One of the projects I got to work on this spring was an introduction to a new US edition of John Braine’s 1957 novel Room at the Top. The edition is coming from Valancourt Books, a specialty micropress focusing on new editions of rare 18th, 19th, and 20th century literature, especially Gothic, weird, supernatural, mystery, and queer literature. Braine’s novel is a classic of mid-century British fiction, part of a moment loosely called the Angry Young Men. It was also made into an equally significant film of the British New Wave.
image from the Valancourt Books website
The novel tells the story of Joe Lampton; at the start of the novel, set in the present, he is successful but complacent, looking back at his ambitious youthful self ten years earlier with a mixture of admiration and scorn. The narrative unfolds in a tracing of his rise to affluence and the women he loved, lost, and used to get there. Room at the Top is a compelling look at the moral implications of a society defined by increasing affluence and the stark gap between haves and have-nots. It asks whether material success and comfort is worth the loss of your soul.
While this is a little outside my usual areas of research, I do teach the Angry Young Men and British New Wave, and it was a real pleasure to delve into Braine’s career and think about this novel. I’m happy to see it back in print and available from Valancourt–with the original cover art from the first edition.
Thanks to a brief Twitter exchange a week or so ago, I’ve decided to make past course evaluations available here. The syllabi are included in order to give the comments some context and to fill out the picture one might get of my teaching. I’ve chosen to keep it fairly recent (Fall 2011-Fall 2012), since I imagine my style and method has changed somewhat over the years I’ve been offering these courses. (I’m not holding back bad ones!)
The point of this exercise is to give current and future students (and anyone else) a sense of my expectations and practices, a sense of what they might expect from me, and an idea of what they might get out of the course. And to get helpful feedback/constructive criticism from anyone interested enough to offer it. Plus I do think that if I’m going to advocate for teaching and learning in the humanities, I should demonstrate what I do in a more public way.
I’ll be filling out the collection as I go, and replacing old evaluations (and syllabi) with new ones when more recent iterations come up — and I’ll post the evals from the courses I’m teaching right now once the semester wraps up. As always, comments welcome.
In addition to finding me in the classroom, you’ll be able to find me in assessment meetings as we revise our first-year writing program and our departmental goals and objectives — and hopefully you’ll find me in my office making some long-awaited progress on Erotic Biography.
Online and off, I’ll be:
- Attending the Annual Meeting for the National Humanities Alliance/Humanities Advocacy Day in March once again;
- Working on an introduction for the Valancourt Books edition of John Braine’s Room at the Top;
- And, of course, blogging at Inside Higher Ed/University of Venus
Also: watch the Widener English blog this January for writing from my fall semester students on why we read — and need — fiction.
Looking forward to the return of THATCamp Philly on September 29th. I’ve proposed an idea for a session on using digital archives in research and teaching: check it out.
Classes at Widener begin on August 27, but before then I’ll be participating in a few chairly-type retreats focusing on governance, leadershipping, etc., so very much around. Here’s what I’ll be teaching this fall, and when you can find me for office hours.
In and around town — and beyond:
- Continuing my work at the Swarthmore Public Library leading a book group on biography called “Women’s Lives”
- Joining a few Twitter colleagues for a roundtable on modernism and social media at MSA 14 in Las Vegas, October 18-21; I’ll also be chairing a panel I put together entitled “Modernist Necrophilia”
- Recent posts up at University of Venus/Inside Higher Ed as well as The Comics Grid
Finally – very pleased to be joining the editorial team at College Literature as an Associate Editor. They’ve undergone a redesign and a shift in focus with new editor Graham MacPhee, and I’m excited to be part of it.
I was prompted by this post from Cathy Davidson on making online professional engagement visible and this piece in the Chronicle on #altmetrics to use TweetLibrary and Storify to archive my tweets. I began using Twitter for professional purposes in 2009, shortly after receiving tenure. It’s been an important part of my working life, but I never thought about how it illustrates my areas of engagement until now.
The archive reflects work I’ve done post-tenure in a number of areas: teaching/assessment, scholarly research and writing, blogging and chatting on professional issues, chairing a department, moving into advocacy for the humanities both in the classroom and the public square, and keeping up with developments in my discipline (such as digital humanities). I’ve attended conferences and contributed not only presentations via the traditional paper but also content to the backchannel via livetweeting. The archive illustrates the ways we can connect with colleagues to share ideas, ask questions, and keep our own learning and development going.
Screenshot of my Storify archive
But as part of that, I realized going through the material that the archive also offers a window into something we don’t often get to see: process. If you go through the archive, you’ll see the early stages of projects, brainstorming for blog posts, a public testing of ideas and an appreciation of feedback. You’ll also see the impact, however small, that some of this work has. That’s something else that’s not always visible in scholarly work. Using this tool, I can get a sense of who is reading my work, the extent to which it gets passed around and commented upon, and whether or not what I’m doing is making a difference and contributing to a dialogue. It’s not the only way to measure the reach of faculty work, but it might be a valuable way.
Posted in blogging, higher ed, humanities, research, teaching
Tagged altmetrics, assessment, biography, blogging, HASTAC, humanities, James Joyce, leadership, modernism, Modernist Studies Association, narrative, peer review, profession, ProfHacker, publishing, scholarship, teaching, technology, THATCamp, University of Venus
This week has been bookended by two issues that have been shaping my work. Monday and Tuesday I was in Washington, DC for the annual meeting of the National Humanities Alliance and Humanities Advocacy Day. The Pennsylvania delegation had the opportunity to meet with staffers for Representatives Chaka Fattah, Glenn Thompson, and Mike Doyle, as well as for Senators Pat Toomey and Bob Casey. Our main focus was advocating for a restoration of NEH funding to FY 2010 levels–a request made by President Obama in his blueprint–giving the agency $154 million.
The “crisis in the humanities” narrative dominates the discourse for some of us, but I’m just as interested in setting the terms of the discussion in a constructive way–and getting to set them ourselves. The humanities enrich civic life, they foster a lifelong love of ideas, and they facilitate innovation. If I’m going to ask my students to take my classes in the humanities seriously (and spend an awful lot of money to be in them) for these reasons, then I’m going to go down to Washington to make the same case for the support we need to keep the humanities an integral part of the fabric of our lives.
I think making this case to my colleagues is important, too, and that’s something I’m pretty committed to as chair of my department. So I’m glad to be finishing up this week by talking about what we look for in higher education leadership as part of a Guardian live chat. Leadership, for me, is sharing this vision of how higher education can make our lives better, enrich the ways we live in our community, and think in innovative and creative ways. And I also think that as a faculty member, I have an obligation to advocate for this vision on my campus and beyond.
Plus: it’s kind of cool to finish the week in the Brit Lit II survey with some student presentations on the Modernist Journals Project, and teaching Waiting for Godot in 20th Century British Drama.