Thursday, January 29, 2009

I must have nodded off for a moment...

A couple of weeks ago, a non-academic friend emailed me, asking what I thought of the new Burton Raffel translation of the Canterbury Tales. I hadn't looked at it, so I did a quick Google search, read a few excerpts, and then handed down my judgment. The translation was not that bad, I told my friend, but I had some qualms about translations of Chaucer in general. The importance of Chaucer's contributions to English, the beauty of the original, and all that. We had a brief email conversation on the subject of translations and general readers, at the end of which my friend said: "You should blog about this."

Blog? I thought. What is this blog of which you speak?

I'm not a big fan of blog posts about why there haven't been any blog posts lately, but since a little while (cough...three months...cough) has passed since my last post, I feel an excuse is warranted. So here, in bullet points, is as little explanation as I can manage:

  • I'm serving as President of our Faculty Council this year.
  • We had to fire (yes, actually fire) a faculty member in the middle of last semester, with the result that I taught six classes for the last couple of months of the Fall. It exhausts me just to remember it.
  • My daughter started kindergarten in August. For those of you with kids, enough said.
  • Did I mention that I'm serving as President of our Faculty Council?

Suffice it to say that I've had little time, energy, or, frankly, inclination to blog recently. The Faculty Council thing is an absolute time pit. I have monthly meetings with the President and with the Board of Trustees, bi-weekly meetings with the VP of Instruction, and countless committee meetings (since the head of the Council is an ex officio member of about 400 different committees). Add in the time spent listening to various and sundry faculty complaints (all of which are pressing, extremely important, and not at all frivolous or petty, of course), and you're left with precious few hours to actually do your friggin' job. It's been disappointing to give up blogging, but not nearly as disappointing as it's been to give up being a medievalist. Working at a community college means that scholarship of any kind has to take place in the little time left when all other aspects of the job have been satisfied. For the past several months, that's meant that I've had to give it up altogether. I still read my regular blogs, of course, and I've glanced at an article or two when I've had a few spare minutes, but my scholarly productivity, always dicey, has fallen off completely.

There may be light at the end of this particular tunnel, though. Or, rather, two lights. A couple of exciting developments will soon force me back into the world of medieval scholarship. Well, exciting for me anyway. First, I'll be going to Kalamazoo this year. First time in a decade, if you can believe it. I'm a little nervous about my paper, however (and by "nervous" I mean "panicked"). I have a tendency to write conference paper proposals in the middle of the night when hopped up on cough medicine, and, as a result, they are often wildly ambitious and well above my actual skill level. The upside is that I always learn a lot while writing the paper. In my room an hour before the session. After I stop hyperventilating. But the conference is still three months away, so all is well for the moment.

The second development is something I'm seriously thrilled about. In the fall, I will be teaching a Medieval Literature survey course for the first time. To those of you who spend your afternoons conducting doctoral seminars on the idea of the body in tenth century poetry, my excitement probably seems a little pathetic. But since my courseload is normally restricted to lots of Freshman composition, made tolerable only by one or two British Lit survey classes per semester, the opportunity to teach a real medieval literature class is nothing short of monumental. I've already been working on the syllabus, and I'll likely be asking for help and suggestions in the near future. It's not easy to figure out how best to teach medieval literature to non-majors at a rural-leaning community college, but I'm having fun trying.

I hope this is not my last blog post for a while, but I know myself better than to promise anything different. As a result, I'll resist the temptation to say something like "stay tuned," and content myself instead with something like "I'm not dead yet."