To change things up a bit, this year's installment of things horrific features eighteenth- and early-nineteenth century literature (to about 1835 or so). More verse (and longer texts in general) on the table than usual.
Gottfried Burger, "Lenore" (Thomas Taylor's translation | Walter Scott's translation). Foundational Gothic text, especially when it comes to the "please check to make sure your would-be bride/bridegroom is actually alive" trope. Once you've read this poem, you'll find echoes of it everywhere.
Robert Burns, "Tam o' Shanter." The dangers of riding home after having one too many...
S. T. Coleridge, "Christabel." An early example of the female vampire.
Richard Brinsley Peake, Presumption; Or, the Fate of Frankenstein. Early (and, shall we say, loose) adaptation of, well, Frankenstein, featuring more singing than perhaps one might expect from the novel in question.
John Polidori, The Vampyre. One of the first successful vampire tales in English. Bears considerable responsibility for the sexy vampire phenomenon.
Alexander Pushkin, "The Queen of Spades." Would-be gambler gets advice...unfortunately for him.
Leitch Ritchie, "The Man-Wolf." Gentleman discovers that he has some unseemly issues.
John Wilson [a.k.a. "Christopher North"], "Extracts from Gosschen's Diary #1." (Starts on p. 596, if the link doesn't take you there directly.) Priest hears the confession of a man who murdered his lover.
William Wordsworth, "The Thorn." Oh woe is me! O misery!
A five-paragraph review of Giordano's stuffed spinach pizza, accompanied by a high-res photograph of the pizza in various stages of consumption. The review applies Bourdieu's theories of cultural capital to the act of eating Chicago-style stuffed pizza, a controversial comestible that pizza aficionados insist is obviously inferior to the New York variety. There are six comments on the review, including one by someone who claims to be Slavoj Zizek (see my "citations" list in Appendix E).
An essay in which I denounce various unnamed members of a prominent academic organization, although while providing enough clues for an attentive reader to identify said individuals. The essay articulates its critique through a deconstructive rereading of Foucault, productively melded with a Lacanian interrogation of Horkheimer and Adorno. It has thirty-nine comments and eight shares; it has also been reposted to Tumblr, where it has garnered 531 notes. One of the unnamed individuals has informed me in private that s/he intends to sue for defamation, which I consider proof of this essay's subversion of sociopolitical boundaries in elite academic circles (see my supporting documents in Appendix G).
"Untitled Cat Photo Shoot." Facebook 8.2.2014.
Six high-res photographs of my cat Twinkums, a Siamese-Scottish Fold mix. The photographs are accompanied by several fragmentary reflections on the role of cats in the construction of postmodern subjectivity, written in a style intended to evoke a combination of T. S. Eliot and Judith Butler. This post has nine comments and two shares; in addition, one photo of Twinkums lyingin a sunbeam has been reprinted on CuteOverload.
"Untitled tweet on hot fudge sundaes." Twitter 1.3.2014.
A 118-character tweet devoted to a peanut butter and dark chocolate fudge sundae, with the hashtag #OmNomNom. Part of an extensive discussion devoted to the cultural implications of eating hot fudge sundaes at the MLA instead of going to the cash bars. This tweet has twelve favorites and thirty-nine retweets, and has recently been linked on Buzzfeed (see "citations" in Appendix E).
"Untitled tweet on television." Twitter 7.3.2014.
A 39-character tweet in which I insist that serious academics do not watch CSI, with the hashtag #OMGLosers. A social experiment in which I performed the role of cultural contrarian. This tweet has eighty-six favorites, ninety-four retweets, and two-hundred-plus responses, including eight responses accusing me of elitism, thirteen insisting that I am a dangerous leftist radical, and four proclaiming me a right-wing fanatic. The tweet has been the subject of serious discussion in Slate, the Chronicle of HIgher Education, and Reddit (see "citations" in Appendix E).
"Untitled tweet on The Phantom Menace." Twitter 10.31.2014.
A 128-character tweet in which I celebrate the radical aesthetics of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, with the hashtag #AnakinForever. Although this tweet has no favorites and no retweets, I have been informed that it will be reprinted in an upcoming book on Star Wars as cultural phenomenon--according to the author, I am the only person to have ever said anything complimentary about this film (see "citations" in Appendix E).
SELECTED YOUTUBE COMMENTS
"Comment on The Hobbit trailer." "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Teaser Trailer." Youtube 8.3.2014.
A denunciation of Peter Jackson's effects on twenty-first century cinema, with reference to the work of Kracauer. At the time of writing, it has received sixty-eight downvotes (and is therefore invisible on the page), but the strength of this response testifies to the power of its intervention in popular discourse on the cinema.
"Comment on Matterhorn POV video." "Super Matterhorn Vid!" Youtube 9.12.2014.
A critique of the video's insistence that rides at Disneyland are fun, pointing instead to the ride's use of the Yeti as a means of sublating contemporary cultural anxieties about ethical tourism. Incorporates multiple references to Baudrillard. At the time of writing, it has received ninety-four downvotes (and is therefore invisible on the page), but has also sparked a serious conversation on academic blogs about whether or not YouTube comments inherently support the status quo (see "citations" in Appendix E).
"Comment on Schoolhouse Rock Mashup." "Schoolhouse Punk Rocks." Youtube 11.6.2014.
A lengthy (equivalent to an entry in The Explicator) argument that contemporary transnational appropriations of Schoolhouse Rock enact an urgent critique of English grammar in an age of globalization, with extensive references to Linda Hutcheon. At the time of writing, it has received three hundred and six downvotes (and is therefore invisible on the page), but it is the subject of articles in Slate, Inside Higher Ed, and the Huffington Post on the possibility of serious theoretical interventions in a medium privileging comments that take the form of acronyms (see "citations" in Appendix E).
I broke my rule about non-business-related travel to trek down to NYC for the National Ballet of Canada's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. (It's...it's sort of Victorian. Right?) When I've discussedAlice before, I've noted that it's unbelievably difficult to adapt: Alice's plotless adventures, in which she stumbles again and again into situations where the characters simply have no interest in her arrival and even less in her departure, work magically on the page but frequently become inert on stage or film. I've come around to thinking that the most successful "straight" adaptation is Jonathan Miller's relatively short black-and-white version for the BBC (1966), which is all the more eerie because there are no funny animal costumes, no special effects, and no attempt at a plot--just Alice wandering through a landscape populated with genteel Victorians doing utterly bizarre things. The NBoC's Alice, a joint production with the Royal Ballet (which I'd originally planned on seeing this winter, before I had to reschedule my UK trip), tries to compromise between the novel's seriality and the dramatic demand for a plot. The plot in question is, not surprisingly, romantic. In both the Victorian prologue and the dream itself, Alice falls for Jack/the Knave, who is, of course, on the run due to some misunderstandings about tarts. This is about it for the romance, which is easy to forget (Alice keeps doing so, so why shouldn't the audience?), and is not helped along by the Knave's utter blankness as a character (and uninteresting choreography, to boot).
Ironically, then, that leaves the serial set pieces, which tend to be far more interesting than the main plot. The ballet's pacing is somewhat bizarre, and some of the pacing problems are far more evident in the theatre than on video, where editing choices and close-ups accentuate aspects of the choreography or mime that get lost on stage. This is most obvious in the Hall of Doors sequence and the Caucus Race, both of which are long on film and really, really, really long on stage--one wishes that the axe-wielding Executioner would walk on and perform some impromptu editing. Then matters (and, at the performance I attended on Saturday evening, the audience) quickly pick up in the eye-poppingly short Act II, with the introduction of the extremely clever Cheshire Cat puppet, a 3D Tenniel sketch animated by multiple dancers, and the Mad Hatter's tap-dancing Tea Party. (Both scenes garnered the first applause of the evening.) Finally, Act III has the evening's only taut narrative action, as Alice and the Knave have to deal with the evening's walking ballet parody, the Queen of Hearts. The Queen's Jam Tart adagio, which, along with the Tea Party, is by now the ballet's best-known scene, had the audience laughing uproariously, but there are certainly more giggles along the way than one might expect from a ballet (Alice trying to reach a doorknob, or experiencing the aftereffects of the Caterpillar's mushroom; the prissy King of Hearts' ineffectual attempts to handle his wife).
Wheeldon has repeatedly compared this Alice to a musical, and I think that the grumbling about the sometimes minimal choreography misses the point of what he's trying to do here--this is not really targeted at the audience for William Forsythe (let alone Swan Lake), and it does succeed as a show, not least because of some exceptionally beautiful costumes and nifty video projections. (Until Act III, there's actually not all that much physical set.) Once we got beyond the interminable Act I, I was definitely enjoying myself. That being said, as I mentioned before, some of the scenes do work better on video than on stage: this is especially true of "Pig and Pepper" and the moment where things go haywire in the courtroom, both of which look coherent when filmed (thanks to the aforementioned editing) and are incredibly difficult to watch live (where there's no logical place for the audience to focus). Similarly, unless you know it's there, it's easy to miss the Cook's little love affair with the Executioner. By contrast, the dance for the Cards in Act III is even more effective live, where you can appreciate the "2D" effect and the geometrical shapes. In general, the video projections work better in the theater than when they've been mediated by yet another layer of video.
If you've seen the Royal Ballet's filmed versions, the 2011 DVD and the 2013 live cinema broadcast, then most of the characterizations will be familiar. At the performance I attended, only two performers reshaped the characters in strikingly different ways from their RB counterparts. Wheeldon has repeatedly said that he thinks of the Mad Hatter as "demonic," and the RB's original Mad Hatter, Steven McRae (to whom this role is pretty much vacuum-sealed at this point), is all thousand-yard stares, his lips curling into perpetual sneers, scowls, and snarls. A visitor to the Tea Party might want to watch out when the Hatter gets too near the knives. McRae also has extremely intense chemistry with his usual March Hare, Ricardo Cervera, which occasionally tips over from buddy-buddy into something slightly homoerotic; in general, his Mad Hatter provides the evening with one of its sharper edges. By contrast, Robert Stephen dumps the demonism and instead plays the Hatter as a blissful pothead--one does wonder what's in the baked goods--and his affect is less insane and more stoned out of his mind. His March Hare, Jon Renna, is correspondingly dottier, and the Tea Party trio are overall more overtly comic than at the RB. (Stephen, unlike McRae, is not a life-trained tap dancer, and he doesn't try to do any of McRae's fancier tricks, but although he seemed to be getting some help from the pit--the Hatter normally provides most of his scene's percussion effects--his tapping was comfortable and clearly articulated.) Similarly, the RB's original White Rabbit, Edward Watson, is tall, rangy, and more "mature" than most of the other characters, a bundle of nerves about to explode every which way. Besides the Knave, he's the only character to be consistently interested in (albeit frustrated by) Alice. Dylan Tedaldi is Watson's physical opposite, small and compactly built, and he's visibly far younger; he was less avuncular guide, more Alice's and the Knave's contemporary, but also more self-assured. And, quite frankly, much cuter--he looked a bit like a teddy bear, and one did want to give him a hug.
I just received a check from the insurance company, which I assume means that I am about to owe the hospital some more money. (The check doesn't have anything to do with the previous bill, so it must relate to a bill I'm about to receive.) That brings the bill for stubbing my toe to over $3K.
Teaching the same honors composition class, only with five more students, can wreak havoc with one's scheduling, especially when there are only fifty minutes per session. Five more students = at least one more group for group presentations = at least two more days for whole-class draft workshops = at least one more day for presentations = wait, from whence do I acquire three more days? (Ah, if only we could do what we did at the University of Chicago, where our courses sometimes just kept on going into the next semester. Not officially, you understand.)
Thanksgiving break is really annoying. Not because it's a break, but because it a) happens in the second-to-last week of classes and b) makes it extremely difficult to keep up the momentum of any ongoing assignment.
I hope the Victorian students don't mutiny over Mrs. Sherwood. Then again, they might have fun (we're reading only two chapters, the gibbet chapter and the God-as-Eye-of-Sauron chapter).
With any luck, I am not accidentally scheduling myself to have three papers due on the same day. One never knows, however. (See under: professor, absent-minded.)
Then again, I've doubled my reading pleasure by making drafts mandatory in the two courses that emphasize skills, composition and intro to lit analysis. The drafts carry a substantial enough point value that students are now motivated to do them, at any rate.
Do I dare not hand out syllabi in paper format, and just point everyone to ANGEL?
It occurs to me that most of the books I'm teaching this semester are actually available on Kindle.
In mid-July, I got out of bed and accidentally stubbed my toe. The little toe, to be precise. I hopped around a bit, said all the things one tends to say when one stubs a toe, and then ignored the toe for the rest of the evening. Because, hey, toes get stubbed now and again.
The next day, I awakened to the cheerful sights and sounds of gentle sunshine and birds chirping...as well as a strange throbbing sensation from the direction of my feet. I got out of bed, inserted my contact lenses (without which I can't see much of anything), and looked at my little toe. And observed that it had turned an interesting combination of black and purple overnight, along with some other parts of my foot. This, it seemed to me, was probably suboptimal, all things considered. My mother concurred, and schlepped me off to the nearest emergency room, where I had to explain to the intake nurse that I had stubbed my toe. (The nurse seemed to find that amusing.) As I was obviously rather far down the emergency room scale of priorities, I settled down to read; luckily, it was a slow morning (other patients apparently being less clumsy), so I had a surprisingly prompt chat with the ER nurse, who was rather less amused by the state of my toe than nurse #1. More waiting, followed by a return visit to the nurse and accompanying doctor. "Wow, that looks broken," said the doctor, and sent me off for X-Rays. (At this point, needless to say, I began to think about my bank account.) I posed my foot prettily under the X-Ray machine, the X-Rays were processed with remarkable speed, and...my toe wasn't broken after all. Just, you know, really sore, plus of many unusual colors. (As it is still a little sore, nearly three weeks later, it's possible that I may have torn something in there. Ah well--as my mother put it, "You'll know in twenty years when it falls off.")
In any event, the day of reckoning came today--by which I mean, of course, the bill. (Or, at least, the first bill. If I'm remembering this hospital correctly, they may bill me separately for the ER doctor, whom I saw for at most five minutes, all told.) My stubbed toe cost a mere $2329--at least, so far. Thanks to my insurance, my share of the bill will not be the equivalent of the transmission for my car, and will only amount to rather a lot of secondhand books from Amazon. I told my toe to rejoice in this statement of its value, but am not entirely sure it was listening.
2002nd revision of the Academic Integrity Policy. The Policy applies to all students entering in the 50-51 ABY school year.
The following constitute violations of the University's policies. For a summary of the reporting and appeals process, see the appendix.
1. Telepathy. During examination sessions, telepathic contact with students in or out of the classroom is strictly forbidden. Students may not forcibly initiate telepathic contact with any instructor or proctor.
2. Unauthorized contact with Force ghosts. Force ghosts are not considered reliable, peer-reviewed sources, and should not be cited in academic papers or examinations. (See the Intergalactic Style Guide, 247th ed., on the appropriate use of sources.) Students may not use the University to forward any political projects developed by Force ghosts, nor may they assist them in leaving Chaos. Force ghosts should not be invoked to intimidate faculty, administrators, or other students.
3. Telekinesis. Students may not use telekinesis in physical education or dance classes without the explicit permission of the instructor. At no time may students use telekinesis to manipulate, elevate, remove, or destroy computers, either theirs or another's, during an examination session. Students may not use telekinesis to defenestrate the faculty, move objects or items of furniture in classrooms, or levitate buildings.
4. Protocol droids. Students may not submit for credit any translation or original work produced by a protocol droid. Students may not order any protocol droid to complete assignments or examinations, and they may not tamper with any instructor's protocol droid to obtain answers to examination questions. Students who have religious, linguistic, cultural or medical reasons to use protocol droids in class must obtain permission from the Office of Android Management.
5. Astromechs. Students may not use astromechs for any purpose related to coursework in coding, engineering, mathematics, or space flight. Programming astromechs to insult faculty, administrators, or students in Binary is strictly forbidden.
6. Joining the Dark Side. Students may under no circumstances join the Sith to force faculty to grant higher grades. Students who enter into apprenticeship contracts with Sith Lords will be immediately reported to the authorities. It is strictly forbidden to use Dark Side powers, such as force lightning, to injure faculty, administrators, and fellow students, or to damage electronic devices, droids, and ships.
APPENDIX: Reporting and appealing violations
Faculty or administrators wishing to report violations must use the following procedure.
1. Documentation of the violation. Faculty may document the violation using holovid or droid recording capabilities. The University discourages faculty from citing Force ghosts as witnesses, communicating with the administration using telepathy, or immediately challenging the student to a dual-wielding lightsaber duel.
2. Report to Department Chair. The incident should be reported to the Chair using Form 39171(b), available on the University website (see "Disciplinary Forms"). Incident reports must be made within one day of the event. Faculty must fully complete all 21 pages of the form and forward it to the chair with the accompanying evidence. Failure to answer all questions correctly will result in instant dismissal of the complaint.
3. Chair reports to Assistant to the Assistant Associate Dean. The Chair must evaluate the complaint using Form 3911118(a), and forward that form to the AAAD, together with Form 39171(b) and the documentary evidence. Reports must be completed within two weeks of the complaint. The Chair must fully complete all 48 pages of the form for the complaint to be considered by the administration. Failure to answer all questions correctly will result in instant dismissal of the complaint.
4. AAAD reports to the Assistant Associate Dean. After evaluating the relevant forms, the AAAD should forward their recommendation to the AAD within one year of receiving the complaint. In general, a one-word "yes" or "no" should suffice.
5. AAD reports to the AD. Once the AAAD's recommendation has been received, the AAD has three years to suggest a plan of disciplinary action to the AD, or to dismiss the case altogether. Action plans may be submitted verbally over a regulation game of Sabacc.
6. AD reports to the Dean. Within five years of receiving the AD's action plan, the Dean should hand down a final ruling. However, disciplinary action will be voided if either the student or the faculty member is no longer at the University because of graduation, retirement, or other proximate cause.
1. At the initial report phase. Students may challenge the instructor's account of events using Form 3333991 (z). This Form must be submitted within thirty minutes of notification that a complaint has been filed. Students must fully complete all 83 pages of the Form or their appeal will be disregarded by the University.
2. After the Dean's ruling. Students who for some reason have not left the University at the time of the Dean's ruling may challenge the disciplinary action using one of the following methods: 1) a podrace in the canyons of Tatooine; 2) a game of Dejarik according to Galactic Core standards; 3) a time trial in protocol droid assembly. Students are required to provide all materials and, if necessary, pay for their own transportation. Students may not use any University-related funds for this purpose. A student who loses the challenge must compensate the University for all costs incurred.
1. Oh joy, oh rapture! I have empty bookshelves! I must fill them.
2. Wait, that means I must remove books from boxes. How many boxes did I have, again?
3. These are some of my boxes. They have been exiled to the hall outside my office, because my new office is half the size of my old one, and the floor space is occupied by all the other boxes. These boxes look melancholy, somehow.
Clearly, I must cheer them up.
4. Incidentally, I need to find my OUP editions of the Brontes. They are in a box.
I have not the slightest clue which box, in case you're wondering. Luckily, there are only thirty-two boxes.
5. *censored cursing from dropping box on toe*
6. Large boxes full of books are heavy, possibly because there are no strange quantum effects altering their weight. Fortunately, I am a woman of incredible strength! The boxes are no match for me! I can--
*female custodians approach*
"Dear, don't move those by yourself. You're so little."
7. *open box*
*break down box*
*toss box into hall*
8. In case unboxing books becomes too strenuous, I can cool down using this method located right outside our office suite.
Yes, we have a shower, due to the dangerous chemical experiments performed by all humanities professors during their lectures on Wordsworth. It's a stealth method of pedagogical disruption: just combine organic chemistry with British Romanticism, and you can fulfill two gen ed requirements for the price of one! And with only one instructor!
9. *censored cursing from breaking fingernail on box*
10. Still no sign of the Brontes.
11. I go in desperate search through the building for vending machines containing choc--I mean, heart-healthy snacks. No, I mean chocolate. There are no vending machines. I feel a panic coming on, which I quickly assuage by leaving the building, walking to the Student Union, and acquiring heart-healthy--no, chocolate.
12.I have found enlightenment, thanks to all the philosophy books I've unpacked, but the Brontes continue to elude me.
13. When we chose our office furniture, we had the option of either lots of drawers or lots of bookshelves. As a result, I now have lots of student-generated paper and no place to put it.
Except, of course, in one of these boxes.
14. I have found the Brontes! And I've also found that I have OUP editions of Emily and Anne, but not Charlotte. You may insert censored cursing here.
15. Not only do I have papers from my undergraduates, I have my undergraduate papers. Anyone up for a Chaucer midterm?
16. The internet's siren call beckons me away from unpacking boxes. Is this yet another sign of the degeneracy of the Internet Age? One more example of the inability to concentrate brought on by twenty-four hour access to social media? I ask you.
17. Wow! They're almost entirely unpacked!
Except for that part where I haven't actually shelved them, just sorted them onto shelves. But...but...they're out of boxes, right? Baby steps!