Monday, March 31, 2008

Dear New Readers via Inside Higher Ed

Yes, this blog is "chiefly about Hawthorne matters." Just not lately.

But I can say that Hawthorne would have appreciated the writing in the latest J-Drama that the Full Metal Archivist and I have been watching together on Veoh. So much of Bara no nai Hanaya reminds me of The Scarlet Letter--in particular, its plot compression and dramatic economy, its probing of the ethical tensions within and between different forms of love, its bending of the conventions of the romance to address the social tensions of its day--but it puts a dead mother in the place of the vacated seat of the patriarch. Come to think of it, if The Wire is tv's best modernist novel, then Bara no nai Hanaya may well make a case for the superiority of Hawthornean romance for television today. (How's that for a provocative thesis about the relative value of one show I haven't seen at all and another whose final episode I literally can't wait to be fansubbed? Who says evaluative criticism is dead?)

Once the semester is over, I promise to return to research blogging, which mostly means Hawthorne blogging. Looking over my posts from the first few months of CitizenSE's existence, I'm surprised--and delighted--at how many threads I left hanging. But until then, this will remain the academic/family life blog it has morphed into since our return from Japan last August. Feel free to look around the place and leave a comment, and thanks for dropping by.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

On Viewing Japan from Afar and Up Close

Check out the most excellent analysis of "the Harajuku myth" by W. David Marx when you get a chance, along with Bardiac's blogging from Japan.

New readers here may be interested in my own unpacking of U.S. images of Japan from last summer, as well as my attempts at blogging our year in Japan and its aftermath. (Sorry for all the scrolling that clicking on most of these links involves.)

I'm struck at how apropos Melville's "Benito Cereno" is to all this, particularly its reversal of expectations that the closer view is the better view, its focus on the structure and consequences of Captain Delano's fantasies, and its subtle take-down of its particularly untrustworthy narrator. The fact is, there's no best perspective on Japan, whether near or far, from inside or outside. What matters is what comes from juxtaposing views and contextualizing acts of viewing. Including Japanese ones of outsiders. What happens after that is up to us.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Kid Lit Bleg: YouTube/Veoh Suggestions?

That language explosion I predicted a long time ago for imoto is now blowing up and onechan has been loving to "draw letters" in both English and Japanese for a couple of months now, so my usual practice of entertaining the girls with anime theme songs/AMVs and Japan-inflected music videos from YouTube is going to go on the back burner this summer. What I'm looking for now are kids' shows that delight in wordplay and storytelling, particularly ones we can watch for free on YouTube or Veoh.

So far the Full Metal Archivist has discovered a few episodes of an old favorite of hers when she first came to the States, Wishbone:

And I've noticed that there's a good amount of Between the Lions on teh U2bes:

Any other suggestions?

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Cease-Fire Proposal in the Tenure Wars

Gabriela Montell at the Chronicle's On Hiring blog was kind enough to link to my tenure post in her recent summation of the latest battle in the tenure wars. She asks, "Can tenure be saved or is it time to chuck the system?" Maybe this is the wrong question. Maybe what we need is a synthesis of the various positions out there that can lead to a cease-fire. That's what I'm shooting for in this post. (Aim high, I say!)

Building on a favorite metaphor of mine, and picking up where my last call for making tenure more flexible left off, here's my big idea: give institutions, departments, and individuals the opportunity to opt out of the tenure system. Of course there's a catch: institutions that opt out must accept unionization of their faculty; departments that opt out must make only full-time hires; and individuals who opt out must agree to the terms of a scholarly performance-ranking system created and maintained by their professional association.

Here's the bare bones of an explanation and justification. On the institutional level, the only way to avoid universalization of the contingency nightmare we've been slouching our way towards for a generation is to recognize that there's no way anyone without tenure can be in any sense of the word "managerial"--which is to say that even by the flawed logic of the Yeshiva decision, the employees of such a college or university would have every right to organize. Only institutions whose administrations make legally-binding pledges to not oppose any organizing drives should be allowed to take this step. [Update: And employees at such institutions should all be represented by the same union, even if they are in right-to-work states.] On the departmental level, everyone needs the same teaching and service load so they're competing on a level playing field. In fact, professional associations should identify [Update: the union members of such departments must join would negotiate] a required teaching/service load for tenure-less departments, so everyone in the country employed at such places is on a level playing field when it comes to research. On the individual level, highly productive reseachers at departments with tenure may want to enter the competition [Update: and join the nation-wide union]. In exchange for the loss of job security, they're basically announcing they're ready to be recruited by the departments and institutions that have opted out of the tenure system. Probably those who had chosen the research-service or research-teaching tenure or post-tenure options in my proposed expansion of the tenure system would be the ones most likely to take the next step. As for ranking the scholarly productivity of individuals without tenure, I'll leave it to the professional associations to come up with a quantifiable set of criteria and develop a formula that has broad consensus. I'm thinking a point-based system like the Rolex Rankings in women's golf may be the way to go. But we would probably need to develop a series of conferences for the tenure-less, along the lines of what I half-jokingly proposed in my first-ever "Around the Web"ed piece here, so we can truly compare performance.

I guess what I'm thinking here is that tenure is a joke at many R1 places: full-time, tenure-track faculty may as well be contingent labor for all the odds they have of actually getting tenure at such institutions. While I was in grad school, the unspoken rule was that "junior faculty should be seen and not heard" and they were explicitly referred to as "temporary faculty," by the tenured and administrative alike. The main function tenure plays at such places is as an incentive for the outside hires they've made at the senior level to actually stay at the institution for a time and as an incentive for their junior faculty to attempt the impossible. In my system, the institution would need to come up with other incentives to keep their top faculty and everyone, not just the junior faculty, would be under pressure to maintain or improve their individual rankings [Update: , while the union they all joined would protect their basic rights and negotiate terms and conditions].

There's more to be said, but not by me. What say ye, Blogoramaville?

[Update 4/1/08: Check out Professor Zero's and Lumpenprofessoriat's proposals.]

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Congratulations, 10,000th Visitor!

Let the frivolity continue: it appears CitizenSE's 10,000th visit was from a computer at the University of California, Irvine!

Even if this visitor turns out not to be SEK himself, I'll still mail you an onechan original drawing. But wait--that's not all! Imoto has started drawing, too. I'll ask them each to draw an SEK. Yup, two priceless originals for the price of one. No need to thank me. Just email me your snail mail address.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

"A minimum of 300,000 SEK in prize money at each event"

Wow, I knew Scott Eric Kaufman was big in Blogoramaville. But apparently he's even bigger in Sweden. How big? How about big enough to have a currency named after his initials? Must be all the fish blogging he's been doing lately.

Monday, March 24, 2008

On Funding Public Higher Education, Part VI: Two Paths Toward Improving Access and Affordability

As we enter a season in which reauthorizing the Higher Education Act is a top legislative priority, the discourse of opportunity and affordability sets the terms and terrain of debate and struggle. As I argued here a few months ago, there are serious consequences to the limitations such an authoritative discourse places on our imaginations. Rather than seek to contextualize and displace this discourse here today, I will attempt to rearticulate it. For there are at least two paths toward improving access to and affordability of higher education in the U.S. that I haven't seen discussed much this year.

The first involves combining the gap year with the idea of national service. Taken separately, both ideas have their serious critics, who have marshalled formidable arguments against each. Combining them, however, should answer both the objections from the left that the gap year reduces access and affordability and from the right that national service offers little by way of compensation to those doing it. What higher education needs now is a new G.I. Bill, that is, but one that broadens the notion of national service beyond military service, offering a range of options to those who choose to serve in order to finance their post-secondary education (say, modelled after the National Guard, the Peace Corps, Teach for America, and so on). The basic mechanism is simple: for every year of service, the federal government issues a voucher worth the average total of tuition and fees in U.S. higher education for that year. (Obviously this creates an incentive for cost-conscious students to spread it out over more than a year at colleges and universities whose costs are below that average.)

The second involves rethinking the timing of payments for higher education. I call it the "Let's Make a Deal" model for financing higher education. Right now, students and their parents need to beg, borrow, steal, and work to pay tuition and fees upfront. (Thanks to the generosity of the State of NY [not!], that's exactly what my family is doing to finance the Full Metal Archivist's graduate studies in Library Science.) No $$, no classes. Even though there are many opportunities for scholarships, grants, and loans to help discount tuition/fees and extend credit toward paying the rest, sticker shock alone is too often enough to drive many worthy students and their families away from even thinking of paying for their post-secondary education. What if colleges and universities offered other options to prospective students? Take the back-end option, for instance: in lieu of paying tuition or fees, entering students sign contracts to pay .1% of any pretax income they earn while they are pursuing a post-secondary degree, .25% in their first decade after graduation, .5% in their second, .75% in their third, and 1% in their fourth decade and after until retirement, when their obligation to their alma mater expires. (Of course, a system would have to be put into place that included mandatory payroll deductions and enforceable penalties for attempts to evade it, but implementation issues can wait for now.)

So, Blogoramaville, what say you? Can you all come up with other paths?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

CitizenSE Teaching Manifesto, Part II: Looking Forward to Teaching Obama's Speech in the Fall

Thanks to Jennifer at Mixed Race America for posting the video (and text) of Barack Obama's speech in its entirety.

Thanks to all the awesome history bloggers Ralph Luker linked to at Cliopatria, who convinced me to watch it in the middle of the night this week (and put off reading for my classes for another 40 minutes).

Thanks to Jennifer again for her follow-up questions, and to Annalee Newitz at io9 for her observations.

Thanks to Chris Clarke at Creek Running North for articulating some of the (to my mind, calculated, on which more in a second) blind spots of Obama's speech. And to N Pepperell at Rough Theory for his reflection on Obama's theorizing of affect and politics.

But thanks most of all to my chair and associate chair for giving me yet another chance to teach Introduction to African American Literature and Culture next semester. Because Obama's speech is going right in the middle of the course's "Nation" unit in the fall, not long after Election Day. (And thanks to Kenny Mostern, one of my favorite former academics, from whom I borrowed the country/city/nation/world structure of my course!)

Why am I going to teach Obama's speech? Because of its supple invocation of and subtle response to the classic debates over American and black nationalism that go back centuries in African-American political discourse. Because it'll help my students understand race and nationalism in more complex and interesting ways. Because it'll enable me to contrast Obama's rhetoric with Wright's jeremiad and draw my students into a consideration of the nationalistic uses of the jeremiad (as analyzed most famously by Perry Miller, Sacvan Bercovitch, and Emory Elliott on the Puritans and David Howard-Pitney in the African-American grain, but also more recently by Edward Blum, Ralph Luker, and Kim Pearson). Because it'll help my students understand the full force of Obama's invocation of Faulkner's line from Intruder in the Dust Requiem for a Nun (thanks to former student Charlie Wesley for the correction!) that "The past is not never dead. It's not even past" (and maybe even wonder why he added "and buried" to the first sentence, or why the punctuation linking the two thoughts vacillates between a period, semi-colon, and comma even when it's scholars doing the quoting--for more on this line and Obama, see Scott Horton). And see why that invocation was no accident, that for Obama to invoke the founders and slavery in the ways he did is to invoke Emerson, Hawthorne, Stowe, and Twain as much as Walker, Douglass, Du Bois, and King.

Among the things the speech itself and the responses to it have made me wonder about are the limits on political speech in this country--what traditions, conventions, and myths you have to invoke (and hopefully rework) and avoid (or avoid questioning) if you wish to be considered "presidential" today. Take Obama's starting with the Constitutional Convention--the literal founding of the U.S.--rather than, say, the Declaration or the founding of Jamestown or the first landing of Columbus in the Caribbean. I've already blogged a bit on the complexities of Hawthorne's relation to the founders in "The Custom-House," so forgive the self-quoting here (and the long parenthetical statement within the self-quotation):

it's not exactly right to put "The Custom-House" unproblematically in the tradition of Jeffersonian democracy (with its "tree of liberty nourished by blood of tyrants" strains), unless you see that tradition as itself problematized and strained. (After all, Jefferson blamed King George for blocking efforts by the colonists to end the slave trade yet also signalled his intent to defend American slavery by condemning the king's version of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation; Jefferson affirmed the "self-evident" truth that "all men are created equal" in the Declaration of Independence yet called in Notes on the State of Virginia for scientific investigations to confirm his suspicions of the racial inequality of African Americans; Jefferson condemned slavery in part for its corrupting tendencies on masters yet continued to hold slaves and do more than hold Sally Hemings; Jefferson denounced "merciless Indian savages" who fought with England in the Declaration of Independence, praised American Indians in Notes on the State of Virginia, and saw them as an obstacle to the expansion of the American "empire of liberty" that he helped engineer with the Louisiana Purchase.)

Sure, Obama invoked some of this complexity and these contradictions in his speech, but his central axis for riffing on race was black and white. Although he began to problematize whiteness by reaching out to the white working-class descendants of immigrants, his references to other racially/ethnically marked groups always felt like an addendum to his core "America in black and white" focus. This seems to me to distort American history and American society, almost as much the "nation of immigrants" discourse it competes with, which, as Werner Sollors rightly pointed out, is itself a rearticulation of the "Puritan origins of the American self" thesis. "Manifest destiny" is not an add-on to these other dominant narratives of what makes the U.S. America, as I tried to make clear to my students in Japan last academic year, and as I've been trying to do with my American students, before and since. (I've blogged on some of this here and there [and there and there and there and there and there and there--and, damn, did I leave a lot of loose threads hanging on this blog toward the end of that Fulbright year!].)

The history of American Studies and American historiography bears me out. After proponents of one or another account of the origins of American exceptionalism (whether based on the Puritans, the frontier, or liberty--that is, the North[east], the [South]West, or the South) competed for much of the first half of the 20th C, attention to the blindspots in all three accounts--or, to use a metaphor I worked to death in Japan, an exploration of the shadowy areas that their jostling over the narrow-focus spotlight cast into darkness or only fitfully illuminated (namely, Indian removals, expansionist wars, and slavery)--continued for much of its second half. But rather than repeat their predecessors' competition, these scholars increasingly came to question American exceptionalism, to look for ways of broadening the spotlight's focus, to attempt to remap America and put it in a global frame.

What I'd like to see from the politician who eventually comes to replace George W. Bush as the most recognizable and representative American to the rest of the world is an overt acknowledgment of the full range of American complexities and contradictions. I'll give Obama credit for going as far as he did and for responding to the most personal and prevalent and perhaps pressing of them so brilliantly in his speech. And I'll trust that were he to become President he'd go further, that the exigencies of his speech delineated its scope in advance.

What I'd like my students to recognize and analyze, then, is the rhetoric, intertextuality, context, framing, and reception of Obama's speech. I'd like them to be able to assess its strengths and weaknesses, to respond to its call for a sustained and critical conversation on the meaning of race and ethnicity in American public and private life, and hence to participate in the (re)making of America.

[Update 1 4/3/08: Plus I get to teach Toni Morrison and Alice Walker on Obama!]

[Update 2 11/6/08: Not to mention Rob MacDougall!]

Friday, March 21, 2008

Who Is This Guy? Revisited

Dropping a link in a comment over at Tim Burke's place is roughly the equivalent to getting "Around the Web"ed by Inside Higher Ed, apparently. So in the interest of keeping this blog going while pre-spring break work calls, I'll add for his readers in particular that another sign of how low The Nation has sunk is to compare your reaction to what's-his-face's recent piece there with a couple of Arts & Letters Daily selections from the Times Literary Supplement that you might think you'd find similarly irritating for their "English departments r teh suxxx!" set-ups: Sophie Ratcliffe on James Wood and John Mullan on Rónán McDonald. If you're anything like me, you may have found plenty to disagree with in them, but also plenty of appreciation for their being, well, interesting and thoughtful review essays. But now I'm falling prey to the oldest trend of all in English: Anglophilia.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Book Bleg: Gretchen Murphy's Hemispheric Imaginings

Eric at The Edge of the American West got me thinking yesterday about the contemporary relevance of the Monroe Doctrine (in a slick move, his MD trumping my manifest destiny comment, I might add), which in turn got me thinking about Gretchen Murphy's Hemispheric Imaginings: The Monroe Doctrine and Narratives of U.S. Empire, which in turn got me review-hunting (a quick and easy way to learn about a new field, I always tell my students, if done right), which in turn made me realize how relevant this book really is to my manuscript (she writes in part on Hawthorne!), which in turn made me remember the last time I mentioned something to this effect on this here blog, magical editorial assistant fairies have offered me review copies, which in turn made me guilty that I haven't gotten around to posting my review of Copperheads, which in turn made me realize I should probably just order Murphy's book through interlibrary loan or look for it at UB and be done with it, which made me wonder what I'd blog about here if I erased all this, which made me decide I should at least post some of the review essays that made me want to get this book, so my dear reader(s) can get something of value from it, besides the important information that I need this Murphy character's book!

Ricardo Salvatore
John Belohlavek

And yeah, I know of others, but they're behind various silly academic firewalls (I'm talking to you, JSTOR/Project Muse, in particular)....

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Jumping the Gun: On Tenured Radical and Lumpenprofessoriat on Tenure

Tenured Radical has posted another great broadside against tenure over at her place, so I figure I'll use it and a now-golden oldie from Lumpenprofessoriat to pick up the conversation on the wisdom of rethinking and expanding the tenure system where Craig Smith of FACE Talk and I last left it.

So if you've read TR's and LP's posts, you'll see the good old revolution vs. reform debate underlying the differences in their perspectives on tenure. TR emphasizes the toxicity of the system while LP points to one school that's trying to detoxify it.

Or maybe a better metaphor for the difference in their approaches would be the abolition vs. colonization debate--is it better to abolish tenure or for academics dissatisfied with the system to migrate to places with reasonable approaches to it? To take the plantation metaphor a step further, ought faculty to burn down the Big House or escape the plantation?

If these latter metaphors make you a bit uncomfortable, then they've done their job. It is thoroughly ridiculous to suggest, as I've done, that tenure-track professors working at schools in or aspiring to join the Billion Dollar Endowment Club are in any sense of the word enslaved. (The nontenurable-as-migrant-labor metaphor at least has some merit to it.)

Maybe I'm putting words in TR's mouth by mapping this metaphor onto her post, but it's only at private institutions and in right-to-work states that her opening assumption that tenure and unionization are mutually exclusive makes any sense. Rather than putting their efforts toward abolishing a system that works at the vast majority of higher education institutions in the U.S., as several of her commenters have suggested, why don't the tenured radicals at private institutions and in right-to-work states go ahead and try to organize? The Yeshiva case was a bad decision; I'm sure either President Clinton or President Obama would appoint a Supreme Court justice or justices who could help to overturn it.

In the meantime, taking over faculty senates and other sites of governance and pushing for the nature of scholarly work to be reimagined and revalued--and not just by administrators, but by faculty as well, for I encountered a lot of resistance to the Boyer Commission's recommendations from some of my most productive colleagues (in garnering grants and publishing research), even at a teaching institution like mine--is one way to go at privates and right-to-works. Forming an AAUP chapter or revitalizing an existing one at the same time is even better.

There's much more to be said on this, but I have a long day of student conferences, broken up only by a department meeting, waiting for me on campus. Be back later....

[Update: Sequel percolating. In the meantime, check out chasing the red balloon's tracking of this anti-tenure meme-in-the-making!]

[Update 3/20/08: Craig Smith joins in.]

[Update 3/25/08: One of Craig's blogging partners in crime, Phil Ray Jack, preaches it! Meanwhile, profacero has started an open thread on this emerging discussion.]

[Update 3/26/08: Lumpenprofessoriat has a great response, which includes the suggestion to label Tenured Radical's position "surrender." While it's true my slavery metaphors were more obviously tongue-in-cheek, even my revolution vs. reform dichotomy was not all that serious, particularly given Craig and my ongoing conversation on tenure in which we were questioning such binaries.]

[Update 3/28/08: Here's my latest salvo in the tenure wars--actually, it's a cease-fire proposal. There are a bunch of belated responses to the TR/Oso Raro exchanges, from Chad Orzel, Timothy Burke, Dean Dad, and Dr. Crazy.]

[Update 4/3/08: Whoops, I missed undine's brilliant pieces at Not of General Interest! And the new one from profacero.]

[Update 4/8/08: Belated link to Dr. Crazy's latest at Reassigned Time. And to Eric Rauchway's at The Edge of the American West.]

[Update 4/11/08: Laurie Fendrich at Brainstorm jumps in.]

[Update 4/13/08: Undine tries it once more, with feeling.]

[Update 4/16/08: How did I miss the soon-to-be-tenured Dr. Virago's post from last week?]

[Update 4/19/08: Laurie Fendrich offers two models for replacing tenure with multiple-year contracts over at Brainstorm.]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Who Is This Guy?

Just came across (via BookForum) an almost interesting attempt to assess the state of the profession through the MLA job list rather than the MLA Convention, but since when does The Nation publish badly-thought-out Chronicle First Person pieces or lame Inside Higher Ed op eds? (Links to that which does not suck.)

Losing majors? Trend-obsessed? Maybe the problem is with his department. Is that really a profession-wide phenomenon? If it is, then perhaps there are more structural explanations to be pursued? Reading tea leaves doesn't cut it...nor does waiting for Godot the Next Big Theory.

[Update 3/29/08: Check out Amardeep Singh's take over at The Valve.]

[Update 4/10/08: And Tim Burke's and Joseph Kugelmass's.]

[Update 4/15/08: It's fitting that on tax day I finally found The Little Professor's statistical rejoinder to WD!]

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Who's In?

You know how it goes...someone invents something cool and it takes a while for it to be accepted, much less taught in academia. You want examples? Well, we all know the stories of how long it took for English literature to be taught in England and American literature in America, but we could go back further to the emergence of literature itself as something to be studied, or forward to the origins of film studies last century. Well, what happened then has been happening lately for tv, new media, comic books, and video games. This will come as no surprise to those familiar with my super-secret group pop culture blog, but I've been following developments in these newer fields of academic study, over the shoulder of friends who are in the middle of them but too busy to blog there. This little brainstorm is for them, and anyone else who wants to get in. I've been batting around this idea for years, so be gentle with it, ok?

I've always liked the cultural studies model of an academic conference focused on a particular movement or subgenre, where creators, critics, fans, and others can get together and almost anything can happen from there. It's a good model, but not hands-on enough for video games studies. What I'm envisioning is crossing this model with the model of a basketball camp or golf clinic: getting kids from grades 7-12 together for a week on a campus one summer where they can play the latest equipment and games (donated of course by the companies who want a chance to send their developers out and get quality focus group experiences), work on skills in a variety of genres and compete in their favorites ones, and learn how to be more critical consumers and gamers through workshops taught by leading figures in video games studies, question-and-answer sessions with game designers, and discussions of, reflections on, and writing about their gaming experiences. The number of genres and issues to be considered is dauntingly large, but we could always start small and scale up.

I need to check with my friends in coaching to understand sports camp logistics and economics better--it's been more than two decades now since I was a participant in one--but as my girls get older, I get more and more serious about actually putting the idea into action. So who's in?

Non-Western Literature Student Learning Analyses: The Untouchables on Marquez

I'm experimenting this year with adding blogging into the mix of things students do in my courses. So this semester I'll be posting post-group research/teaching-project learning analyses from students in my Non-Western Literature course. The students' task in this assignment, one dimension of many they're being assessed on in this project, is simply to identify the one or two most interesting things they learned about the text and or writer on which they presented as a result of the planning, research, teaching, and reflection/assessment process they went through in doing the project. These are not meant to be full-blown analytical/interpretive/argumentative critical essays, but instead little personal, subjective pieces on what the text they taught meant to them.

Here's the first batch, from a team who named themselves The Untouchables and lead a great discussion on Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude.


Anonymous #1 leads off:

I learned a great deal about 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I came across many themes in the novel such as solitude, magical realism, and politics. However, the two things that I found to be most interesting was how real life experiences influenced him and how the novel is circular. Overall I enjoyed this novel.

Some of the things that influenced Marquez to write 100 Years of Solitude were the banana republic, his grandfather shooting and killing a man and his grandmother going blind; these were just some of the things that occurred in the novel. He was raised by his grandparents for eight years. His grandfather was a father to sixteen children. Colonel Aureliano represents his grandfather in the novel. There was a character in the novel that went blind just as his grandmother did.

Another thing I found interesting was how the novel is circular which is represented by the characters who travel to different locations but they always end up coming back to the main location which was Macondo. Jose Arcadio leaves with the Gypsies, his ship gets wrecked so he returns back to Macondo. Colonel Aureliano Buendia constantly returns to the town after his fight against the conservatives. The seventeen sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendia always return to the town and end up dying there.

I learned so much about the author Marquez and how his life played a big part when it came to writing his novels. I like how he was very descriptive in his novel; it made me want to keep reading. Through those descriptions I was able to formulate a picture in my mind which helped me to understand what was really going on in the novel.


Katie continues:

While reading the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez I found myself thinking about life itself. The novel made me stop and I thought about life, and the things in it. The novel also made me think about what it means to be lonely and what happens to those who find themselves alone. Solitude is one of the themes in this novel and I think that the readers should think more about this theme when reading it.

Solitude is a real subject in life, and it can mean different things to everyone. In the novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, all of the members of the Buendía family experience solitude in one way or another. Each of the members in this family is a part of something bigger that was started by two of the older members. Úrsula founded a new town with some of the other women in the family when the town they were living at kept looking at the family as weird people. The family was involved with incest, and so they were cursed to have a baby with a pig tail. The town was called Macondo and it wasn’t surrounded by other towns, so it was in solitude that way as well as the family members of the Buendías.

While reading the novel more, I found that the Buendías over time were not really with each other mentally. They are with each other in the town but they have their own lives and they do their own thing. Also, many of the Buendías leave Macondo, but then they come back to the town. For example, with Amaranta and how she returned to the town after a while being away. She came back along with everyone in the family who did leave Macondo. It seemed to me like no matter what each member of this family did, they just couldn’t stay away. With many families people do leave and then come together for special occasions, but this family didn’t really do that.

I found that doing research on the book while reading it, that Márquez was in solitude for a long period of time while writing One Hundred Years of Solitude. I thought that that was interesting to know, because his characters had this connection with him. Overall this was a good book to read, because it has several lessons and what it means to be a family. Families interact with each other, and it’s good to have that connection. Also, that solitude is different from one person to the next and it’s not just one person alone with no one else. It can also mean that a person is in the midst of a crowd, yet that person can feel alone. This novel speaks differently to each reader, and the reader has to find out for him or herself what the novel is trying to convey.


Preston adds:

First off, I would like to say that I really enjoyed reading One Hundred Years of Solitude. It really made me think, and look at non-western literature in a whole new light. What I mean by this is the book opened my eyes to what could be considered non-western literature and what could be considered western literature. Not only this, but it makes you think about third world countries in a whole new light. This book gives us a view of people that were not from Colombia. They were brought over by Francis Drake’s voyage. So when we see this book we look at it in a western light because they are Spanish from Spain. However, they are living in a third world country that has been cast down and is in turmoil. So the book could clearly be seen in a western and non-western light; this makes it arguable for either side.

I would like to now direct your attention to the book Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jared Diamond. He talks about how the winners write the history. So should we look at the Buendia family as winners or the losers? Well by the time we get to the end of the book we can see that they clearly are the losers since all but two have died. The clear winners would be the people like Marquez who escaped out of the town’s solitude. Yet, really the Buendias are a second generation of victims. The first being all the displaced people (Indians) who were in Colombia before Drake came.

I think Marquez is a truly unique author who was able to use the events within his life to make a story. This I find interesting because being a future teacher, I plan to have students write about their own lives. Thus I could use Marquez as an example of how one’s own life can be the ground work in a novel of their own. However, I would personally not use this with any class under 11th grade and would make sure that the students as well as the parents were aware of the themes within the book (incest, violence, etc.).


So there you have it. Next up: Team Ghosh! on In an Antique Land.

[Update 4/3/08: This Wikipedia article on Marquez got "featured article" status and it was done by students of this guy!]

Friday, March 14, 2008

This is for D at LGM

Let's compare CBAs! UUP's new contract got an A+ from the membership (close to 98% approval rate). What grade does it deserve?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

You Won't Find This on The Edge of the American West

Unless Ari and Eric get seriously into Tim Burke or Rob MacDougall territory. What am I talking about? Click here! Hey, just doing my part to help my favorite blogging historians broaden their horizons. And trying to make CitizenSE just a little bit fun again.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Long and Winding Road II: A Response to Craig Smith; or, Elaborating the Model

It strikes me that Craig and I have been unpacking everything about the "two out of three ain't bad" tenure model except for the model itself. Sure, I've noted that it's really a 4-tiered and not a 2-tiered model, but that's just a correction to my original fragment of a post.

So let's elaborate what, for lack of a better name, I'll call the Meatloaf model (because you can play it on your 4-track?):

Track 1: The traditional tenure-track job, in which you need varying degrees of excellence in varying weightings of the traditional triad to get tenure at a variety of institutional types among the 4000+ colleges and universities in the U.S.

Track 2: The research-teaching tenure-track job, in which, in exchange for a lower teaching load, higher research expectations (or vice versa), and no service responsibilities, you accept a lower salary than those on Track 1 (but equal to Tracks 3 and 4).

Track 3: The teaching-service tenure-track job, in which, in exchange for a lower teaching load, higher service expectations (or vice versa), and no research responsibilities (outside of course design and class prep), you accept a lower salary than those on Track 1 (but equal to Tracks 2 and 4).

Track 4: The research-service tenure-track job, in which, in exchange for a higher service load, higher research expectations, and no teaching responsibilities, you accept a lower salary than those on Track 1 (but equal to Tracks 2 and 3).

Of course these aren't the only ways of elaborating my Meatloaf model. But for now, let's leap into some possible applications of it....

Are we imagining it as something strictly limited to conversions of non-tenurable positions into tenure-track jobs? There are pros to this version of the model, as some of my colleagues on a UUP activists' listserv have noted: 1) it prevents administrators from converting already-existing pretty-darn-good jobs to worse ones; 2) it prevents administrators from doing the same thing over time by making all newly-created positions fit Tracks 2-4 and further reducing the number of Track 1 positions offered; 3) it provides a clear way for people already doing a great job at an institution to compete with outside candidates on the (nearly-)inevitable national search that's involved for (most) any tenure-track position, as it provides something of a disincentive for those who really want to aim for Track 1 to apply for any other kind of position; 4) it provides both greater flexibility and clarity to the people in the non-tenurable positions (as well as to departments) in terms of workload expectations than the current system, not to mention better salary and benefits, security, and advancement opportunities.

Are we imagining it as something imposed from above or proposed from below? This question is implicit in the reasons why it might be a good idea to "test-drive" it, as it were, on tenuring the non-tenurable. Or to rephrase the question, how and at what level are decisions made as to which kind of track a formerly contingent faculty member gets on? I can imagine several models: 1) the administration chooses the track, in consultation with the department, before the position is advertised; 2) the candidate chooses the track, in consultation with the department, after beating out everyone else who applied for the position; 3) the administration, department, and candidate work within ground rules negotiated with the faculty union or AAUP chapter, or, in their absense, the university senate or other faculty governance body, or, perhaps guided by principles set out by national professional associations like the MLA and AAUP and faculty unions like the AFT, NEA, CWA, and SEIU.

But why imagine it only for this limited purpose? Why not start with general principles at the national level and negotiations at the campus level, and then, within the rules hammered out, give administrators, departments, and individual faculty members the widest range of choices they can agree to? For instance, under what circumstances can you jump tracks--or be involuntarily transferred from one to another? Think of the institutions that can't afford to offer sabbaticals all that often--why not have the option of switching from Track 1 to Tracks 2 or 4 at teaching-intensive institutions for those faculty who wish to focus more on research for a set period of time? Why not use it to give teeth to post-tenure reviews? Tenured free rider who's been boycotting service for a decade? Boom--Track 2 for her! Tenured deadwood when it comes to developing new courses and doing any other kind of scholarly activity in living memory? Boom--Track 3 for him! The budding administrator who's been getting course reductions for chairing departments, senates, and chapters? Boom--Track 4 for her!

Hey, why would we need an administration if we had this system? Could the Meatloaf Model lead to the withering away of the administration-faculty divide that Marc Bousquet so vehemently denounces over at How the University Works--or "the administration" itself?

Hold on a second, isn't this moving way too fast? Hey, nobody here but us bloggers.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Long and Winding Road: Another Non-Response to Craig Smith

Loved Craig's latest post in our highly asynchronous exchange. But as I'm hosting a visiting speaker the next three days and trying in some small way to repay him for the hospitality he showed me during my Fulbright year (he was my faculty mentor at Seinan Gakuin University), I'll have to resort to apologetically nodding Craig's way, recommending Berube's takedown of Bauerlein on faculty work(load) as strangely relevant to our discussion, reporting that my department has voted with its feet, as it were, for a combination of his 3rd and 4th options, and noting that my university doesn't even have a unified policy for the hiring of nontenurable faculty (as in, even finding out what each department does is a major project, much less figuring out the rationale for their procedures).

[Update 3/8/08: Undine surveys the range of takedowns of Bauerlein over at Not of General Interest and adds her own 2 cents!]

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Want/Need/Love II: A Response to Craig Smith

Reading over Craig's careful unpacking of some of the assumptions underlying my "two out of three ain't bad" question to Blogoramaville on tenure, I'm struck again by how productive his proposed starting point is. To those who tend to like my thought-experiment proposal for the way it expands tenure to protect the people who currently make up the majority of the professoriate and better value their work, Craig points out that "you would be arguing that the types of positions currently being employed were, to a certain extent, 'acceptable,' but the current treatment of the people in those positions is not." On the other hand,

if we were trying to push back against contingency and specialization (what I usually call disaggregation), we would not want to be arguing for creating permanent jobs out of lower paid positions or more positions with narrower responsibilities. Rather you would be focused on moving more people into stable full-time positions with a wider mix of responsibilities.

What I find so productive about this starting point is Craig's awareness of the multiple ways these options could be characterized--working within the status quo vs. heading back to the future, pragmatism vs. idealism, accepting vs. transforming current staffing patterns, the good vs. the perfect, settling vs. dreaming, and so on--and his attention to the limitations not only of either option, but also of the dichotomy itself.

Now, of course, I have just been talking about working within the status quo or moving back (forward?) to a model based on a corps of full-time faculty. And, as with most simple dichotomies, it is not this simple--the path forward surely involves doing some of both and the mix is the key. However, I do think it is important to keep some idea about what we are assuming when we have this discussion. Not in the sense that we have to decide which of these perspectives represents our position, but, in fact, because of just the opposite. How can we work on both simultaneously and not get overly committed to one of these perspectives which so often seems to lead to a downward spiraling argument?

In the spirit of Craig's post, then, let me try to identify a few other assumptions and dichotomies--in addition to the ones on his list like "people vs. positions, short-term strategy vs. long term goals, collective bargaining vs. legislation, and local realities vs. public policy"--we may well have to think through in the course of our discussion.

First, we are assuming tenure is something worth keeping in academia. Tenured Radical has made a few arguments against tenure that are worth considering in later posts.

Second, we are assuming that tenure as an institution is something that can be reformed, transformed, abolished, or replaced with something better. Given that institutions are in some sense designed to resist change (whether we think of that in the "good" sense of conserving valuable traditions or the "bad" sense of resisting needed improvements is another matter), we also need to think about strategies for making what we want to happen happen.

Third, we should avoid assuming that "we" are the only ones with a stake in the discussion--students, alumni, administrators, trustees, parents, taxpayers, legislators, corporations, unions, and the general public that's supposed to benefit from the institution of tenure--all care quite a bit about what happens with/to tenure and will seize the opportunity to wrest control away from "us" whenever possible. So in addition to thinking strategically about getting results, we also have to be sure we're thinking strategically about blocking others from getting the results they want that we don't want. And since "we" are only provisionally a "we," given how many kinds of faculty positions actually exist, we also need to think about strengthening and broadening coalitions, converting opponents into allies, and so on.

I'm running out of time here at onechan's yochien, so I'll keep thinking about assumptions and dichotomies. But I want to close by talking about the kind of people I used to work with who, in retrospect, helped inspire my original question. One used to teach composition, world literature, creative writing, and science fiction, among other things, at my university as well as at the community college to the south of us. Although he didn't have a Ph.D. and had no intention of getting one, he had done a dual MFA/MA which involved a significant amount of research in his areas of specialty. Morever, he was a gifted teacher who knew how to communicate with and inspire the students from the area who made up the vast majority of our students. When he didn't make it to the MLA interview stage in a creative writing search we were doing years ago, he decided to take on a full-time position at the community college rather than keep adjuncting with us. Another dropped out of her Ph.D. program but continued to research and publish in her area of specialty while teaching composition, world literature, and Native American literature. She, too, left after we hired a tenure-track Native Americanist in our department (although there were other, personal, factors that played a greater part in her decision). So part of my asking the "two out of three ain't bad question" is to ask whether these colleagues and friends might have decided to stay and continue contributing to the work of the department if they had had better options for pay, security, and advancement.

[Update 3/2/08: Whoops, in my rush to finish I forgot to mention Assumption #4, which is that we'll be able to leverage the funding needed to reform or transform higher ed's staffing structures. This gets to the question of who pays for higher ed and how it should be financed. And not just for higher ed in general, but for the many different kinds of institutions within it.]