Friday, December 28, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


A last rock-skip hurlstorm (crazing river-glass)
the closest they ever were.

In right lockstitch

snared and split some fire-supper cooked on sticks.

By dawn the older brother took to chucking

what bottle-frags he could find and crud-oysters across.

The (high-pitched) younger blacked our waters
with a yowl.

Lord the sound such as rose from him

carried so


into us. Clings.

Hadn’t they clung tooth and claw to branch and bark.

—Came a man (and truck) to take them off.

Dieseled those boys off

some say somewheres upcountry,


Where it was they landed (why) nobody not them knows.

No body not them knows

just how they humped and grubbled home

what road they’d graved what woods criss-crossed

which creeks which trains they’d hopped who helped.

Came safe home sure        but blank as houses.
Came safe home       —as him  —and him.
—as (evermore) not them.

I've been thinking about this poem since it came up on my "Poem of the Day" podcast yesterday. (Audio of the poet reading it here.) I remember reading it in Poetry Magazine not too long ago. (Okay--apparently it was published in April 2011.) Anyway, I find it quite powerful--sad, mysterious, and inventive. The unusual spacing and margins are intentional, really forcing you to think about words and the spaces between words.

Saturday, December 15, 2012


Just uploaded the last of the grades. No need to get creative searching for some chair-dancing music. This was literally playing as I hit "enter" on the grade submission page.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Almost there...

Checking in on the grading countdown...

Here's what's left:
1) Thirty ENGL 215 exams. But oh my goodness, I am having a hard time getting through them. The students only took them today, so I am making some decent progress, I suppose.

2) Five ENGL 407 presentations, to be delivered by students on Friday morning.

3) Compiling/computing the grades for WMST 201 (a joint venture between me and the two women with whom I've co-taught the class.) We'll take care of that tomorrow afternoon.

The new water heater is going in tomorrow morning, so I'll be home then and hope to knock out those exams while the guys are working. 

How 'bout a link to a new favorite tumblr, complete with appropriate gif


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Paper Grading Totals: Fall Semester 2012 Edition

So here's what's left to do before I bid good-bye to this semester:

1) Fourteen ENGL 407 seminar papers. These are 15-20 pages each. I've actually made my way through three of these so far.

2) Eighteen ENGL 101 portfolios. I've made it through four of these so far. The rest come in tomorrow morning.

3) About fifty ENGL 215 final exams, each with a take-home essay component and an in-class short paragraph component. These come in on Wednesday.

4) Respond to five more ENGL 407 seminar paper presentations. Nine of the students already presented their papers (in class last week). These last ones will be delivered on Friday morning.

That doesn't seem too bad, does it? Final grades are due Monday, December 17 at 9:00 a.m.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

All I want for Christmas...

I had no idea that I all I wanted for Christmas was a new water heater. But it looks like that's what I'll be getting myself. The joys of home ownership!

For the record, the old one is still working. It's just got something called a "dip tube" in it that is breaking down and causing all sorts of problems for my pipes--with the inevitable promise of getting much worse. You can read about the problem here, if you are interested. Since I am fortunate enough to be able to afford a replacement and since I like to be really proactive about this kind of stuff, I'm going to have the old unit replaced next week.

I suppose it's also worth noting that all of this started when the water pressure in my kitchen sink dropped off and I thought, "Well, I suppose I really ought to get this fixed and might as well replace that garbage disposal that the plumber told me to fix back in January..." And so it began...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend

Just a few more pictures from Thanksgiving Weekend...

Tara and I at dinner on Friday night.

Mom and Dad at dinner on Friday.

My dad trying on a dapper hat at O'Hurley's in Shepherdstown.

Colin used his own money to buy this nifty walking stick at O'Hurley's.

We took Ava (Tara and Jeff's dog) down to the Potomac and she dashed right in. She didn't even hesitate. Here she is coming out...

...before heading back in.

Colin down by the river.

We took in more of the sights and activities of Christmas in Shepherdstown, which included free face-painting for the kids (and maybe adults, too, if they wanted?) and a visit with Santa.

Friday Visit to Erin and Eric's

On Friday, we drove into Arlington to see Erin, Eric, and baby Krista. Tara, Jeff, and the kids hadn't met her yet, so it was extra-special for them.

Tara and the kids.



Waking up...

 Olivia and Krista.

Tante Tara and Krista.

Tara, Jeff, and Krista.

Opa and Krista.

Jeff and Colin.

The happy (if tired) parents.

Krista and Oma.

Thanksgiving Day

Thanksgiving 2012 was a good one! I had seven family members in town for the weekend and hosted dinner on Thursday.

Me and Colin.

 Me and Olivia.


 Colin and Ryan.

 Ryan and Olivia.

 Dad and Jeff. (They actually were having a better time than this picture indicates!) And notice Olivia trying to photobomb into this one.

Mom, Olivia, and Tara.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ready for Thanksgiving

Having just finished my grading (like 5 minutes ago!), I am now ready for the holiday. A special shout-out to Buffy, Season 5, which provided the background entertainment for much of my grading. In fact, I also just finished "The Gift," which still gets to me every time.

Anyway, here comes Thanksgiving. I am hosting this year, which is kind of exciting. Tomorrow I've got some cooking to start (my opa's famous cheesecake, for instance), some cleaning to finish (almost done!), and some last-minute shopping to do (beer for the adults and juice for the kids).

Maybe just a bit of chair-dancing to celebrate knocking out one substantial "to do" list of work-related tasks for the break. This will do...

Baby Krista

My new niece arrived on November 11. I love the kid already for her rather impeccable timing.

1) She waited to arrive until Erin finished at work (her last day was Friday, November 9).
2) She waited to arrive until I got back from my conference in North Carolina.
3) She waited to arrive until a Sunday, which was awesome because A) I can easily visit on a Sunday, B) I can take I-66 to get there on a Sunday, which has HOV-only restrictions Monday-Friday, and C) the hospital has free parking on Sundays.


And she's pretty cute, too.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The challenges of grading papers at home...

...represented in picture. Please notice that the cat is between the papers. Quite a feat.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Long time, no post...

First of all, it's just mind boggling and heart-breaking to see what's going on up in New York and New Jersey. Words fail. I am not even going to attempt to be eloquent.

It's been a long time since my last post. No great excuses: just busy, busy, busy. I turned in the big binder, which actually morphed into two binders. I went to the SSAWW conference in Denver (which was awesome). I sent off final final final (I think they are final) revisions to that Poe article and the Winnemucca/Mann article. I taught my section of the Intro to Women's Studies course. And now I am just about ready to present another paper at SAMLA (the Fanny Fern paper). Life in the fast lane, right?

Now that I can kind of see the light at the end of the tunnel, I have a strange feeling...something about being without any "you've gotta do A, B, and C before so you can graduate/so that you can get a job/so that you can get through third year review/so that you can get tenure and promotion" pressure for the first time since...maybe 2001? It's a strange but kind of cool feeling. Now I want to catch my breath a bit and then focus on some projects, but without that "you've gotta do this!" pressure. Sounds good to me.

And here's another bit of happy anticipation: my new niece should be here any day now. Can't wait to meet her.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bought the BIG binder today...

And those who have been through the process might know just what buying that big binder means: I am beginning to assemble my portfolio for requesting tenure and promotion. I've been collecting the materials since the day I started at Shepherd and had to compile a (smaller) portfolio for third-year review, but there's something pretty cool about actually putting stuff into this one.

A night like tonight: cool and kind of rainy, with the Yankee game to watch in the background, is just perfect for portfolio assemblin'! 

And yeah, part of me still thinks, "But I'm like a kid. I can't be ready for tenure yet!" I've got lots of time to get used to the idea...and worry about it...and hope for the best. My portfolio is due in mid-October, but I won't get an official answer until April.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Post-Birthday Visit from Erin and Eric

A couple of pictures from a lovely visit I had with my sister and brother-in-law yesterday.

 We're standing in front of a lovely crape myrtle Christian gave me for my birthday. Erin and Eric helped me plant it.

How cute are these two?

Spike is 50???

A friend sent me a link to this "where are they now" gallery of the Buffy cast. It's actually really comprehensive (including characters like Warren, Kendra, and Glory). Check it out!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Connie Britton interview

This woman can do no wrong. I'd watch her do anything. Anyway, check out this interview. Worth noting (in no particular order of interest):
  • She still keeps in touch with members of the FNL cast (all the cool ones, of course) and had to close her eyes while watching Taylor Kitsch in Savages. (Aww!)
  • She also has to close her eyes while watching parts of American Horror Story. (Me, too, but mostly for those uber-creepy opening credits.)
  • She was worried about what FNL fans would think of "Mrs. Coach" in such a different role on AHS. No worries, Connie: you rocked it on AHS.
  • Nashville will feature original music from folks like Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams, and T-Bone Burnett. How amazing is that?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Three tooth posts in a row?

Yeah, I know, I know. Things are a bit better today. I am really hoping tomorrow will be almost normal. That might be too much to hope, though. The upside is that all this time at home is helping me get lots of reading and typing done.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I woke up this morning with a majorly swollen face--at least one side of it, anyway. Gross. It is still really swollen, too. Fortunately the pain isn't too awful (although it hurts to open too wide, talk too much, etc. and I am really sticking to my pill schedule because, boy, do I need them!).

Anyway, as I convalesce this evening, I am typing some notes for my Fanny Fern paper, working on my syllabi, and watching Buffy Season 4. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Buffy makes everything better. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tooth (or lack thereof) update #2

It's an achy day here and a quiet one as I recover. The implant went in this morning and it should give me a good bit of discomfort for the next day or so. The actual procedure wasn't bad. The only part that hurt was getting the Novocaine shots. This isn't to say the procedure was pleasant--nothing pleasant about all that drilling, poking, lots of pressure, and a device that sounded/felt like a mini-jackhammer. And (it gives me the willies to even type about this) I am hoping to never have to repeat the experience of feeling something being screwed firmly into my jaw. Again, it didn't hurt, but it sure didn't feel normal. Now there's this metal bar in my jaw. It looks something like this, although I haven't had a very good look myself. It hurts to open that far and I also don't want to be icked out by any blood or gore.

Once again, I was described by the doctor as a "perfect patient." Once again, I was extraordinarily pleased with myself. Yeah, I got issues.

Anyway, I go back in nine days, then wait three more months for my regular dentist to put the crown/actual new (fake) tooth on. What a process!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Random Fanny Fern Greatness 3 and 4

On those who say to "bide the Lord's time": "If there is one piece of advice more bandied about by irresolution, imbecility, and moral cowardice than this, I should be glad to know it. As I take it, the Lord's time is the first chance you get" (qtd. in Walker 108).

On Providence: it is a "convenient scapegoat for all the human stupidity extant...a convenient theology for bad cooks, for unwise school-teachers, for selfish, careless, ignorant parents!" (qtd. in Walker 108).

Work Cited
Walker, Nancy. Fanny Fern. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1993. Print.


Today I wish Facebook had the option to block all posts about a certain chicken establishment, especially those involving smug folks claiming they speak for all Christians and family values, idiots who don't understand what "freedom of speech" means, and people who are making me rethink our "friendship." Seriously--don't people (on both sides) even think about how they sound to people who might feel differently? The way their words can wound people? That they might care about (and even love) people who feel differently? Ugh. Internet: you lose today. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Random Fanny Fern Greatness 2

"I never want to touch a baby except with a pair of tongs!"

A great example of Fern's multiple writing personas--and it made me laugh out loud. She's speaking here in the voice of an "old maid" responding to this sentiment: "FOLLY. For girls to expect to be happy without marriage. Every woman was made for a mother, consequently, babies are as necessary to their "peace of mind," as health. If you wish to look at melancholy and indigestion, look at an old maid. If you would take a peep at sunshine, look in the face of a young mother." As you can imagine, Fern has some fun with this idea. Alternatively, in other pieces, she would glorify motherhood, but that's what makes her so darn interesting. (More of the piece here.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I hosted a little badminton/cook-out event here last night and it was so much fun! A friend of mine posted this cool piece partially inspired by it. (Hope she doesn't mind me linking to it.)

House stuff...

I will never claim to be a home-design expert, but I do think things are looking kind of good around here (at least on the outside) lately.

First: the siding got powerwashed. I can't believe what a difference it makes. Everything looks cleaner (duh!) and brighter. Money well spent! Because of the heat waves and  lack of rain, the flowers out front have been a bit slow to take off this year, but you can see them peeking through in front of the shrubs. (The flowers are a lot prettier out back--and there are more of them. Maybe I'll post some photos of those later.)

Special thanks to the sky for being a lovely shade of blue today.

Second: I paid some folks to tame the thorny shrubs that had threatened to take over the entire front yard. (Well, not quite, but it had gotten bad!) I don't have any "before" pictures to give you a sense of how crazy they were, but I do have some "afters."

Front view of the bushes. Still big, but much tamer!

This whole area that is now open/clear was covered by the bush. You couldn't even see that downspout before (or that cute little statue thing my mom got me for it.)

Finally: the trim got fixed. Yay!

Good as new. And again, check out that blue sky!

And then there's this...

Zoom zoom!

Yeah, that's not a house-repair exactly, but the trim and the shrubs got done within a couple of days of each other and I was so happy about it. That happiness was quickly tempered by the surprise of a flat tire and an eventual $330 charge for two new front tires.

The expensive summer continues...

It never fails...

My sister and brother-in-law got me this very cool popcorn maker for Christmas. Because it's kind of oddly shaped and bulky, I keep it in the box it came in and store it in the hall closet. Every single time that I use it, I set the box on the kitchen table. I make the popcorn, go into the other room, sit down, begin enjoying said popcorn, and then I hear a thud. The source of that thud?

Bing in the box. Every single time.

Sometimes when I catch him, he looks a bit upset or embarrassed, like in this one:

Most of the time, though, he's like, "Yeah I'm hanging out in this box. No big deal." Regardless, it always makes me laugh.

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Dover Beach"

Since waking up to the awful news out of Colorado today, I have had Matthew Arnold's well-known poem running through my head. I know that some people have made fun of this poem a bit or feel that its imagery is cliched, its ending a bit of a cop-out, but I've always found it moving.

Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.

My Daguerreotype Boyfriend

I heard about this fun blog on one of my favorite podcasts today. Enjoy.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

A&R: Done!

We finished the fifth and final Advising and Registration session today. Everything went really well and was actually less stressful than in years past. I had two awesome A-Team leaders, too, which made things even easier.

Now to focus on my conference papers, syllabizing for the fall, and the P&T portfolio.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Trojan Women

Last Friday, I saw the Rude Mechanicals' production of Euripedes' Trojan Women. It was terrific and I've been thinking about it ever since. Because I am trying to post something every day and trying to not let two days go by without posting, I figured I'd go ahead and post about the part that moved me the most: when Andromache learns that her little son will be thrown from the walls of the ruined city. Before seeing this production, I was unfamiliar with this exact play (although I knew the basic outline of the story) but had always been moved by the tragic fates of Hector, Andromache, and their little son Astyanax. I remember very well the scene in The Illiad where Hector says goodbye to his wife and child, who is initially frightened by his father's armor. This scene humanizes the heroic Hector and makes his death even more moving to readers. And then to think of what happens to that little boy...gets me every time--even thinking about it. And then to see it acted out on stage! I am a total book/movie/play/TV crier, so rest assured, I had some tears running down my face.

Anyway, here's part of Andromache's speech: 

My child! my own sweet babe and priceless treasure! thy death the foe demands, and thou must leave thy wretched mother. That which saves the lives of others, proves thy destruction, even thy sire's nobility; to thee thy father's valiancy has proved no boon. O the woeful wedding rites, that brought me erst to Hector's home, hoping to be the mother of a son that should rule o'er Asia's fruitful fields instead of serving as a victim to the sons of Danaus! Dost weep, my babe? dost know thy hapless fate? Why clutch me with thy hands and to my garment cling, nestling like a tender chick beneath my wing? Hector will not rise again and come gripping his famous spear to bring thee salvation; no kinsman of thy sire appears, nor might of Phrygian hosts; one awful headlong leap from the dizzy height and thou wilt dash out thy life with none to pity thee Oh to clasp thy tender limbs, a mother's fondest joy! Oh to breathe thy fragrant breath! In vain it seems these breasts did suckle thee, wrapped in thy swaddling-clothes; all for naught I used to toil and wore myself away! Kiss thy mother now for the last time, nestle to her that bare thee, twine thy arms about my neck and join thy lips to mine! 

One of my former students played this role (and another student hit it out of the park playing Hecube). It's always so terrific to see them shine in a new light. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fringe Season 5 trailer...

Although I adore Fringe, I wasn't completely sure how excited I was about Season 5 taking place in the future, but this trailer (and doesn't Fringe do the best trailers???) has me so excited!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"The Icehouse in Summer"

I came across this cool (ha!) little poem today while catching up on my Poem of the Day podcast. I like how it makes you think about the coldest winter in the middle of the summer, although neither set of images is particularly comforting. 

Howard Nemerov

see Amos, 3:15
A door sunk in a hillside, with a bolt
thick as the boy’s arm, and behind that door   
the walls of ice, melting a blue, faint light,   
an air of cedar branches, sawdust, fern:   
decaying seasons keeping from decay.

A summer guest, the boy had never seen   
(a servant told him of it) how the lake
froze three foot thick, how farmers came with teams,   
with axe and saw, to cut great blocks of ice,   
translucid, marbled, glittering in the sun,   
load them on sleds and drag them up the hill   
to be manhandled down the narrow path   
and set in courses for the summer’s keeping,   
the kitchen uses and luxuriousness
of the great houses. And he heard how once
a team and driver drowned in the break of spring:   
the man’s cry melting from the ice that summer   
frightened the sherbet-eaters off the terrace.

Dust of the cedar, lost and evergreen   
among the slowly blunting water walls
where the blade edge melted and the steel saw’s bite   
was rounded out, and the horse and rider drowned
in the red sea’s blood, I was the silly child
who dreamed that riderless cry, and saw the guests
run from a ghostly wall, so long before
the winter house fell with the summer house,
and the houses, Egypt, the great houses, had an end.

By the way, Amos 3:15 (referenced below the title) reads "And I will smite the winter house with the summer house; and the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end, saith the LORD."

Saturday, July 14, 2012


Just sent off the final (I hope!) set of revisions for my MELUS article. Commence chair dancing. Feeling a bit retro this morning, so let's go with one of my favorites by the Beach Boys.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

A couple of links...

1) Jason Howard, who I met a couple of years ago when he visited Shepherd, has a new op-ed in the New York Times. A quotation from its closing: "There is no easy resolution to the fraught relationship between the coal industry and the people of Appalachia, many of whom rely on it for jobs even as it poisons their region. But it is imperative that the industry’s leaders and their elected allies lay down their propaganda and engage in an honest, civil dialogue about the issue. The stakes are too high to do otherwise."

2) A very cool Lego installation in Australia. When I was a kid, I would spend hours and hours playing with my Legos. Sometimes, I still miss them. 

3) A Firefly reunion special is in the works! Commence celebrating!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Summer Tableau II

 Alternate title: "Bing Contemplates Nineteenth-Century American Feminism."

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Random Fanny Fern Greatness

"Take your rights, my sisters; don't beg for them! Never mine what objectors say or think. Success will soon stop their mouths" (New York Ledger, 16 July 1870).

(You can expect a lot more of these as I get going on my conference paper.)

Friday, July 6, 2012


  Not a bad way to spend a 100+ degree day, but it can wear a cat out.

I've made some good progress on the MELUS article today, adding the small bits of content that needed to be added, double-checking all of the quotations and citations, and taking care of some formatting. I'm hoping to give it a final read-through tomorrow, make some final revisions, and submit it by Monday.

Monday, July 2, 2012

"The Lie"

I first encountered this poem in the September 2009 issue of Poetry Magazine and thought it was pretty darn creepy and haunting. Now I'm thinking about using it in "Creepy Lit" this fall. Thoughts? Bonus: there's audio of the poet reading it at this site.

Don Paterson

As was my custom, I’d risen a full hour
before the house had woken to make sure
that everything was in order with The Lie,
his drip changed and his shackles all secure.

I was by then so practiced in this chore
I’d counted maybe thirteen years or more
since last I’d felt the urge to meet his eye.
Such, I liked to think, was our rapport.

I was at full stretch to test some ligature
when I must have caught a ragged thread, and tore
his gag away; though as he made no cry,
I kept on with my checking as before.

Why do you call me The Lie? he said. I swore:
it was a child’s voice. I looked up from the floor.
The dark had turned his eyes to milk and sky
and his arms and legs were all one scarlet sore.

He was a boy of maybe three or four.
His straps and chains were all the things he wore.
Knowing I could make him no reply

I took the gag before he could say more

and put it back as tight as it would tie
and locked the door and locked the door and locked the door

Maybe it's too creepy? Too disturbing? Too weird? I don't know. And man...that last stanza, which inverts the rhyme scheme and then chillingly repeats "locked the door," is just so good.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Storm damage

 Can you see the damage? A big piece of trim blew off and landed back by the grill.

Considering what lots of other people in the region are going through, this is pretty minor damage. A nuisance that will cost a bit of money to fix. The joys of home ownership!


Crazy and kind of scary storms moved through here a couple of hours ago. Everything is okay here--still have power, etc., but again, it was scary and this area got slammed.

Anyway, my dad, who checks on his kids who live far away using a weather app on his iphone, called to check on me. Very sweet to know he cares.

Friday, June 29, 2012


I wanted to wait until it got a bit cooler outside to water my flowers. I told a friend, "Yeah, I'll do it this evening." Well, it's 6:00 now and still 102 degrees (without the heat index). Yuck.

I can't complain too much, though. I am lucky to have AC here at home. A friend and I beat the heat a bit earlier today by seeing Brave (which I thought was pretty cute) and getting some frozen yogurt. I was introduced to the wonder that is Sweet Frog. If that place isn't a million dollar idea, I don't know what is. Wow.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Getting to know you...

The "you" in this post's title refers to my newest adventure in research: a long anticipated project on Fanny Fern that I am only just starting. (It's not that big a project--for now, just a paper for SAMLA in November.) Anyway, as I look towards wrapping up one big project (that MELUS article I mentioned here) and get ready to start writing another conference paper (this one on Constance Fenimore Woolson, for the SSAWW conference in October--and the research/note-taking is done on this one), it seems like the right time to start the Fern project. I will confess, though, to having a lot of it already written in my head.

Major nerd alert, but it's so true: this first phase of research--hitting the MLA bibliography, ordering ILL materials, printing off articles, picking up books, really diving into the conversation--is just always so exciting to me.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Creepy Syllabizing...

I just wrote the following on my Fall 2012 syllabus for ENGL 215 ("Creepy Lit"):

"W 11/28: Watch pilot episode of The Walking Dead"

That strikes me as very weird, very cool, and just a bit risky. But I think it will work. Good TV writing is, after all, literary, so studying a solid pilot like this one will help put a nice cap on our semester-long discussion of literary genres/forms. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Advising & Registration, 2012

It's Advising and Registration time again. One session down, four more to go. Today went pretty well. I had a good (if a bit quiet) group of students who got just about every class they wanted. It will be a different picture by the fifth session, but no use worrying about that now. I am also really excited to have two terrific A-Team students: they are smart, funny, and very helpful. 

The next session starts on Monday, so I've got a bit of a break to get some final revisions done to this article that needs to be back to the editor by July 15. (Did I post here yet that I got an article accepted for MELUS? It's pretty awesome!)

Monday, June 25, 2012

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Constance Fenimore Woolson on Louisa May Alcott

"What heroic, brave struggles. And what a splendid success" (qtd. in Gebhard 218).

I know I keep posting these "_____ on ______" entries, but I keep stumbling across great examples. It shouldn't surprise us that writers are so very good at witty and spot-on evaluations of their peers. This one strikes me as particularly poignant as Woolson, like Alcott, struggled with and wrote despite poor health, had long periods of self-doubt, and fought societal expectations about women-writers.

Alcott's grave marker in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. (Taken during my awesome vacation last summer)

Work Cited
Gebhard, Caroline. "Constance Fenimore Woolson Rewrites Bret Harte: The Sexual Politics of   Intertextuality." Critical Essays on Constance Fenimore Woolson. Ed. Cheryl B Torsney. New York: G.K. Hall, 1992. 217-23. Print.

Drunk Texts from Famous Authors

Check 'em out here. Of course, Emily Dickinson's is my favorite. (The Dan Brown one is the meanest, but also oh-so-funny.)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Don't let his sweet face fool you...

Those of you who have met him might not believe it, but this animal turns into a wild beast once a year, when I take him to the vet. Yesterday was the worst ever. They had three people in the room to handle him, covered him in two towels, and even then the doctor said he thought it would be for the best to just give him his shot and skip the full exam. I was mortified. I apologized to everyone but finally had to abandon my "he's all bark but no bite" spiel--because this time, he was all about the bite (and the scratch), although no one got hurt.

The doctor suggested that next time we give him a mild sedative first. At least I have a year to prepare myself. Maybe I should take one, too.

The really amazing/frustrating part? Less than a minute after I get him home, he is just fine. Happy, purring--like everything is okay.

Seriously: this is one of the most stressful and traumatic things I have to go through every year. (Which, glass half-full, is pretty awesome, I suppose.) And oh, Bing went, too, and he did just fine.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

So long, summer school!

Just finished grading the final exams. The session really flew by!

Of course, training for Summer Advising and Registration begins tomorrow at 8:30. Oh well.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Emily Dickinson on Hawthorne

"Hawthorne entices, appalls."

Perfect, right? And so very Dickinson.

Matt's back!

Even though this guy and his videos have been around for years, I only learned about them when my friend Jane showed one to me about a month ago. I was an instant fan. These videos just make me happy--and hopeful. Anyway, here's a new one, with happy dancing people from all over. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hawthorne on Melville

Wineapple's book continues to provide great little glimpses of Hawthorne and his world. Much has been written about Hawthorne and Melville's relationship and it seems like Hawthorne wasn't the good friend that Melville needed him to be. But Hawthorne clearly got Melville. He writes in his journal, "If he were a religious man, he would be one of the most truly religious and reverential; he has a very high and noble nature, and better worth immortality than most of us" (293).

The barn at Arrowhead, where Melville and Hawthorne would sit and talk when Hawthorne visited.

Monday, June 18, 2012

David and his mansion

This past weekend found me up in Philadelphia, helping my friend David find a place to live as he prepares for a new (tenure-track!) job up there. I didn't take a lot of pictures, but I did get one of him at his new school outside the old mansion that now houses classrooms and his future office. Perfect.

Summer tableau

This doesn't tell the whole story of my summer, but it tells a lot of it (so far).

Bing has excellent taste in biographies.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Since it was a West Coast game, I didn't hear about Matt Cain's perfect game until this morning. Something about these stories of perfect games and no hitters get to me--that there's always that play that adds to the delicious drama and tension of it all. Like this play, for instance:

I'm telling you, I watched that clip this morning and my eyes welled up with tears. It's just so beautiful. Yeah...I love this game.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"On Wanting to Tell [ ] about a Girl Eating Fish Eyes"

A couple of weeks ago, I came across this poem on the "Poem of the Day" podcast, listening to it on a road trip up to New York. It has sort of haunted me since then (perhaps I need a less dramatic word...)

As Szybist explains in the brief introduction she gives the poem in the audio clip you can find here, she wrote the poem after a friend died and--on that same night--the poet had dinner with some friends. I love the visceral grossness and energy (talk about needing another word!) of the little girl scampering around eating eyeballs--such a strange image and perfect of vibrant, youthful life and energy; this "almost feverish" bundle of youth, mercilessly gobbling up the world around her. Those last lines, too: just a knockout punch.
Mary Szybist

—how her loose curls float
above each silver fish as she leans in
to pluck its eyes—

You died just hours ago.
Not suddenly, no. You'd been dying so long   
nothing looked like itself: from your window,   
fishermen swirled sequins;   
fishnets entangled the moon.

Now the dark rain   
looks like dark rain. Only the wine   
shimmers with candlelight. I refill the glasses
and we raise a toast to you   
as so and so's daughter—elfin, jittery as a sparrow—
slides into another lap   
to eat another pair of slippery eyes   
with her soft fingers, fingers rosier each time,   
for being chewed a little.

If only I could go to you, revive you.
You must be a little alive still.   
I'd like to put this girl in your lap.
She's almost feverishly warm and she weighs   
hardly anything. I want to show you how   
she relishes each eye, to show you
her greed for them.   

She is placing one on her tongue,
bright as a polished coin—   

What do they taste like? I ask.
Twisting in my lap, she leans back
sleepily. They taste like eyes, she says.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Hawthorne: A Life

To prepare for my seminar this fall, I am re-reading Brenda Wineapple's great biography of Hawthorne. (Actually, I think this will be the first time I've read the whole thing.) Whenever I dive into these big biographies, in addition to the "serious" notes I take, I keep a list of random facts/anecdotes that stand out to me. So here are a few from the opening chapters:

Hawthorne's kids sound like they were just as warm, fuzzy, and optimistic as their dear old dad. Daughter Una (an inspiration for Pearl in The Scarlet Letter) once wrote a poem called "Dead Sunshine" (11). Ha.

Hawthorne's Uncle Robert (Manning), an important figure in his life, since Nathaniel's father died when he was only four, once sent his young nephew these words of advice: "Study the hard lessons, learn all you can at school, mind your mother, don't look cross, hold up your head like a man, and keep your cloths [sic] clean" (24). Words of wisdom that still hold up today!

I hadn't come across this reference before, but I imagine it must be the letter that launched a thousand (okay, maybe dozens?) of dissertations/articles/book/conference papers: Fifteen-year-old Hawthorne, bemoaning that his carefree, childish days are behind him and the fact that he has to go to boarding school, writes to his sister Ebe, explaining, "But the happiest days of my life are gone. Why was I not a girl that I might have been pinned all my life to my Mother's apron?" (39). I am sure there were plenty of women who would have gladly switched places with poor Nathaniel.

Beyond these rather incidental bits, Wineapple provides some rather insightful commentary on Hawthorne and his work. I really like these words from her opening chapter, a chapter that begins by discussing where the three Hawthorne children ended up as adults: "With an insight so fine it bordered on the voluptuous, he crafted a style of exquisite ambiguity, of uncompromising passion and stubborn skepticism. Yet his characters are often curiously static, poised between self-knowledge and indifference, and like Hawthorne himself, confounded by what and who they are. For Hawthorne was a man of dignity, of mordant wit, of malicious anger; a man of depression and control; a forthright and candid man aching to confess but too proud, too obstinate, to ashamed to do so; a man of disclosure and disguise, both at once keen, cynical, and intelligent, who digs into his imagination to write of American men and women: isolated in their communities, burdened by their history, riven by their sense of crime and their perpetual, befuddled innocence; people ambitious and vain and displaced and willing, or perhaps forced, to live a double life, a secret life, an exemplary life, haunted and imprisoned, even as his children were--or, in Hawthorne's terms, as are we all" (12).

Work Cited

Wineapple, Brenda. Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Life. New York: Random House, 2003. Print.

This afternoon's reading companions...