Category Archives: Banes

Stirrings

I went to California on some difficult business and it was so beautiful, it was like being on vacation regardless of the circumstances. Driving to the airport I crossed the Golden Gate Bridge in April sunlight and it was a normal day. The man next to me on the plane from San Francisco to Dallas was Mexican living in California, flying to São Paulo on business and since that conversation I have been fixated on the idea of having a nice job in southern Brazil. Something is happening.

That night and the next at dinners here we talked about it. One colleague says this is the craziest place he has ever worked and another says my teaching problem here is not a problem of me but of the others; they do not bring research into teaching but tell stories, or give tests, or deliver Derrida in a nice package, but do not bring questions into teaching or show learning as a process. Knowledge is not knowledge but status and power, and information is imparted but not skills. This was quite illuminating.

People assume that if you do a Ph.D. professor is your dream job but I always thought of it as a starter job … that I ended up liking certain versions of, and could have made my permanent job. But the job model for me is: high level research and collaboration in large organization with large impact, urban life and a lot of interesting work related travel. Graduate school was like that but the professor jobs I have had, have not been.

For now what I am going to do is put my foot down about being serious, and also undertake a great deal of self care. We were taught to sacrifice but it turns out that without a great deal of self care we cannot be who we are asked to be, give what we are asked to give.

And our lives are more interesting than we realize, someone said, and we are all massively dissatisfied and on the market but at least we are not at a sterile place like Princeton; et chacun vit comme il peut.

#OccupyHE

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That alleged best profession in the world

Let us see, now:

I liked graduate school and it was good for me but my perceptions were distorted because I kept hearing one should not like it; that it was unwise and also uncool to stay in it; and also that I would not be competitive on the job market and so should definitely not stay in it.

BALANCE: I liked it.

Professor job #1: hated it, knew it right away, wanted to quit and go into business or do another degree, retrain. Could see that now that I had been at that place, an elite SLAC, I was tainted, could never recover and get to a public R-1. Could see that only a public R-1 was for me; I might as well go into almost anything else if I were not destined for that … anything with a large organization, fast-paced, high-powered, something international, something high level.

BALANCE: I am not like most professors — they are teach or die; they want to be saved from large, impersonal organizations, they do not know what else to do. I like large cities; they think it is snobbish to like these; eso a mí me tiene sin cuidado.

Professor job #2: I liked it, but could not admit this because everyone else hated it and to be cool you had to hate it, and be trying to get to a similar, but better place.

BALANCE: I liked it. AND this was the place where I came up with my law school plan; did not implement that right off because I liked the job I had. I should not have thrown it away, but I did because of Reeducation. I got irritated with people who said I did not know what I wanted: I said, of course I know, it is a certain kind of academic job, and if I cannot get that, a certain other kind of job in business or government or the non-profit sector, capisci?

Professor job #3: horrified by it, but imprisoned in it. My having it satisfies those individuals heavily invested in my being a professor, but does not satisfy me at all nor meet my financial needs.

WHAT I WILL DO: Start fighting back in job #3, it appears. It would seem that given my willingness to do other things I should jump, and I may, but the thing to do in any case and starting now is fight back in job #3.

#OccupyHE

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Et encore encore encore encore

I am again mortally offended, and it comes from another quarter. One cannot and should not defend against unfounded accusations, is what I have decided. And the university is falling apart, I am told.

In the meantime and on another topic: take care of yourself, do not worry about work, is another one of those advice truisms I am against. What if work is one of the ways in which you DO take care of yourself? What if it is NOT something you alienate yourself in or hide in, but something in which you build and strengthen yourself?

#OccupyHE

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Review

In Reeducation it was not right to remain rational or to be peaceful, or to put things in perspective, as this was considered evidence of a “lack of feeling.”

At the same time it was not right to ever be stunned or caught off guard.

The opposite is true, of course, and I am still just beginning to see how bad Reeducation was.

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Limbo

One of my friends points out, in a nonacademic context, that life in limbo is a hard thing to manage. This is a good observation and I think living in limbo is one of the main stressors of academia.

Of course you can say that uncertainty is everywhere but I am speaking of the constant feeling of limbo, waiting and waiting to get to a place where you are not terribly, distractingly, painfully uncomfortable and trying to hold out despite also knowing you may never get to such a place. Hanging on a rock wall as your strength goes.

The advisors think it is work that is your problem, or geography, to which you would resign yourself if you were a mature and fair person. But it is not the geography or the work, it is the atmosphere in which it is done and the way you and others are treated, that is the problem. Waiting for the pain to end, because it is immoral to do more than that, is the problem.

I wonder how much pain it is possible to cut out while staying in place. How much of the daily delivery of pain one can simply refuse. I have never quite tried that, but I might start now. I used to reach out and take pleasure, but Reeducation stopped this; I should do it more actively than I do even now.

My illumination for the day, though, is that “procrastination” and block are not about not knowing how to work, or discipline, or laziness, but about self-loss. I have pointed out before that they are also about delaying entry into toxic environments, but they are even more profoundly about self-loss.

The characters in El Señor Presidente live in the superego and the id, and have insufficient agency due to an insufficiency of self, says my student’s paper, and my colleague says the situation at our university resembles the one in that novel.

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I should not say this in real life now, but…

I do not agree that communicative approaches, those methods referred to as grammar-translation, the direct and natural methods, and so on, are merely teaching “styles” — they have different goals and produce different results. Since we as a group do not have a common approach, the de facto departmental method is that used by those who teach the most sections; therefore, I favor creating as small a group as possible to dedicate to the basic sequence, and starting to use, rather than squelch, the expertise of all faculty, all the time.

Imagine for a moment a world in which all courses were taught for pleasure, not as “service.”

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Marcelo Viñar

…homologar la tortura y el genocidio a las generalidades de la Neurosis traumática es desconocer su especificidad, la que radica en que es otro humano –un semejante– el que tramita racionalmente nuestro oprobio o destrucción. A partir de allí –y a perpetuidad–, la pregunta de quién es el prójimo se planteará sin cesar con otra intensidad, con otra incertidumbre, con otra congoja. Quebrada la identificación originaria a lo humano –que es constitutiva de todas nuestras ficciones teóricas sobre el origen del sujeto psíquico– éste queda fragilizado o fisurado.

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…with a wild surmise

I am mortally offended and in touch with many years of anger. I see who and what I am dealing with. 

I am not sure what to do. Two have resigned, and four are considering it. Ride it out, says another colleague. Perhaps, but the big change for me is that I see we are dealing with people who do not act in good faith. I had been advised to consider them merely incompetent but what they do, they do not do in error.

Another colleague said it was impossible to advance because the institution does not want to improve, and works against it actively. It might be important to stop interacting with these forces, stop fighting for rights, stop working for collegiality; ignore them completely and work on nothing that cannot be translated into hard data.

I had always assumed that I was considered to have legitimate expertise and to be honest and sincere, but I discover now that it is precisely these characteristics of mine which are questioned. They were the things assumed about me as a child: that I was not competent and would not be, and that I would attempt to compensate for that by taking advantage of others.

Someone similar must be projecting the same things into me now. I should stop allowing these projections to destabilize me. I should have a protection spell cast so that they glance off my diaphanous shield.

Things to remember, or even say to some:

+ I am legitimate.
+ I see why those who wanted more of a certain kind of work out of me are disappointed. I am also disappointed not to have been given better conditions.
+ Those people should remember how they instructed me not to do that work, but to do other work.
+ They should note how well that work was done.
+ But most importantly: I am exhausting myself, yes; but it is not by working too hard on my work, it is by defending against their strangeness.

I really do not want to spend any more time questioning my right to exist, or defending it, including on this weblog.

Axé.

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Sobre la filología

Many today do not recognize the word, but “philology” was for centuries nearly synonymous with humanistic intellectual life, encompassing not only the study of Greek and Roman literature and the Bible but also all other studies of language and literature, as well as religion, history, culture, art, archaeology, and more. In short, philology was the queen of the human sciences. How did it become little more than an archaic word? In Philology, the first history of Western humanistic learning as a connected whole ever published in English, James Turner tells the fascinating, forgotten story of how the study of languages and texts led to the modern humanities and the modern university.

The humanities today face a crisis of relevance, if not of meaning and purpose. Understanding their common origins–and what they still share–has never been more urgent.

I would like to read this book.

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Things wrong with me as FL teacher

– direct method or versions of it: not rule then application, but example then explanation then expansion

– emphasis on conversation, being able to converse; spontanaeity

– emphasis on writing whole sentences

– not fixated enough on accent marks, spelling, small grammar issues: yes, they irritate me, but no, not seriously

– too intolerant of translation; expect students to use and remember a variety of structures, to learn to vary and build upon these, and compose…

These are things our students are incapable of doing and that it is inappropriate to ask them to do, it is said.

#OccupyHE

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