"snow" | saturday | december 1, 2007 | 1:31 pm
T'S SNOWING, BELIEVE IT OR NOT.
Snow of any kind is really rare in Seattle. Last year, when it snowed and it stuck, the
city was nearly paralyzed. It's snowing today, right now, really hard. But I don't think
it will stay around long. The ground is too warm. It certainly is pretty. I really
miss the quiet of falling snow (though I don't miss trying to travel in it). Here are
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"letter" | sunday | december 2, 2007 | 11:01 am
FINALLY SAT DOWN AND WROTE AN 'UPDATE' EMAIL TO SOME OF
MY PROFESSORS BACK AT MARYLAND.
I had intended on letting them know how I was doing on the Left Coast, but time sort of slipped
by and over two years have passed. But since taking my Ph.D. exams is a milestone, I figured that
a little thank you and heads up was due (plus it won't be too much longer till I have to start
looking for a job). Here's the letter I sent:
Tempus fugit, as they say. Or in my case, time flies at warp factors. It has been a
little over two years since I left one Washington for another Washington, the Right
Coast for the Left Coast, and one department of English for another. And I must
apologize for the lack of communication. Let's just say the last two years have
been chock full, challenging, fun, rambunctious, ribald, and yet all to familiar.
I felt that a little Ed update was due, plus I wanted to extend season's greetings
and additional appreciation to you -- those whom shaped and forged and tempered my
intellectual, emotional, and avocational life over years, sometimes many, that now
seem so long ago.
Here's a really quick recap: I graduated from UMD in the spring of 2005. Then I
moved to Seattle at the end of that summer. I found the city to be charming, neighborhoody, artistic, and quirky, much like a younger sibling to San Francisco. Seattle, for all of its artsy, indie spirit, like many cities, is feeling growing pains and conflicts over its own identity, politics, population, and representation. It still has a small city feel (whatever that means) and does its best to not call too much attention to the fact that it is the seat of Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks. I found the University of Washington to be akin to Maryland. It is a big campus, it is a research campus, its student population shares a lot of demographic correspondences, and the English department is also in an ugly building tucked out of the way.
My first year went by very quickly and without much remark. I took seminars with
topics ranging from Composition Pedagogy (required to for all 'new' teachers) to
Posthuman Narratives to Queer Geography to Postcolonial Theory to Late British
Modernism. I also taught ENGL 131 my first year, which is the 'standard'
composition class all undergraduates are required to take. UW's program is
designed around a set of rhetorical, academic, and writing outcomes and teachers
are allowed a goodly amount of freedom to tailor their classes. ENGL 131 basically uses scholarly writing, usually out of literary or cultural studies. We are allowed to develop our own assignment sequences, which was a new challenge for me. I taught 131 through the lenses of diversity and multiculturalism looking at cultural productions of race, gender, and sexuality such as advertising, television, and film. Much of the year was spent getting used to a new place, apartment woes, hating the quarter system, and learning how to assign grades on the point system ( 0.0-4.0) rather than letter grades.
My second year proved to be one of landmarks. I decided starting my second year
that I was done writing seminar papers and would find any manner of alternative
to doing so; given the fact that I came into UW with a cornucopia of credits, this
didn't seem to be a problem. Though the papers I did write ended up getting some
important milage (and hopefully will translate eventually into publishable material).
I completed my coursework in the winter quarter. I completed my language requirement; now I can read warning labels in Spanish with reasonable accuracy. And I officially became a Ph.D. student by some waving of magic wands, I'm sure, by the departmental graduate committee. My second year of teaching was teaching ENGL 111: Composition With Literature (yes, still stuck with paying and paying my dues), which offered completely different problems and opportunities. I still had to teach the composition stuff but now I could use literature. So, wanting to play in a number of different ponds, I taught three different 111s: fall was "Literatures of Cyberspace," winter was "Everyday Media," and spring was "Critical Approaches to Harry Potter" (which got written up in the student newspaper). In my second year, I won the departmental Webber Prize for Outstanding Teaching by a 2nd-or-greater Year student; I got a line on my CV and a little stipend.
(Sandwiched during the summers, both last summer and this past summer, I taught an early fall start class for incoming freshmen called GIS 140: Writing Ready, which is a preparatory course that gets students 'ready' for the demands of college writing. It is intense and the students are bright-eyed and eager. I have been very fortunate to have this kind of funding and opportunity over the summer. This past summer I also tutored for the same course run for incoming student athletes, as well as was instrumental in revising and redesigning the course. I'm hoping next summer I'll get to teach both the athletes' program and the early fall start program.)
With my coursework done, my focus turned to figuring out 'what the heck I was doing',
putting together a committee, and getting reading lists in order for my PhD exams.
I spent the better part of the second half of Year Two in a constant state of hem
and haw. The exam process is a paradigm shift (much like the one from undergraduate to graduate) that no one ever really seems prepared for, and intellectual, psychic, and existential work required for 'deciding' on areas of study, for 'deciding' on period or genre or theory or method, and for 'deciding' on who would be the shepherds of your entire academic future is -- exciting and excruciating. I chose to work with Thomas Foster as my chair, who is a new faculty member at UW (I was kind of slated to work with him when I was accepted) and is currently doing a lot of work in technoculture. I have Kate Cummings as my second and Eva Cherniavsky as my third. My three areas of focus for my exams are: American Postmodernity and Postmodern Fiction, Technoculture Studies, and Queer Studies. I will have to say that adding to a list is way easier than cutting from a list.
Since the end of my second year to the present, I have been fine tuning my exam
lists and just reading. Reading, reading, and more reading. I am now about a
month and a half away from taking my exams (and the paranoia and stress and fraud
complexes are in full swing). My committee has been supportive, and I feel ready.
My brain is just so crammed and chaotic that I am worried that something is going
to fall out before I can get it down on paper. I have just been prepping for exams
and teaching. My third year of teaching has finally let me out of the territory of
composition. This quarter I am teaching ENGL 200: Reading Literature for the first
time. What is ENGL 200? It's about as vague and undefined as the course catalog title reveals. It is basically a general education and survey class. My current instantiation is called "Literatures of the Fantastic" and we have read prose and poetry from Homer to Harry Potter. Next quarter, I am teaching ENGL 242: Reading Fiction (a treat because most third years don't get to do two 200-levels in a row) and have designed a class called "Reading Intersections: Literature as World-Making." We'll be reading short novels by Sherwood Anderson, Virginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Toni Morrison, Don Delillo, and of course, JK Rowling. In the spring I teach ENGL 111 again and will be reprising my Harry Potter class, which I've been asked by students to repeat.
In other news, I attended and gave papers at four conferences this year. I presented my paper on race and World of Warcraft at UC Riverside's (dis)junctions conference. I presented a co-written paper on Virtual Office Hours at the big Computers and Writing conference at Wayne State in Detroit. Within the last month or so, I presented my paper on queering transhumanism at the UCLA Queer Studies conference, and I also presented my WoW paper at the Society for Literature, Science, and Arts conference held this year in Portland, Maine. I hope to not have to see the inside of an airport or plane for a good long while.
Now, all of my energies are bent toward getting through my exams. Beyond that, I plan to complete my prospectus by the end of spring. And then I would like to have a swift dissertation process in order to graduate sooner rather than later. I suppose I'll be going on the market, a frightening though, sometime next year. But one step at a time.
That is the short of it (though I took longer than anticipated). Thanks for reading and riding along. I hope all is well out east, and I'll probably be out to visit next year.
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"the almost ides of december" | saturday | december 15, 2007 | 8:44 am
AMN, THERE'S A LOT GOING ON.
Life has been, well, full. Lots of things happening. Lots of to-ing and fro-ing. Lots of
when it rains, it pours (quite
last post was in October. All of November raced by,
whizzed by without a peep. And now December is half-over, and I am finally in a frame of
mind, state of lull that I can actually write about it all.
Engage bulleted recap mode (I think I remember most of it):
OCTOBER BEGAN IT ALL
Come October I was well into my class,
ENGL 200: Reading
Literature: "Literatures of the Fantastic." Covering material across thousands of years
is tough, and we read from Homer to Harry Potter. Teaching forty students in one
class was a new experience. Teaching strictly literature was also a new experience.
Not only did I have to get the students to come around to thinking critically about
"fantastic" literature (some were pretty resistant at first), I had to figure out how
to get them to read critically and remind them that summarizing was not writing critically.
October 19-20, I attended the
UCLA Queer Studies Conference
with my friend, Jason. I presented my paper on queering transhumanism, which looked at
three short stories by
Geoff Ryman, and
David Gerrold. My main
preoccupation in the paper is a critique of body-hacking technology, technology that allows
the user to change themselves on a fundamental level, and how that technology often
stabilises certain characteristics, identities, and desires privileging some things over
others. The conference was only two days; it was my first time in Los Angeles. My paper
went well, and then the rest of the time I tried to enjoy as much of the conference,
of UCLA, and of LA as possible. Jason and I stayed at a sketchy (but ultimately okay)
Econo Lodge on the border between West Hollywood and Hollywood. We did manage to go
out to a few places to see the gays. Then it was a whirlwind back to Seattle.
Crossing into October meant that my Ph.D. exams were only three months away. A definite
milestone. And all the anxiety and stress that comes with it.
The weekend before Halloween, which fell on a Wednesday this year, I went to a couple of
Halloween parties. I didn't really have any great ideas for a costume. Eventually, I
settled on going as
Heat Miser. No one
knew who I was without a few clues, and then they were like, "Wow, that is so old and obscure."
Yep, that's me -- old and obscure. The Heat Miser costume was for my friend Noah and his
roommates' Halloween party at their Big Gay Mansion, a very nicely appointed house in the
Central District. I miss parties at Big Gay Mansions: fancy place, big screen TVs,
techno music, open bar, hot tub (which I did not partake of). Of course, I was dressed like a
blob of a character, whilst every other gay boy there was half-naked: lacrosse players,
lifeguards, gladiators, and the such. I'm like: you're supposed to dress up in something
other than what you normally wear! I very much commiserated with the women at the
party, who basically resigned themselves to "I can't compete with that." I had fun, though.
The next night I went to a Halloween party at my friends Julia and Steven's house in Eastlake.
I didn't feel like getting all miser-ed up. So, I just put on some random medieval garb and
went to the party. It was fun, in a different way. Some of the costumes were really fun.
Steven as Alice (in Wonderland) was hysterical.
Pictures are here.
On Halloween, October 31, my friend
Jentery and I presented a little
talk on technoculture studies for undergraduates in the
program. Our talk was about
Jentery talked about his moblogging class, and I talked about my work on
World of warcraft. It was a good
experience. The students asked a lot of really good questions. And it's a great CV
I don't remember a whole lot of November. Mainly because I think I was just overwhelmed by
school and reading and stressing out about my exams. It was pretty much the same old routine.
I did manage to complete the final version of my exam lists. I hope.
The first weekend in November, I went to my fourth conference of the year. I actually
left the night of October 31 on a red eye bound for Portland, Maine for the
Society for Literature, Science, and the Arts
annual conference. This year's conference theme was "code." I present my paper on
race and World of Warcraft. I actually presented on the first day of the conference, Thursday,
which meant I needed to leave the night before. The paper went well, the conference was
really amazing, and Portland was a lot of fun. I went with Jentery, who also presented, and
his Wife. I also met up with some people I had met the last time I did SLSA (which was in
2004). I even met up with my old, old friends Duncan and Chris, who live in Maine now, who
I hadn't seen in like a decade. Overall, I had a great time. Again, as with most conferences,
it was exhausting. (I have now tentatively sworn off conferences until my exams and prospectus
are done.) Some pictures
I did sign-up to participate in
National Novel Writing Month. I
really want to complete NaNoWriMo at least one more time, particularly in Seattle. But
signing up was as far as I ever got. I didn't write a single word. I had a word count
of zero. And I didn't even check the NaNo site once. That's how crazed and busy
Of course, November means Thanksgiving. This year's Thanksgiving was at my friend Jason's
house. There were about twenty or so guests. We cooked a ton of food and crammed into Jason's
little apartment. I was put in charge of the turkey -- one of Jason's favorite things to
delegate. I also made a really tasty succotash (which no one really eats) with edamame
instead of lima beans. Jason and I went to Costco for the turkey; we bought the biggest one
we could find: 25.6 pounds! It was huge. I barely fit in my oven. And though my citrus-herbal
butter was perfect and delicious, the turkey ended up being slightly undercooked on the
bottom. The top and breast meat were spot on, thankfully. It was a lovely meal. Thanks
to Jason for hosting. After eating, we were supposed to go out for the "holigays." Only I
ended up going to
Neighbours by myself but had a
really good time anyway.
HO, HO, HO, DECEMBER!
At the end of November, the beginning of December, I met with my committee to iron out my
exam lists and rationales. Each member of my committee has given me the green light, and I'm
set. I still have a quite a bit of review and some reading to do, but I've reached cognitive
overload. I don't think I can squeeze any more ideas into my brain. Even with notes, I'm
having trouble keep things sorted and sensible. Now, I just have to generate some sample
questions and a short list of texts I want to focus on. I'll be meeting with my committee
one last time at the start of January before I actually take my exams. I have set my date:
the last weekend of January, the weekend of January 25. That's for the written portion; the
oral portion will be a couple of weeks after that.
Of course, December means the end of the quarter. Now that I'm no longer taking classes, I
don't have the usual crunch of getting seminar papers done or taking finals or some such. But
the end of term is still busy, busy, busy. I wanted to get a lot of stuff done before professors
disappeared into the break. I also wrapped up my class, graded final projects, and all that
jazz. I really liked my class this quarter -- in part because teaching a literature class is
different than a composition class. I had some very bright, very interested, and very nice
students this quarter.
The holidays are coming up, which aren't necessarily the biggest deal for me. Most people I
know will be away, including my roommate, Jane. Hopefully Alenda will be coming up to visit for
a few days. And then the next term begins. This year Winter quarter starts a little later because
New Year's falls in the middle of the week, so they pushed back the first day to the following week.
The break will be spent doing work. I have to dig into the last weeks of reading for exams. I
want to treat it like my full-time job. And somewhere in there I have to get ready for teaching,
I'm teaching ENGL 242: Reading Fiction. My course title is "Reading Intersections: Literature as
World Making." My tentative description is: "Ursula K. Le Guin once wrote, 'First sentences are
doors to worlds.' With this in mind, what might literature, in our case fiction, reveal to us,
reveal about us, and reveal about our culture? We will engage the techniques and practices of
reading and enjoying literature in order to explore and articulate how literature *makes* the
world we live in. In other words, our understandings of peoples and places, as well as the
intersections of cultural and social markers like race, gender, class, nation, sexuality, and
power can be excavated through the analysis of the fictions we create and consume. This class
will spend the quarter reading, thinking, writing about various literatures and how and what
these texts argue, reveal, narrate, hide, perpetuate, and complicate the culture and the world
around us. Texts may include in whole or in excerpt Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald,
Virginia Woolf, C.S. Lewis, Ray Bradbury, Don Delillo, Toni Morrison, David Gerrold, and J.K.
And now back to work.
read footnotes |
"feedback" | sunday | december 16, 2007 | 10:46 am
ERE ARE SOME RECENT THINGS MY STUDENTS HAVE SAID ABOUT ME
OR TO ME. It makes me happy and proud and remember why I'm going through this whole grad school
obstacle course. Teaching is still one of the things I want and need to do with my life.
This was overheard by my friend Jamie on the #31 bus:
Girl Teen: Have you had all your finals?
Boy Teen: No. I just turned in all my English work though.
GT: Oof, English. I was thinking of taking an English class. How are they?
BT: Um, well, I guess, I don't know, it depends on who you have. My english
teacher was AWESOME.
GT: That's cool.
BT: If you ever get a chance to take a class with Ed Chang, you totally should.
From my student Laura:
First of all, I came into this class completely unaware of just what it was all
about. And I will be honest that when I heard the word fantasy I wanted to turn
tail and run. But I can now say with all honesty that I am so glad that I stuck
it out. This class challenged me in quite a few ways, and again, if I can be honest, I
couldn't stand that I could not figure out what the class was all about. I am a
student pretty unaccustomed to not being able to figure out what was necessary
of me to get a 4.0. But that was one of the things that was so great about this
class. We didn't get handed 4.0's just because we thought we deserved them or
because we turned our homework in on time. Getting gradse that were subpar only
made me work that much harder each week, and in turn, to get far more out of
this class then the many others that have allowed me to just cruise. As I said
in my Mash Up, I am still not sure I can define fantasy or the fantastic. And I
still struggle with the idea that it felt like we could often have defined
everything as fantastic. But I am certainly much more aware of the fact that
there is literature that really challenges what is going on in our world, and it
is this literature that really deserves discussion and analysis. I was often
shocekd leaving the classroom when I thought about how much we got out of texts
like Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings. Before this class, I would have read any
one of these books and enjoyed them as great pieces of literature, without ever
really looking at what texts like these are trying to show us about our world.
I'm rambling a bit, so I'll stop. But I thank you for teaching this class, and
or being honest, straight forward and direct with us. I never felt patronized or
"stupid," even though more often then not we were discussing territory very
unfamiliar to me.
From my student Ethan:
Ok, as for critical responses: these handed my ass to me weekly. They
were definitely the most challenging part of the class (big surprise,
huh?), and probably made this the toughest course Ive ever taken. My
brain still hurts.
But, when all is said and done, these are what really changed my approach
to reading and writing. I feel like we practiced them a lot, and as a
result, my critical and analytical skills have definitely improved. And
I definitely see the value in using such an approach. For me, its
expanded what reading means, and I now walk away from readings
appreciating them at a much deeper level than before. Ive learned how
to take the general themes and characters and dig deeper and find out
what more these things can do for us as readers.
One thing that really set your class apart from most other courses at
college is the sense of community that developed. Im sure weve all
been in classes where everyone is just quiet and doesnt interact ends
up making for a lame, unmemorable experience. Not so with your class. I
liked the open discussions, the energy, and the jokes it made for a
light mood and a tighter knit class.
I loved the idea for the final. I thought it was a great way to wrap up
the class. After being analytical and critical all quarter, it was nice
to have the chance to be more creative. I would recommend using this
same approach for the finals in your future classes. Im sure they were
much more interesting for you to read too, compared to your run of the
mill final essays.
From my student Grace:
I have learned so much. The thing that stands out the most is definitely how
there is always more to something. I have experienced this mostly through
watching movies recently. I find myself asking questions. What is the
purpose of that? Why did the writers find it necessary to use this instead
of that? What does that mean? Why is that useful? What does that tell me
about that? All of the questions we have applied to texts through the quarter,
I have found extremely useful and interesting to keep in mind every day. I
have found themes in things as simple as television advertisements which
speak to stereotypes. I have also embedded in my mind how things are gendered,
which is interesting because I see it everywhere now. It makes me critically
think about the things around me.
I loved coming to class. I was completely engaged and it was in a way, itself
an escape. I would be focused on class material rather than things outside
the classroom for the whole fifty minutes. This is because of the way it was
taught. I could tell that you as an instructor as genuinely interested in
stretching our minds as students. I was never bored of hearing What does
that tell us, because it was always so interesting to think about what that
actually told us. A piece of me wishes that there would be answers, but now
I understand that there arent answers, and that is why much of what is, is
how it is.
read footnotes |
"sister" | friday | december 21, 2007 | 11:01 am
APPY BIRTHDAY TO MY SISTER, ALENDA! I hope you have a
fabulous and wonderful and relaxing day. It will be nice to celebrate it with you when you
come up to visit in a few days! I can't wait. It'll be fun. Much love always.
last month |