Greetings from Chicago!
Summer is a strange time to be an academic. Many in the general public imagine professors taking off for the beach or to country cabins to lounge about until the fall semester begins. The reality, as I’m sure you all know, is considerably less romantic.
My spring semester finally ended in the middle of May. I had papers from two composition classes and one course in literary theory to grade and then needed to go through my grading spreadsheets to calculate student final grades. Once those final grades were calculated, I uploaded them and then faced the next challenge, answering student emails about their final grades. I don’t know how many of you face this each semester, but I have at least five or six students each term who can’t understand why they didn’t receive an A. These, of course, are usually the students with poor attendance records and even poorer writing. Of course, in the corporatized world we live and work in, the attitude seems to be “I paid for an A. Give it to me.” Two of these students were persistent enough that I opted to meet with them to review their final papers. They still weren’t happy with my decision, but I felt that I had acted in a professional manner dealing with their complaint. That’s the best I could hope for in both cases.
After finishing up grading for the spring semester, my next task was as NEMLA area director. I reviewed the session proposals for the 2017 conference in Baltimore. This is a time consuming activity, but is generally enjoyable. I’m always impressed at the wide range of research interests I see in these proposals. The only distasteful part is having to reject proposals. The careful vetting of proposals at this early stage, however, prevents having to deal with major problems later. I always have an eye out for whether a session will garner paper submissions and participants. I also try to imagine myself as a person submitting an abstract to a particular session. Is the conceptual framework of that session clear? Do I have an idea of the type of papers the session chair is looking for? These are key questions that any conference session proposal should answer.
Acceptance and rejection emails for NEMLA sessions have now gone out and the Call for Papers is now open. I have two sessions proposed. One a panel session on the representation of agriculture in US fiction. You can read the description and submit abstracts here. The other is a roundtable on the teaching of 19th and 20th century war literature since 9/11. You can read the description and submit abstracts here. There are also a wide range of great sessions proposed for this year’s conference. You can see all those descriptions here.
Once I finished reviewing session proposals for NEMLA, I got to work with Lisa Perdigao, the Cultural Studies area director to set up a Special Event speaker for Baltimore. I think NEMLA members will enjoy the talk for 2017, which builds upon themes from this year’s conference speaker Jelani Cobb.
Then it was Memorial Day and my summer (in the conventional sense) could finally start. Of course, now I have an essay to write that is due this fall and still need to attend bi-weekly placement essay readings for the First Year Writing Program as well as revamp my course syllabus for the fall. But this is a state close to relaxation. I also have enough money coming in each month, thanks to our current union contract, that I don’t need to find additional work this summer. I know that I am blessed in this respect as many of my colleagues are looking for summer teaching or other work to fill the gap between now and September. I just wish that I made enough money to take a real vacation. It would also be nice to have a summer that didn’t turn into a research sabbatical for the next book or essay.
My blog post for this month is late due to all the busyness described above. It’s also a bit somber as I re-read it. This is due in large part to the sad state of affairs in Illinois. We are still without a state budget and probably will continue to be until after the fall elections. Who knows how many of our state colleges and university’s will still be around once that budget is passed. It’s also turning out to be an incredibly violent summer here in Chicago. Austerity is starting to take its toll.
I hope your summer is off to a good start whatever you are doing. Today I’m going to give myself permission to relax and recharge. I think I’ll start with another cup of coffee and my knitting basket. Yes, I knit. We can talk more about that in another post.
Until next time…..