Waking up

There’s nothing like a conference to get your academic brain working again. Ever since I started teaching at my university, I’ve had a bit of impostor syndrome. Everyone called me Dr. C., but I wasn’t doing what for years had defined my academic life. Instead of immersing myself in medieval research, I was teaching grammar and rhetoric to students who have trouble understanding what “criteria” were or the difference between summary and analysis. Although it appears that I am succeeding as a composition instructor, I still haven’t felt like I’m really being an academic.

Enter the Texas Medieval Association conference. The president of TEMA (and convener of the conference) suggested that I present a paper based on my PhD research as an introduction to this new network of colleagues, which I am. I’m presenting an updated version of the Avalon paper I presented at the International Arthurian Society — British Branch conference last year. Rereading my Avalon chapter was like drinking a fine red wine after six weeks of my students’ essays. I’d finally had enough distance to see that my supervisors and examiners were right: I can write damn good prose.

My paper isn’t until the last session tomorrow afternoon, but that hasn’t kept me from mingling with colleagues. The first person came up to me after I asked a question during a panel’s Q&A. Five years of attending conferences in the UK, and I was never able to get a question in during the Q&A sessions (though I did talk to many people during the tea breaks) — and at the first session at the first American academic conference I attend, I ask a question, with a follow-up question. I surprised even myself. Perhaps it was the environment — Americans are known for being more extroverted than the British, and this is evident at conferences — and perhaps it was because the paper dovetailed with my own. But I also think that teaching outside of my field and making a place for myself in a new institution’s department has given me the confidence to speak out publicly in academic settings. I spend at least nine hours a week speaking in front of groups of twenty after all.

I’ve started to settle into a rhythm with teaching and I hope that by doing so I can begin to carve time out for my own research. This conference has woken up the research part of my brain and I have a list of books and articles that I’m itching to read.

 

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5 thoughts on “Waking up

    • Chera says:

      Thank you! I suppose papers that previously wouldn’t have interested me much are much more appealing now since I have been starved for medieval conversation. Everyone I’ve talked to has said to not expect to do much research in my first semester (or year) of teaching, but I hope to get some research started…

      I’ve been wondering how you’ve been doing — you’ve been pretty quiet on your blog, too. I helped interview a Fulbright applicant from my university (she wants to study in Scotland), and I thought of you. Hope your Fulbright is going well!

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  1. Elise says:

    My internet situation got really tough in May after a car bombing in my city (to the tune that my typically ironclad university VPN wouldn’t even work). It became impossible for me to access WordPress, so I just had to stop trying. Then I realized it felt really nice not to worry about the blog. I certainly never blogged much, but I always felt badly about the *not blogging*, and it felt really good to let that go. I still contemplate posting sometimes, but I’m not sure I need to put the pressure on myself.

    Things are going well. My performance studies are moving along nicely: I’m getting better at performing ridiculously melismatic music that everyone reminds me constantly *should* be difficult for me because it’s “not in [my] blood.” I’ve started a serious dissertation outline and have a very messy 20,000+ words that can be shaped into an introductory chapter. I’ve become a minor celebrity in the ethnic ghetto of my city, where my research and life all play out, and I get to spend a lot of time hanging out and chatting with a lot of performers. I call that “the best.” I might be on a televised singing competition soon (contractually, I cannot say much more about it :D). My Hays ends in December, though I’m staying at least through the end of January 2015 and plotting ways to keep living my life here. I get wistful when I imagine moving away; I’m taking it as a sign to stay.

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    • Chera says:

      I understand about feeling guilty about not blogging — it’s something I’ve expressed here when I’ve gone “too long” without blogging. I’ve been blogging for so long now that it would feel weird to just give it up completely, and I do enjoy it when I can get into a rhythm.

      I have to say, your Fulbright and your research just sounds like the coolest project ever. It puts my dusty research of arcane medieval subjects to shame 🙂 I don’t blame you for wanting to stay in what has become your second home country. What is the visa situation like for you, if you don’t mind me asking? Once my student visa ran out, I pretty much could only stay in the UK if I got a full-time job. I would have loved to stay though.

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      • Elise says:

        I don’t mind at all! The visa situation is truthfully not bad, though of course I love to complain about various steps of it (mainly anything that involves securing stamped paperwork and visiting police). Right now I actually have a residence permit that I transitioned to from a long-term (180+ days is considered “long-term” here) student visa. So long as I pay another semester of tuition to my institution, I should be able to extend the permit for another six months or so with no problem–and without even having to go back to the US to get another visa. My understanding is that money and the right paperwork = ability to renew permits almost indefinitely (though eventually eyebrows may raise if one stays at an institution for too long). But sometimes these processes are subject to the political climate, of course. Should anyone decide that I’ve done something “wrong,” or should things here turn so sensitive that schools and workplaces begin forcing foreigners out, that might change. But so long as people see foreigners as “useful” to have around, they actually make it fairly simple for us to be here.

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