take a peek at my exams

Both of my classes had exams last week. Here what they looked like:

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18th-C British Religious Periodicals

Making my work public, dear reader, I provide for your reading pleasure a couple of questions I’ve just posted to c18-L, the email discussion group for eighteenth-century studies:

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the convergence of academic fields

Back in June, Erin O’Connor asked why scholars in English departments would concern themselves with video games. Specifically, she asked

  • “What does an essay collection on the ecology of video games have to do with the discipline of English?” and
  • “Why is this study originating from within an English department?”

O’Connor asks important questions about academia and the field of English studies. Her readers’ comments, unfortunately, often provide more heat than light. I’m going to assume her questions were not rhetorical and point to two things that provide some contextual information that might help one to answer O’Connor’s questions:

First, an introduction to Ecocriticism provided by the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment.

Second, this analysis, by Noah Wardrip-Fruin of Grand Text Auto, of the writing in a forthcoming videogame.

[Thanks to
Dennis Jerz, Jill Walker, and Jason Rhody for pointers to the second item above.]

Okay, now I must go back to reading through my summer notes on eighteenth-cenury evangelical periodicals.

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academic freedom

Pink Bunny of Battle: “The War on Academic Freedom.”

In case you haven’t noticed, we’re at war. I’m not referring to the war on terrorism. I’m referring to the no-holds-barred, scorched-earth war that extremist right-wing Republicans are waging to transform every aspect of our society so that it conforms to their ideology. In higher education, they’ve got academic freedom in their sights. And they’ve just about killed it. Read on, and you’ll see what I mean.

This is relevant to my (still largely embryonic) “How an English Department Works” category.

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how an english department works

I’ve created a new category called “English Departments.” I’m guessing that most people who do not work in an academic environment (and many people who do) have no idea how English departments at colleges and universities work. By “work” I don’t mean what time we clock in and out (wait, we get to clock out?), but rather how we are organized, what our responsibilities are, how we get hired, how we are evaluated, etc. This might not make for fascinating reading, but it will provide a good background for helping people understand what it is we do. Why is this background necessary? Because there seem to be many people in the popular media and in the blogosphere who have a vested interest in misrepresenting us. Unless we make an effort to define ourselves accurately, these distorted representations will be the only ones people see. And these distortions can have a serious negative effect when state budgets are negotiated and when the time comes for decisions to be made about the future of, say, the NEA and the NEH.

Now, if you are part of an English department and you want to take part, write your own entry and link back to this one. Topics I’ve thought of that need covering:

  1. Divisions of specializations. (e.g. Rhet/Comp, American Lit, British Lit … Medieval, Renaissance, Restoration and 18th Century, etc…).
  2. The balance of teaching/research/service responsibilities.
  3. Promotion and tenure,” by Chuck Tryon.
  4. Academic publishing and peer review,” by Collin Brooke
  5. Academic conferences.
  6. Course assignments.
  7. Graduate student labor.
  8. Adjunct labor.
  9. Graduate education and preparation for the academic job market.
  10. The state of the academic job market.
  11. The hiring process.

What I have in mind is a basic, “Here’s what you need to know about this” kind of entry for each topic. I’m not going to write about this every day, and I welcome contributions from anyone who wants to take on one of these topics or suggest a new one. I do plan on posting something on the first topic in the next week or so.

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