Dr. Nikki Hessell is a co-winner of this year’s NASSR/Romantic Circles Pedagogy Contest, as announced at NASSR 2017 in Ottawa. Nikki is a Senior Lecturer in the School of English, Film, Theatre and Media Studies at the Victoria University of Wellington. She’s been kind enough to tell us about her submission and share some tips for graduate students on teaching Romanticism.
Upon suffering a concussion, I found myself in the hospital and attempted to convince the nurse that I was perfectly alright by holding up the copy of Pride and Prejudice that was in my bag and reciting dramatically, “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Apparently, recitation of dear Jane is not evidence of a functioning brain (I had a grade two concussion after all). But the point is that even during a moderately traumatic event, literature was one of the first things to pop into my addled head.
Reflections, questions, & forum for response.
The dawn of another academic year always comes with a slew of first year Teaching Assistants. Graduate students must now stand up in front of the classroom and, if any of them are like me, spend more time reflecting on their own learning processes than ever before in their academic life. Like so many gradate TAs I don’t have the option to choose which courses or syllabus to teach, but rather am assigned courses that vary between English Composition 100 and Intro to Literature. I’m not complaining as each opportunity provides the space to learn a new topic that otherwise might have slipped my academic history.
From the Fireplace to the Furnace: Journal Publishing from a Graduate Student’s Perspective
Devoney Looser’s recent article on journal publishing for graduate students and early-career scholars is as funny as it is informative. I certainly have fallen victim to imagining journal editors as either angels singing hymns of praise while reading my work or devils condemning my work and me to the furnace of eternal hellfire. As Professor Looser reminds us, however, editors are people—ones who sit at sometimes overcrowded desks rather than at fireplaces, and who do their best to balance the (far too often thankless) job of journal editor with myriad other professional and personal duties.
After an arduous year one of grad school I have come out alive. In anxious preparation for year two a few good friends and myself set quite the task this summer to read Hegel’s The Phenomenology of Spirit that haunted us all year. Given the complexity and reputation of the great man himself I find our “Adventures in Hegel” will entertain readers on how we successfully managed reading his “Preface” to the book. What follows is the affective and intellectual journey myself and friends Katy and Liz have embarked upon.
In lieu of actually trying to explain Hegelian thought or even relay my precise thoughts on the preface I provide some useful tactics we employed to “mastering”, well, getting through difficult texts such as Hegel. Now at the end of year one of graduate studies I can attest the most common nerve-racking question from new grad students to be “How do I read X?” Whether long novels, poetry, images, and of course theory/philosophy everyone has that one form they consider impenetrable to decipher. My fellow book club interlocutors agreed our reading of Hegel to be extremely enlightening and cleared up many conceptual gaps. It does help we’re all good friends but we actually had a great afternoon discussing Hegel? It was fun, and not soul-crushingly dark and intimidating? But how?! Our satisfaction shows such texts are indeed very approachable with just the right attitude.
I recently started writing my dissertation. Although it’s an exciting stage of my program, when I think of the daunting task ahead of me, I often think of Cowper’s “The Castaway.” We scholars are castaways ourselves, “wretches” writing and struggling alone, drowning in piles of papers and stacks of books.
One of the most daunting challenges so far has been figuring out the logistics of how to organize–and actually write–a research project of this scale. Since I imagine many of us are facing similar challenges organizing research and writing tasks, I’m outlining some strategies that I’ve found helpful so far.
It’s almost March. The time of year (at least in my department) that we get our teaching assignments for the fall semester. Many of us greatly look forward to this, especially if it’s our first time teaching our own courses: there’s something intoxicating about finally getting to design your own class. The possibilities are endless.
Until you read the course description of the class you’ve been assigned.
Last semester I got my first taste of teaching an “Introduction to Women’s Literature” course at CU Boulder. As winter break now comes to a close, I’ve been pondering the revisions I’ve made to my syllabus this month – revisions that have prompted me to analyze familiar questions: What is women’s literature? How does one teach a survey of women’s literature as a Romanticist? What are the desired outcomes of such a course? Continue reading Teaching “Intro to Women’s Literature” as a Romanticist
Recently, I’ve started trying to keep tabs on other academic blogs. After fumbling around with my partner to figure out how to get all (okay, most) of the posts in one reader, we finally got it to work, and I can now browse through them on my phone. In particular in the last month, I’ve seen a spike in posts dedicated to self-care. Apparently, it’s particularly difficult for academics to practice it in late November/early December—something to do with papers, grading, grant deadlines, and—oh yeah—making sure to have quality time with your family and friends on Thanksgiving if you celebrate it. To name a few posts I’ve seen: Raul Pacheco-Vega redefines academic success (in both small and large scopes); Meghan Duffy reminds us that while we are busy, we don’t actually work 80 hours a week and should stop feeling guilty if we aren’t; Steven Shaw discusses realistic expectations and developing a healthy perspective (as opposed to a “tough skin”); and our own Amy Gaeta highlights self-care as part of surviving the first semester of grad school.
All of these writers give great advice, and if you find yourself in a rut, they’re worth a read. Still, as helpful as their posts are, sometimes all we can manage during the end of a semester is to go, “Right. Green tea. I should drink that instead of coffee this afternoon,” and then table the rest for when our workloads die down. But when winter break starts (or summer, or spring if you’re on a quarter system), sometimes we want to collapse or throw all caution to the wind and celebrate that we’re finally done (for the time being, anyway).
Please allow my brief detour from the Romantic optic of the blog to offer some tips and reflections have grown out of the last few months of semester one of graduate life. I share them in hope others in a graduate program for literary studies or other related fields will learn or perhaps remember how to keep afloat in semester one.
Confession: I have yet to turn in any seminar papers and there’s still 11 days left before I can truthfully call myself a victor, but I’ve made it this far—perhaps there’s something to my method besides madness.