Looking over the calendar here on the blog, I see that it really has been about six weeks since I last posted here. It’s been a busy stretch of time, to be sure; in addition to wrapping up a full 3-course term that ended only in mid-June and left me with less than a week of prep time before a summer teaching gig kicked in, I’ve been working on wedding preparations (next weekend…stress! anticipation! excitement! caterers! ceremony planning! stress!), had to make a whirlwind trip back to the Midwest for my grandmother’s funeral, and took part in a graduation ceremony involving most of my graduate cohort. I actually completed my doctorate in 2011, but was eligible to walk during this ceremony, so I went ahead and did it (and I’m glad I did, as several of my closest friends were also walking, and it was nice to be hooded by my adviser). My lovely bride-to-be was also walking that day, albeit in a different department. In short, there have been a lot of milestones piling up of late, with more on the way.
However, I also made the decision to take a little time off from updating the blog in order to rethink what I wanted to accomplish with it. Initially, I started the blog as a means of sharing some of my thoughts on cognitive science approaches to teaching and interpreting literary texts, in part because I had almost no direct interlocutors within my home department, let alone at my institution. I was hoping to tap into the online community via the blog and Twitter, and that has indeed happened, to some extent. The other reason for starting the blog was to create an online identity for future academic employers, who could perhaps look over my musings and get a more fully-realized picture of who I am as a scholar, a writer, a thinker, and a colleague. That, so far as I know, has emphatically NOT happened.
I am not about to turn this post into a grumbling manifesto about the status of the academic job market, for two reasons: 1) I intend to express my thoughts on the status of academic employment at a later point, and 2) there are plenty of bloggers, ranging from the thoughtful to the angry and all points between, who have covered that ground extensively over the past few years. I will say that the poor job market has definitely caused me to rethink my priorities, one of which is this blog.
I have never been a person who is interested in, or impressed by, dogmatic focus in any subject area. When I attend a conference and a panelist makes it clear that they live / eat / sleep / breathe a particular writer, time period, and methodology, all because THAT is what they feel defines success, my response is usually borrowed from Fight Club: “How’s that working out for you? Good? Keep it up, then.” My success as a doctoral student, as a teacher, as a writer, and, well, as a human being (son / brother / boyfriend / friend) has come precisely because I learned when and where to prioritize what I understood to be most important. I am very passionate about early modern studies — but not at the cost of understanding how early modern literature has relevance and meaning to readers and students in the 21st century. I am very passionate about cognitive science as both a methodology for understanding literature and for increasing knowledge about the human condition — because cognitive science helps me better understand who and what I am. I love teaching — yes, actually love it — because I view teaching as one of the best ways to effect positive change in the world, through the art of guiding young adults in the process of learning how to critically engage with themselves, their peers, and the world they inhabit.
All of this is to say that I feel it is time to initiate a shift in the tone and content of this blog. I actually had decided to open a second blog, where I could dedicate a little more time and space to my other interests — music, film, popular culture / popular literature, and so forth — but the more I’ve thought about it, the less sense that actually makes. So, in the weeks ahead — particularly after the wedding, although you may see a post or two in the next week — I plan to open up the topics I discuss here. I’m looking forward to seeing how this blog continues to develop, and myself along with it!