for travel funds to cover my costs for the Canadian trip, and I was allocated what I needed as long as I can travel in our production team’s van and don’t have personal transportation costs (although that may not work out), but I may be chipping in to cover some of the costs of taking our cast and crew there for our play in the production. We had originally signed up for a play with a small cast, but then found out we were also being assigned an episode from another play in the cycle — for good scholarly reasons — which more than doubled the cast members we need to take! Our theater department is still managing to cover most of it, although we may be the only group there that uses the technique of ‘doubling’ (one actor playing two parts) — we’ll see how well that works in open-air performances at multiple stations! But students might have to pay for food for themselves, and I’d like us all to go out and eat somewhere cool together at least one night there; I can’t really expect poor students to pay for that themselves.

I’ve also applied for an internal summer fellowship that will cover the cost of the London trip and give me a month’s additional salary. But that fellowship prioritizes junior faculty. Tenured faculty have gotten it in the past, and I think I wrote a good proposal that speaks well to people outside the humanities (I even called manuscript research our version of “field work”), but it’s certainly not guaranteed. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

And since NCS is in the next fiscal year, I can apply for more regular travel funds for that, but whatever I get will be a drop in the bucket of the total cost, even if the London portion of the trip — including the overseas flight — is covered by the summer fellowship. So even if I get all the funds I’m applying for, I’ll still have to carry some serious costs myself. And then next year, in 2011, I’m planning at least another month or so of research in UK libraries. Again, I’ll apply for all available funds — including some external ones this time, as I hope my project will be better defined by then — but who knows if I’ll get any.

Now, I’m not complaining here. Really, all I’m doing is a little financial planning in public. Because Bullock and I are DINKs (Dual Incomes, No Kids — an acronym that never really took off, alas) in a city with a low cost of living, and because we don’t live extravagantly (well, unless you count our taste in food and drink; or my penchant for the practical-but-cute, but also expensive, La Canadienne boots for winter; or the money we’ve spent on training, boarding, and grooming Pippi), I can afford to take a full sabbatical year and also make multiple trips out of the country. But I don’t know what I’d do if we had kids or lived in an expensive area, or both, as many of my academic friends do.

And I guess I’m posting this as a kind of public record of what professorial life is like for the vast majority of us (or, well, in my field, anyway) — those of us teaching at the less-than-elite colleges and universities. Many of my students are surprised to find out I’m not paid in the summer or that the research and conference trips I undertake aren’t fully subsidized. I know most of my readers know these things, but my blog gets Google hits all the time (often misdirected ones….but still). So, if you’re wondering, Do professors have their travel paid for? The answer is: usually only in part, and sometimes not at all. We get partial funding for one trip a year at my university. Do professors get paid in the summers? Usually, no, unless they’ve arranged the 9-month paychecks to be distributed over 12 months, or unless they’re teaching summer school or they’re a chair or a program director or other administrator. Do professors get paid while they’re on sabbatical? Yes, but often not their full salary. At my university, it’s 100% for a semester, 66% for a year. Your mileage may vary. And, in fact, I’m lucky that my university hasn’t cut sabbaticals entirely — as others in the state have done recently — although they’re being very stingy with them. Anyway, all of this means that we’re often footing the bill for our own research expenses, especially in the humanities and social sciences, whether that means the time we need (summers and sabbaticals), or the travel we undertake for conferences and research. And don’t forget, our job performance evaluations include research — it’s not just a hobby.

So, for the record, here’s what I’m estimating the major expenses of these three trips will cost all together, at current exchange rates and fares, and using government standards for mileage costs and per diem (though I spend a lot less on food and incidentals that the per diems allow):

Travel to & from Toronto (if there’s not room for me in the van or if scheduling doesn’t work out): $300 (using IRS mileage rat)
Lodging in Toronto: $ 250 (if I stay in the dorms, which I probably will)
Toronto per diem: $555

Subtotal: $1105

LRBS Tuition: $886
Round trip flight to London: $1200
Lodging in London: $1500 (I’ve arranged a cheap university dorm room already)
London per diem: $3060

Subtotal: $6486

Round trip flight from London to Florence: $220
Lodging in Siena: $370 (if I share, which I’ll likely do)
NCS registration, final dinner, and excursions: $435
Meals not provided: $300

Subtotal: $1325

Grand total: $8916

To put this in some perspective, that’s more than 10% of my gross income when I’m not on a reduced salary. Of course, as I said, Toronto is covered, and I’ll get something for Siena. If luck prevails, I’ll get that summer fellowship, too, and if not, I’ve got money saved. And there are my credit cards (hence my post title). I actually haven’t carried credit debt for more than few months at a time — usually after trips like these — since the third year of being a professor, when I finished paying off the $11,000 I still had from graduate school. (Though I still have about $28,000 student loan debt, much of which was taken out originally to pay off credit cards, swapping a higher variable interest for a very low, fixed one.) But I think after this summer it may take me awhile to recover.

Anyway, we’re doing a better job of letting students know the costs of pursuing academic jobs — the real costs and opportunity costs; the personal costs, as well — but I thought I’d throw out some more data on the costs that continue to accrue, depending on your field and your area(s) of research, even if you do get the coveted tenure-track job. I often get the “must be nice” comments from non-academics and students when they ask what I’m doing with my summer, and it *is* nice, I’ll agree, to spend a productive day in a manuscript library and then to walk “home” through Russell Square, or to spend five days in Tuscany with the world’s experts in Chaucer and other late medieval English literature. But it’s often partly or entirely at my own expense.

>In which I am teh lame

>I’m back from Kzoo and I had a really lovely time. But I also completely crashed by the end of it and couldn’t bring myself to make it to the dance. My headache was just too raging and my energy way too low. So I played Trivial Pursuit on my phone with The General in our hotel room.

That’s reason #1 why I am teh lame.

Reason #2: I completely forgot about the party for Bonnie Wheeler. Forgot to RSVP. Forgot to go. Forgot it even existed, until I read about it on blogs today. The invitation is still sitting on my desk here in Rust Belt, under a pile of other stuff I’ve neglected this semester. D’oh!

My excuse for my lameness is in the post two below this one. It’s hard to be on top of social things when you’re barely on top of all the rest.

But I have to say, I’m in a much better mood post-Kzoo than I was pre-Kzoo, thanks to all of you whose company I shared this weekend, however briefly!