Sunday, February 27, 2011
February 27, 2011 [Academic work post 7]: Time Sensitive
I know it doesn’t gibe well with popular (and still somewhat enduring) images like the absent-minded professor, but I think most every aspect of this academic gig feels a bit like a race against time. Certainly that’s true of teaching—that desire to get as much done in the day’s hour fifteen, in the week, in the unit, in the semester and the course, fueled by the knowledge that when the semester and course are over so too might have ended my only chance to work with and hopefully help these particular students, is a fundamental force in my classroom work. But the same can be said for all kinds of committee and service work—trying to make the best use we can of this meeting, trying to get assessment project X or new initiative Y off the ground before the semester or year ends and everybody moves on to their next work. And even scholarship, which can seem to be the most open-ended in terms of time, becomes, when you’re trying to complete it alongside those courses and that service work and, y’know, parenting and life, very much about fitting the most we can into the limited time windows we’ve got.
I’m thinking about this aspect of my profession more than usual these days because of another, and even more strikingly time sensitive, side of my current work. I’m the 2011 President of the New England American Studies Association, a regional chapter of the national ASA; I’ve been on the NEASA Council for four years now and am hoping to be connected to the organization in one way or another for many more years to come, but the presidency is a one-year gig, and so it’s very literally the case that my main objectives and hopes for what I can add to NEASA’s efforts have to come to fruition—or at least, more realistically, have to be off and running in significant ways—before the clock runs out on 2011. Those objectives include a number of different focal points, from a spring colloquium at which NEASA members can share their recently published works or works still in progress to the growth of our website (link below!) into a space where interested scholars and Americans can find vibrant and ongoing conversations and resources for American Studies work. But most fully and, I admit, most ambitiously, my hopes rest with NEASA’s annual conference, which will be held the first weekend of November (11/4 and 11/5) at Plimoth Plantation here in Massachusetts.
I’ve attended the last six NEASA conferences, and they’ve been uniformly interesting and rich, full of impressive scholars (from both in and out of the academy) sharing strong ideas. I definitely don’t want to do anything to break that streak. But at the same time, I do want to make the conference more of an event, something that even folks who aren’t presenting, who aren’t affiliated with NEASA, who aren’t even necessarily American Studies scholars per se, find interesting and choose to attend. It’s a regional organization, so I’m not asking that Californians fly in en masse or anything; but I would love this to be something that somebody from a New Hampshire or Connecticut or Boston-area university just hops in the car to attend, something that a secondary educator throughout the region feels is worth asking for a release day to take part in, something that a visitor to Plimoth over that weekend just decides to take in for an hour or two, something that, in the most ambitious version of these fantasies (I mean goals), a local reporter deems worthy of a few lines of coverage (the theme, American Mythologies: Creating, Recreating, and Resisting National Narratives, is certainly one in which all Americans have an investment). There’s only so much I or we can do to make all of that happen, of course, but within those limits, and most relevantly (to this post) within the next few months, I’m going to do what I can to put our conference on all those maps.
The trick, of course, is that I don’t want my doing so to take away from using the rest of this semester as effectively as I can in my classes; from moving forward with departmental and Liberal Arts & Sciences assessment; from getting started on book three; from being Daddy. Is there time for all of it? There is—now I’ve just got to try to make it work. I’ll keep you posted! More tomorrow, on the cowboy-conductor who makes cinematic Western heroes seem downright drab in comparison.
PS. Three links to start with:
1) The NEASA site: www.neasa.org
2) Plimoth Plantation, where it’ll all go down: www.plimoth.org
3) OPEN: Any suggestions? Want to get involved with the conference, or NEASA in general? You know where to find me! (Right here, duh.)