December 14, 2005

Holiday Challenge

Are you going to try to work on your dissertation or publication over the winter break?

I'd like to offer a holiday/winter break challenge to anyone who would like to take me up on it.

Post what you'd like to work on (if anything) over the holidays, and the maximum amount of time you'd like to spend on it daily. Please keep this time limit reasonable and low unless you're under huge deadine pressure -- in which case you don't need this challenge in order to get something done! Then you can go back to this post daily, weekly or just at the end of the challenge (shall we say January 15?) to say how you did, to tell us about your problems or to encourage and commiserate with others.

So, to summarize:
  • Post what you're working on
  • Post your daily time commitment
  • Post again periodically to tell us how you're doing -- I'll receive all posts as emails and will comment and encourage you!

Good luck and happy holidays!

December 4, 2005

With a Little Help From My Enemies

This is the title of a Dec. 1, 2005 "First Person" article in the Chronicle, by A. Papatya Bucak. She writes about the double-edged sword of jealousy and admiration of role models that compels her to exceed. She laments the fact that the "Life on the Tenure Track" meetings in her department give practical advice instead of allowing the faculty to showcase their work or model their successes.

I wish we would all sit in a circle and read from our favorite works. Then wouldn't we all want to go home and write? Isn't that what made us writers in the first place? Jealousy?

Most of my colleagues are not creative writers -- they are literature scholars, historians, and sociologists, but surely they have their equivalent inspirations. Rather than warning against failure, our meetings could model success. I don't need any more practical advice: What I need is inspiration.

During the three years I was a graduate student, every one of my writing professors published a book. And they were fantastic teachers. .... Those faculty members, more than anyone or anything else, remain my models for what I can and should do.

It's hard to get people to brag about themselves, but I know my readers would love to hear success stories about what has worked well for you! Please share your successes, whether in grad school, during the job search, and as a junior professor. (I wonder if the author was really a graduate student for only three years -- if so, she's a great role model herself!)

What worked for you in writing your dissertation? What did you wish you had done to help yourself with dissertation writing? What kept you going during the job search? What led to your best interview? How do you get any writing done while teaching?

People need role models! Let's be role models for each other.

December 3, 2005

More Reactions to "We Need Humanities Labs"

My article in Inside Higher Ed, "We Need Humanities Labs," has generated a lot of comments, I'm happy to say! I've seen the argument that I made for more interactions among those in the humanities tied in to the need for those in the humanities to collaborate more to compete for funding, and also to the idea of setting aside physical library space for grad students and advisors to meet.

John, who writes Machina Memorialis, wrote a particularly thoughtful and well-written post. He writes about his experience in such a "lab."

It's about the connections, the associations, the joining of disparate pieces of information into something new. It was the exposure to ideas, to thoughts, to associations and connections I wasn't going to encounter on my own....

And that, I think, is what Gina Hiatt is suggesting in this piece, that by coming together weekly to focus on each others work, to bounce ideas off each other, to tap into and share each others storehouses of knowledge and experience, to create a continuing intellectual dialogue that we can draw upon when we enter into our quiet, solitary time of reading, thinking, and writing. But, most importantly, we then bring back to the group what we get out of that quiet, solitary time.

In a piece in Inside Higher Ed, Donald Hall talks about his plans to use his endowed chair position to be "a facilitator of others’ work, a discussion leader, and an engaged — and intellectually engaging — colleague." He lists as one of his goals "building intellectual cohesion," something he describes as "sorely lacking in intellectual communities."

A research support group that meets once a month to exchange work-in-progress, offer feedback (even copy-editing suggestions), and engage in inter-methodological and inter-specialization dialogue is an easy and inexpensive way to nurture community and also mentor to junior faculty. In fact, this would address some of the concerns that Gina Hiatt mentions in her recent essay “We Need Humanities Labs.” It would model the behavior among faculty that she hopes to see occur between faculty and students and among students themselves. All it takes to set up such a support group, as I have now at two universities, is a few hours of work on e-mail and a bit of organizational energy. Yet such a group is only one strand in what should be a larger web. It takes little extra time and effort to supplement that group with others devoted to reading a work of general use in research or pedagogy or to exchanging ideas for professional growth or teaching. Not all colleagues will take advantage of such opportunities; some may choose to participate in only one or even none. But for those who do participate, these efforts can help nurture a sense of intellectual community in an otherwise fragmented professional life.

And finally, not that I would ever Google myself, but I did happen to find this on Google: "Necesitamos Laboriatorios en Humanidades." Granted, it's only the title translated, but it made me feel very international.