Interim Blog Posting

I was once an “interim” Chair (also referred to as “acting” and then changed to just plain ole Chair once the gig was up and no one else wanted that particular piece of furniture as a title), so I’m well aware of how, well, unsatisfying the term “interim” is, and this “interim” posting is just that: an unsatisfying blip before the “real” posting (that one on how NOT to apply for a faculty position at a community college–it’s in the works, I just need to let it simmer–it’s quite snarky right now).

So, without further ado, here is the Interim Blog Posting, or Random Thoughts After Finally Submitting Winter Grades.

1. Best research paper topics this term:

  • How Technology Makes Us Lazy
  • What IS Lesbian Art?
  • Miracles DO, Miraculously, Exist
  • About Those Aging Supreme Court Justices

2.  With a huge wait list for my spring literature class already in the works, and three e-mails from students claiming that their spring breaks will be just a wee bit longer than the one the college so stupidly scheduled for only one week, Gina Barreca’s poem “This Class is Thoroughly Under Way”  is going to be posted on my website (along with the wonderfully witty Tom Waymen’s “Did I Miss Anything?” poem).

3. I asked my American Literature students to bring to class their favorite novels of all time (not telling them that one of the final exam question topics was to examine that work in the context of the works we had read this term).  What an incredible list of books ranging from The Brothers K to The Brothers Karamazov. Here’s an edited list: the students, while eating cookies, cuties, and chips, shared the book with the class and told us why it was their favorite (note that this was a class that was 75% men, with at least 8 Iraqi war vets, and students from 18-50 years of age–all of the male students chose male authors, and ditto for the women students–99% chose female authors, interestingly):

  • The Notebook
  • Siddhartha
  • Ladder of Years
  • The Hobbit
  • Red Storm Rising (2 votes)
  • Don Quixote
  • The Island of the Blue Dolphins
  • The Deathly Hallows
  • Pride and Prejudice (2 votes)
  • Count of Monte Cristo (2 votes)
  • Portrait in Sepia
  • The Giver
  • Cather in the Rye
  • The Devil Wears Prada
  • The Jungle Book
  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
  • A Confederacy of Dunces
  • The Magus
  • The Brothers K
  • Brothers Karamazov
  • On the Road

4. That same literature class: some students chose the final essay topic asking them to explain the value of studying literature in college, using the texts from our class as examples for their explanation.  And as a gift, I received over a dozen thoughtful responses, including many that discussed the idea of “empathy” as a value:  this surprised me since it hadn’t come up that much in class discussion, though I did share Azar Nafizi’s essay early in the term: it must have had a strong impact!

On a related note, Bill Benzon posted Alec Baldwin’s defense of acting to show us literary/humanities types what we could/should be doing in our own ongoing defense of the value of literary/humanities studies.

5. AFT’s National Survey of Part Time Faculty is out: now I need to read it. 

And finally,

6. It’s that time of year again: anyone have a recommendation for a contemporary novel that would appeal to a wide variety of community members, that is written by a writer who is not TOO famous yet, and preferably male?

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10 responses to “Interim Blog Posting

  1. Thank you ever so much for sharing this post.
    As for recommendations of a less-known work, how about one of the more recent Milorad Pavic novels, which play with form while referring to deeper themes of history or religion? I would least expect to see them on a syllabus. (Though I was introduced to Serbian lit – not in my lit classes, but while at uni – when an architecture professor recommended Andric’s Bridge on the Drina.)
    As writer and painter Momo Kapor passed away last week, it is perhaps not too far a stretch to mention his book of short stories/essays A Guide to the Serbian Mentality, which is full of witticisms on contemporary urban life and is a crowd pleaser.

  2. The list of books in my posting are my students “favorite” books, not books we discussed in my American Lit survey class: or are you suggesting those books for my community read program? I’ll look into them, thanks!

  3. Pavic’s Dictionary of the Khazars is an amazing work, but really difficult, too.

    I recently read (listened on tape) to *The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time*, by Mark Haddon, and it was very good. It’s written from the PoV of a teenager with ADD, and it does a good job of giving a sense of that voice (at least to my minimally educated understanding).

  4. Thanks for the head’s up on Pavic’s Dictionary: that may be a book for me, not so much our “community read”—-

    But Haddon’s book is a good idea! He may be a tad too expensive for us at this point to bring to town, but maybe not. I’ll add it to the list (I enjoyed it–and yes, the voice is incredible in that book).

  5. Thanks for pointing out that Waymen poem! Now if I can only recall it when asked that question so I don’t have to revert to my usual response, which is a blank stare.

    I always find it interesting to see what books students love. I was in a class that did this once and it was a great way to get to know the other students.

    And I can’t think of a recommendation, but I’ll second Haddon. I enjoyed it and so did my barely reads engineering husband.

  6. Two votes for Hadden is a good thing: It’s on my list. The committee (naturally) meets in late April to share lists, so I still have time to collect more titles;-)

    My students love that Waymen poem: at least those who don’t sheepishly remember having asked that question many, many times….

  7. Oh, Ink, I’m honored: so was it the cookies, the cuties or the chips that tempt you the most? (I noticed that this last term, every student grabbed 1-2 cuties, but I had leftover chips!)

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