applied medievalism (2)

fhis profile

Continuation and commentary: here is the 2014 variation, via updated faculty profile.

RESEARCH INTERESTS

.

  • French language, literature, and culture
  • Medieval and Early Modern literature and culture
  • “Applied Medievalism”:
    • the integration of teaching and research in/as learning: translatio, translation, comparative literature, and cultural studies; cultural literacy and literary culture.
    • teaching literature and reading: using multiple and mixed (including digital) technologies in teaching, learning, reading and other literary activities, and research; reading, reception, and refashioning; commentary and criticism.
    • practical applications and theoretical implications: how teaching literature helps to think about literature itself, in its broad sense and broader context; pre- and post-modern textualities and hypertextualities; feminism, gynarchism, hybridity, migrancy, cosmopolitanism, and tolerance.

That took for fecking ever to put together, and I’m not sure it’s right.

I know that I am a wimp and a wuss, and going down with grotty student-led disease, but I feel totally tired out by the struggle to try to manage to do anything I want to with someone else’s template, moulds, and criteria for valorising output and suchlike NewSpeak ickiness. I can see how templates are all very well and good, and make things look neat and tidy. But for anyone who works in a literary field, and for anyone who’s had anything to do with medieval poetry (and whose identity comprises Irish, Belgian, and feminist elements), they shout out two things:

  • REPRESSION BY AUTHORITY
  • INCITEMENT TO SUBVERSIVE MISBEHAVIOUR

It’s not (just) a struggle because of selfish self-expression bollocks. It’s also because any self-respecting academic despises bureaucracy. Scratch that: any intelligent person. It’s traditional, for scholars. Has been traditional for academics for the last thousand years or so, down through the whole past history of Western European universities, cathedral and monastic schools, and what was Socrates doing in the agora FFS? So. I have a professional obligation to resist Administrative Templates.

There is a second reason, which is kind of about self-expression and, again, the essence of one’s field and the nature of one’s work.

You see, The Template is based on an alien model. Its ideal subject is an idealised human being who leads a completely compartmentalised life, and who fits a stereotypical preconception of what an academic is. This idea is incarnated by some real live people, but is mainly based on antiquated instances, an extinct species, hearsay, popular opinion, received wisdom, misperception, and myth. Insofar as it is an invention (and all creative credit to the inventors), it is the invention of administrators who either are not themselves academics and are ignorant of the species, or who were once academics and have now forgotten what that meant. Rather like unpleasant poor teachers who have forgotten what it was like to be a student, or a child, or to have any fun, or to be alive at all.

Templates such as this one are probably intended (and be the nearest thing to an approximate fit) for someone in a field like chemistry, who has a strict separation between teaching (lecturing to giant undergraduate classes) and research (lab), with a possible area of overlap in intensive upper-level/graduate seminars on their own current research. Such a person publishes a bazillion things a year, of a traditional format (journal articles and books with academic presses), and their work is tied to government research grants. They either have no external interests or these have absolutely nothing to do with their work.

Academics, like other humans, come in all shapes and sizes and dispositions. Even those subcategories of, say, chemists.

If you work in the sort of area I do, your work is about expression and self, and your work is very much bound up with everything you do and are. Our work, when performed well, is a harmonious conjunction of teaching and research, with flexible interflow in both directions. It’s all very fluid. Mutability, mouvance, etc.

Like anyone working with knowledge, we don’t have a strict separation between “work” and “non-work” because brains keep ticking over all the time. 24 hours a day, seven days a week, all year. Sometimes brains seem to be having a moment (or a longer period) of stillness: sure, that might be laziness or burnout or vacancy, but it’s more likely to be fallow dormancy: when the magic happens. There is also that most important of magical factors, sleep. These elements of everyday life are incursions into intellectual life. How they fit together and into the lives of individuals will vary, and it is hard to impossible to separate them.

Yet separated they must be, because academics have the same right to a private life as anyone else. An employer trying to regulate time on and off the job, and what its employees do outside work hours, and accounting for all work and time that can possibly by “theirs,” is ludicrous: whether through excising all the creative overflow to strictly out-of-office life, or by restricting rights to privacy by declaring that all is public. There are limits to the extent to which we are public property or mechanical parts of a public corporate entity: for we are also and always corporeal human beings too.

We have a third conjunction of work and non-work, in that the dividing line between work and non-work activities is a blurry one because our dominant activity is reading: the “life of the mind” in the humanities.

When I was a grad student, I used to make jokes about being driven mad by one’s work, when the borders between realities became more permable, and when one grew too close to a text, to being inside it. Especially when dealing with texts about life imitating art and art imitating life. I feel bad about that now, as these jokes were in very poor taste. Even by my own standards. The truth is, they are perilously close to the bone. Dissolving veils between worlds and/or madness are a very real danger if you’re working with texts like Flamenca and Jean’s Rose.

Any sort of online profile is part of your identity, and if it is honest, it should be true. It should reflect the fact that reading is important to you, both as a private person and as a public worker (and not, emphatically not, as a cog that is part of the institutional-and-increasingly-corporate machine); essential to your identity and scholarly purpose, which are intimately and inextricably bound up together. That need not infringe one’s privacy.

Much of what you do is reading and much of what you are is a reader. You read things that are supposed to be for work and turn out to be not immediately useful to work (or maybe only years or decades later). You read things for pleasure that turn out to have a bearing on work, or at some point become part of it. You read stuff just out of curiosity, not knowing in advance whether something will be “for work” or “not”: that’s essential to “out of curiosity.” This is our scientific method: that is, how we set about on the quest for knowledge. (I would also like a return to scientia being interchangeable with sapientia, but that’s a whole other story.) We also say and write things, in all manner of venues and formats, knowing that such free expression (and conversation with others) is how ideas generate and cross-fertilise and permeate and mutate. This means that intellectual work can include everything from regular chats with family and friends, to online interactions, to all forms of writing.

Ours is a rich and abundant intellectual life. Assessing quantity and quality purely by publications produces a poor and weak idea of intellectual work. Published work should and must appear on a public profile page: but so must other things, because there should be some indication that this isn’t the only kind of intellectual output. Doing otherwise feeds the untrue myths about academics and about what it means to be an intellectual engaged in scholarly activity. Mine is a public institution, paid for by taxpayers’ money, and answerable to voters and to their representatives in government. We should be transparent and open about work. We should uphold democratic ideals. We should not pay lip-service to “open information” and “outreach.” We should reclaim them from jargon, propaganda, publicity and branding, sales and marketing, the commercialisation and reification of academe (interesting note: “reification” got autocorrected on first attempt to “deification!”). We should take these ideas seriously, because they are serious, and because they are good things about being and working here. To do otherwise buys into the NewSpeak nonsense and does yourself, your academic field, and your fellow citizens a disservice.

My medievalist compromise, attempting to find (trobar) any available wiggle room, is to treat this as a creative exercise in playing with formal constraints. Can a bureaucratic template be placed on a par with poetic forms? Why not: it’s a form of composition, a shape of text, just like any other. I’m not being flattering, I’m not sucking up obsequiously to The Powers That Be, and I’m not being sarcastic. Well, maybe a little; people like me are the clergie of 2014, so we have to act accordingly and we have a weighty burden of nine centuries or so of tradition to uphold. Universities have been restructured / “evolved” in a way that attempts not only to remove the clercs from power, but to rearrange the power structure to a simple hierarchy of two tiers: those in power and the disempowered. Two languages in operation: The Project Management Handbook NewSpeak (for the former) and barbarous peasant vernacular. With that marvellous creative offshoot that was the intellectual class of the clergie erased.

There has been historical precedent:
(a) The intelligentsia combine with the bourgeoisie (of which they may be a part) in revolution against the nobility: in erasing the second estate (of which the clergie had originally been an offshoot) from the power-equation.
(b) The intelligentsia combine with the workers (or which they may be a part) in revolution against the bouregoisie and/or any other dominant power. Or colonial power. Or external oppression.
(c) And, all too often, the intelligentsia get wiped out as anti-social, anti-state, anti- and non-persons.

We are not being oppressed, here in my institution, in the way in which people are being oppressed at other institutions. Not like in the USA. Certainly not like elsewhere in the world today, or annihilation under Stalinist Russia, or China under the Cultural Revolution.

But.

There is oppression.

There are threats: to end us by dividing us from the other workers, or by having us become part of The Authority.

There are subtle threats, subtle and wicked and vicious: to get us to self-destruct.

If you are a scholarly worker, and you have forms and templates to fill out, you have choices.

1: refuse, reject, resist: do nothing.
Or (a variation) send in what you want, regardless of what you were asked/told to. Your ego and integrity will be intact. You might get reprimanded, and that might let you be a hero and a martyr. (Or not. You might just be disciplined, filed, erased.)

2: do the minimum required, and retain your energies for more important things.
This may seem like the most sensible thing to do, but by playing the system by its rules, you’ve become part of it and you’re upholding all it stands for: dishonesty, corruption, double-speak, despising ideas and ideals of “being a university” and “in a democratic country,” arrogantly dismissing as irrelevant all your responsibilities and obligations to your fellow-citizens (starting with those students and prospective students who bother to look at public information), to your field, and to yourself.

3: subvert, pervert, and be true:
Take the harder route, expending more time and effort to get it right. That is: both right by the form and right by you.

Here is our template. There is some wiggle-room inbuilt, bravely fought for by our adminstrators: for example, whether or not to have a picture and which picture to have. That’s a start, in identity terms.

Creative thinking and writing exercice: and further comment and commentary: over to you…

oOo

Faculty profile

1. NAME :

2. TITLE (lecturer, assistant professor, etc.):

3. INSTITUTIONS WHERE MA and PhD WERE OBTAINED:

4. PHONE:

5. OFFICE:

6. EMAIL:

7. URL TO YOUR PERSONAL/RESEARCH WEB PAGES or BLOG, IF ANY : http://www.

8. PROFILE (100-550 words about yourself, academic achievements, distinctions, previous research projects, etc. – any relevant academic information that is not covered in the categories below.)

9. RESEARCH INTERESTS

(Please, enumerate in a concise form. Suggested number : between 3 and 8)

10. CURRENT RESEARCH PROJECT(S)

Titles of the research projects you are currently working on (no description needed).

For each or your research project, indicate the source and the period of your funding, if any (SSHRC, Hampton, etc). If you are part of a team, or if the description of your project can be found on another web page, please indicate the link.

11. SELECTED PUBLICATIONS

(Please respect the order below. If some your publications are available online, you are welcome to provide the links).

I. Books

II. Edited books

III. Articles and book chapters

IV. Other (translation, special projects, etc.)


12.
AWARDS

(teaching, research, Killam prize, Member of an academy or a distinguished society, etc.)

13. PICTURE

Please indicate which of the following affirmations is appropriate:

___ I am happy with the current picture that appears in my profile on the website.

___ I would like to have a new picture of me taken to appear on the website

___ I would like to provide my own picture

___ I am not interested in posting my picture on the website.

For another fun form, see our standard university CVs

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