Tuesday, May 27, 2008

editor needed, indeed

Occasionally someone who wants cheap editing or tutoring labor will contact the English Department and ask them to pass along a job posting to the grad students. We got such an email today. I have no interest in this particular job; the most striking thing about it, to me, was that it was written by someone who is so obviously in need of the services they are requesting. It was like a subtle plea for help encoded within the text of the job description, which I have copied and pasted directly from the email:

Are you interested in editing and helping with a series of books? The first book is done, but needs to be edited and possibly have a second set of eyes on the book to try to improve it.

You would be paid for it and given some credit. It is a interesting 7 volume set called "[book title]" about adventures of country boys in Northern California.

If you are interested contact:

[redacted] W. [redacted] Esq.

[redacted] & Associates

Attorney's at Law

Yes, "attorney's." I don't think Mr. Redacted could have crafted a more striking advertisement if he had hired a PR firm. Nothing attracts the attention of English majors like a misplaced apostrophe.

... I'll let you find the other glaring error on your own. :)

Sunday, May 25, 2008

was that it, then?

The deadline to apply for August graduation was last Friday. Yeah, that didn't happen. I sort of went back and forth talking to Blackwood and Descartes for a couple of weeks, and in the meantime I didn't get anything written.

The problem is that when I talked to Descartes, he insisted that my argument was completely passé, and would be even more so in another five years when I want to apply for a PhD and use my thesis as a writing sample. In addition to being very smart, Descartes is, in his field, kind of like that kid in your high school who was always wearing the hot new trendy thing a couple of months before everyone else. This means that if anyone in my department is likely to know what's hot in Romanticism, it's René. On the other hand, he also tends to think stuff is no longer current long before everyone else is finished talking about it. The phrase "so five minutes ago" is, in his lexicon, not hyperbolic.

Blackwood and Descartes are good friends outside of work, and both are very professional, but they are very different kinds of scholars. And Blackwood is, after all, my chair. So I went back and talked to Blackwood again. "Descartes says my argument is completely irrelevant, because no one is having that conversation any more." Blackwood responded bluntly, "He's wrong." Maybe I should just have the two of them meet with each other, and get back to me when they get it figured out.

Anyway, Blackwood reassured me that I did not need to rethink my whole argument; rather, I need to keep drafting, and make changes if necessary as I go along. If Blackwood suspects that I've been using this situation as an excuse to avoid drafting another chapter, he's right. If he further suspects that I'm avoiding drafting because the task seems to large, and I'm afraid of failure ... no, he'd have to be psychic to have figured that out.

One thing that came out of my conversation with Descartes, however, was a realization that I really do need to be more aware of what current scholars are saying about my topic. I've looked for recent journal articles about Edgeworth and Sensibility - there aren't any. I've looked for books about Edgeworth and Sensibility - nope. What I haven't done, however, is look through current Romanticism journals to see what kinds of things scholars are saying in general about Edgeworth, and Sensibility, and the novels I'm writing about. Rookie mistake. Blackwood gave me a list of journals to look at, and strongly suggested that I might want to give him another chapter in the next week.

At this point we both know I'm not graduating in August, but we also both know that there's no reason to drag this out into next Fall semester. Having missed the August deadline, I won't be able to graduate until December, but neither of us wants to be repeating this conversation in October, so he's approaching it from the perspective of "there's really not a deadline in August, but let's pretend there is." OK. Let's pretend.

Monday, May 05, 2008

good news/bad news

After several revisions, my outline - yes, just the outline - is good enough to circulate. I suppose I should count this as a victory of sorts. Blackwood says, "This is really good ... ready to circulate immediately." So I sent it off to Descartes and Victoria.

Descartes responds that he has "no doubt" that my thesis "will be plenty smart." (Notice the future tense there.) That's the good news. The bad news is that on the other hand, he thinks pretty much everything I've said in my outline is slightly wrong. He questions the idea that scholars are still reluctant to accept novels as Romantic - "Is anyone really making that argument in earnest these days?" He thinks that my topic "is actually really well-timed," but he's concerned that I may have "misread the nature of the moment in which it's appearing."

Daunted would be an apt description of how I feel. Also really dumb, because I accidentally put "Scottish Renaissance" in my outline instead of "Scottish Enlightenment." When he pointed that out in his email, I couldn't help but notice that he used the exact same phrasing that I used when I commented on a student's Final that he probably meant the "Early Modern" period, rather than the "Modern" period, when he was writing about Queen Elizabeth I.

I passed Descartes' comments on to Blackwood, and he was fairly nonchalant about the whole thing. I don't really understand why. If Descartes' assessment of Romantic studies is correct, then I have a lot of information, but no argument. I see that as a problem.

Can't wait to see what Victoria has to say.

Friday, May 02, 2008

things I did not know

Allow me to recreate for you a portion of the conversation that occurred last night during dinner at our house:

Me: It's just so frustrating. Why is it that I can never remember the year of the Act of Union, but I still remember the birthdate of the kid I had a crush on in the third grade?

Link: You had a crush on someone in the third grade?

Me: Well, yeah, when I was in the third grade.

Link: I had a crush on Megan, but her mom said we had to break up.

Me: ...

Yeah, that's the first I'd heard of it.