Buffy Rewatch starts Season 7

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Buffy Season 7 DVD cover art.

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The Nik at Nite Buffy Rewatch starts the final season this week with Nikki Stafford writing about an outstanding scene in the second episode and my general introduction to the whole season.

I’ll be back in a few weeks to talk about three more season seven episodes.

In other news, I’m revising an essay on Firefly for a Whedon anthology in the works (edited by others), and preparing my paper proposal for the 5th Slayage Conference. June 2012 is not that far away!

Music & fame!

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Cover of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Once...

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The Nikatnite Great Buffy Rewatch devotes week 39 to Buffy‘s season 6 musical episode, “Once More, with Feeling.”

Musician/music scholar Janet K. Halfyard gives the serious analysis, and Buffy fans/scholars from hither and yon perform and parody the songs. It is awesome. But watch the original episode first!

Did I mention that season 6 is my favorite?

In other news, I was a campus celebrity last week. More ‘nowning’!

English majors: a good investment

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Edzell Castle, Angus, Scotland. One of the sev...

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Synchronicity! Yesterday we held our second annual English majors orientation, a time to gather them all together, introduce them to each other, and remind them that in addition to reading Hamlet and Pride and Prejudice, they need some practical skills. Not that reading isn’t practical!

Today, the New York Daily News points out that “A liberal arts degree is a good investment.”  As we told our majors, it’s partly a matter of emphasizing the abilities inherent in the liberal arts, and partly a matter of bolstering those skills with practical experience. From the NYDN article:

Connie Thanasoulis, a career coach and co-founder of the New Yorkconsultancy Six Figure Start, agrees that liberal arts graduates bring all sorts of strengths that employers desire: communication, problem solving, attention to detail and teamwork.”Look at the interpretation skills an English lit major has from interpreting literature,” she says. …One example is a research analyst, who studies and writes a complete story about a particular stock. It’s a good job that pays well, says Thanasoulis. The head of research at an investment firm once told her, “Stop sending me only finance majors; I was a Russian lit major. I want someone who thinks outside the box, who can tell me a story and who has good writing skills.

The article goes on to acknowledge that liberal arts majors may indeed start at lower salaries, but that doesn’t mean they won’t move up, or that they won’t find satisfaction in their jobs.

The practical advice for job-seeking English majors (and other liberal arts majors in the NYDN article is much the same as the advice we gave our Campbell U English majors yesterday:

Take courses in business, technology and marketing to bank some diverse experience and valuable contacts. Consider having a double major. And be sure to get some good job or volunteer experience while in school or in the summers between classes. …Even if you volunteer for a nonprofit, at least you can show a future employer that you’ve had exposure to the workings of an organization.

So if you’re an English major, or you know an English major, the next time someone asks, “What are you going to do with that?” remember the answer is, “You’ll be surprised.”

Teaching with grace

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Any teacher loves to point to his or her students’ successes and achievements of varioius kinds, both in the classroom and after graduation. One of the pleasures of Facebook (alongside its manifest irksome qualities) has been reconnecting with past students and learning the ups and downs of their lives since we last saw one another, whether that was at a commencement or in a classroom.

Today I’ve added former student Renee’s Quiet Anthem to my blogroll. She’s now a writer & English teacher, with a family, so she’s got plenty to keep her busy! I  especially want to highlight her latest post about some particular frustrations and triumphs faced in the classroom. This is her experience, but I think many college teachers can empathize.

What can push a teacher to the breaking point? How to deal with academic dishonesty both justly and with grace? Perils of technology and social networking–all these figure in her recent experience. Admire.

“With great difficulty…”

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William Faulkner (and more recently, Stephen King) advised writers to “kill your darlings.” Joss Whedon’s approach to this advice is that even beloved, major characters in his shows are “not safe” (with the possible exception of Willow). So at the end of Season Five of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, he killed his show’s hero, Buffy. Oh. My. Goodness.

Buffy nobly sacrificed herself to save her sister, her friends, and the world. It’s hard to top that for Christ-figure symbolism.

Sacrifice (B5.22 "The Gift"

And then, in the real world, the show is resurrected on another network, and everyone knows Buffy has to come back to life too, but how? Whedon’s response, in May 2001:

How will we bring her back? With great difficulty, of course. And pain and confusion. Will it be cheezy? I don’t think so….The fact is, we’ve had most of next season planned before we shot this [final] ep….

(qtd. in Buffy Goes Dark 5).

Thus begins Season Six of Buffy on the Great Buffy ReWatch, where Nikki Stafford and I discuss the difficulties of reviving a Slayer, and the interactive effects of the show’s return and fans’ hopes and fears in October, 2001, barely a month after the events of Sept. 11 changed the world. (As Nikki points out, since the episodes were written & filmed months beforehand, it’s pure coincidence that episode 6.2 includes a falling tower!) Also, don’t lie to your friends. Keep (re)watching.

Buffy lives!

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Next Tuesday, the Great Buffy Rewatch embarks on Season Six. As you recall (or should), Buffy died at the end of Season Five. Nik at Nite posts the fall 2001 promo poster for Season Six, “Buffy Lives.”

As you may also recall, I co-edited a book about Buffy Season Six (and Seven), so I’ll have more to say on Tuesday.

Post-Labor Day job-hunting English Majors?

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In a few weeks, we’ll hold our annual English majors orientation, including some suggestions for ways our students can be preparing to parlay their degrees into real-world work experience while they’re in college, and, eventually, a post-college career. We’ll invite some alumni who’ve found their ways into some of those careers–or at least jobs that don’t involve fast food.

On the day after we celebrate all working people, a few more job-hunting tips for recent graduates in any field, from Thoughts on Teaching.

Back to the classroom

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Since returning from London–which seems years away, somehow, not just a little over a month–I’ve had lots to catch up on, including unexpected appliance repairs/replacements, course syllabi, and an essay on Joss Whedon’s Firefly that I hope will see publication sometime next year. Not to mention medical checkups for me and one of the cats, many last minute revisions to the course syllabi, faculty and student orientation activities, all mixed in with the inevitable operations of Murphy’s Law: Whatever can go wrong, will.

Senior Cat is not amused

Today was the first day of classes, and since some of the first-year comp students had been primed to ask me about Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I’m reminded to check in with the ongoing year-long Great Buffy Re-Watch, now well into Season Five. I’ll be posting some thoughts in a few weeks when we get to Season Six.

For now, there’s a lot of reading to do before Monday.

Last days in London

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Very belatedly, I wrap up the saga of the CUSA London tour. We really had only two major outings scheduled for the final week. First, Kensington Palace,

the "Enchanted" Kensington Palace

which was a bit different this summer from what might be the expected “royal palace” tour. It is undergoing some major renovations, so only the upper floors were open to the public, and they were all done up as a sort of postmodern exhibition entitled “The Enchanted Palace“:

taking inspiration from … the princesses who once lived there – Mary, Anne, Caroline, Charlotte, Victoria, Margaret and Diana.

The complex and mysterious world of the royal court is opened up through spectacular light installations, interactive theatre, intimate storytelling, soundscapes, haunting film projections and a series of intriguing clues hidden throughout the historic rooms, revealing tales of love and hate, surprise and sadness, secrets and jealousy.

If one took the time, it was still possible to see a good deal of the antique foundation, and to learn some significant history, but otherwise, it was more of an entertainment. We followed that adventure with cream tea (late lunch) at the Orangery.  The Orangery was in no way responsible for the unfortunate event which transpired, and which I shall not recount here. Overall, a lovely afternoon.

On Tuesday, a tour of the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral, where Prof. C and I had worshiped on Sunday. They discourage

Looking up at the dome of St Paul's Cathedral ...

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random photography in the cathedral, but you can find many official photographs online. None of them can possibly replicate the experience of being there. The more intrepid members of the group climbed to the highest viewpoint of the dome for an awe-inspiring view of the city. Those who had a basis for comparison said it was better than the view from the London Eye. Maybe next time I’ll try one or both views.

Wednesday & Thursday were devoted to wrapping up academic things and making sure we got in any missing touristy things or souvenir shopping. We can’t be all high-minded and serious all the time! Hope everyone likes their prezzies. Wish I could have taken you all with me.

A Day or so in Edinburgh

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June 30-July 2: The students taking English courses and I headed to Scotland on Thursday. As has frequently been the case, we got a slightly later start than hoped for in the morning, spent four and a half hours on the train, and arrived about 1:30pm. (One lesson I’ve learned is that if there’s a desired departure time, it will be best to announce it as half an hour earlier, because students will tend to turn up at the very last minute, stretching the departure time another 10-15 minutes at least. Sometimes this is OK, sometimes, no.) After getting ourselves more or less settled, we just had time to visit the National Gallery of Scotland, which fortunately holds late opening hours on Thursdays. In this photo, the National Gallery is one of the two classical buildings in the foreground. The spire in the background is the (Sir Walter) Scott Monument:

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We had a full day Friday, starting with the Writers Museum:

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The Museum itself, filling a historic home, is devoted to Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. The close has been dedicated as “Makars [poets/writers] Court” with stones set into the pavement memorializing other Scots writers, from medieval Henryson & Dunbar to Muriel Spark and Dorothy Dunnett:

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Having met with one of my former students, Fr. Micah Snell, who’s now working on a Ph.D. at St. Andrews, we visited St. Giles Cathedral and had lunch in their very good cafe. Afterwards, Fr. Micah talked with the CU students about his research on Shakespeare and Christianity.

The afternoon was devoted to Edinburgh Castle, where we were joined by Fr. Micah’s family. His wife Jennifer was also a student at Biola when I taught there, an English major, so it was great to see her again.

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After dinner at The Elephant House, famed for being the place (or at least one of the places) where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, most of us were ready to collapse, but two of the guys went out and climbed Arthur’s Seat!

Saturday, we split up to see a few sights we were particularly interested in, and to do some shopping, than it was back on the train to London. All agreed we’d like to spend more time and explore beyond Edinburgh next time!