The debate about the role of social media in academia that took over my Twitter feed a few weeks ago (read about it in The Guardian and in Forbes) has prompted me to think about the role of blogging as well, particularly for graduate students, who are perhaps especially concerned about being seen as “serious academics.”
As is traditional at this time of year, we are looking for bloggers to write for the NASSR Graduate Caucus blog!
Bloggers are asked to commit to contributing one post per month on a topic of their choice for the duration of the academic year, September to April.
If you’re interested in blogging, please email Caroline Winter, the Managing Editor, at email@example.com, with a short statement of interest by Tuesday, September 27.
Recently the English department at UW-Madison hosted Professor Deidre Lynch of Harvard to present new work that appears to evolve from her last publication Loving Literature: A Cultural History (2015, Chicago UP). You should recognize the guest lecturer as one of the most influence contributors to 19th c. and Romantic studies. Earlier works remain frequently cited in contemporary scholarship, most notably her work on Austen and The Economy of Character: Novels, Market Cultural and the Business of Inner Meaning (1998). In consideration of blog readers interests in book history, archival methods, material culture, and all things 19th c. I’ve provide a brief summary of the talk title “Paper Slips: The Nineteenth-Century Album and Other Misadventures in Book-keeping” and offer comments on how the work Prof. Lynch presented could inspire scholarship to come, or at least re-think what we write in our diaries.
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).
One of the great advantages we have as scholars is the opportunity to form communities beyond our institutions — not just at annual conferences in remote locales, but also in ongoing conversations on the web. These online communities are fora for scholarly dialogue and informal queries, requests for crowdfunding special projects and historical sites, and repositories of archival material. Here’s a brief roundup of selected sites, listservs, and communities available to Romanticists (and if you know of more, please get in touch!).
(1) NASSR List — the list of the North American Society for the Study of Romanticism (subscription required). The list is frequented by many major scholars in the field, but also graduate students and junior faculty; this is a particularly excellent resource for answers to obscure and arcane historical questions, and for links to major awards and opportunities in the field. Continue reading Romantic Web Communities
It seems pointless to argue that graphic novels have an important place in literature at this point. Personally, I took two classes during my undergraduate career that incorporated such texts (including Satrapi’s Persepolis and Bechdel’s Fun Home), but more often than not this is a rare occurrence and something I did not encounter in my graduate coursework. Graphic novels often do not get the attention they deserve, in part because many deem them déclassé due to their graphic nature and/or subject material, but also because they are hard to teach. While graphic novels can be analyzed through literary theory (and should be), the format itself, and most notably, the visual element of such narratives, are in a scholarly discipline all their own. One cannot teach, or even fully enjoy a graphic novel, without at least a bare minimum knowledge of art theory and visual composition. (Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art and Critical Approaches to Comics: Theories and Methods are good places to start.) But then again, neither of these things occupies some alien universe detached from what we as literary scholars already tackle. Continue reading Graphic Learning: Examples of Well-Researched Comics
Just a couple weeks ago, I gave a talk at MLA13 on graduate student blogging in which I call for graduate students, like us and in our example, to blog more about what we do over the course of the years we spend training for our jobs and for publishing. Rather than just reblogging my talk, this post is an effort to share my process of writing this talk, since it was highly dialogic and a new process for me. Feedback from other bloggers was critical to my learning how different users read, write, and connect through communities of graduate students studying Romanticism and other topics in the Humanities and to thinking through two very different kinds of group blogging forums: our nassrgrads blog and HASTAC.
Twitter and Storify: While writing my talk, and especially during MLA, I Tweeted a bunch and was on the lookout for Tweets on topic that pointed to relevant scholarly discussions. I made a Storify of these tweets, which you can find here.
To get to the final version of this talk I needed a lot of feedback from nassrgrads.com bloggers — thank you very much for your email replies! I also sought feedback from HASTAC (another group blog forum I wrote about and that I participate in). To think things through, I blogged on HASTAC and through those blogs generated two sets of very useful conversations.
Blog 1: “Graduate Student Research Blogging” and its conversation (on HASTAC) led me to …
Blog 2: “How Do You Use HASTAC” and its conversation (again, on HASTAC’s platform). All I can say is: wow! It is incredibly satisfying and exciting to have real-time discussions with scholars, like Cathy Davidson, and to have those conversations inflect my work so directly and meaningfully. More, please!
Here is a loose compendium of the sources I consulted while writing this talk, pub’d in Google Docs. One source I just thought of that is not on the list, and that includes blogs as scholarship, is Debates in the Digital Humanities (ed. Matthew K. Gold, U of Minnesota P, 2012).
On the “shoulder” of the MLA talk project, I was simultaneously thinking a lot about how we can make our nassrgrads.com blog a better, more fruitful, rewarding, rich, fun, and useful collection of posts and conversations. I’m looking forward to working on these improvements as a group!
All of this is to share a process that was extremely nontraditional for me in terms of scholarship production. It was true for this paper that thinking editorially about our blog and group on nassrgrads, blogging questions and comments in multiple fora, Tweeting and making a Storify, researching in The Chronicle and other pubs that focus on the relationship between scholars, modes of scholarship, and the profession helped me recognized the lack of serial scholarship produced by graduate students (on the whole) and ways in which we can increase our value as working Humanists who produce great quantities of useful work over the course of our training. It was a highly dialogic writing process in which comments from people I only know through HASTAC or nassrgrads — by professional connection in an online research community — contributed to critically thinking through the issues and identifying what I wanted most to say. After all, Mark Sample was adamant that each speaker only had 6 minutes and 40 seconds at the podium. I sweated this one and a lot of discussing and reading went into those few minutes.
Now that most of it is collected here, in this blog post, I am turning to my first spring semester projects: dissertation fellowship applications, revisions for my entries in the Johns Hopkins Guide to New Media and Textuality, and revising a diss chapter into an essay-length piece.
What are you working on right now? Looking forward to hearing from you — tally-ho, Spring semester projects!
Image of raw cookie dough: By Nick Ares (originally posted to Flickr as Cookie Dough) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
If the NASSR abstract deadline got extended, we thought the call for new bloggers should, too!
We’re looking for graduate students in Romanticism *at any stage* in their studies, and from different kinds of universities both in the U.S. and Canada, to help us create online conversation about our field and our unique place in it as students, teachers, and new professionals. It’s also a great way for you to demonstrate who you are as a scholar and have your creative, energetic, intellectual voice heard echoing throughout the blogosphere. (Okay, perhaps a modest quadrant of the blogosphere–but it’s OUR quadrant.)
We ask that bloggers post 1-2 times per month on any aspect of your life as a graduate student Romanticist. We hope you’ll join us and continue the conversation. To apply, send a short letter of interest and your CV to firstname.lastname@example.org. [You do not need to be a NASSR member to apply.]
Clearly, we started in medias res: our blog content and authors need an introduction, a prospectus if you will, for our project. But maybe it’s apropos that we jumped right into the thick of things …
There is a unique relationship between Romanticists and the digital that I have yet to put my finger on theoretically. With such enormous contributions to the digital humanities field made by Jerome McGann, Alan Liu, Laura Mandell, Romantic Circles, The Blake Archive, NINES, 18thConnect, The Poetess Archive and Journal, RaVoN, and other important Romanticists and projects too numerous to list, there must be something that draws scholars in our discipline to “half-create” and “perceive” in this digital textual research and writing environment. Here’s our half (or quarter).
The NASSR Graduate Student Caucus members in our earliest meetings wanted to construct a web “hub” that would connect our grad colleagues in discussions and issues relating to reading and research, writing, professionalizing, teaching, and braving the job market. One small piece of the hub is this blog.
We hope our posts will engender a sense of community among grad student Romanticists. At every conference I attend, I meet other PhD students in Romanticism who present their research on unique and important topics and engage with similar questions about the profession. (We’re also usually slightly less socially comfortable among the masses of chatting professors at conference events, unless we’re lucky enough to know another graduate student or professor at the conference — but that also makes it easy for us to spot one another.) We’re thinking of this blog as another venue–one that is accessible and doesn’t require travel expenses–to talk to one another about Romanticism scholarship and teaching from our point of view. Not that our posts necessarily must address Romanticism–my first post on analog reading technologies obviously did not, Michele’s post on forming a reading group takes a geographically and chronologically capacious view of the field, and Kelli’s post on emotive reading uses her experience teaching Frankenstein to rethink pedagogical approaches to teaching close reading.
As a large and dispersed body of grad students of Romanticism(s), teachers, writers, readers, and probably aspiring professors, we will have this blog and our forthcoming website as a shared space of praxis, networking, problem solving, and collaboration.
We bloggers include PhD students of Romanticism at varying stages in our degrees; studying a wide range of authors and subjects from flower books to Byron; and teaching different courses that include Shakespeare for Non-Majors, a survey of Women Writers, and Masterpieces of British Literature. We aim to blog on the issues that affect us, rile us, and inspire us as we novice professionals learn to navigate the field and establish how we will contribute to it. No bloggers have any pre-set categories or topics on which to blog, but surely our interests will drive our content. Our topics will include questions, challenges, and solutions to pedagogical issues as well as research, reading, and writing methodologies. We’ll blog about what we’re teaching and how we’re teaching it, what we’re reading or re-reading in the field that we find useful and exciting, as well as what professional activities we participate in (reading groups, planning conferences, attending conferences, trying to get published, etc.).
In sum: we hope that reading/skimming/glancing at our blog will engender connections at some level between those of us in the field that will make our work less solitary (perhaps even collaborative), and that will trumpet our victories as we leap ballerina-like through shrinking flaming hula-hoops and land–only slightly singed but hopefully employed–on the other side.
Belated introduction complete! Now, back to work.