28 July 2005

A Little Bit about Me

OK, so having said what I'm in this for, next up I suppose is a little bit about me.

I'm in my--ahem--early 50s, married, no children, one dog. Spent 20 years of my adult life in the U. S. Navy, about half of the time as an enlisted parachute rigger and the other half as an officer. In between, your tax dollars and mine (if you're American) sent me back to college to complete my bachelor's degree in English, after which I was commissioned. In 1994, I retired from the navy at the ripe age of 41, and embarked on a second career of sorts. I went back to school and got an MA in English, and I'm now working on finishing a PhD in English while I teach at a small state university in what is turning out to be the hurricane capital of the known universe (that is, Florida) (more on that in another post).

I've changed from military administrative maven to critical scholar of 20th century literature, mostly English and Irish, gothic lit, and the rhetoric of environmentalism and critical thinking. My PhD diss involves James Joyce's fiction and focuses on how he used folklore to craft his unique response to English imperialism in Ireland and to Irish nationalism. That may sound like a mouthful, but it's not too mysterious really. The simple version is that Joyce uses bits and pieces of traditional Irish folklore to make statements about how the English colonization of Ireland was basically not a good thing for the Irish and also that the Irish efforts to whip up some patriotic fervor among the populace wasn't always such a good thing either. OK, so it maybe it sounds bor-ing, but it's pretty interesting stuff really, when you realize that I get to read a lot about elves and fairies and magic and charms. There is a certain amount of boring political stuff, but also lots of fairy tales--not in the "once upon a time" sense, but more in the Lord of the Rings sense.

But enough about details. Here's the important thing: I love my job. It's essentially reading stories, writing about them, and teaching my students about reading and writing. What's not to like? Actually, the only thing I don't like is the grading, but that, too, is fodder for another post.

Well, time to get to the reading part.
Till we meet again....

27 July 2005

Dissin' Myself

This summer I'm renewing efforts to complete my doctoral dissertation and subsequently turn myself into a doctor of philosophy, PhD that is. First thing I have to do is take my qualifying exams (also called comprehensive exams at some schools) before I can even begin submitting diss chapters, though I have three articles already that I think I can turn into chapters.

My overriding perception is this: this is hard work, so hard in fact that I've had to come to my office on campus several days a week just to do the reading and writing required to prepare for my exams. At home, it's just too easy to avoid it, there are so many other things that seem to call out for my attention: my husband, who is newly retired; my dog, who thinks I live for no other reason but to entertain him; my bike, who is just dying to be ridden (remember the episode of Friends where Ross tells Phoebe that her bike will die if she doesn't learn to ride it?); and of course there's that crud that lives in the little crevice between the edge of the counter and the cooktop--if that doesn't require my attention, I don't know what does. Also, there's my relatively new hobby of digital scrapbooking, which my brother calls a dissertation-avoidance ritual. But again, there are all those photos crying out to be scrapbooked, or at least named and organized. And of course they're very handy, residing on the same computer where I go to check email, type my reading notes--so close, I can feel their pull even now.

So what the heck am I doing starting this new thing called a blog? What do I think: that I need yet another drain on my time and energy?

Hardly. But I do think this will be useful way for me to
1. Ventilate about the joys and sorrows of the exam/diss process;
2. Record the stumbling blocks and hopefully be able to see some progress as recorded here;
3. Share my photos;
4. Do another thing I love doing: voicing my opinion.
And, oh yes, since I'm also a teacher, I'll also occasionally be sharing the joy (and frustration) of that activity.

So, welcome aboard, and stand by!