Monday, December 12, 2005

End of term (almost)

Five days.

I'm almost there -- I just cleaned off my desk after finishing up the final bits of work on English 2000, my Medieval-18th Cent course. Essays handed back, exams graded, final grades submitted. And now time for round two: final essays to grade for American Drama, then the exam on thursday ... which leaves me exactly 24hrs to grade the exams and submit the marks.

Piece of cake.

Of course, given that there is a stack of essays to grade, I'm inevitably finding other tasks that are just relevant enough to take the edge off the guilt of not turning my attention to the more immediate concern.

Part of this isn't strictly avoidance, but the little annoying quirk of my mind to tend to leap ahead to the next major project while the one at hand still needs to have some loose ends tied up. So I've been doing some course prep for next semester; I'll be teaching a first-year and a fourth-year class (I hit for the cycle this year, teaching-wise: first, second, third and fourth-year courses), the former an introduction to the study of prose fiction, and the latter a senior seminar on Depression-era American literature.

Can I tell you how excited I am about these classes? I'm such a geek. No surprise perhaps on the fourth-year, but I've populated the intro course with some of my favourite reads: In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway; Pride and Prejudice, the only drawback of which is I'm now kind of obliged to see the Keira Knightly film -- rest assured, anyone in my class who watches the film without reading the novel is in for a nasty shock; Elizabeth Smart's divine By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept; Chronicle of a Death Foretold by Gabriel Garcia Marquez; and Time's Arrow, that exquisite mindfuck by Martin Amis.

Sigh. God, I love books ...

I've also been sketching out ideas for a graduate course for next year. I have to say, this is my favourite part of this job: thinking up ideas for courses and organizing them. A year ago this past summer, the FIMS associate dean at Western called me and said they needed some new courses for the fall, and would I be willing to teach one? I said sure, what do you want me to teach? "Anything you want," she said. "Just have it on my desk in two days."

Now that was fun. What emerged was the Alternative Realities course ... which, coincidentally, is one of my ideas for something to pitch to the department here.

There's also some standard Lockett fare I could peddle -- a course in conspiracy culture (which would also be recycled from MIT at Western), or something on the literature of the Cold War Consensus.

What's been tickling my mind lately however is a course on "endings" -- teleological and eschatological readings, especially in terms of the frequent claim, seemingly made once a decade that we've arrived at the end of history (it must really piss off those writers that people ignore their books and go one making history anyway). This could be fun, because it could be, in essence, all about the American fascination with apocalypse ... so in addition to literary works, there could be a whole sub-section on disaster movies. Also, I could inflict those vapid Left Behind novels that I ranted about way back when on the students ...

Ah well. Back to work.


Lesley said...

Am I a big geek for thinking that all that stuff sounds really cool? I'm thinking that the professors were not at all that cool when I went to Western. Or clearly I was taking all the wrong courses. I think at some point, you should do a post about books you recommend for people like me. Namely, people who don't read much, are only looking to be entertained but still need that little bit of "enlightenment" by reading something that is actually 'worthy'. Or maybe you've done that I'm so stupid that I missed it.

queen B said...

There are times in my life when I worry that I might love books more than people. I was at a party this weekend and I spent the first hour cruising the host's bookshelves and making a list of everything that I wanted to read. Most of the staff at my local library knows me by name, and they put aside books they think I'd enjoy. One time at IKEA, I looked at those famous shelves and started singing, "Will you marry me. Billy?!" I have a problem.

I love books. It's authors that have me down today. It's that time of the year where everyone's making the rounds of holiday parties. And when people find out what I do for a living, it seems that they want to talk about the book they're writing or the book they're going to write or the book a relative of theirs has written. I've heard about the book of cat poetry. The children's book that has "a real message". Umpteen memoirs by people of various ethnicites. The How-I-Fought-(insert disease here)-and-Won book. And every single person adds "Everyone has a book inside of them".

Nope. Everyone probably has a STORY--and some of them are best told at a dinner party.

I've been trying to whittle down the slush pile today. When I first began reading stuff from the pile I started each manuscript with a certain amount of hopefulness. I would have a large stack in the "maybe" pile. Lately, I've been rejecting tons, and I can't help but wonder where some people get the confidence to submit this stuff.

I'm petrified someone will read one of my stories and tell me "You're right--this DOES suck". Meanwhile, today I've read at least 6 books in which there's a crazy lighthouse keeper. I'm not kidding.

And the New Year is only going to bring more submissions--the product of last year's resolutions, no doubt.

andrew said...

throw in some baudrillard and 9-11 and i'm in for "lock's final shocks: the american apocalypse". this is a distance course yes?

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