Saturday, September 13, 2014

Catching up

by J J Cohen

Every year I forget the temporal vortex that swallows the beginning of the semester and suddenly deposits you somewhere in its middle. And here we are.

So far so good. Though my department has seen a mysterious decline in enrollments, I ended up with twenty-five eager students for my Chaucer class -- which has been, at least at this point, the best I've taught. I'm pushing them, speeding up the pace of the readings, sprinkling in frequent short assignments, and adding critical reading by non-medievalists. It helps that I've had about 50% of the students in other classes: we have a good, easy going relationship on Tuesday and Thursday mornings, and their trust in me enables me to challenge them. I'm also team-teaching my beloved Myths of Britain, the reinvented Intro to Brit Lit I that is now eight years old and was no doubt desperate for reinvention. Sharing the course oversight and lectures with my colleague (and good friend) Ayanna Thompson has been invigorating: we push each other far beyond our comfort zones and that is energizing. She delivered the second Beowulf lecture Thursday and made me rethink the work of beautiful objects and song in the poem. I am going to have to up my game to lecture, in front of this Shakespeare expert, on Macbeth (which I will be doing just in the wake of whatever decision Scotland makes about staying part of the UK: could the themes of our course be more timely?) Our sixty students come from just about every major in the college and so far have been engaged when it comes to discussion.

In other news, Stone: An Ecology of the Inhuman now has a cover. The book itself appears in May 2015. What do you think? (I'm a little bit ambivalent, but so far it seems well liked, so maybe I am wrong to hesitate).

I've also finalized the details of the "Scale" panel for BABEL. Presenters who can arrive in Santa Barbara a day early will be taking a boat ride to Scorpion Bay (on Santa Cruz, one of the Channel Islands). There we'll hike the rugged terrain and stage a kind of outdoor collaboratory, thinking together in place about the theme of the session and coming away (we hope) with shared insight to inform our overstuffed (13 participants!) plenary at the conference. Here's the lineup:
  1. Karl Steel (Brooklyn College, CUNY): Subatomic
  2. Mary Kate Hurley (Ohio University): Cosmic
  3. Steve Mentz (St. John’s University, New York): Ocean
  4. Ben Tilghman (Lawrence University) + Asa Mittman (California State University, Chico): Sand
  5. James Tanton (Mathematical Association of America): Square?
  6. Anna Klosowska (Miami University, Ohio): Relativity
  7. Eileen Joy (BABEL Working Group): Intimate
  8. Jonathan Hsy (The George Washington University): Foot
  9. Lindy Elkins-Tanton (School of Earth and Planetary Exploration, Arizona State University): Flash
  10. Stacy Alaimo (University of Texas, Arlington): Abyss
  11. Dan Vitkus (University of California, San Diego): Global
  12. Sharon O’Dair (University of Alabama): Fear
If you are coming to BABEL I hope you will attend the session.

Last, I've compiled a list of where I will be presenting work in the 2014-15 season. I recently received a request to give a plenary in Melbourne in July which is so tempting because (1) I love that city; (2) the conference looks superb; and (3) it would enable me to circle the entire world giving papers, leaving DC headed east and moving roughly in that same direction until I come home from the west. So very Mandeville! But here is where to find me, and I hope to see many ITM readers as part of these journeys: Santa Barbara (BABEL, two sessions), UMD College Park (speaking at Knowing Nature conference in Oct., which looks to be great), Victoria BC (Lansdowne Visiting Speaker in November), NYC (doctoral program review, so: professional travel), Vancouver (MLA: I'll be in the Chaucer and SMFS sessions), Atlanta (Kemp Malone Lecturer at Emory in March), Kalamazoo (the usual madness), Saint-Maurice Switzerland (keynote at Approaching Posthumanism), London (elemental panel at London Chaucer Conference), New Zealand (visiting University of Auckland). And if all goes well I will return to Iceland in fall 2015 to work on a book project. Good thing I've been cutting down on travel and saying no to most requests.

Here is hoping your fall term is also off to a good start, whether you are taking classes or teaching them.

1 comment:

Eileen Joy said...

I like the cover a lot, especially the sub-title in the black circle. BUT: because of the lightness [perhaps] of the color of stone photo, the main title looks a bit washed-out/diffuse/not sharp enough? At first I thought I didn't like the font, but actually, it's a great font and I like that the title "Stone" is on a bias-slant, but white does not seem the right color somehow for it to stand out quite sharply enough.