2015 in Review

What I’ve done in 2015. This is what a teaching scholar looks like. I accomplished what follows during 2015 while teaching a 4-4-3 load with a one semester sabbatical in the Fall, for which I am grateful to my current institution. What could your teaching scholars accomplish with better support? I know quite a few, and they deserve it. Everything listed below was written or published between January and December of 2015.

Creative:

  • Submitted my first volume of poetry for consideration to a publisher: Tripping the Light Ekphrastic. Still waiting to hear back. These things take time. The poems for this volume were written between 1991 and mid Summer 2015.
  • Submitted about ten individual poems for publication to different venues. Some were declined, some are still under consideration. They may all get declined. That is how it goes. I know, because I’ve been publishing since the 90s. You need thick skin to be a writer; we all face a lot of rejection. I had four poems published in late 2014, though, so that’s good.
  • Wrote about another forty pages of poetry, all new in 2015.
  • Served as a literary agent for Martin Reaves and helped guide his first novel, A Fractured Conjuring, through the entire publication process from contract to editing to release. It was a pleasure. It’s a dark, disturbing novel, but it’s a great one. It is now available in both print and e-book format through amazon.com. This publication is personally meaningful to me — Marty was my best friend from seventh grade through all four years of high school. I spent almost as much time at his house during those years as I did at my own. His family was great to me. He told me about his first date with his wife Charla in our middle school locker room the day after it happened. I was in his wedding party, got pictures of his two beautiful daughters when they were little kids, and now know them both as beautiful grown married women with children. Marty has been writing excellent fiction for well over ten years with only a little luck. My hope for this book is that it makes him a little money, gets him at least a little recognition, and helps to land his next book with the higher end publisher that he deserves.

Exhibits. The “Exhibit” category falls between the categories of “Creative” and “Scholarship,” I think:

  • Blake in the Heartland. This great exhibit ran in the Spring of 2015. It focused on the work of visiting scholar Dr. Michael Phillips, who I recruited to visit. He curated William Blake exhibits at the Tate, the Met, the Petite Palais, and most recently the Ashmolean. He delivered two lectures open to the public, gave two printmaking demonstrations (one for local high school students and one for my institution’s students and faculty), and guest lectured for an honors class. The exhibit was curated by Associate Professor of Art Lee Fearnside — who is the gallery Director. She suffered through all of the institutional work to make this happen, doing most of the heavy lifting to make it happen. I co-authored a grant to support these events with her. For this exhibit, Phillips provided his facsimiles of pages from Blake’s illuminated books that were printed using Blake’s materials and printmaking methods. The exhibit also featured contemporary art by regional artists inspired by Blake. You can see images from the exhibit linked above.
  • I then came up with the the idea for an exhibit at my institution’s art gallery dedicated to Ohio rock and roll. Lee liked the idea, so we wrote a grant to support it, recruited three Ohio rock photographers to contribute photographs, and I recruited two scholars to come present papers in a roundtable session either about Ohio rock bands or rock scholarship in Ohio. I’ve also contacted several Columbus-based bands to see if any of them are available for performance, pending budgetary approval. So far, things are going well. But, there’s more — one thing leads to another. I then came up with an idea for an honors class that would study the intersections of rock and roll with literature — and they are many and fertile, believe me — so I queried a Romanticism listserv for ideas. It turns out we’re not running honors classes this Spring, but responses to my query were so enthusiastic that I decided to develop an edited anthology titled Rock and Romanticism, which leads to my next category: scholarship.

Scholarship: Books

  • Rock and RomanticismWonderful project. I sent out a CFP, collected over forty paper proposals, sent out three book proposals (waiting to hear back), and since then have received seventeen papers and edited fourteen. I see this as an ongoing project resulting in two to three volumes, so I’m still accepting proposals. I’ve set up a book blog (linked above) and am continuing to receive and edit essays.
  • Interpretation: Theory: HistoryI started this anthology back in 2012 and have been wrestling with it ever since. I was awarded a contract last summer, didn’t like the terms, went back to my contributors and slimmed down then revised my proposal, and now have a very good publisher looking at it. I’ve edited three essays and wrote a provisional introduction to provide the interested publisher a writing sample.
  • The Pretenders: I co-wrote a proposal for this book with a colleague, and we submitted it to Bloomsbury’s 33 1/3 series. They received 605 proposals and accepted 16. Ours didn’t make it. I revised, expanded, and resubmitted it as an individual project, and it is now moving through the stages with another publisher. It’s gone through one round of editorial review and is moving into another. We will see. This project was supported by a week of research at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Library and Archives in Cleveland. The archivists there were great.

Scholarship: New Media. Since my institution may be moving toward a professional writing focus in its English major, I’ve started to expand my profile in New Media publishing.

Scholarship: Articles, Edited Anthologies

  • “Late-Romantic Heroes as Archetypes of Masculinity: Breaking Bad, The Fast and the Furious, and Californication,” by invitation for the edited anthology Class, Politics, and Superheroes: Populism in Comics, Films, and TV, Ed. Marc DiPaolo. Forthcoming 2016: currently under contract with the University of Mississippi Press.
  • “Silly Love Songs and Gender in Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers: Age of Ultron,” by invitation for the edited anthology Assemble!: The Making and Re-making of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Ed. Julian Chambliss and Bill Svitavsky. Forthcoming 2016: currently under contract with McFarland & Company, Inc.

Scholarship: Book Reviews

  • Rev. of Sexy Blake, eds. Helen B. Bruder and Tristanne Connolly for Romantic Circles Reviews and Receptions. Forthcoming 2016.
  • Rev. of The Emigrants, or, A Trip to the Ohio, A Theatrical Farce (1817), by George Cumberland. Elizabeth B. Bentley, ed., and Angus Whitehead, Intro. 2013 for Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly. Forthcoming 2016.
  • Rev. of Sexual Enjoyment in British Romanticism: Gender and Psychoanalysis 1753-1835 by David Sigler for Romantic Circles Reviews and Receptions, published October 2015.
  • Rev. of William Blake and the Production of Time by Andrew M. Cooper for Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies. 38.3 (Sept. 2015): 472-4.
  • Rev. of The God of the Left Hemisphere: Blake, Bolte Taylor, and the Myth of Creation by Roderick Tweedy for Blake: An Illustrated Quarterly, published Summer 2015.

Scholarship: Conferences. I’ve been presenting papers at three to four conferences a year since 2007. Most of them have been national, with some regional and some international. Unfortunately, my institutional support only covers about 25% of my costs at most, so I’ve had to scale back. I had a panel and a paper accepted for the CCCCs conference, but I had to pull out because of costs. I will still list the panel below, though, as the panel itself was accepted and did run. I also had a paper accepted for the Midwest MLA conference, but I had to pull out. I’ve been trying to focus on lower-cost regional conferences near me lately.

  • “Cohorts and Risk Management,” CCCCs National Conference, St. Petersburg, FL 2015. Successfully wrote the panel but did not attend.
  • “Imagining the Mind-Body Relation: The Skull as a Cave in Blake’s Mythological Works.” March 2015 for the national College English Association conference, Indianapolis, IN.

Scholarship: Digital Humanities

  • I attended a coding workshop for the Mary Russell Mitford project (Digital Mitford) in June of 2015 and finished my first round of markup for her poem Watlington Hill. I need to mark up people and places and write site index entries for it now.
  • I created an online gallery for the Blake in the Heartland exhibit.

I haven’t included blogging for my book projects or for my personal blog (here), which includes the online gallery for the Blake in the Heartland exhibit linked above, but I can provide links to my annual reports for my personal blog and my Rock and Romanticism blog.

All that I’ve listed here is my publishing productivity during 2015. It doesn’t include teaching, advising, or committee service: four courses in the Spring and three graduate courses in the Summer, including being a reader for one Master’s thesis. It also doesn’t include about twenty letters of recommendation, editing books for two friends of mine, and editing a few essays for friends too. This stuff is all part of the job that most college teachers do.

I’ve also tried to be a husband and father, but I think I suck at that.

Support your teachers. I’m just one of them, but they’re all working hard for you, their students, and their schools.

I would like every teacher to post a list like this about their summer work so that people know what we do.

Next up: forthcoming in 2016.

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LJN Radio Interview — Technically Speaking: Utilizing Technology in Education

I’m happy to announce that my second interview with LJN Radio, “Technically Speaking: Utilizing Technology in Education” is now available on the LJN Radio website.

From the website:

Various uses of technology can be invaluable when it comes to educational success and improved learning. At the same time, people need to be cautious in seeing all forms of technology as an easy fix to how people are taught. Jim Rovira, associate professor of English at Tiffin University, explains to Tim Muma how important it is to ensure students are matched with the appropriate use of technology. Whether it’s taking online classes or utilizing in-class technology for lessons and assessment, it’s imperative educators understand that each student has different needs and will succeed or fail based on the fit of the technology they use.

On Technically Speaking, we explore the latest social media applications for the modern day workplace. Together we’ll discover the hottest technology jobs on the market and keep up with the latest high-tech trends.

Duration: 18 Minutes

Teaching on 9-11

Dusting of NYC on 9-11I’m not interested here in “Remember 9-11” jingoism or patriotic speeches. I do want us to remember 9-11, of course. I want us to never forget what it must be like to be a bombing victim. I want us to remember how that event brought us all together. I want us to remember what we are still sacrificing in terms of privacy and liberty for a feeling of greater safety. I would like us to remember that we live in a dangerous world, what it feels like to confront that danger up close and personally, and I would like us to ask ourselves what we’re doing as a country to make this world either safer or more dangerous than it already is. But that’s not my focus right now.

What I would like to write about instead is my personal memory of the events of 9-11, particularly teaching college during 9-11. The Fall semester of 2001 was my first semester teaching a college course all by myself as a third-year graduate student. It was Freshman Composition, of course: first year college writing. Freshman Comp. courses aren’t so much content oriented as skill oriented: students need to learn to write certain kinds of essays, and that’s it, so once they learn content related directly to that skill, they can write about whatever they want. Instructors then pick whatever readings they decide are the best and most interesting for that particular class, and students do their writing assignments based on those readings.

For further context, I would like to place myself geographically. I attended graduate school at Drew University, which is located In Madison, NJ. Drew is about thirty miles due west of lower Manhattan, so it takes about an hour to get to Penn Station by train from Madison’s train station, making Madison a commuter town for people working in lower Manhattan. When I first researched the area, I found out it was one of the top ten most expensive places to live in the US at the time. IT and Finance people who work in NYC live in Madison and commute there daily. At least some of my students were local and had parents who worked in the financial district in NYC.

Now, can you guess what I’d assigned that semester? Among all of my readings, I’d assigned readings from Salman Rushdie and Edward Said, both of which related to western imperialism and the Middle East. And can you guess what we were discussing the first day of class after 9-11? You got it. Yes, I was discussing Middle Eastern postcolonial theory in class my first class meeting after 9-11 during my first semester teaching.

Now forget the content for a minute. I had students in class that day who knew someone who died when the Twin Towers collapsed. Everyone was in shock — the whole world was in shock. But it hit my students literally close to home. We could see the smoke rising from the collapsed buildings for weeks after the event. It seemed like it was just always there. I remember hating the sight of it after about a week but not being able to ignore it or look away.

What did I do in class that day? I barely remember. This was my first semester teaching college. I remember I let students express their grief. I remember carefully discussing the content of the readings. I remember more shock and grief than anger at the time. I remember sitting down at the front of the class to talk rather than standing up. I remember over the next few weeks talking to angry male students who wanted to drop out of college to join the Army, and I remember trying to talk them out of it, or at least delay: If you join ROTC now and then finish college you can join as an officer and do more good.

But looking back, I think I got my first experience, without knowing it, of what college classes are really for.

Course Observation: Philip Roth

04ROTH-master675Lisa Scottoline’s “English Class with Mr. Roth” (May 3, 2014 NYT) recalls the author’s experience as an undergraduate student attending two of Philip Roth’s literature courses at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1970s. Scottoline concludes her essay with this description of the aftereffects Roth’s teaching:

Looking back, I’ve come to understand that he was the best professor I ever had, not only because of his genius, but also because of his distance. We were a group of girls eager to please, to guess at what he wanted us to say, and to say that for him. We all wanted to hear about him, or have him tell us how to write, but that was something he steadfastly denied us. By withholding his own personality, thoughts and opinions, he forced us back on our own personalities, thoughts and opinions. He made us discover what we wanted to write about, and to write about it the way we wanted to.

One point emerging in Scottoline’s essay was that as a  young woman in the 1970s she didn’t think about who she  wanted to be, but about who she wanted to marry. Roth’s somewhat distant pedagogy forced her back onto herself, her own ideas, and her own opinions, a process that led her toward respect for herself and her own mind.

What follows is the course observation report that I imagine would be written should someone observe Roth’s teaching today — as it was described in Scottoline’s essay.

*****

COURSE: ENG 275, The Literature of Desire
INSTRUCTOR: Prof. Philip Roth
DAY/TIME: M-W 2:00-3:15

OBSERVATION: In today’s class session, Prof. Roth and his students reviewed Franz Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis.” The course session consisted almost entirely of Prof. Roth engaging in a close reading of this work, with Prof. Roth systematically moving through the assigned text page by page while sitting behind his desk. No notes were consulted, nor were overhead projectors used. Students were not encouraged to engage the course or the lecture until the end of class, at which time they were asked if they had any questions. Five students out of fifteen asked questions while the rest passively listened.

EVALUATION: Professor Roth’s pedagogy leaves much to be desired. While he demonstrates a high degree of facility with the course material, it is unclear if his lectures reflect current scholarship about this subject or his own idiosyncratic reflections on the text, as he consults none of his prepared notes. In fact, his content is suspect for a number of reasons in this all-female class. Furthermore, Prof. Roth’s pedagogy is entirely lecture-based: he does not have his students engage in group work, make their own presentations, nor does he employ reading quizzes or in-class writing prompts. Worst of all, Prof. Roth does not employ any educational technology in the classroom. It is extremely unlikely that any students are getting anything out of this class.

RECOMMENDATIONS: Prof. Roth needs close mentoring to improve his pedagogy. If he seems unable or unwilling to diversity his teaching styles, I recommend that his lectures be videotaped one semester so that his seated courses can be replaced with MOOCs. In this way the University can more widely disseminate the same lecture content while building in more easily monitored assessments such as reading quizzes.