Infelix Me

I've spent the past two weeks sick with the 97th Annual Departmental Flu, which I blame entirely on a certain colleague who just got back from England. While this isn't that bad—and I'm mostly over it—it did cause me to royally flub my Lysistrata lecture on Thursday. Curiously, it was only that lecture, out of the eight I've had to do in the past fortnight, but perhaps it was because I made the mistake of relying on memory to get things done rather than really going back and reviewing the text and my notes.

Actually, the past few weeks have been frustrating on another level, because while I have notes from the last time I taught World Literature, I don't have them all: I was in the middle of typing them up when the hard drive on the lappy gave out, and I was not yet the sort of person who backed things up all the damn time. Paranoia, born of multiple (hopefully not annual) crashes, was not yet a permanent resident of my skull. As a result, I've had to reconstruct the lectures for Gilgamesh and Lysistrata, and I've also discovered that the lectures for everything else are just awful. I guess trying to write the kinds of lectures I did for ENGL 2303 in the summer wasn't yet part of my game. So . . . research ahoy! Which is like Chips Ahoy only with less chocolate and more library. Mmm . . . . Library.

Otherwise, it's been kind of quiet. My birthday passed with little incident, because I was sick, and because I am indecisive and so are all my friends, so anything to do with it was very last-minute. The discussion of American Gods in MKB's Culture of Longing seminar (soon to be on a bookshelf near you!) [1] did not go very smoothly, nor will this week's of Weber's The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, which if I hurry I might just finish in time for class. I'm also sitting in on WAQ's impromptu (and very crowded) Old English kaffeklatsch currently held in his office; we're doing what we've done before, which is the "go away and read this, come back and we'll all stumble over the language and the translations, and then you'll all go away again." It's good practice, though, because someday, should I get tenure, someone is going to ask me if I can teach an Old English course, and I'd rather not have to say no, to which they'll reply so why did we hire a medievalist and I'll say because you needed someone to teach Chaucer, not Beowulf and then there would be fisticuffs. So, let's learn OE!

I still haven't heard from ETS about scoring the AP exam this year, but as I and several of my co-scoring friends (Hi Amalie!) have determined, they seem to be running a bit behind this year.

Meanwhile, the Graduate Students in English held a workshop on publication, which was largely successful even if Certain Persons turned it once more into the this profession is dark and will chew you up and spit you out in tiny pieces conversation. It was pretty good, and had some useful advice, such as:
  • Write publishable articles and do the marketing, which seems mean "read lots of criticism so you can get an idea of what good criticism looks like and what journal(s) are more likely to accept the stuff you do."
  • Q: When should grad students begin to publish? A: When you can use criticism without using it slavishly.
  • "On the job market" is too late to start publishing; however, having been accepted is what matters (i.e. you can list something as "in publication" on your CV).
  • Don't always be daunted by responses/rejections.
  • KEEP sending them to good journals.
  • Start from the best journal and go down; that way, even if it's rejected by them, it hasn't been locked up by some journal with low prestige.
  • It's okay to publish outside your field at first; some people will look askance at out-of-field publications, but they shouldn't. DO try to have something in your field, and you shouldn't go on the market with publications not in your field unless you're prepared to defend yourself.
  • Always write for publication. Assume that other people are already part of the conversation; don't summarize too much. You don't have to tell them everything you know.
  • Try to form a writing group of two or three peers to co-read each other's work; often this group will last beyond your college years.
  • Read what the journal says its goals are. Don't send things to journals that they won't publish. (Apparently Shakespeare Quarterly gets a lot of non-Bard articles). ONLY library time will tell you for sure.
  • Look for what the journal wants: its house style, the content of its articles, the LENGTH (usually ~30,000 words) and format requirements. Make sure your stuff is up to their standards BEFORE you send it off.
  • Spend one day or so every few weeks just sitting in the library reading journals.
  • Make the cover letter short and to the point (My name is this; this is my article; please consider it for publication). Don't pour your heart out. DO put it on departmental letterhead.
Sound advice, all.

Right. I've got a lecture on the Ramayana to finish, and another lecture on how to write like an academic (as if I know) to build from scratch/borrow heavily from Gerald Graff.

[1] If you think I'm kidding about this, then you should know that the syllabus for this seminar contained a very telling typo: This volume will detail the development of the various kinds of national myths . . . .

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