Some people are going to study abroad (I know of a couple of students whose passports arrived just in time to get them to Costa Rica). Some have summer jobs. Some are lucky enough to actually recreate during summer. And then there’s summer school. As an English professor, two things I’ve come to dislike are (1) people saying “Oh, an English teacher! I’ll have to watch my grammar!”—because really, how rude would I have to be to correct their grammar in a social setting? and (2) people saying “Oh, a teacher! You get all summer free!” Anyone who says this just hasn’t thought about it much—but why would they? Of course, it could be worse. I could be a medical doctor instead of a Ph.D. and have people immediately start telling me about their mysterious ailments.
So what do I do all summer? It depends. This summer I’ll spend a week scoring AP-Literature essays, which will be a new experience for me. I’ll be revising my Arthurian Legends course to teach it as a summer M.Ed. class—again, something new. Also, during summer I usually revise course syllabi and/or prepare any new courses. This summer, the English dept. faculty will be working on some other projects as well. I’ll probably research papers I plan to present at conferences. And I believe there may be a weekend at the beach somewhere between June 1 and August 16.
Earlier in May, a Clemson professor gave her take on the subject of college professors and summer “vacation” in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
I’m a longtime fan of reading poetry aloud. The earliest “literature” wasn’t written, it was spoken. Hearing a poem transforms it–for good or ill. A good poem becomes better. A poor poem reveals its poverty.
Last week, the poets laureate of the United Kingdom and the United States, Andrew Motion and Donald Hall, gave three dual poetry readings–probably a once-in-a-lifetime event.
Since none of us will be attending those readings, we can console ourselves any time with the modern/contemporary poetry mp3’s at PENNsound (including Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and some Chaucer read by David Wallace–fairly well). Or the Academy of American Poets also has a lot of poetry audio-clips online.
Fred Sanders of Scriptorium Daily blogs helpfully about the most rewarding way to read an allegory such as John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I teach Pilgrim’s Progress frequently, as well as excerpts from Spenser’s Faerie Queene, which is also highly allegorical, but more complex than Bunyan. And of course, one persistent approach to Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales is to consider the pilgrimage to Canterbury as an allegory for the Pilgrimage of Life, although this perspective has fallen out of favor among the the literary leading lights, recently. I still think it works pretty well, but now that I’ve said that, some of my fellow medievalists will probably look at me funny next time I see them. Assuming they even read this.
In any case, thanks, Mr. Sanders.
In other news, it seems some newspapers are cutting back on book reviews–opinions vary on why–and the LA Times discusses the conflict between literary blogs and print or print-related official reviews. I’ll turn to the book review section first almost every time I get hold of a newspaper or magazine, but I guess in this, as in many things, I’m in the minority. Literary blogsites vary wildly, of course. But then, so do book reviews/reviewers. For now, I’m saying it’s a toss-up, although I don’t want print media of any kind to disappear.
A joke in an old Peanuts strip had Lucy daring Linus to ask their mother why there was Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day, but no “Children’s Day.” “Every day is children’s day,” was the unsatisfactory reply. In the same way, shouldn’t every day be “scholarship day” at an institution of higher learning? A professor can dream!
But at least twice a year, sometimes more, CU faculty and staff have the privilege of interviewing prospective students for several major financial aid scholarships. Every student we talk with has achieved outstanding goals academically and otherwise, and many of them are quite charming, as well. Nevertheless, we can’t help empathizing with them as they go through a fairly harrowing series of five interviews with total strangers, asking them all kinds of questions about themselves, their beliefs, their academics, and their goals. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to choose a “winner.” Sometimes one stands out clearly. But we can hope that all of them will choose Campbell, whether they get the “big” scholarship or not, because all have already demonstrated that they are the kind of scholars we want to see.
My grades are in. So far, no one has complained about them, but there’s still time! I’m trying to catch up on other work this week–doing some writing, a couple of paper proposals, just generally catching my breath.
The English department will see nine or ten majors graduate this year, and by some strange coincidence, they’re all women. Just an odd statistical blip, I guess, because we have some guys coming up through the ranks. Spent some time yesterday afternoon with our dept. admin. assistant in the university bookstore, picking out congratulatory university t-shirts for the graduating seniors. Four of them came along to advise us on sizes, colors, and styles. Not all of us look good in orange and/or black, although we’re true to the school colors in theory.
Every semester I consider textbooks for the next semester’s courses. Sometimes the old standbys are satisfactory and available. Sometimes they’ve been issued in new editions–which can be good, or not so good, if my favorite selection(s) have been removed, or replaced by something I don’t care for. Sometimes I discover a better book is available. The Riverside Chaucer, for example, has been fairly standard in its 3rd edition since 1987, but composition texts change much more frequently. And every other year I look for the ideal medieval literature anthology. So far, no luck, though one or two collections come close.
There’s always too much to do and not enough time to do it in. Some student will lose track of the schedule and turn up late for the exam, or not at all. I know I’m not the only professor who’s still grading research papers that were turned in a week ago, or longer, but I’m not going to name any names. If we’re lucky, we get a “free” day in the midst of it all. I’m using mine to grade those papers. At home. Which isn’t as easy as it might seem when the cat wants to play. He repeatedly pushes his toy into some inaccessible place–under the couch, under the pantry door, behind my husband’s boots. Then he meows until I retrieve it and throw it for him to chase. Five or ten minutes later, the cycle repeats–except that the toy isn’t actually lost this time. The cat just wants attention. Eventually even he gets bored and takes a nap. And I take a break to write this!