Classically Inclined

December 17, 2012

End of term wrap-up

What with one thing and another, I’ve been run off my feet for the last fortnight or so. Term has now officially been over for a week, but I don’t feel as if I’ve got the paperwork and administration for everything quite under control yet. It’s getting there, but there are a couple of things that still need finishing off. I have, of course, finished all my teaching. The Roman novel first year seminar is working much more smoothly than it did last year; this is partly due to the department increasing seminar lengths from one to two hours across the board, meaning there’s more space for presentations and discussions, but I think the tweaks to the syllabus that I made at the start of the year have paid off as well. There’s still one class that isn’t quite working as I want it to work, but I’ve had another go at redefining the discussion questions, so we’ll see if that helps. It is, in fairness, the class dealing with literary form (e.g. why are parts of the Satyricon in poetry, and do we care?), so I think it’s going to be a case of continually experimenting until I get the formula right. I shall miss my first year tutees, who will be disappearing off to pastures new, but it will be good to meet some more of the first year intake next term.

The Roman Life Course lectures are going well – I have a good group of students, and we’ve established what feels like a productive discussion-based atmosphere to complement the parts of the session where I lecture more traditionally. The material seems to be engaging the students’ interest, and I’m sneakily incorporating as much philosophical evidence for social history as I can – one of the surprise hits was Plutarch’s The Training of Children, which seems to have gone over rather well! The blog posts are still working more or less as I want them to, and the students seem to like the idea of blog-based work in principle even if the practice is a little shakier. I’m also glad that I decided to stick it out with the critical incident questionnaire, for the simple reason that it’s really helping me see what is and isn’t working with this sort of teaching.

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November 26, 2012

#acwrimo 2012 – some reflections

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 3:47 pm
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It’s the final week of #acwrimo, and I wanted to have a bit of a reflect on how the process has gone for me. I set off with some very elaborate plans, in the spirit of the thing, and it seemed like a good thing to have a pause and a think about the process before crossing the finish line.

I set myself a content-related goal and a time-related goal. I sincerely doubt I am going to make the content-related goal, which was to revise the introduction and first three chapters of my book manuscript. However, I have revised the first chapter, and am in the middle of revising the second chapter; I’m hoping to make a start on the third chapter before the end of the week (fingers crossed!). The thing that has taken me more time than I had expected is not the writing, but the additional reading I’ve needed to do. For instance, for the chapter one revisions, I needed to include a couple of paragraphs about the Roman concept of motherhood and what a Roman mother looks like – this is a bit of social history background that all my other chapters included, but my first chapter (which was the first thing I wrote for the PhD) had managed not to think important. (And this demonstrates, as if proof were needed, just how much better you get at writing as you do more of it.) This was also an area of scholarship that I knew was important but hadn’t really got to grips with before, so I needed to put together a bibliography before I could start doing any reading. And so, if you look at the Academic Writing Accountability Spreadsheet, you’ll see that I spent five days gathering citations and doing extra reading which, in the end, resulted in three extra paragraphs.

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October 31, 2012

The Harryhausen article: next steps

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 10:51 am
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Some of you may remember that I sent off an article on Ray Harryhausen, the two Clash of the Titans films, monsters, gender and landscape at the start of February. (For those who don’t remember, here’s a Wordle of that draft, and here’s an outline of the conference paper on which the article is based.) This morning I’ve heard back from the editors of the collected volume of which the article is part, with the reader’s report – and I’m delighted to say that the reader thinks both my paper and the volume are Good Things!

This is excellent news, not least because of being able to update the CV. It’s good to see the project moving forward, and especially good to get positive feedback about my approach to monsters and space, given some of the vague thoughts I’ve been having about doing more general research in this direction. It’s also good because the revisions the reader requests are fairly minor – they would like me to think about how Wrath of the Titans (2012) affects my argument, which was impossible in the original draft as the film had not yet been released. I have with some pleasure put ‘buy DVD of Wrath’ into my work objectives, and look forward to blocking out a research afternoon in December for Serious Academic Viewing…

I’ll also admit I’m relieved that this won’t affect my plans for #acwrimo. The reader’s suggestions are, as I say, pretty minor, and while I’ve had some other helpful feedback from other readers, I don’t want to spoil a good thing by reworking the paper too much. The timescale is also sufficiently generous that I can keep November as a dissertation-revision month – the volume editors would like the paper back by 1st February, so if I set aside enough time in December, I should easily meet that deadline; #acwrimo will give me the comfort blanket of knowing that I’ve done enough on revising the manuscript not to feel guilty about spending some time on another project. It’s wonderful when a plan comes together!

October 25, 2012

#acwrimo and me

Filed under: Research — lizgloyn @ 1:43 pm
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Most people will now be familiar with NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, which has been running since 1999 with the goal of making November the time when people let out their frustrated inner novelists. Last year saw the arrival of AcBoWriMo, or Academic Book Writing Month, in an attempt to bring a tried and tested method of productivity to the field of academic writing. This was not without its problems – a lot of constructive debate took place about whether this was a healthy thing to be aiming for, giving the need for academic writing to simmer and mature, and the general pressure on academics to work flat out doing all of our seventy-two top priority things at once anyway. I didn’t take part – I certainly didn’t have a book to write, was finding my feet in a new job, and generally looked on in a ‘good luck if you’ve got it in you’ sort of way.

Well, this year, the project is back and it’s developed a bit as the result of the discussions last year – now it’s simply AcWriMo, or Academic Writing Month, recognising that academic writing isn’t always about generating fresh text, and isn’t always about books. As the Thesis Whisperer has noted, this explicit widening of the project to all kinds of academic writing makes the project more hackable to suit where each individual researcher is at when November starts. NaNoWriMo asks potential novelists to make the committment to generating crazy amounts of fictional prose; AcWriMo asks researchers to set crazy goals suitable for them. If that crazy goal is to prioritise your own research for an hour a day through the month, then that’s a crazy enough dream to head for.

I’ve been pondering this for some time, and I’ve been thinking about whether this will work for me – and, do you know, I rather think it will.

As some of you may remember, I have that whole thesis thing sitting and waiting revision into a book manuscript. I actually made a start on that this Monday (shock! horror!), and it’s not half as bad as I thought it was going to be. But I need to get on with it, and I need to prioritise it – there is a real pay-off here, in that the sooner I can get enough revised text to my publisher, the sooner I have a chance of getting a book contract, and the sooner that contract can appear in job applications and on my CV. (Mercenary, I know, but the current market doesn’t leave me much choice.) So here I am, getting on the #acwrimo bandwagon by publicly declaring my goals:

  1. By the end of November, I will have revised the introduction and first three chapters of my book manuscript.
  2. From 5th November onwards, I will spend at least one hour every weekday working on revisions.

There’s no point in me setting a word-related goal, as I’m not generating new material but reworking older stuff. As I’ll have prepared my teaching notes up to week 9 as of next week, I should be able to find the hour a day without taking away from teaching-related work. Having the pressure of revising three chapters over the course of the month should stop me getting precious about the whole affair and fussing that it’s not quite perfect – and should also capitalise on the sudden burst of confidence I find I have now that I’m coming back to the revision process after eighteen months thinking about the project but not looking at it.

And if it doesn’t work out to plan? Well, I’ll have a couple of revised chapters in hand, and that’s still going to be a positive result.

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