Mascot for #DevilDiss

Mascot for #DevilDiss
Mascot for #DevilDiss

Saturday, May 30, 2015

My Television and Movie Teaching Idols

So on Twitter I've had discussions with @p00rrichard about teaching, its presentation in movies and television and some of the damage such presentations do, so far as expectations and lack of respect. We're talking about maybe writing something about it, and my initial thoughts are here.

Yesterday I wrote a post about how I use those university student end of semester evaluations, how I reflect, and issues with gender bias.

Then yesterday someone recycled McSweeney's post about Dr. Indiana Jones being denied tenure.

It got me thinking about, in tangent to yesterday's reflections about gendered comments on teaching, who my favorite television and movie teachers were.
So here's the list.
  • Indiana Jones: Because he does things because he's CURIOUS. He does things to learn. How much different would our academic lives look if we focused on pursuing such passions? Of constantly pushing ourselves to explore and learn? How different would our classrooms look like if "hey I do not know the answer but let's find out" was our guiding principle?
 
  • Jamie Escalante: "There will be no free rides, no excuses. You already have two strikes against you: your name and your complexion. Because of those two strikes, there are some people in this world who will assume that you know less than you do. *Math* is the great equalizer... When you go for a job, the person giving you that job will not want to hear your problems; ergo, neither do I. You're going to work harder here than you've ever worked anywhere else. And the only thing I ask from you is *ganas.* *Desire.*" Pretty much my teaching philosophy. Bet he was never called "harsh."
 
  • Professor Minerva McGonagall: She's smart. Poised. Knowledgeable. Holds her own. Expects more. I want to be her when I grow up. Also proof that in order to care about students you do not have to be a touchy-feely cuddler/coddler.
  • Jaime Sommers: Made me fall in love with Ojai, California. I think I liked her because she was such a post-hippie movement teacher. Her classroom was relaxed, and groovy. Later, once I became a teacher I was confused how she taught being gone all the time.
So who are your teaching models? When you first started did you base your teaching persona on a real-life teacher you had? Or a television or movie model? What was it about them that appealed to you? If you're now a veteran teacher, what elements of those teachers do you still hold onto? Why?

Friday, May 29, 2015

Reflections on Teaching, Student Evals and Plans for Next Year

I spend a solid week after receiving student evaluations musing and stressing over the results. I peer over them and come back to them as though I can discern some greater truth. I was talking with the teacher I teach a paired class with yesterday and she told me to not take it personally. Which I know. But I also know when I stop being bothered by these, when I stop using them for reflection, it's time to stop teaching.

I truly believe that reflective teachers are the best teachers.
I don't know where I first heard this. Probably some high school professional development. I know we hear a lot that the best teachers are ones who are constantly reflecting, but we don't always know what that LOOKS like. How do we reflect? What do we take from it? How do we correct or refine our pedagogy? This is a brief look at what I do at the end of each semester.

Other people have written about this, but I want to sum up some of the gaps, flaws of these end of the semester student evaluations, to both situate how I use them and where I'm coming from.
  • These evaluations are anonymous and this semester at my school, students knew their final grades before they answered the survey. Failing students leave different comments, answers. And we don't know which are which, although sometimes it's easy to tell.
    • While surveys are anonymous in case student takes your class again, to prevent us from taking revenge (and honestly, we're professionals, why is this a thing?) it means you can't ask clarifying, follow up questions that might improve your teaching.
  • There is no context for the comments. So for example "criticism and analysis" listed under a positive comment section doesn't really tell me anything. 
    • In part you can push back against this by asking for detailed responses from students before they take the survey, explain what they're used for, how you'll use them, but those steps are no guarantee that's what you'll get.
  • Often the comments are not anything that can be used to improve teacher performance, which is nominally, what these evaluations are supposed to do.

I do regular informal check ins roughly every four weeks. Each one looks a little different. Week 4 is a general share your thoughts. Week 8 used to be based on our IDEA form final surveys, but we've changed that, so next semester I'll be altering that. Week 12 is more specific about where they are, and where they want to end up. Most students respond, so I have a pretty good response rate, maybe 85, 90%. They are not anonymous, and I front load them by saying I use the answers to course correct the class, and help them, see what they need, so I ask them to take them seriously, and be honest, but not nasty. I tell them that nasty comments may make them feel momentarily better, but they won't help me fix anything. I frame the surveys as part of a class discussion about how things are going.

Once I have the results, the next day in class I bring up the general things that came up, what I can fix, what I can't, what I'll be doing in class in response. I get a pretty good reaction as they see that I hear what they say and use it. These conversations are part of our class culture and are very important to me in how I run my class, and the environment we have.

I do this because I think it's important to see how students feel about the class and material, because sometimes what I think is clear isn't, and if I don't know I can't help. It also helps me course correct before final evals, which while I have specific issues with, understand they are a necessary evil for evaluation and assessment.

This past spring I only taught one class. With 16 students, 15 actually as one dropped the last week of class, but still responded to the survey. 13 responded to the survey. So three negative responses tanked my stats. Perhaps not incidentally this class had one D and two Fs. So make of that what you will.

While I read the more statistical stuff, and our new form is better than the old IDEA forms, I still tend to focus on the comments.
I don't just rely on the university's evals though, I also do an end of semester reflection with the students, which you can find here, and I've written before, but this post is about the university evals.

You can find the evaluations I discuss below, and past ones on my teaching portfolio below the end of semester reflections and above the observations, recommendation letters.
Below though, I'm mostly focused on this past semester's evaluations. So below is my process, how I go through and incorporate the results, but also how I think through them.

The first thing I do is make lists of the comments. Below are the comments, then my reactions/thought process in blue italics.
 
The Good:
  • Really liked the class set up, the mix of online learning and in class discussions.
  • Liked that I let them bring laptops to class to work.
  • I am a "master" at Blackboard.
  • Peer review
  • clarifications made in class
  • Individual feedback
  • Visual aids
  • Enthusiasm
  • Group collaboration
  • Skill building
These are all things that I'm proud of about my class. Students also said they liked all the popular culture (TV, movies, comics) we covered in the Revising Milton class, which is course specific, but nice to hear as I was worried about the balance.
 
Future Improvements: These are comments that I need to incorporate fixes for next semester.
  • More time on examples, use student examples and go over them
    • Next semester I'm going to for each assignment ask for student volunteers whose work I can use (anonymously of course) in post-mortem of the assignment.
  • More flexible
    • This is one of those comments where context would have helped. I'm not sure what this student wanted me to be more flexible about. It's not a comment that came up in any of the informal check ins, so while I've noted it as something to be aware of, I'm not sure exactly what steps to help.
  • Hands on help with papers
    • We do a peer editing/group day for every assignment, the class period before it's due. So that's already in the schedule. Next semester I'll make sure I spend more time with the groups, sitting down with them and giving them this help.
  • More positive reinforcement
    • This is another one where I wish I had more detail and context. What does the student consider positive reinforcement? Do they mean on small, low stakes assignments? Larger assignments? In class discussions? What did they need to get out of this? Like the flexible comment I can put it on my radar to be aware, but other than that, and considering this is a single student's comment, that's all I can do.
  • More note taking
    • I work hard to incorporate a lot of skills in my class- organizers, research, programs to use, etc. So I'm adding a focus on types of note taking to this for the fall.
The Bad:
  • "The teacher fails at teaching and expects us to have learned everything based on her notes in the syllabus"
    • This reads as vitriol. Yes, it's a single comment. But again, there are no details here. What about my teaching made the student call it a failure? Was there confusion about how to use the resources? Could they not follow the hyperlinked weekly schedule/syllabus? Did they not attend class a lot? Did they come to office hours? Where was the disconnect? Because there are mostly questions, and no answers, this type of comment I tend to read, but place aside. Because there's nothing here I can fix.
  • "I think I would have been more comfortable in her class if she wasn't so harsh. There were a few times when she was a little too vulgar in my opinion. Although I would
    regard her as an accomplished professional, I think she leaves no room in controversial topics for other views. I will admit that I was uncomfortable a few times in her class and felt a little disrespected when she would discuss religion."
    • Finals week a student complained to my boss that I cursed too much. I assume this is the same student. This never appeared on the informal check ins. Frankly, "Did you bring this up with your professor?" should have been the first question asked of the student when they made the complaint. Followed by why wait until now to complain if this was an issue? Neither happened, but that's a separate issue. Because a complaint once the course is over and grades are posted reads like it's about something out. That being said, I'll watch my language in the fall. Although I will say that while I occasionally swear in class, it's not like I'm an extra in Goodfellas or anything, and this is college, so, whatever.
    • I wish I knew exactly what controversial topics this student felt I had shut down discussion on. Again, details would help me know.
    • I'm also confused here about the "accomplished professional" bit. If this is true, then what specifically bothered this student? How does this relate to the other issues?
    • The last comment points me towards the evangelical student I had all semester. Who complained all semester (and didn't do well) because of an ongoing issue that Milton was not their religion. However, while I did make a blanket statement the first class about what the Revising Milton class would cover so far as it not being religion, this comment makes me realize that I need to add a trigger warning to this class' syllabus. For more on that, read this.
  • Better at answering the questions asked through emails rather than pointing the student to find the answer elsewhere.
    • I'm never sure how to react to this type of comment. If the question is something that can be found on the syllabus, or should be common knowledge, like MLA formatting, I do point them elsewhere. Because I believe that learning how to find that type of information is part of preparing college students for further study. I don't think I ever do it in a nasty way, but it's hard to know if this is a comment about one of those situations or if the student feels like they had a specific question that did not get answered. Again, placing this on the "to be aware of" pile.
  • Expectations vague and grading harsh
 
    •  I struggle with this comment- expectations are vague. The image above is assignment 1 from the Revising Milton course, and the others look similar. I don't know what assignment this student is talking about, or what they found vague, or what they wanted more detail with. I did recently read an article in TETYC by Mark Blaauw-Hara that did lead me to creating an assignment template for future use that might address some of these concerns. But again, not knowing what the student meant, I'm not sure.
    • The grading as harsh I also don't know what to do with. What assignment? What was the grade? What was harsh? Is this an actual concern or is the student defining harsh as in they didn't like their grade? I use a standard Feedback Cheat Sheet for student papers. I use this because it incorporates questioning techniques, and guiding the students to find the answers. I'll continue to use it, but wish I knew what this student was referring to.
  • Attitude makes her unapproachable
    • Again, lack of specifics, and evidence of students in my office hours and emailing me points to isolated incident. But what about my attitude did the student think made me unapproachable? Did they try? Attend office hours? Email for help? Was it my reaction in those instances that led to this comment? Or did they never try? Why did they not try?  
  • Harsh
  • Aggressive
    • I go back and forth on these types of comments. The very first day of class, I give a spiel, that accompanies my introduction to the class in memes (which the students like and sets a great tone for the class). And I state that I am direct and honest but never mean to be harsh, so please let me know if that's an issue, or if you ever feel that way.



    • I never received this comment during the check ins so is this sour grapes over final grades? What situation did the student think I was harsh about? And finally, in addition to the aggressive, I return to the conversation I'm tired of having. About teaching, and gender, and bias.
I wear jeans, a button down shirt, and tie (sometimes a vest) to teach.
I've written before about teaching styles, dress, and gendering. I think I am often punished because I don't meet student expectations of what a female teacher should look like. I think a strong, opinionated female is graded more harshly by students than a female professor who not only dresses more feminine, but also is not as strict about rigor and expectations. Short of me and a more feminine teacher giving the exact same assignments and feedback, there's no way to know, I only have how I feel, and anecdotal evidence.
Some days I think I'm taking it all too seriously. Maybe I'm making too much of it, seeing shadows where there are none. Maybe it is something about me, and not a bias against how I dress and act. But that doubt too is evidence of misogyny. I'm betting my male colleagues don't think first of their dress if they're told they are harsh or hard.
Too often female professors are graded, and rated, on things that have nothing to do with their teaching, as Inside Higher Ed covered this past December.

The #GenderImbalance hashtag on Twitter the other week showed that this isn't just me. It's the majority of female scholars. From being told to dye grey out of our hair, to receiving better evals if we wear heels and skirts, to being asked to only contribute to committees or service that is characterized as "women's work" like we're all naturally nuturing the imbalance is real and it impacts almost every aspect of our professional lives as scholars.

Sjoerd Levelt storified some of the responses here. Think about what it's like to think in that environment. To constantly second guess choices because of the consequences of actions being gendered. To be punished for not conforming to gender norms.

So, I don't know what to do with comments of harsh. I even had a supervisor call me "boot camp like" which I thought was incredibly insulting, inappropriate, and again, gendered.

So this fall, I'm trying a little social experiment. I will be trading in my ties and jeans for slacks and dress tops. 
Think more this:
https://www.pinterest.com/pin/254101603949847584/
And don't think I don't know that adopting a queer female as my new sartorial model may not change the problem, that it could just be moving the goal post, but honestly there's only so much compromise I'm willing to do for student evaluations- mainly I will not completely change my personality or sell my soul to Dress Barn, so hush you.

So, that's the plan. And I'm betting, that fall's evaluations will be different. I'm not changing anything else (other than the notes above based on feedback). So if I am graded less harshly, seen as more accessible, it will strictly be due to the change in my appearance. And that's wrong, on levels beyond comprehension. But I'm curious, so we'll see.

So that's how I work through my student evaluations. I take the list of things to improve/incorporate and print it out, and put it in the front of my folder for next semester as a constant reminder of what I want to focus on.
That's my step by step process on how I break down evaluations. For me, that's part of what reflection looks like. Other things I do that I consider reflection include keeping up with new teaching strategies and approaches I can integrate, resources that might help my students, skill based activities that will help them. This is on top of revisiting and revising the syllabus after each class. I make a copy of each at the beginning of the semester and use the copy to make notes on:
  • assignments that didn't work, why they didn't work, what I can do to fix
  • readings that fell flat, readings that students recommended that were great
  • places where I need to front load more or reteach in a different way
  • places where I need to insert resources like organizers or help
 So what do you do to reflect on your teaching? How do you respond to and use student evaluations? What practices do you use to improve your teaching semester to semester?
 
Comments from past years
  • Really enjoyed enthusiasm, liked her style of teaching
  • Excellent instruction for juniors or seniors, maybe not freshmen. Refresh our memories about basics of English
  • Difficult course but instructor helped me more than I could have asked. Great teacher.
  • Favorite class, best English class I've ever taken.
  • Good teaching
  • Allowed me to push myself
  • Great instructor, very helpful, used different methods to teach
  • Shimabukuro is a ruthless teacher. That being said, every "A" I received was earned and it felt good when she appreciated my work. More patience would have been helpful.
  • I really enjoyed this professor as a person however she was quite harsh at times.
  • Taking this class made me look forward to the rest of college.
  • The teacher prepped us for future classes.
  • The instructor was exceedingly hands on.
  • Not a fan of peer editing
  • She was unprofessional in the classroom and did not clearly present expectations to students. The class itself was still interesting though.
  • Didn't inspire students. That is the only way they will learn.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Eeyore Syndrome (updated 29 May)

Updated anecdotes in blue. Updated 29 May.
 
I had one friend in theatre whose response to just about any situation was "It's all a matter of perspective."
I had another who used to say about bad things happening or bad days "The pool of self-pity is only so deep."
Both are true. Or rather, they can be true. They can also be perceived as flip. When you're having a crap day you don't want platitudes. Often you just want someone to listen. 
I tend to take Nehi for a walk or run. I also have an intimate relationship with my heavyweight bag. Everyone has different coping mechanisms.

But there's a difference between an occasional bad day, and serious depression. And I'm not talking about the latter. Depression (and depression in academia) is a real and serious issue that deserves to be dragged kicking and screaming into the light and examined and dissected until some solutions and more resources are found and provided.

But I'm not talking about either. I'm talking about what I call Eeyore syndrome.
There's a guy that Nehi and I regularly see on our morning runs at the park. He has a cute little dog Nehi likes to stop and say hi to. But I get a sinking feeling in my stomach when I see him. Because he's just so sad. ALL THE TIME. You ask him how he is and you get the actual Eeyore big sigh, then a litany of how life sucks. It's exhausting.

A few weeks ago, there was a statement made on social media that scholars/grad students should not be on social media until they have tenure.
Which I think is just flat out ridiculous. For a lot of reasons.  But as I wrote in response, just because I think social media, particularly Twitter, is vital to our new academia, that doesn't mean that it's a free for all. There are still guidelines to follow, things to do and not do.

Common sense is all you really need to do well (or rather not crash and burn) on social media. Would you say that to the person's face? No, then don't put it on social media. Would you say it at full volume in a work meeting? Again, then no. Some people treat social media as their own personal sounding boards. And the problem with that is that for the most part no one cares. It's the sign I have above my desk.
Before you think me awful- social media, particularly social media used for work, is not made up of friends. They are not family. They are colleagues. Work colleagues. People who you will work with, and recommend you, review your work, and maybe hire you.
These are not your friends.
They don't care about your sexual preferences, dating life, half-coherent ramblings, or inner monologue.
And they shouldn't.
Because none of that has its place AT WORK.
I think the immediacy of social media, and the illusion of intimacy can often confuse this. But it's a lesson worth learning.
I have a pretty long list of people on Twitter I've muted for exactly this reason. I don't want to hear it.
And I'm pretty sure your colleagues don't either.
Or your potential employers.

If for no other reason that constant complaining about everything is unprofessional.
Which brings me to the other type of Eeyore.
I call it "Job Specific Eeyore" but that's just because that's where I see it. In truth, it's symptomatic of a larger issue.

The job market in academia sucks.
This is not news to anyone.
There are too many PhDs, not enough jobs, and we're all competing against the 500 PhDs that didn't get jobs last year.
There are also larger labor issues even amongst scholars WITH jobs, whether they be adjuncts, tenured, or lecturers.

And these issues all deserve our dedication, involvement, and activism.

But there's an elephant in the room.
A lot of PhDs do not have what it takes to do this job. They don't publish, they don't present at conferences, they drag out the time to degree. They waffle about these things for numerous reasons. And that's fine. BUT.
This job, as I used to say of teaching, should only be done if you literally can't imagine doing anything else. There are better, easier ways to make money (and not be miserable).
And this and other altac information is starting to draft into consciousness. Particularly humanities degrees are useful, and people are starting to explore more and more just how much.

But I know people who are in grad school starting their own business, dancing, teaching yoga, not as side jobs to make money, but as back up plans.
If you have a back up plan you are that invested in to the fact that you often choose THAT over progress in your PhD program then I'm not sure why you're here.

On the other side, I know someone, a previous high school teacher like me, who KNEW the first year of their PhD program that they were in that they didn't want to do this, and wanted to go back to teaching high school. They didn't quit because of stigma, and were miserable the next couple of years. That's ridiculous. I know people (as I've written of before) that do not have what it takes to be a professor. And someone should tell them that now, before they rack up another $10,000 of debt and another year wasted. 

But I digress. Kind of. If grad school is brutal, it's nothing compared to the job market. Conservative estimates depending on field put you up against 500 other applicants per job. Amanda Ann Klein covered the whole process here with great truth and detail. I can't say it better than that, so go read that.

So let's say that you're not one of the above PhDs. You're not hedging your bets with your PhD interfering with your life as a Pilates instructor. You're published. You present at conferences. You network on social media. You've done everything you can to make yourself the best candidate possible.

And you don't get a job.

And you tell the world wide web about it.
In detail.
Excruciating detail. About how sad you are. How you're a failure. And awful. And how your life is over.
And the way you present it sounds just like this:
There are a couple of problems with this. The first is that even if this is how you feel, the work-related Internet does not need to know this. One, it's unprofessional. Two, would you hire this person?
Second, we, as a society, have become people who are defined by their jobs. Jobs used to be what you did to pay the bills and could afford your life- you know the family, trips, good hamburgers, road trips, movies. Somewhere along the way jobs became what we were. They became the primary identifier of our personality. Hence the first question most people ask, "What do you do?" as though what I do is the defining characteristic of ME.
Which it's not.
Is life easier and better when you like your job? Sure.
Can a sucky job make life hard? Sure.
Will I be sad if I don't get a college level job? Sure.

But even in the worst scenario, a job doesn't define me. It didn't define me when I was a prep cook. Or a retail salesperson, or a bartender, or a waitress, or a theatre technician, or a high school teacher.

I know someone who has a job making a little north of $50,000 a year. Benefits. Tuition reimbursement. Gets to travel. 9-5 mostly. Vacation time. In NYC. So, pretty good gig. And is quitting because the job is as a secretary, and they're too good for that, so they're attending a non-accredited grad school that is associated with religious nutjobs, for some fluff future job that they won't get because, unaccredited. Why? Why not keep the great job, the benefits, and have that job not define you and just go out and have a great life? 
Makes no sense, except this person has drunk the Kool-Aid that they are somehow lesser because they are a secretary. Which is crazy talk. 

Whether or not I get a job as a professor this year I will still be me. Nothing fundamentally will change about me. I won't suddenly be stupid. Or unprofessional. Or incapable of publishing. Or presenting at conferences. Or sharing my ideas.
Yet that is exactly the "sky is falling" attitude I see all the time.
Now part of that is the institution- the idea that if you're not in the ivory tower you don't matter. But at least from what I see, that's eroding. There's a real shift away from such elitism (or maybe I just follow the right people).

If you or I don't get a job it's not because we're bad people. It's not because our work sucks. It does not suddenly invalidate our lives. We just didn't get the job. Think back to your first few jobs- flipping burgers, folding sweaters, cleaning pools. I'm sure you didn't get your first job. Did not getting that job fundamentally change you?
I'm guessing not.
And neither should this.

The second part of this Job Market Eeyore also makes me think of my "perspective" friend. Venting can be good. Over beers or coffee. With actual real life friends. But on social media it's not professional. Particularly when it drifts into whining. Or when it appears as though you're not doing anything to change it. The difference is time and duration- venting about a bad day, okay still don't think it's professional, but a once in a while good, fine. But day after day after day. At a certain point, realize what you have control over and CHANGE SOMETHING.
Don't like where you live? Move.
Don't like your job? Start exploring shifting gears.

I get that there's a lot you can control. But the thing is, there's a lot you can. If nothing else, you can start with your attitude.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Drafting Chapter Five #DevilDiss: The Devil in 16th and 17th century Polemics and Pamphlets

As I wrote about the other day,  I'm past the halfway point on #DevilDiss. The foundational survey chapters are finished, and now it's time to turn towards the chapters that talk about use and function.
Chapter four: the absence of devils in Shakespeare is in conference paper form from ACMRS and I got great feedback from that.
Chapter six I turned in as part of my course with my dissertation direction and she'll be sending that along with notes, and I just have to tie in Paradise Regained and Samson Agonistes to it.

So I'm feeling really good about that. The one chapter I've done NO work on is chapter five, the use of the devil in 16th and 17th century polemics and pamphlets. And with all good things, the inspiration came from TV. Salem specifically. I was watching the first episode last summer, and saw this on the screen:
It got me thinking about how by the 16th and 17th century, the figure of the devil, what he looks like and what he does, had become common knowledge enough to be used to make arguments.
So I decided to write a chapter that would bridge the absence of devils in Shakespeare with my culminating chapter on Milton. Both time and genre wise it's a great bridge.

I have a preliminary bibliography that I'll start with next week, but this as with all my work, this chapter will be grounded in close readings. In this case, close readings of the covers. This chapter has several delineating factors. Because my dissertation is on the English folkloric devil, I am only examining pamphlets from England. I'm only interested in polemic/political pamphlets as I'm analyzing and exploring how the use of the devil is used in argument, so I'm not paying attention to covers for sermons or plays. Also, while there is some overlap with ballads, I'm not considering those because again, the focus is on argument. However, the Houghton Library has just digitized ballads from the 17th century, and they're GORGEOUS!

I've set the time from 1500-1660 because much earlier the material print culture didn't allow for wide circulation and readership necessary for broadsheets and I end  where I do because I'm using Milton's publication of Paradise Lost in 1660 as my culmination of the devil's presentation as afterwards Milton's characterization is what gets forwarded.

So, I spent the morning on EEBO searching for devil records from 1500-1660. There were 370 hits from 296 records. Thirty pages worth. I only looked at and downloaded covers. Most covers are text, some include devil related art. The ones with text still prominently feature devil in the title and/or description.
  • So far as priority, I'll examine images/cover art then text covers.
  • I will then organize within these according to the subtopics I noticed when scanning: 
    • round heads
    • Pope
    • religion in general
    • witches
    • Quakers specifically
    • Parliament
    • Ranters
    • Last Will and Testament
    • Robert the Devil
    • Cromwell
    • battle defeats.
  • Within these subtopics I will then organize by date
Now I've saved all these image files. Next I'm printing them out so I can organize them because I need the paper to manipulate. Once I have them organized (and I've burned through all my paper and ink) I'm going to take them to  the campus copy center (which is my favorite place in the world) and have them bind it so it's easily accessible.


Now there are some potential traps.
While 370 is a hefty number, there's no way I have ALL the devil references in pamphlets in England. So I have to use Jolly's methodology (and the one I use in my Anglo-Saxon chapter) that I'm examining this subset, and gesturing towards larger trends and issues, BUT that doesn't mean that we can make big blanket statements.
Also, while I spent the morning looking at everything the EEBO had, there are several images (like below) that I've found on the Internet with no identifiers, or only partial identifiers.

None of these appeared in my EEBO search, making me nervous about what else is not there.
While some of the pamphlets I'm examining do involve witchcraft, I'm not focusing on this, so the above woodcut may not make the cut, especially as this is a woodcut without context (title, publisher, date). If I could find the larger context, maybe.
For similar reasons, this Matthew Hopkins one may or may not be included, as well as for the fact that there is no direct image of the devil.


This one will make the cut because it has a direct image of the devil, and is more in context.
 
This one interests me because of the connection between the English folkloric devil tradition and the wild man tradition which also includes Robin Goodfellow.

This last one in particular interests me as it's a pamphlet against usury, and that revisits previous sections of the dissertation that examine the connection between Jews and the devil.

So if anyone has more information on the above images, I'd appreciate you letting me know.
So I'm going to get started with printing out and organizing and hopefully not killing my printer.

For those interested, here's my starting bibliography:
Andersen, Jennifer Lotte, and Elizabeth Sauer. Books and Readers in Early Modern England Material Studies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002. Open WorldCat. Web. 24 May 2015.
---. Books and Readers in Early Modern England Material Studies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002. Open WorldCat. Web. 24 May 2015.
Bayman, Anna. Thomas Dekker and the Culture of Pamphleteering in Early Modern London. N.p., 2014. Open WorldCat. Web. 24 May 2015.
CHINED (Conference), and Andreas H Jucker. Early Modern English News Discourse Newspapers, Pamphlets and Scientific News Discourse. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub. Co., 2009. Open WorldCat. Web. 24 May 2015.
---. Early Modern English News Discourse Newspapers, Pamphlets and Scientific News Discourse. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub. Co., 2009. Open WorldCat. Web. 24 May 2015.
---. Early Modern English News Discourse Newspapers, Pamphlets and Scientific News Discourse. Amsterdam; Philadelphia: John Benjamins Pub. Co., 2009. Open WorldCat. Web. 24 May 2015.
Clark, Sandra. The Elizabethan Pamphleteers: Popular Moralistic Pamphlets, 1580-1640. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1983. Print.
Dionne, Craig, and Steve Mentz. Rogues and Early Modern English Culture. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2004. Open WorldCat. Web. 24 May 2015.
Dolan, Frances E. Dangerous Familiars: Representations of Domestic Crime in England, 1550-1700. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1994. Print.
Gilman, Ernest B. Plague Writing in Early Modern England. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2009. Open WorldCat. Web. 24 May 2015.
Halasz, Alexandra. The Marketplace of Print Pamphlets and the Public Sphere in Early Modern England. New York, NY, USA: Cambridge University Press, 1997. Open WorldCat. Web. 24 May 2015.
Hibbard, G. R et al. Three Elizabethan Pamphlets. London: Harrap, 1951. Print.
Kinney, Arthur F. Rogues, Vagabonds, & Sturdy Beggars a New Gallery of Tudor and Early Stuart Rogue Literature Exposing the Lives, Times, and Cozening Tricks of the Elizabethan Underworld. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1990. Open WorldCat. Web. 24 May 2015.
Marshburn, Joseph H, and Alan R Velie. Blood and Knavery; a Collection of English Renaissance Pamphlets and Ballads of Crime and Sin. Rutherford [N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1973. Print.
“Matthew Hopkins Witchfinder General.” N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2015.
McRae, Andrew. Literature, Satire, and the Early Stuart State. Cambridge, U.K.; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Print.
Nevitt, Marcus. Women and the Pamphlet Culture of Revolutionary England, 1640-1660. Aldershot, Hants, England; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2006. Print.
“Pendle Witches | Planet Open Knowledge Foundation.” N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2015.
Politicus, Mercurius. “England | Mercurius Politicus.” N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2015.
Raymond, Joad. Pamphlets and Pamphleteering in Early Modern Britain. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.
---. Pamphlets and Pamphleteering in Early Modern Britain. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003. Print.
Starner, Janet Wright, and Barbara Howard Traister. Anonymity in Early Modern England “What’s in a Name?.” Farnham, Surrey; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011. Open WorldCat. Web. 24 May 2015.
“The Devil Is in the Pamphlets: Witchcraft and Emotion in Seventeenth-Century England | ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.” N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2015.
“The Pamphlet War between John Taylor and Henry Walker.” Mercurius Politicus. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 May 2015.
Voss, Paul J. Elizabethan News Pamphlets: Shakespeare, Spenser, Marlowe & the Birth of Journalism. Pittsburgh, Pa.: Duquesne University Press, 2001. Print.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Halfway Point on #DevilDiss

Yesterday was a big day.

I had ambitious goals for May. The first week was finals week and I really thought I'd be submitting a methodology/intro/how-to-read my dissertation write up and the first three chapters to my dissertation director.
Yeah, that didn't happen. For a couple of reasons. She told me that she wouldn't get to it until June because of her own personal and professional obligations. And that was liberating, because it meant I could collapse after this past year, take some time to be a slug on the couch, binge watch iZombie, decide I liked the idea f Penny Dreadful better than the actual show, and revisit those three chapters.

Which was good, because it turns out chapter three needed A LOT more work than I remembered/thought. But that's one of the nice things about scheduling writing so you can set things aside and come back to them later.

But I had other roadblocks. I had a hard time finding the motivation to sit down and complete the mind-numbing task of converting chapter one from Chicago to MLA. I realized I didn't address the seven deadly sins, so I had a whole section on that I had to write.

In general I had a hard time finding my motivation.
I had part of this problem last summer, though I don't remember it as bad, but that could just be me not remembering.
I had a hard time doing anything the first couple of weeks after break.
The "To Do" list I had set for myself (last summer it was studying for comps) seemed insurmountable. I was paralyzed. I sat on the couch and just zoned out to the television. I had a hard time shifting gears to reading "regular" books again.
I think in part this has to do with just shutting down after the busy year.
But then this week, perhaps because I realized that June was next week and my director's extension was looming, I found my mojo.
And as always happens, the things I was putting off for whatever reasons, are easily done once I, you know, sit down and actually DO them.
So, chapter three got finished.
Chapter one got converted from Chicago to MLA.
Chapter two had missing bits added.
I'm not saying it's great. I know after a year of working on these chapters, I'm probably too deep in my own head, and I can guarantee that my director will have a TON of notes. But revision is easy. The fact is, the first half of my dissertation is done, and sent off.

And that's a big deal. Not only am I past the halfway point, but that's 148 pages in.
Today is a library day and I have a beginning list of books to get for chapter five, my chapter on the use of the devil in polemics and pamphlets during the 16th and 17th century. I decided to work on this chapter next, the only one I haven't done any prep for, because after a year of working on these same topics and chapters, I wanted something fresh, something new.

The three chapters I submitted are the first half of the book, and there's a natural break- they are the survey/history/background chapters. The second half of the book builds on this and talks about the function of these elements. So I also have a better idea of how this second half will function.
After the pamphlet chapter, I have to expand chapter four, the absence of the devils in Shakespeare, from conference paper to chapter. My director said that she'd get my notes on my Milton chapter sometime in the next couple of weeks. So I'll need to fix those notes and add the Paradise Regained  and Samson Agonistes connections.

Once it's all done, I'll write the conclusion, and expand the introduction.
I'm aiming to have the second half to my director by August.
My director has said I can expect notes on the first half around the end of June. So I'll work on those revisions while she's reading the second half.

So far, I'm on my schedule I need to be.

While I know the revisions will be a lot of work, I only have one class I have to do work for (my third, fluency class for Old English, translating Beowulf, and I'm doing that this summer since I have the time- 300 lines/week). So revisions and teaching will be the only things I'm doing.

I'm still hoping that my director will feel comfortable recommending/approving me for being on the job market this fall.
I'm taking a pre-semester/August job seekers workshop, and I already have solid templates of all my materials from last year, so I feel good about that.

I have a couple of other projects to work on. I have a folklore article that I was asked to revise and resubmit, so next week I'll do that and send it off (and hopefully be able to add something else by job applications to my publishing list, it would make my 6th publication).
I also have a "fun" project about dime novel cover art demonizing Others and relating it to comic books that I'm looking forward to.

So that's my update- past the halfway point and trucking forward.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Advice for Comps

I have a friend who is spending the summer reading/studying for comps, and I told her that I'd help.
This got my thinking about the advice, help I'd give her. So here it is.
This applies to English, and here in our program we choose three fields to comp in, create reading lists, then we take one exam per week in either September or February, four hours per exam, three weeks in a row.
Initial Reading
  • Print each reading list out. Our lists are generally 30 primary readings and 15 secondary. Mine were longer. This was a mistake and only made my life harder.

  • Assign a month for each list. I read over the summer, so methodology and folklore was May, early modern was June, and middle English was July. I saved August for the exam prep (below).
  • Choose the hardest list first. I did this because I thought it would take me longer, and everything else would seem easier after. It did, and it was.
  • Figure out how many books you can reasonably read and take notes on in a week. I read superfast, it's my super power, but I generally had 10-15 books per week. If your list is 45 books, divide by amount of time, and work at your own pace.
  • Set weekly library days. Go, get the first books on your list, go home, read, take notes. Next week, choose next X number of books, repeat. I had a routine- Monday I took my bag of books to the library with my list and got the next set. Loaded up, came home, lined up that week's readings. I just started at one end and worked my way through. The routine helped me get through weeks I wasn't feeling great about my progress.


  • I color coded each reading list so I could readily identify the notes by looking at them. I took hand written notes. I also bought a lot of books so I could annotate in the book. I chose which books I'd buy by deciding if I'd use it past the dissertation (for teaching or research). I know a lot of people prefer to take electronic notes. One Note is good for this, Zotero is too, and has the benefit of being there when you write the dissertation. I had three three inch three ring binders that were color coded.

Once Reading is Done, Onto Studying
  • I made color coded flashcards for each area.
  • Front had title and author as well as webs of main ideas. Back had additional details like character names and such.
  • I also took old copies of exams my department has on file and created flashcards from this. This was more helpful for middle English which was term based and passage IDs. Early modern this was helpful for remembering all the character names for plays and such. This was not as helpful for my methodology and folklore.
  • Once I felt like I had the material on the cards memorized I started sorting according to larger themes- feminist issues, folklore, national identity, etc. I spread the cards out on the floor and "saw" the connections between texts. I then wrote on Post-Its these larger themes and studied the cards in that order.
Practice Exams
  • Only one of my professors gave me a practice exam, met with me on my answers, and talked me through how to improve. This was very helpful.
  • Each of my exams was radically different. My second exam was similar in format to the midterm and final exams that professor gave, so I studied those, and the PhD comprehensive exams on file.
  • My third professor gave me a practice question that was not on any topic I read on. I received feedback on how I responded to writing under a deadline and style. This was the area I continued to be the most nervous about, all the way up through taking the exam.
Right Before the Exam
  • Meet with each professor. Go in prepared to discuss the major themes you noticed in reading.
  • Ask for specifics about what the format of their exam will be: short answer, passage IDs, essays. Get specifics about whether or not they want you to cite secondary sources, and how long they want essays/answers.
  • Take advantage if they're willing to give you practice exams. Complete them in conditions as close to the test as possible.
  • If your department keeps old exams, get a hold of them, and ask professors how close their exams will be to that.
 Other Random Advice
  • I had friends tell me not to stress about writing 15-20 pages in four hours. And they were right. I had one area that I was stressed about, and freaked out, but the rest all came out just fine.
  • I'm a visual person, so I drew out organizers for each area. These visuals stuck with me as I sat down to take the test.
  •  Create a mojo routine. Mine was to go in with Cherry Coke, a bag of Twizzlers, and color coded pen and highlighter for that area. It was my personal cheerleading packet.
  • Ask what conditions are for test- if it's on a laptop, be sure you're comfortable typing for four hours. If you need an external mouse or keyboard, ask for it.
  • You will have days where you feel PHENOMENAL about your progress. Then you'll have days where you feel like you will NEVER learn it. This is where your routine will help get you through. Recognize small setbacks will happen. And keep moving.
 
  • Take breaks. I had a summer schedule that was Monday through Friday. Weekends were off. I read other books, went to a movie, just off. You need the mental break.
So that's my advice.
What about you Internet Hivemind? What tips or tricks did you use to get through comps?





Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hardware Mode #DevilDiss edition

Summer is a time to work. It is time to work uninterupted.
I always make an impossibly long list of things to do and unsurprisingly while very productive, never get the whole list done.
I taught my last class, turned in my last papers, and submitted grades.
I have one meeting to go to next week, but as of yesterday, summer was here.
Or as I think of it:
This summer there are lots of little projects to get done, May alone is my busiest month, trying to get all the little things out of the way and clear the decks. Because the main focus this summer is #DevilDiss.
Because I just realized Sunday that my Anglo-Saxon bits were no longer bits at the front of chapters but was actually my first chapter, the #DevilDiss board changed:
The radical redesign of the board reflects where I am in the process. Chapter 1 (Anglo-Saxon) and Chapter 6 (Milton) are done in article mode so just need the dissertation framing inserts. Chapter 2 and 3 (the survey chapters post-Conquest) need a couple of editions.
This summer the big bits are expanding the conference paper for Chapter 4, the absence of devils in Shakespeare and research and writing Chapter 5, the use of the devil in polemic pamphlets.
Once I finally get prospectus notes back from everyone, I'll use that to rewrite my introduction, and once all chapters are drafted, I have the conclusion to write. 

The eye on the prize goal by the end of summer is a complete draft of #DevilDiss so the fall can be starting on revisions, still with the aim of on the job market this fall. For me, the complete draft is vital to me being able to show my committee I can meet my January/February defense goal. I know of a lot of people who went on the job market with the dissertation not even in draft mode and I admit to not understanding that. Why would you go on the market when you're not prepared? My department announced awards today and there were several given awards for dissertation completion next year who I know were on the market this year.
I'm hoping my draft status and how tightly I've worked this past year will allow my committee to feel comfortable writing in their letters that I'll be defending at the beginning of spring 2016. I want to be the unicorn of the job market.
It's a lot, but it's doable (based on my color coded scheduling for the entire summer in my planner).
But I've also made some steps to ensure that hardware mode.
  • I am really tempted to apply next week to two BIG conferences in my field which are in the Spring. And after weeks of thinking, I've decided not to. Originally I was only going to attend one in the fall and one in the spring. First, for focus of what I need to get done next year, and also because I don't know what will happen after next year, I need to be more concerned with money than I already am. I've been accepted to American Folklore Society in October, which means not applying for the big Milton conference. The other conference which I've not had anything accepted to, but will hopefully be interviewing at, is MLA in Austin. I want to go to PCA/ACA in Seattle at the end of March, but can't justify it this year, my first miss in four years. And there are two big conferences in my field at the same time that I'm also not applying to. One reason is that the timing of the conferences means they won't help me on the market this year (though possibly could next year if/when I'm repeating). However, not enough where I can afford it (literally).
  • It may seem silly, but I've closed the Facebook tab on my computer and deleted the app off my phone. This last year in particular Facebook has been full of a lot of nonsense, and some people who have made comments like "Oh I saw that on Facebook" but didn't think to call and ask me about the thing. I saw a friend who posts a "BRB" gone fishing for the summer type message, taking the summer off from the distraction of social media. I like that idea. I like the idea of unplugging a bit, and focusing on work. I use Twitter for work, so I'll still be on there, posting progress on hardware mode, but I'm aiming to stay off Facebook this summer.
  • I'm hermitting this summer. I had a rough year so far as bumping up against cliques and others things so as part of the above unplugging, I'm unplugging from social events too. While certainly not chaining myself to my desk (I've already marked all the summer movies on my planner as scheduled breaks) I need some time just to myself.
  • I don't have any outstanding projects, and am not agreeing to anything new, so all I have to do is work on #DevilDiss.
  • I was thinking I'd be reading this summer to audit a course from one of my favorite professors, but it looks they're leaving (a HUGE loss for us). So I won't have that.
  • I do need to translate Beowulf for my third fluency credit, but working on it in bits this summer means that first month of the semester means I only need to teach and finish prepping job market materials.
So, I'm taking a couple of days off, catching up on sleep, hanging out with Nehi, getting lots of puppy love, and trying to recharge from the year.
Next week I start on Hardware Mode in earnest, which I'll be blogging about, and posting updates on. I'm really looking forward to the dedicated work time, and honestly, now that I've passed the halfway point with #DevilDiss the rest of it seems infinitely doable.