Wednesday, April 20, 2011

April 20, 2011: A Good Day at a Good Gig

Grading calls, but before I get to it, here are five consecutive events in the course of my day today that remind me of just good this gig is:
1)      11am: A grad student in the department comes by to talk to me about the Master’s thesis that I’ll hopefully be supervising with him in the fall. He’s working on images of masculinity in Hemingway, and has some great starting points, takes that really move beyond some of the over-simplifying perspectives on Hemingway (as uber-macho, as misogynistic, etc) and get into the complexities of his constructions of male characters.
2)      11:30am: One of my two great undergraduate independent study students comes by—we’ve been talking about different uses of perspective and narration in Margaret Atwood and some other 21st century novelists, and today discuss both Atwood’s The Blind Assassin (2000) and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2008). This student is very smart and also a very talented filmmaker, so she brings a very different lens to discussions of perspective and characterization that really helps me see things anew as well.
3)      12:30pm: I go to teach Ethnic American Literature, where we’re moving entirely into the students’ work toward their final project, a multigenerational family timeline and analytical history paper. I’m really starting to glimpse the incredibly breadth and depth and variety of stories and themes and ideas that the students are finding and drawing out of their family identities and their own, and can see how fully they both intersect with and amplify those that we’ve discussed in our class texts.
4)      1:45pm: In between classes I pick up the senior portfolio that one of my advisees has submitted for departmental approval (it’s a requirement for our majors in order to graduate). In it she has collected and provided new framing documents for ten of her best papers, and two of them are ones that came out of classes in which I was fortunate enough to work with her; the one from my Introduction to Science Fiction and Fantasy class in particular reminds me both of her extremely impressive work there and of that whole, rejuvenating first time teaching that class (having just created it the year before).
5)      2pm: I go to teach American Literature II, where we’re starting our four days of discussions of our last long reading, Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake (2003). Despite this being at least the tenth time I’ve read Lahiri’s novel, including two in-depth examinations for articles, I’m still struck anew by her ability to find the most moving and significant meanings in the smallest and most everyday of details and experiences and perspectives and encounters, and by the half-dozen or so phrases per chapter that take my breath away. I can’t wait to get into the next three days of discussions of the novel.
A good day, one of many at this gig. More tomorrow, a much sadder tribute post by request.
PS. No links, but any parts of your own days (or weeks, or months, or years) you wanna share?

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