Friday, May 19, 2006

Fun with Irony

As previously noted, I had some kind of writer's block meltdown at the end of the semester that caused one of my papers to be late. Terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing, I know.

So, here's the ironic bit: I was berating myself with many "Who the hell do you think you're kidding?" sort of thoughts while determinedly attempting to write this paper. The greatest of which was a sense of despair that a professor for whom I have probably too much respect, and who seemed to believe in me would find out just how terminally idiotic I am. Naturally, the professor I was least willing to disappoint was the one whose paper simply would not allow itself to be written. Of course, we talked about the paper and she gave me a small extension. Standard needy student freak-out stuff, really, exacerbated by the extent to which I am invested in this professor's good opinion. (This approval addiction thing really needs to be addressed. It's one of my least favorite characteristics, and it's been getting worse this year. Ugh.) Well, the professor seems to have concluded that my tardiness indicates a lack of respect for her, the material, and the class, and is no longer speaking with me. So, maybe it's not so much ironic as it is an example of self-fulfilling prophecy.

Anyway, after handing the paper in I indulged in a few days of further sinking into despair, and compulsively checking email just in case despair was no longer warranted. No dice.

And all this leads to another ironic bit:
Also as previously noted, I will be hunting for outside teaching jobs to minimize my dependence on the department next year, because I just cannot handle the complete weirdness of the politics around here. The politics are themselves a hotbed of fun ironies: sexism from feminist scholars, classism from postcolonial and marxist scholars, the person who demands that Grad students are included in all decisions refusing to answer Grad student questions in any meaningful way. Plus, if X likes you, then Y hates you because ... when you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way? I'm not really sure what that whole opposing teams thing is about.

Back to the story. As I was gathering materials for my job search, it occurred to me that I am actively trying to get back into teaching adolescents to avoid adolescent conflicts, including my own regression into 7th grade Heo.

So, this summer, while actively doing independent scholarship on the Anglo-Saxon stuff that brought me to grad school, I will also have to carefully consider whether I have the right sort of personality to be a scholar. I know that I'm the best version of myself when teaching, but it seems that being a grad student makes me the worst version of myself. So, maybe independent scholarship is the way for me to go?

6 comments:

Bardiac said...

Independence, if you can swing it, may be good.

But having experienced a couple regional universities and a couple R1/PhD granting places, I can honestly say there's a lot less nastiness and ego at the regionals. It's not that we're perfect, heavens, no, but maybe we have less energy for backstabbing?

Alas, few regional Us have tenure lines for Anglo-Saxonists these days. (Maybe that's something to think about as you prepare for the market: making sure you can teach History of English and Intro Linguistics type classes, and later medieval?)

Anonymous said...

Dear Heo, I currently wish that I could send all adolescent academics to day camp so that I could have some peace of mind. My supervisor just told me off for not working hard enough and for not taking my Ph.D serious enough. The reason therefore? I was ten days late with a 200 page full draft of my whole dissertation and the reason for the delay was that I had been working insane hours and managed to delete part of the thesis without backup due to increasing confusion and burnout. Now, three weeks later he informs me that he hasn't even begun reading said draft. I don't want to work with these people. I don't want to be around these people. And I most certainly don't want to be dependent on these people. Let me out, I want my life back.
And I feel you on the writers block. Take care, Kicki

Dr. Richard Scott Nokes said...

Heo,

Be of good cheer. In my second or third week of graduate school, I was publically (and justly) berated by a professor who later ended up being on my dissertation committee. I had another professor who read an e-mail I had written to her as "hostile" (to this day, I can't figure out how she got that from it), yet later told me she wished I'd asked her to be on my committee.

In other words, just keep plugging away, and she'll likely come around again. Perhaps your relationship will even be strengthened by this little rift.

Ancrene Wiseass said...

I'm gonna agree with Prof. Nokes here: she may well come around with time. And, if she doesn't, well, it's her loss.

In the meantime, could you maybe send her a brief email explaining that you simply had a Dark Night of the Soul over this paper and that your tardiness is not a reflection of your lacking respect for her, but rather of your having so much respect for her that you were determined to turn in the best paper you possibly could? Sometimes, telling people those sorts of things helps.

I just cannot handle the complete weirdness of the politics around here. The politics are themselves a hotbed of fun ironies: sexism from feminist scholars, classism from postcolonial and marxist scholars, the person who demands that Grad students are included in all decisions refusing to answer Grad student questions in any meaningful way. Plus, if X likes you, then Y hates you because ... when you're a Jet, you're a Jet all the way? I'm not really sure what that whole opposing teams thing is about.

I nodded my head in vigorous recognition after reading that passage. This is, unfortunately, the God's honest truth about a fair portion of us. But there also are other sorts of academics out there, and there probably are at least a couple of them in your department. Seek out their sanity.

There's also always the blogosphere, which has been a major source of encouragement for me: the connections I've made with other like-minded scholars via the Interweb have been invaluable for keeping me from losing my shit.

I hope things get better.

And I hope you don't give up on your program (or, at least, on grad training) altogether. Grad school is a hard row to hoe, but, from what I've seen, independent scholarship is even harder.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

I guess the one thing I'd say is that there's quite a big difference between being a grad student and being a professor, so that I don't think the choice is between academia or independent scholarship. The kind of R1 institution where one tends to get a Ph.D. is very unrepresentative of academia as a whole, I think, and the kind of person one often has to be in such a situation is not the way one has to act once grad school is done.

Which is not to say that there's anything wrong with being an independent scholar, or that you shouldn't choose that route if you like. Just thought I'd throw in that two cents.

HeoCwaeth said...

Hey, Guys. Thanks for your generosity in telling your stories. (And, wow, did I ever overuse "actively" in this post! Apologies for that.) I've been considering the information you all gave me, as well as my own specifics, and I have yet to come up with an answer for me. I imagine this uncertainty will be a longer-term struggle.

Bardiac, I would actually adore teaching HEL. I'm one of the freaks who really enjoy that course. Later medieval is good, too, but I have a helluva time keeping up with that scholarship. (Dear Late Medievalists: I respectfully request that you take your kids fishing for a minute and let a person catch up. Thanks, Heo)

Kicki, yikes. You'd think he'd be more likely to give you a small benefit of the doubt at this point in your education. Hope the situation has improved. Your day camp reference was too funny. There was once a particular prof I wished to send to his office for a week with no computer privileges, so he could think about his behavior. Nobody would give me the authority, though.

Dr. Nokes, thanks. It may be that she'll come around with time. I can certainly understand why late=late, period. I'm really most frustrated with myself w/r/t the paper situation. If I had kept my head about me, the paper would have been done on time. I have to stop psyching myself out over this stuff.

Ancrene, thanks to you, too! I actually have sent a couple of apologetic/explanatory emails, so I'm now respecting the silence. People have the right to lose faith in me, and I have to accept that. Since I don't really accept it totally, I whine at you guys about it. And, you're right, there are some great people in my department I can seek refuge with. Of course, you folks have also been tremendously helpful. Knowing that I'm not alone in my observations keeps me from standing in the hallway at school and screaming "What the hell is wrong with you people?!" (I'm just obnoxious enough to do something like that.)

New Kid, that may be the best news ever. thanks.