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For All You Post-MLA'ers

An analogue, superfluous though it may be:

Stage Door is an excellent film, by the way; I highly recommend it.

What's the maximum number of pages a CV should have? [anyone can vote, even unregistered users]

Five or fewer
24% (18 votes)
15% (11 votes)
7% (5 votes)
3% (2 votes)
no upper limit, especially if the person is a senior scholar
49% (37 votes)
other (please comment!)
3% (2 votes)
Total votes: 75

On Meetings

Let me begin by saying that this is a sincere inquiry.

Blogs by academics often contain expressed wishes that they didn't have to go to so many meetings. I didn't know what to expect when I started my job, but I wasn't worried about it; meetings generally don't bother me unless they go way off topic and deteriorate into unproductive chatting and joking around. [Note: This is especially the case when there's a specific project that the attendees are collaborating on; a few years ago I experienced such meetings.] At the close of my first semester as an assistant professor, I believe I've only been expected to attend about five or six meetings over the course of the semester: not bad at all. There are faculty meetings, and then there's a grant initiative program I'm participating in, for which I've had to attend one meeting. I'm in a writing group which meets once a week, but I don't really count that.

Granted, I'm not on any committees yet. But for years now when hearing professors talk about all the meetings they have to attend, I've wondered -- just how many meetings are we talking about, really? What's the big deal? I would say that something around four meetings per day for a period of a couple of weeks would be tiresome, especially if they're being held all over campus and you're having to be on the go constantly. Are most professors having to attend meetings on the order of ~15-20 per week? Or mostly just those with administrative posts?

I'm wondering, then, if you want to divulge: How many meetings have you attended this week? (Or last week, what have you. Break it down Monday through Friday.) Also, what counts as a meeting? Do class meetings count as meetings? Do meetings with students in your office count as meetings?

UPDATE: KulturFluff responds -- good stuff.

A response from Profgrrrrl as well.

The Stakes of Engagement with Literature

A while back, Mark Bauerlein at The Valve made a comment that has stuck with me ever since, or part of the comment, anyway:

We’ve done such a poor job of training young people to appreciate the value of literature that most of them see no point, and nothing at stake, in their engagement with it.

Today, Avedon Carol pointed me to Ursula LeGuin's acceptance speech for the Maxine Cushing Gray Award. This excerpt illustrates especially well those stakes:

There have been governments that celebrated literature, but most governments dislike it, justly suspecting that all their power and glory will soon be forgotten unless some wretched, powerless liberal in the basement is writing it down. Of course they do their best to police the basement, but it's hard, because Government and Literature, even when they share a palace, exist on different moral planes. Each is the ghost in the other's bedroom. A government can silence writers easily, yet Literature always escapes its control. Literature cannot control a government; poets, as poets, do not legislate. What they can do is set minds free of the control of any tyrant or demagogue and his lies and disinformation.

The Greek Socrates wrote: "The misuse of language induces evil in the soul." Evil government relies on deliberate misuse of language. Because literary skill is the rigorous use of language in the pursuit of truth, the habit of literature, of serious reading, is the best defense against believing the half-truths of ideologues and the lies of demagogues.

The poet Shelley wrote: "The imagination is the great instrument of moral good." Believing that, I see a public library as the toolshed, the warehouse, concert hall, temple, Capitol of imagination — of moral good. So here — right here where we are, right now — is where America stands or falls. Can we still imagine ourselves as free? If not, we have lost our freedom.

In Defense of Lecturing

is the title of an article that's worth a read. I don't lecture myself, but I'll admit, I loved lecture courses when I was a student. Speaking of... we finally got one. (the backstory)

More Motivators to Do a Great Conference Presentation

I'd like to riff off what Collin says in a recent post about conference presentations. He suggests that conference presentations are not taken very seriously by some who do them, and that one way to think of them would be to prepare our presentations as though the people in the audience paid their own money (no reimbursement by their institutions) to be there. Conference travel is expensive, and it's terrible to offer up a lousy presentation in exchange for that.

That, to me, is a good motivator to prepare well for presentations (well, that and the fact that I have done two presentations in the past that didn't go well at all, and I don't want to have to suffer that embarrassment again). But I can think of other motivators:

1. Do your presentation as if there's someone in the audience who has been wanting to meet you for a long time now (months or even years).

2. Do your presentation as though recruitment scouts (for publishing opportunities, jobs, PhD programs, etc.) are in the audience.

3. Assume that there's at least one blogger in the audience and that if you don't do a well-researched, thoughtful, and eloquent presentation, that person is going to write a bad review of your presentation. Assume the person's blog has a high enough Google page rank that the review could show up on the first page of results in a search for your name.

PMLA-related disappointment

You may know that there are lots of web sites that consist of collections of brief quotations uttered by political leaders. They're decontextualized sound bites, pretty much. I tell my students that they may not use these sites as sources for their papers; this is because the quotations are insubstantial and out of context, and they simply will not suffice as evidence to support an argument (it's in the syllabus, even). Imagine my disappointment, then, when I saw the following in the October 2006 PMLA, by brilliant feminist critic Susan Gubar:

It's no laughing matter that the Supreme Court is being reconfigured, along with our traditional civil rights and liberties, by a president whose commitment to education remains in doubt ("You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test"), whose military aggression has harmed people here and around the globe ("I just want you to know that, when we talk about war, we're really talking about peace"), and whose tax cuts injure many health and welfare programs ("They misunderestimated me"). As large numbers of women are put at risk by the widening divide between rich and poor ("I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family"), by the incursion into civic arenas of religious ideologies that reinstate traditional sexual hierarchies while failing to mask proliferating ecological disasters ("I trust God speaks through me"), have the goals of feminists been put in jeopardy?

The source cited in the bibliography is The Complete Bushisms. So maybe I'm a fuddy-duddy, but in my opinion this use of sound-bite quotations is not witty or clever. It's lazy, it undermines Gubar's credibility, it alienates a segment of the audience, and it mucks up the otherwise articulate and important points Gubar is making. It aids in lowering the level of political discourse to which I aspire and to which I hope my students will aspire. How can I not allow students to make this type of move when an eminent scholar is doing it in one of the field's top journals? (I mean, I'm still not going to allow it, but there it is.)

What are the best journals in your field?

I went to two three-hour-long grant writing workshops last Thursday (really!), and in the course of those, the speaker was talking about how some reviewers are well qualified to evaluate research in your particular field, but others, while very intelligent, well-read, educated people, are not experts in your specific area and can't look at your CV and know whether or not to be impressed; they don't know whether the journals you've published in are the best or not.

That got me to thinking -- I do know what the best journals are in my field (one would hope!), but I don't, in fact, have as firm a grasp as I would like on what the top-tier journals are in other subfields in English studies or in related fields. Yes, I know I could just look at the MLA index of periodicals and review all the acceptance rates, but I want to hear from people in these fields; I want to know which journals have the most cachet, and this may not necessarily line up with acceptance rates.

Here's what I do know, and I'd like you to help me fill in the blanks. Please suggest journals in the comments, or if you don't want to register, you can use my contact form. [I'm adding to this list as I get suggestions. I still have more to add, but this list has been updated on 15 October.]

Rhetoric and Composition: Rhetoric Society Quarterly, College Composition and Communication, JAC: A Journal of Composition Theory, College English. Those seem to be considered the best. Also very good are Journal of Basic Writing, Pedagogy, Rhetoric Review, Rhetorica, Computers and Composition, and Teaching English in the Two-Year College.


general: PMLA, obviously; ELH...what else?

medieval: Speculum, Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Exemplaria, The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, The Chaucer Review, Saga-Book, Scandinavian Studies, Studies in Medievalism

manuscript studies: Manuscripta

Anglo-Saxon studies: Anglo-Saxon England

Renaissance/early modern: Renaissance Quarterly, Sixteenth-Century Journal, The Shakespeare Quarterly

17th century:

Restoration/18th century: Eighteenth-Century Studies, The Eighteenth Century: Theory and Interpretation, Eighteenth-Century Life, Eighteenth-Century Fiction.

19th century British:

American (general): American Literature, American Literary History.

British (general): Journal of British Studies

18th/19th century American: Early American Literature

20th century British: I know Modernism/Modernity and Modern Fiction Studies are both good, but what else?

20th century American:

African American:


literary criticism/theory: Critical Inquiry

children's literature: The Lion and the Unicorn, Children's Literature Association Quarterly. Also good: Canadian's Children's Literature/Litterature Canadienne pour la Jeunesse

performance studies: Text and Performance Quarterly (is performance studies the same thing as studying drama?)

science fiction: Science Fiction Studies

film studies:

multicultural literature/ethnic studies: SAIL (Studies in American Indian Literatures)

gender studies: I know some good ones include Signs, Feminist Studies, Hypatia, Feminist Teacher, Legacy


history: American Historical Review


...and any other fields you'd like to add.

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