Sunday, January 5, 2014

New Year, New Scholar?

Hello, blog-land! It's been just over a year, but I'm back - and hopefully this time more frequently. I'm at a much more advanced stage in my progress towards the degree now (more on that below), and I'd like to think that that fact will lead to my having more to share on this blog.

Despite at times feeling like a bit of a stagnant year, 2013 actually offered me a great deal of milestones in my academic career. I presented at my first conference, giving a paper on Antonio, melancholy, and masochism in The Merchant of Venice at UCSB's Early Modern Center conference in February. The universe played a nasty trick on me and killed my hard-drive (containing the latest version of the paper) four days before the conference, but luckily the good folks at Best Buy were able to retrieve my paper for me and stop my panic attack, so I got to give the paper, in the comfort of my home university, to quite a bit of, let me exaggerate a bit, acclaim. In fact, as a result of a conversation about my paper, I began a rapport with Irwin Appel of UCSB's Theater and Dance Department, and as a result was fortunate enough to work with him as dramaturg on his production of Macbeth late last summer; we're continuing to work together this term, as I am also doing dramaturgy for his upcoming production of Bill Cain's Equivocation in the spring. As regular readers of my blog may remember (are there really any of you other than my grandfather, though? I love you, Poppy!) I wrote once about the sacrifice I made in giving up participating in theater to pursue my English PhD. Fortunately, dramaturgy has turned out to be a truly wonderful way of marrying my two interests!

This past year also offered me the wonderful opportunity to present at the International Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo, Michigan. For those of you not in the know, Kalamazoo is basically a four-day long summer camp for medievalists. Thousands of scholars, hundreds of papers, countless happy hours, and one fabulous dance party make for a truly incredible experience (complete with sleeping on uncomfortable dorm beds!) that I feel so lucky to have participated in the first time that I applied.

By the end of 2013, I had also made great stride in my dissertation - or at least it felt that way when I finally began typing the first sentences of my prospectus. I still have quite a ways to go - finish a good draft of my prospectus, have my committee sign off on it, submit it for official approval, prepare for and take my second exam - before I can advance to candidacy hopefully in late May or early June, but the fact that, as of yesterday I had almost nine pages of written dissertation work, whereas until December I had none, feels like incredible progress to me, and makes me feel, almost more than completing my first term back in 2010 did, like I'm finally a real graduate student, and no longer some poser or pretender.

Finally, I was delighted to end 2013 with the news that I've been nominated for the Academic Senate Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award. This means that I have some work to do assembling letters of recommendation from professors and students I've worked with, along with writing a statement of my teaching philosophy, but it feels like work that I'm very lucky to have to do. At the end of everything, as much as I love my research, and as happy as I am to be essentially fulfilling my childhood dream of getting paid to read for a living, the real reason I'm doing this - being in grad school, writing my dissertation, getting my PhD, is so that I can be a professor, be a teacher, be someone who shapes minds and gets students excited about learning. The fact that I've already been successful enough at that for a student to nominate me felt like the perfect end to what, in retrospect, was an extremely productive year.

As I said, I hope to be more of a presence on this blog in the upcoming months (I know, I know, I've said that before). I intend to keep the blog updated on my progress towards the degree, and also to start talking about the content of my project itself. For now, though, let me wish everyone a happy 2014, and leave you with my (working) title: "The Wound that Makes Whole: Bleeding and Intersubjectivity in Late Medieval Romance."