This semester, I’ve been
procrastinating working to improve the department’s profile by posting department news and other things on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. One thing that’s gotten some attention has been the posts of pictures I’ve asked instructors to send me from their classes, of whiteboards, blackboards, slides, &c. Today the journalism school’s daily paper, the Missourian, ran a story on my procrastination very productive new sideline. It’s better than wallowing in the slough of low enrollment despond, I suppose, and as I’m quoted as saying, it’s fun to see what people are doing in their classrooms. Story here.
More Missouri! Turns out I’ll be directing the new minor in Missouri Studies. I didn’t do any of the work to establish it, but a new course I created on Missouri writers is being added to the core courses, and I’ll be working with others to market the minor, add to list of elective courses, and build ties to the new Center for Missouri Studies. I’m excited to see what we can do with this minor, which could be useful for students in political science, history, public affairs, journalism, education, and a bunch of other majors. And maybe one of my classes can meet in that fancy new building.
I’ve also just been put on the program for a conference hosted by the Kinder Institute on Constitutional Democracy in February, A Fire Bell in the Past: The Missouri Crisis at 200. I’ll be giving a paper on the impact of the crisis as seen in novels by two writers from Missouri, William Wells Brown and Mark Twain, tentatively titled “Manuscripts, Mysteries, & Mulattoes: Clotel, Puddn’head Wilson, and the Exclusion Clause of 1820.” It’s a mouthful, and I’ve got a lot of reading to do, but I’m grateful for the opportunity and looking forward to seeing how the history and political science people do things.
Just got news today that the new Missouri Writers course I proposed has finished its journey through the approval process and is on the books. It’s going to join courses on Missouri history, politics, and geography as one of the core courses for the new minor in Missouri studies that’s getting built at the same time as the new Center for Missouri Studies (here’s the live construction feed, if you’re that kind of nerd).
As an article in the Arts & Science magazine on the new minor mentions, I don’t come by any of the meagre Missouri knowledge I might have from being born or raised here, but I’m reading up and am excited to build this thing and get some real live Missourians in it. (I had to put together a syllabus to get the course approved, so I’ve got texts picked out, but I’m always taking suggestions for the literature or the history–for them to read in the course or me to read in order to teach it–for next semester or the next time I teach it. So feel free. As they used to say in early web design, this site is under construction.)
Going in to the MLA offices today for a meeting of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities, and here’s the forecast:
Not sure what to make of this omen–or is it just a metaphor?–but I haven’t been able to shake the sense that we’re in for some heavy weather on campus. It may just be that I’m watching video of overturned rail cars on the Weather Channel’s breathless coverage of Hurricane Michael, which a correspondent just called a “tornadocane” (but not a landphoon), or it may be the story I saw yesterday about the possibility that Montana’s statewide ballot question on whether to fund higher ed might just get a “no,” but the hope that you want to have going in to two days of meetings like these is hard for me to summon right now. How we’ve gotten to the point at which a vocal portion of the people who vote don’t feel higher ed is a thing important enough to devote tax dollars to, I don’t quite know, but if there’s anything those of us who work in higher ed can do to show its value, we should really do it.
Excited to get news about MLA 2019: in addition to the standing panel I organized for the MLA Committee on Academic Freedom and Professional Rights and Responsibilities (CAFPRR), a roundtable I organized with Fordham’s Leonard Cassuto, “The Present & Future of Scholarly Publishing: The Faculty Editor’s View,” has been accepted for Chicago. It will be presided over by Jennifer Crewe, Director of Columbia University Press, and will include (in addition to Cassuto, Bonnie Wheeler from Southern Methodist, and me), Kim Nielsen, a historian from the University of Toledo. The annual meeting of the AHA will be in Chicago at the same time, and this roundtable will take advantage of the two conferences honoring each other’s badges, as will the CAFPRR roundtable, “The Uses and Misuses of Academic Freedom,” which I’ll be chairing and will include David Tse-chien Pan (UC-Irvine), Aaron R. Hanlon (Colby), Patricia Matthew (Montclair State University), and historian Lora Burnett (UT Dallas). Looking forward to talking about academic publishing and academic freedom with English and history people in the City of the Broad Shoulders.
In old but not too old news, I gave a talk at the annual meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association in LA in March that turned into a bunch of tweets and an essay in The Chronicle Review. The tweets and the piece in the Chronicle got a bigger-than-expected response, prompting “University Presses Are Not in Crisis” in Publisher’s Weekly and an interview in the ACLS Humanities E-Book Newsletter. We’ll see what’s next for this discussion, which was prompted by a number of recent events concerning university presses at public universities, which either are or are not under pressure, depending on who you talk to. I’ve been talking to a bunch of people on the subject since I started working on the talk, and the experience has shown me that 1) people can be incredibly generous, 2) people sometimes get mad, and that’s okay, and 3) there’s more to be written on university presses.
Looking forward to attending the ADE-ADFL Summer Seminar in Atlanta in two weeks. Always educational, inspirational, and fun to gather with colleagues involved in helping departments run. Looking forward especially to co-moderating (with Sheila Smith McKoy) a pre-seminar workshop, Reversing the Decline in English Majors and Enrollments, where we’ll share stories and strategies and I will steal as many as I can to bring back to Missouri.
After years of university-hosted pages created in Word (after years of crude HTML, back in the day), I’m trying to set up a site with WordPress at a new domain. Wish me luck.