Thursday, November 29, 2007

Blogging about technology

I'm not the only one who occasionally blogs about technology and its uses in pedagogy. In fact, there must be hundreds of these things. But an interesting one that I found today Princeton's IT's Academic. The blog is for and about faculty use of technology in research and the classroom. There are no specific authors listed, so it is probably an official organ of the university. But its relatively low traffic flow means that once a month or so you'll get a chance to read about a new idea.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Wise Words on Dressing the Part

From the Philosophy Job Market Blog comes wise words for men needing to buy clothes for job interviews.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

In which I reprint an email sent to ILA faculty in order to make a point

I was really surprised to learn that no one from English had signed up for the intensive grant writing workshop put on by the CHI and CSPS in the spring -- particularly since the new Graduate School rules for research funding will require that students asking for more than $2500 (cumulative) will need to submit proposals to a competitive review. And then an e-mail from one of the workshop organizers, Prof. Ivan Karp, to some ILA faculty found its way to me. I reprint part of it:
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Interesting news
Date: Tue, 20 Nov 2007 16:36:26 -0500
From: Ivan Karp <>
To: [names deleted]

The number of applications to our Intensive Grant Writing Workshop has
gone from 8 to 25 this year, an indication that the changes in the
funding guidelines from the Graduate School and the increasing emphasis
on producing a grants oriented culture at Emory is taking hold, at
least in some places. Some Departments are represented by 0
applications and History, on the other hand, has produced 50% of the
total, up from 2 last year to 12 this year. This is an indication that
what I think is going to happen, that funds will be programmed away
from departments which have no proposals being written in them, like
French and English, to departments where proposals are being written,
mainly Spanish and History, will indeed happen.

The email goes on to say that ILA is going to end up with us, on the losing end of the money game, unless they start getting their students to go to these things.

How many of you think you'd like to have a CHI fellowship -- or even better, a dissertation fellowship from Mellon or the AAUW? Get funding from a research library? How about a year to write a book? How about placing your book with a top publisher? How about getting enough money from Emory to pay for a month in an archive? All of these things -- even, under the new guidelines, getting substantial funding from Emory -- require being able to write a proposal aimed at an audience that goes beyond your dissertation committee, and even your discipline. (In fact, the dreaded dissertation paragraph of the job letter is a lot like a grant.) You learn these things by practicing them, and workshops like the ones the CSPS offer a chance to get that practice.

I can describe the importance of fellowship grants best by describing the career I know best: my own. There are two fellowships that were incredibly important to me. When I was researching my dissertation, I received a one-month fellowship to work at the American Antiquarian Society. At my institution, winning an award like this was the only way to receive funding for research travel (we did sometimes receive $50 or $100 to go to a conference), and I applied because I needed the money to support my stay there. But what I gained from the experience was far richer than I had imagined: Not only did I find things in the archive I hadn't dreamed of (archive librarians are more helpful to fellows), but also I had the chance to talk to other, more senior scholars working on related topics. Finally, I think having the fellowship helped me make the case that this research was considered of interest when I was applying for jobs.

The second fellowship that I received was a year-long fellowship at a research center similar to the CHI. I took this fellowship in my second year on the tenure-track, and used it to rewrite the dissertation into a book (as well as to make progress on an edited collection). By the time I returned to Emory, my manuscript was out with presses, and I was much, much less anxious about tenure than I might have been otherwise.

Are these the only things that helped my career? No. I'm pretty sure that an article I published from my dissertation helped me immensely on the market, and I also had a lot of luck (thank you, Katherine Stubbs!). But they surely helped. Would I have made tenure without the fellowships? Probably. I would have used summers and Emory's junior leave to finish the book, and that would have helped me make tenure, but it would have been very different for me.

I can go on about this. When I was starting my second book, for instance, I immediately sought out a library grant because I knew it would do the same two things for me: Give me valuable time in an archive, and give me a kind of endorsement on the project that I could use.

Enough autobiography. Here's the important thing. Many of you will be going to institutions that do not have the teaching load, leave policy, or travel funding that Emory faculty have access to. In fact, many of you will have less access to travel funds as a faculty member than you do now as a graduate student. To pursue your research agenda -- however modest or ambitious -- you will need to find funding for course releases, semesters off, and travel. You should be taking advantage of what Emory has to offer to learn as much as you can about the skills needed to do that. And before you say that you plan to teach at a teaching college and not at a research university, think about whether you wouldn't like to continue some kind of research agenda -- one that might include an occasional Fulbright research fellowship or a reduced teaching load to finish an article.

We are, at bottom, in the business of not just knowledge, but the management and communication of that knowledge. Learning to write effective proposals is a lot like mastering the skills of teaching. You all work very hard (much, much harder than many of your peers) to become some of the best teachers in the university -- so that you can share your knowledge effectively. What I am suggesting is that you need also to labor so that you can effectively share your knowledge about your research.

Expect more musing, quasi-autobiographical screeds in this space as I go into my DGS dotage.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

On angst and the job search

Friday, November 16, 2007


We've all been there: feeling like we're not good enough at what we do to be here or to be earning the degrees we will soon (hopefully, for some of us) have. The Chronicle last week ran a piece on impostor syndrome, and while I don't know that this is new information, seeing it again made me feel better.

A Bird's Eye View of the Department

Piggy-backing off of Brian's work with Google Maps, I thought it might be useful/interesting to work up a visual representation of the department's geography.

This map shows the geographic origins of the past five cohorts of grad students. (Because I took the info from back issues of Loose Canons, current first-year students are not included):
Green: 06-07
Red: 05-06
Blue: 04-05

This one shows where these same students earned their degrees.

And this one highlights where and when our esteemed faculty received their doctorates (or MFAs):
Blue: 2000s
Red: 1990s
Green: 1980s
Teal: 1970s
Yellow: 1960s

I wanted to make a map of the institutions at which faculty taught before coming to Emory, but that information apparently is locked away in the same briefcase that contains the country's nuclear lauch codes.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Our students (?)

One of the "great" things about being a Woodruff Library Fellow is that I get to be on an additional listserv that people use for questionable purposes. Someone sent this collaborative video project produced by a cultural anthropology class at Kansas State. It's not particularly new, but it summarizes the perspective of students who are coming into our universities and, thus, classrooms.

Undoubtedly, there are parallels between the students at Emory and KSU and between those in English classrooms and cultural anthropology ones. But there are some differences as well. One in particular is the class size in English (indeed, all the humanities) will tend to be smaller than those in the hard or social sciences. I'm also surprised that students in English classrooms tend to use their laptops less frequently than in other classrooms (this is anecdotal at best). There are other differences, to be sure. But as I'm on the job market this year, this serves as a nice way to start thinking about questions I can answer and ask at interviews and as I (hopefully) have the chance to meet with students on campus visits.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Why being an SEC coach is sometimes better than being DGS

I suppose showing up at MLA with tailored black suits for our job candidates wouldn't quite have the same effect.

But helmets might help.

Monday, November 12, 2007


Having just returned from a Bad Conference Experience, I am quite amused by this post, which creates a typography of irritating professor types. I spend this entire job market season aspired to be Professor Watches-Sports. I can say, however, that a particular type, well-represented at my Bad Conference, is missing from this list: Professor Wears-Clothes-With-Many-Holes-as-though-

100 great American novels you've (probably) never read

So I noticed this book listed among the new ones the library has purchased, and I managed to find the table of contents online. Turns out that Karl Bridges is wrong. I've read 2.08 of these novels: Charles Johnson's Oxherding Tale (thank you, quals), Frank Norris's McTeague (thank you, orals), and the first chapter or so of Neal Stephenson's Big U (thank you, obsession and enabler brother).

I obviously have a ways to go.

Monday, November 05, 2007


On Friday, I went to a digital libraries symposium sponsored by the library. One of the things that was interesting to me was how well the English dept. and the ILA were represented. On the English side, not only were graduate alums like Erika Farr and Rebecca Sutton Koeser there, but also Prof. Schuchard and I. Just think of this: If you look at Prof. Schuchard's research profile and mine, it's hard to think of two different positions within the field of English. Yet there we both were at the symposium thinking about the way that digitization is changing the shape of knowledge. The point: If Prof. Schuchard and I both think something is important, it probably is.

Anyhow, the keynote by Geoffrey Rockwell -- a digital text and humanities scholar -- was terrific. Rockwell was talking primarily about TAPOR, the Textual Analysis Portal for Research. It's "platform" that allows you to import texts and then apply various tools to them -- and will hopefully allow others to develop more tools. I've played with it a little; one of the interesting things at the site is a set of "recipes" that show some of the ways that this can be used. Anyhow, it's still in development, but it's worth a look. One of Rockwell's points was that these electronic tools don't necessarily change what we look at, or what we look for, but can change the ways we generate data.

Teaching poetry at West Point

Friday, November 02, 2007

On applying everywhere and junior faculty moving

Sisyphus over at Academic Cog has a very interesting post on the market pressures to apply everywhere. She also links in her post to one by Dr. Crazy about the ethics behind applying for "better" jobs when one is junior faculty. A perspective opposing that of Dr. Crazy can be found at Rate Your Students.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

On Blogging

Adam Kostko, of The Weblog, and Scott Eric Kaufman, of Acephalous, both have interesting pieces at Inside Higher Ed about blogging as graduate students and academic discourse. Lots of good points in both, though the most salient thing I leave with is bafflement at how these graduate students seem to have so much time for blogging.