This Week in My Classes: Easing Up

I could almost have said “winding down” instead of “easing up” except that with final papers and exams still to go, we are still a couple of weeks away from actually being done. The big difference now, with classes almost over (I have one more class hour to go!), the pressure is much less. The last month or so of term is always such a relentless crush, with every finished task replaced (or so it often seems) with two more unfinished ones; you no sooner leave class feeling it went well (or not) when it occurs to you that you have to be ready to go again in a couple of days; and even as you keep up the reading and routine class preparation and meetings and so forth, assignments come in and you find you are either working constantly or feeling guilty whenever you’re not. With no more lectures or seminars to prepare and no more new assigned reading to do, now the job requirements can more or less be done in business hours–hooray! I have already spent more time (or at least more cheerful time) with my kids in the last couple of days than perhaps in the last few weeks: I try hard not to shunt them aside, but inevitably my stress and the pressures of work obligations get in the way. This weekend Maddie and I went to our happy place, Clay Café, for instance, where we indulged in a little tranquil creativity. I have no particular artistic talent, but we both thoroughly enjoy listening to their collection of vintage LPs and thinking about nothing but colours and patterns for a few hours. I’ve played plenty of Mario Kart with Owen, too, and hung out while he showed me the various projects he’s working on on his computer. Just for myself, I have started watching MI-5 on Netflix: I was put on to the series when I learned Richard Armitage is in the later seasons, but I figured I’d start at the beginning. It’s pretty stressful, but it’s not my stress, and it goes down well with a little wine at the end of the day.

Soon, though, when I feel recovered enough, I’ll be reading more: I’ve started Testament of Experience and I just went to the library yesterday and signed out a few related books including the Oxford History of Oxford and Brittain’s The Women at Oxford. Now that my “Somerville Novelists” course is officially a “go” for next fall, I feel woefully underqualified for it, but happily I am eager to make up the deficit. I can’t tell you how good it felt to be in the library feeling genuinely curious. I also have a stack of miscellaneous unread books I am looking forward to–though of course there’s not that long a break before classes start again in January, and over the same short span I also have to prepare for my winter term classes. Still, for a while at least my nights and weekends are my own, and that is a welcome change.

Also, I have some blogging to do! I have let slide a couple of posts that I thought a lot about writing, one a response to Hook and Eye about approaching your Ph.D. as “your first job,” and one, more recently, some kind of response–I haven’t figured out quite what kind–to Mark Bauerlein’s Chronicle of Higher Education piece about humanities publishing. I just didn’t have the energy to think through the mixed feelings both posts set off, but both are topics of immediate interest to me and ones I have written about at some length here over the years. The Bauerlein piece in particular provokes me–my response is at once “Yes, absolutely!” and “No! Not at all! You are so wrong!” I’ll see if I can sort that out a bit better. If I do, you’ll see the results here!

But first, off I go to my review session for 19th-Century Fiction. I told them on Monday that they could consider it optional but that it was in their interests to be their and that I would be bringing cookies, both of which statements are true! I wonder what attendance will be like. If it’s small, well, more cookies for me.

Update: Attendance was excellent for the review class–I got only 1 cookie!

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