Category Archives: Research

Dusting off

I’m on day 50 or so of parenthood – I’m on family leave from work. I had a rough delivery and hard recovery with postpartum complications. Now I’m feeling better physically and able to handle some intellectual tasks when the baby is sleeping or chirping to herself in the bassinet.

In an attempt to brush off my scholarly chops, I perused the intros to a few Oxbridge travel-writing anthologies. I recognized much I’ve absorbed over the past decade reading on this topic, but I also re-realized vast swaths of ignorance. Of texts, authors, historical facts, and so forth. It’s downright humiliating, though it’s fortunately a humiliation I can suffer in the privacy of my own maternal convalescence.

Of course, as is my nature, I began curating a list of sources—primary and secondary—that I’d need to read to help reckon with the gaps in my knowledge, but I also began to parse what about travel writing per se is different from the area I’ve actually been studying and writing about, which is tourism. And perhaps in parsing this, I began to forgive myself for not actually knowing All The Things. I don’t actually study travel-writing when it comes down to it. I’ve always sort of known this, but this is the first time I’ve really articulated what this means. It’s not that I’m not interested in what people write about while they’ve toured around, it’s that I’m more interested in what they have written about touring around – the boat ride, the way of transporting luggage, fellow tourists, how the trip affects how they feel about home, and especially what they think about tourism. It’s a difference between focusing on the subject of the trip rather than the object. “Travel writing” usually featurees both types of observations – those which are about the trip and those which are about the mechanics of travel or maybe rather meta-reflections on tourism.

In perusing these anthologies, I have come to the conclusion that I’d really benefit from studying medieval pilgrimages and the Crusades. And I need to learn more about the tourists that put graffiti on the Pyramids in Egypt in 1500 BCE – my archaeologist friend from graduate school says to consult The Graffiti of Pharaonic Egypt by Alexander Peden for information. Again – so many directions to go in here. Sometimes I fantasize about what I would write if I had more time to write: a book on medieval tourism and its relationship to (future) empire. Also, something about the ironic relationship between the purported religious purposes of the Crusades and the fact that the journey itself was rumored to be one of dissipation and, well, sex. This is supposedly why priests etc. would warn against the lure of the curiositas.

I’ve much to add to my “Uncomprehensive Travel-Writing Database” after this brief trip through the anthologies. As ever, academic scholarship proves humbling and intimidating. I do feel recharged and somewhat validated though to discover that for whatever reason, I remain compelled by the topic I landed upon in my senior year of college.

Books to peruse or re-peruse:

  • Finucane’s Miracles and Pilgrims, 1977
  • Zacher’s Curiosity and Pilgrimage, 1976
  • Batten’s Pleasurable Instruction: Form and Convention in Eighteenth-Century Travel Literature, 1978
  • Clifford’s Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, 1997
  • Munter and Grose, eds., Englishmen Abroad, 1986
  • Korte’s English Travel Writing from Pilgrimages to Postcolonial Explorations, 2000
  • Stafford’s Voyage into Substance, 1984
  • Leask’s Curiosity and the Aesthetics of Travel Writing, 2002
  • Ashcroft, Griffiths, & Tiffin’s The Empire Writes Back, 1989
  • Pratt’s Travel Writing and Transculturation, 1992
  • Holland and Huggan’s Tourists with Typewriters, 2000

End of Semester Reflections

I finished my second year as an assistant professor of English at Hostos a few weeks ago, and while I was tidying the end-of-semester detritus in my office, I took a picture of the fastidious four-month wall calendar I maintained since the term:Photo of the 4-month calendar—February through May—on the wall of my office. All the dates are crossed out. You can make out all daily events.

For a full time, 4-5 position, this was a relatively “light” term thanks to both what CUNY calls “junior faculty release time” (which relieves profs in their first five years from 24 hours of teaching) and my service as a faculty advisor to our writing center. It took me nearly a year to fully grok how “hours” work for full-time staff, but here’s the short of it (in case any of my friends in wealthy R1 institutions want to know what they’re missing out on, and in case any of my friends on the ever-lasting job market are contemplating a career at a community college): full-time CUNY instructors at the 2-year colleges teach 27 hours per year, meaning 5 then 4 three-hour courses each semester, respectively. (Getting assigned to 6-hour developmental courses reduces the total number of courses you teach each semester, but it still amounts to a lot of hours in the classroom. ) You’re also required to hold a few office hours a week in addition to your service. I didn’t formally learn much about “service” in grad school, but a large part of “service” translates to “many, many meetings.” In short, this Spring I managed to secure myself a schedule in which I taught only one course (!) and thus was ostensibly responsible for coming in twice a week to teach it.

Or so I thought. That sounded great, right? Like, damn I have to come in twice a week? Imagine all the articles I’ll finish! Imagine the book proposal coming together! The conference talks! But look at that calendar. This is the thing: I  still had to attend all those meetings and events and trainings. I had to lead PDs for Writing Center tutors on various Fridays. FRIDAYS!? (The former high school teacher in me is shaking her head at my precious new standard for daily life, of course.)

All this busyness, for which the idea of a light schedule had ill-prepared me, meant that I discovered a weird axiom that is probably applicable to many jobs in service- and teaching-heavy institutions:

No matter how many hours you think you’ve secured for writing and research, meetings will take up all the space anyway.

No one can “see” you working alone on your book, deleting, suffering, rewriting, suffering, ILL-ing books from CUNY libraries in other boroughs (FYI I have been told by our circulation librarian I’m the second-highest user of their services of all the faculty), suffering, and doing all that reading that goes along with it. So that invisible labor—which, to be clear, is also required of CUNY 2-year college professors for tenure (though many community colleges don’t have this requirement)—doesn’t seem to count quite as much in the short term because it’s invisible. Saying “no” to committee invitations and professional development events is extremely difficult.

Down the road, I’ve been assured and counseled, the end result of putting effort into writing and research actually counts more heavily toward tenure and promotion than the fact that you’ve attended 63 meetings in a semester. But the daily work of protecting that time, and the superficial cost of doing so, make it difficult. I’m realizing that as someone who is passionate about research and writing, the work of protecting that time while developing a meaningful relationship to the daily life of my extremely vibrant college is going to be the serious work I have to do for myself in this position.

So this has been the main lesson of my second year, made visual by this white-board calendar. I will conclude this post by zooming into my favorite event of every Spring:

Calendar depicting May 1-4 with the notation

My Article in Studies in Romanticism – Read everything you didn’t know you wanted to know about the Reverend John Chetwode Eustace

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. 

Image result for studies in romanticism summer 2018

 

PR 5251. C77 and on…

I finally paid a visit to the Cook & Wedderburn monolith at the Young Research Library. Lo and behold:

IMG_4259

Just an FYI, only 2062 copies of this 39-volume motherlode were printed.

As you can see in the photos, the publisher (London: George Allen and New York: Longmans, Green & Co.) did not skimp: the first image in the first volume is a full-color reproduction of Ruskin’s sketch “End of Market Str Croydon.”

It is with a bit of specialization-chauvanism that I mention that in this particular aisle in the library–the PR 5200s-5400s–one can find some extraordinarily beautiful texts. Here, I’ve snuck in a few pictures from the collected Waverley novels of Sir Walter Scott published in the 1890s and the 1923-24 Tusitala Editions of R.L. Stevenson, with gold-embossed palm trees. I need to find out who bound these!