Tuesday, October 26, 2010


That's the last day I got any work done on the book, and I'm starting to feel a panic attack approaching, as my leave ticks away into its last weeks. Will someone please tell me that it's okay to just chill when you're sick? Not that I'll internalize it....

Monday, October 25, 2010

Books and articles

In the poetry world, the ideal is to publish as many poems as one can from one's manuscript in progress before it even goes as a whole collection to a press: lots of poems published in good journals serves as a kind of imprimatur for publishers. There's no downside to publishing, theoretically, the whole damned book in pieces.

But I've heard that this is not the case with academic publishing. I've heard that part of the draw for publishers of monographs is that they're putting out into the world a significant chunk of new thinking, which hasn't been pre-empted by that material's prior appearance in academic journals. I guess it's the publishing version of "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?"

What's your sense, y'all? I ask because one of my unpublished chapters has been solicited, and I'm not sure whether I should decline or pursue potential publication with it.

The tally so far from the book:

Of 6 chapters, 1 is introductory and 1 is concluding. Nothing of those chapters has seen or will see the light of day outside this book.

Of the four left: I've published pretty closely correlating article versions of 2 of them. Is it pushing it to go for three?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Pass the Green Death, Denis Leary.

I'm sick. I feel like hell, more hell than usual sick hell. I didn't go running last night, and I went to bed before 10. Neither of those things ever, ever happens, even when I'm sick, but they'll be happening again tonight. I wrote nothing, I read nothing, I thought nothing. I did manage to muster up Pictionary with the Things, and made supergarlicky rescue-tomato soup (get 'em before they freeze!) with sunchoke chips for dinner. But if I hadn't had the Things to feed, I would have had cereal.

For the record, and despite my title here, I won't be taking Nyquil tonight, because it puts me in a coma. My kids couldn't rouse me if the house were on fire. Geez, I love that.

Tomorrow it will snow. After the morning school-drop, I will put on my footie-pajamas and read in bed until pickup time.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Six months in the making,

and getting aired out here for a limited time.

(Time's up.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Survey teaching bleg

Beginning in January, I will be teaching my institution's Early British survey, which begins, you know, somewhere around Caedmon or Beowulf or Genesis B or whatever, and goes up to (but not including) the Romantics. It is the first time I will have taught this class: usually, I teach more advanced undergrad courses and grad classes, but my chair has smartly realized that, with a move toward full professor out there on the horizon, it would behoove me to look like I'm a pitcher-inner as a teacher, engaging in the less sexy service-type courses as well as the ethereal ones.

I taught a survey at my PhD institution, but it was conceived peculiarly: Chaucer, Spenser, Milton. Period. Ambitious folks occasionally threw in a day of Donne, but it was not recommended.

And I was a biology undergrad, so never took such a class.

The point is, I'm now trying to put together a syllabus for this far-reaching, turbo-trawl through the auldies. It feels....at the very least unsatisfying and at the most criminal....to blast through 1000 years of literature, allocating at most two days for any number of major authors. But what's more, I'm having a hard time locating the pedagogical value in it: they don't have time absorb anything beyond the basics, the indefatigable progress of history seems to be the only organizing principle, the only engine to push us forward to a final that could conceivably just skirt regurgitation.


Has anyone out there organized a syllabus according to themes rather than just moving doggedly forward from page 1 to page 2072 of the Norton British Vol. 1? Have you had success finding an alternative structure for a class like this, a reading schedule that allows for one or more strands of thematic development? Have you found a way to let this class tell a STORY? Play out a THESIS?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Bookwork: The Musical!

Have been having a hard time working through the dense "here is my argument" section of my Donne chapter. It's very slow going, with lots of deleting of my prior day's progress. Lots of two steps forward, one step back. But I have had unexpected assists from a couple of sources.

1) My dissertation. Had forgotten that, in the course of publishing an article version of my original diss chapter, one of the main arguments of the diss chapter had been jettisoned. And it turns out that it's precisely the argument to which I've returned in the book version--having now sloughed off the primary argument of the article as tangential. Thanks, prior me!

2) The emergence of a new Nemesis, especially necessary because my longterm Nemesis has turned out to be so helpful and collegial. It's very generative to have someone to define one's argument against. I think that Doctor Doofenshmirtz may say it best:

Saturday, October 9, 2010

MLA and bookshopping

After (not so) long silence...Ah, well. Never one to shut up for long.

I have a question for my academic peeps out there. Almost halfway through the newly rebuilt Donne chapter now, and if I keep to my goals that means I'll have finished and done one top-to-bottom revision of the book by the time my leave ends after Christmas. I'm planning to craft a book proposal during December. And MLA is in early January this year, and I'm going. (The Sunday of MLA is my bday, by the way, and I hope to have left LA in my jetwash by then. Who wants to spend their bday in a stressbox?)

Anyhow, there we'll all be: all the academic publishers and I cozied up together in the cavernous MLA bookfair. How does one approach this situation? Do I try to set up meetings in advance with the publishers/editors I most hope to woo without inundating them with proposals? Send proposals in advance of MLA, with or without mentioning that I'll be at MLA? (Do I need to move the proposal-crafting up in the schedule?) Stalk and ambush publishers/editors without preamble, armed with 9x12 envelopes?

What are the protocols here? HELP!

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Here's the thing: my greatest challenge is that the book I'm writing, on leave, is sometimes hard to write. I compare my challenges with those of others near and far, known and blog-acquainted, and I realize I have not very much to say at all about my life. Things are good. I am happy. Today my burnt-down-rebuilt chapter is making me nauseated but that will go away.

I may be blogging less for a little while. Maybe when I work out whether I have anything real to say.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A shot in the arm. Or, two. Shots. In one arm. Or two arms.

Shot one: As you may recall, I sent my intro chapter to my Nemesis. I got his response back. He asked a couple of questions that went to the heart of what I think is the intro's main weakness. His questions helped me reconsider how I set a particular argument up, and have helped me to see a better way in. He also pointed me toward a critical text I'd forgotten about, one that's more than relevant to what I'm trying to say.

Shot two: Had lunch today with a colleague whose theoretical sophistication far outstrips mine. He'd also graciously taken a look at my intro chapter, and as a nonspecialist he identified some points where I, you know, forget that perhaps not everyone in the world thinks about my little hobbyhorses all the time. He also helped me to see how to frame this project theoretically, and asked a couple of questions that MUST be answered in order to be responsible.

I don't think I need to revise that intro chapter drastically--it looks like it'll come down to some toggling, tightening, clarifying, adding a couple of paragraphs.

Most useful to my depleted and second-guessing self: they both think it's good work, smart work, persuasive. I've got something that has legs here.

Tonight, I'm mostly feeling blessed to have been befriended by such generous and capacious minds. I associate, for a living, with really interesting people whose brains excite me. How cool is that?