April is a month in which scholars teaching at colleges and universities are really just putting one foot in front of the other, head down, struggling to pass through the gale-force winds more or less mentally and emotionally intact. It doesn’t matter how much you love your work, your students, your life–at some point, the workload becomes too much to handle regardless of your attitude towards it. Scholars respond to the stress in a variety of ways. Many succomb to allergies, many develop lingering colds or a bout of flu that their immune systems are too depleted to ward off, many develop strange eye-twitching, muscle tics, insomnia, or other sudden physical responses to the workload, some enter into a period of anxiety, depression, or both; and nearly all of us, at some point in the month, admit defeat and just do the bare minimum one week, because our bodies categorically refuse to keep moving full-throttle through the punishing workload of the final third of the academic year.
This is my bare minimum week.
Preparation for a fresh round of teaching the graphic novel in my narrative class–re-visiting Scott McLoud, Matthew Smith and Randy Duncan, and Neil Cohn.
Finished reading Paul Kingnorth’s The Wake and researched a few points for an upcoming book review.
Scanned several articles on medieval emotions to PDF, collecting research for an upcoming article.
Total research time: 11 hours
Draft of the book review of Kingsnorth’s novel, 1400 words.
Total time spent writing this week: 1.5 hours
College Writing I: The students presented their multimedia essays in class. They turned in the final drafts of their third essays, which I will grade next week.
Introduction to Narrative: We began discussing Hellboy, and the students conducted student-led discussions, completed a working group assignment in class, and peer-reviewed their second critical examinations.
Total Hours Spent Teaching, prepping, office hours this week: 12
I sat GSA office hours on Monday and had a meeting with one of our Graduate School student service officers on Wednesday to discuss revisiting the Thesis and Dissertation manual and the formatting and submission process to help things run more smoothly both for the students and for the officer charged with reviewing submitted documents for formatting.
Total Service Hours This Week: 2.5
Other Scholarly Activity
I attended Meeting in the Middle, the Undergraduate Research Conference in Medieval Studies at Longwood University, on Friday and Saturday as a session chair and respondant, as well as providing informal mentoring for students between sessions and at the Friday night reception and banquet. I’ve been attending this conference since 2008, and I continue to be impressed and encouraged by the strength and range of wonderful student research papers we hear every year. This year, there were papers on Tolkien’s Old English influences, elephants in military campaigns, cross-dressing in medieval texts, the Hungarian royal robes, wearable (girdle) books, and John Derricke’s Irish plates, among others, with plenaries by Lilla Kopar (Catholic University) and Jesse Byock (UCLA) as well as a presentation on a digital initiative concerning Spenser’s Irish castle by Thomas Herron (Eastern Carolina University). I highly encourage anyone working with strong undergraduate students on medieval projects to consider suggesting they submit an abstract to this conference, which emphasizes the development of collegiality and professionalism and offers a monetary prize for the best conference paper, adjudicated by the plenaries; the organizers, Larissa “Kat” Tracy and Steven Isaac, do an amazing job creating a consistently wonderful event. More information on MITM can be found here: http://www.longwood.edu/medieval/
Total Time Spent on Scholarly Endeavors This Week: 26.5 (plus two, 15-hour days at the conference)
Nurturing My Self
I realized this week that I only have a month before I’m off off student insurance, so I adulted and arranged for all the medical appointments I still need for the year to happen between now and graduation. One not-particularly brilliant choice was to make an optometrist’s appointment first-thing this Thursday morning, with the idea that if I got it out of the way, I would then have the rest of the day to grade student essays. Of course, when I left the office with my Gollum-sized dilated pupils and super-stylish paper sunglasses I realized that the grading was most definitely not happening; nor was anything of substance, really, so I went home and took a six-hour nap instead. In retrospect, perhaps this was actually the single most brilliant choice I made this week, as I’m sure it is what staved off the full-blown version of the low-grade cold symptoms I experienced throughout the first half of the week. I am sure that without that rest I couldn’t have gotten through the conference, which required 3 hours’ driving each way as well as two days packed with scholarship and collegiality. The week culminated in a family trip on Sunday to the River Run film festival held at the North Carolina School of the Arts campus for a free screening of The Dark Crystal, which is still the most magical fantasy film I have ever seen and never gets old.