"somedays i think i am sisyphus" | monday | april 13, 2009 | 12:31 pm
S ALWAYS, there's too much to talk about and nothing to talk about
all at the same time. Life has been, well, life. Trundling along, babbling along, sometimes with me in the
lead and sometimes dragging me behind it. Much of the past few weeks has been devoted getting the new
quarter underway. The transition from winter quarter to spring quarter is always tough. There's not
enough down time, recovery time. We have a week -- otherwise called spring break -- between quarters.
And as I have moaned and groaned about before, the quarter system is at times grueling. After two quarter
facing a third quarter seems cruel and unusual punishment. But, such is life.
Spring break was spent mainly working on my two classes this quarter:
ENGL 242 A: Reading Fiction: "Not Your Average High School Novel Class: Re-Reading as Critical Practice" and
CHID 496 D: Focus Group: "Heroes & Monsters: Understanding Live-Action Role-Playing Games".
I also spent a few days putting together an application for a
Huckabay Teaching Fellowship.
I proposed developing an "Introduction to Video Game Studies" course with a public humanities component.
It would be nice to be able to put together a revision of my
ENGL 207 A: Introduction to Cultural Studies class
and then teach it next spring. Basically, if I get the fellowship, I will spend the upcoming winter quarter
working on the class and the attached student symposium. Then, I hope to get enough funding from English
or Comparative History of Ideas to actually run the class in the spring quarter.
School started at the end of March. I have a full class again. The course has a pretty interesting take
on reading literature, I think. But it's one of those classes that either will be really amazing or really
painful depending on whether the students get on board. As I said to them on the first day, "If you feel like
I will be murdering your childhood, don't take this class." We're reading a lot of things that students
have had either in high school or other classes or have some common sense knowledge about already. And given
that these "classics" have a lot of traditional baggage attached to them, students
might feel like the class is out to destroy what they know, what they think, and what they believe. Part of
the requirements of the class is to read
SparkNotes.com, to get a sense of the thematic,
descriptive, literary "analysis" they are accustomed to, and to realize that talking about plot, character,
theme, symbol, motif, and personal interpretation is insufficient and uncritical.
It's only been a few weeks and I am already tired (but I think I was tired to begin with). I teach my literature
class four days a week at 8:30 AM. Even though I am done at 9:30 AM and get to go home most days, I feel like
the hour that I am "on" I use up all of my energy. I also have a "problem" student this quarter -- a student
who likes to be oppositional for the sake of being opposition, who likes to disagree with me and argue
that there is a "proper" and "singular" way to read a text, and who tries to commandeer the discussion.
It was distressing at first because I don't want to shut anyone down. But I have taken to being a
bit more directive and setting clearer boundaries, which seems to be working pretty well.
My focus group is interesting and I haven't quite figured out what it's going to be like. We only meet
once a week and there was a lot of turnover the first week. The class is about live-action role-playing games
and we will be playing
Archaea. Most of the students have some experience
with RPGs in general. Some of them have never played an RPG before, much less a LARP. We are starting
with three films about the subject:
Mazes and Monsters (1982),
Monster Camp (2007), and
Darkon (2006). I am excited, but there's
a lot of prep work to do: print rulebooks, making equipment, making costumes, and getting everyone ready
to actually play. We will be playing on campus during our class's meeting time. Hopefully, this
will lead to getting an actual group up and going outside of school.
Otherwise, my own work is pretty much still stalled. My
profile often reads "Ed has PhDepression." I am trying to do little things to work up to bigger things.
But I think the problem is that I'm just tired, burnt out, a little disheartened and dismayed by
the prospects for my immediate future (after graduation), and overwhelmed by the enormity of what
I have to produce (much less define in terms of who I am as a scholar). Granted, this paralysis and
frustration and gnashing of teeth is not specific to me per se. It is very much what almost every
grad student I know goes through. I am also under pressure to complete at least a chapter by
the end of the term, which is like eight weeks away, to have top consideration for funding next year.
It's just a big ball of stress and worry, which generally makes me not want to work on it.
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