In a state of helplessness, I wrote a guest post for John Warner’s blog on Inside Higher Ed. As I’m on parental leave for most of this semester, I have been watching my college “go online” with its instruction from afar, so I thought if I put together some of my thoughts on teaching online, I could be of help.
I wrote the post thinking of all the instructors at my college who were posting back and forth on the faculty listserv about their anxieties about using technology. And then there are some emails from folks over in EdTech with links to trainings and tutorials. I’m thinking, “This is all well and good, but how are the servers going to handle all this?” And also, I’m pretty competent with technology, and even I had a lot of technical kinks to work out in the process of deploying my online classes last semester. There’s absolutely no reason to tax everyone further with these ridiculous expectations.
This article by Rebecca Barrett-Fox, which I read right after I wrote mine, gets to the heart of the politics of this suddenly online education crisis:
Ask yourself: Do I really care about this? (Probably not, or else you would have explored it earlier.) Or am I trying to prove that I’m a team player? (You are, and don’t let your university exploit that.) Or I am trying to soothe myself in the face of a pandemic by doing something that makes life feel normal? (If you are, stop and instead put your energy to better use, like by protesting in favor of eviction freezes or packing up sacks of groceries for kids who won’t get meals because public schools are closing.)
I wish I knew how to put my energy to “better use,” but until I figure out what that looks like, I’m hoping that a few people who read my article will ease up a bit on themselves and their students.
I fantasize that one day, I’ll be able to write a whole book about this fellow John Chetwode Eustace, a much-maligned Irish-Catholic priest who went under the gauntlet posthumously in Little Dorrit. I can’t thank Dickens enough for deriding him, however, because otherwise I would never have found out about the man who wrote one of the most important proto-guidebooks of the nineteenth century, and I would never have published this, my finest work, in Studies in Romanticism.
Although it is behind a paywall, my article in Literature Compass came out on September 3. Here is a link to its abstract. It’s called “19th-century Travel and the 21st-century Scholar.” It’s a survey of books published in the last ten years or so that describe nineteenth-century British tourism and its relationship to literature. I argue that given the development of the field over the past generation of scholars, they “need no longer apologize for interdisciplinarity nor for discarding the observance of strict boundaries between literary and non-literary genres.”
Click here (and scroll down) to check out the table of contents for Persuasions: The Jane Austen Journal, Volume 34 (2012). Anne Mellor and I collaborated on an article entitled Austen’s Fanny Price, Grateful Negroes, and the Stockholm Syndrome in which we argue that the psychological responses of Maria Edgworth’s black slave in her story “The Grateful Negro” (1804) match those of Fanny Price living as a subjugated dependent in Mansfield Park. We focus on the dynamics of gratitude illuminated by Edgeworth’s text, and suggest that Austen, by drawing an analogy between Fanny Price and the “grateful Negro,” is not endorsing an ameliorationist program of benevolent slavery or a self-regulating Christian imperialism, but rather exposing the abject subjectivity produced by such a program.
Many thanks are due to Professor Mellor for her collaboration and support during the writing and editing process!