Saturday, August 28, 2010

1 week down, 14 to go...

So it's the end of the 1st week of classes. I ought to be all excited and, you know, tingly about the start of a new semester, opening the wonders of literature to all those fresh young minds and all that. And then I reflect that it's the start of my FORTY-THIRD semester doing this. That's including all those grad school semesters when I was just a reader or TA for some pompous windbag of a faculty member (thank Ba'al, at least I'm not as old as any of the folks I had to TA for!), and those years when I was picking up one or two classes a semester at a Chinese menu variety of schools – but not including when I was working on the dissertation, or that far distant & in retrospect idyllic sabbatical semester.

So when you go up in front of the class for the hundredth or hundred-and-first time, it's hard to muster the same enthusiasm you had back in the day. On the other hand, I've gotten much, much better at faking enthusiasm. And, to tell the truth, I really do still love the job. I'm probably a far better teacher than I was 15 years ago, when I was new here at Our Fair University: I know much more of what I'm talking about, I know what works & what doesn't work with students, I'm infinitely more patient (sometimes).

But Lordy, the baggage that comes along with those few weekly hours in which you're actually doing what you've been hired to do! Yes, this will be the Year Of Committees for yr humble blogger, whose chair has finally cottoned onto the fact that, as Full Professor, Professor S. hasn't really been properly put thru his paces administration-wise. Oh boy I love committee work. (And here I tip my glasses down on my nose, the signal to my undergrads that I'm speaking ironically.)

This afternoon was the semester's first department meeting. And boy I love those too. (tip) A visit from the Dean, who relays his impressions of the new President of OFU – some of 'em creepy as shit – but wait, let's try and give them the most generous interpretation possible, okay? Are there going to be more budget cuts this year? Only God and the Shadow know, and there's no Lamont Cranston in sight to ask.

Here's the new faculty members, smiling and handsome and heartbreakingly young. (Definite chili peppers to be dispensed on Ratemyprofessors. But for yr humble blogger, sliding inexorably down the slope of portly middle age? Nope.) Here's the various shit we'll be tackling over the semester. Here's the mildly contentious issue saved for the end of the meeting, which ends up burning more time than anyone expected. End of meeting. The cool kids head for the pub. We head out to pick up the kids and make dinner.
But all told it's off on the right foot, or some foot, this semester. I'm a week ahead with class reading, have a decent handle on the scholarly work I should be doing. At the moment I'm powering thru volume 12 of the Ruskin Library Edition (Lectures on Art & Architecture & miscellaneous stuff from the late 40s–early 50s); Anselm Jappe's book on Guy Debord; Hello Cruel World, selected lyrics of the Mekons (I don't really read that one, but follow along with the recordings).

After spending much of the summer rereading all (!) of Milton's poetry, I'm dipping back into Geoffrey Hill's Scenes from Comus, & making yet another attempt at Simon Jarvis's The Unconditional (which is breathtaking in its verbal mastery, but just beyond my comprehension as yet); Middlemarch; bits of Badiou and Zizek.

There's been a soup├žon of coolness in the breeze lately; the pool water is perfect; the girls, fresh from a week and a half at a new school, are alarmingly sweet and distractingly, surprisingly pretty (where'd they get those genes? not from my side of the tree...). Food tastes good, and the SodaStream provides an endless supply of environmentally sound seltzer. Things could be worse.


Ed Baker said...

zounds! and gad-zooks!! busy busy and that 'busy-busy' is a
tough life to hoe the road in and grounded nose to stone, but, I
spose some-boddhi's gotta do it:

Absent-Minded Professor
(by Howard Nemerov, 1960)

This lonely figure of not much fun
Strayed out of folklore fifteen years ago
Forever. Now on an autumn afternoon,
While the leaves drift past the office window,
His bright replacement, present-minded, stays
At the desk correcting papers, nor ever grieves
For the silly scholar of the bad old days,
Who'd burn the papers and correct the leaves.

Norman Finkelstein said...

Have you considered writing an academic satire, Mark? Or maybe that was just a bit of grim realism...

Brian S said...

I'll give you a chili pepper if you give me one--anonymously, of course.