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Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Is this excitement or an anxiety attack? Or both?

Having well and truly burned out on marking student assignments--temporarily--I almost went home at about 4:30 but instead decided to head back into the welter of confusion that is my construction of the online Nature in Lit....

In another of those matroyshka doll strings of tasks, I decided at that point in writing this post to send an e-mail to some of my colleagues who teach online, to ask for some guidance, which meant I had to find out who is teaching online, and in getting ready to send the e-mail, I saw I had an e-mail from a colleague who is interested in some of my critical essays (Jesus, was there a time when I actually wrote scholarly essays? When did I find the time and brain energy--and what happened to the intellect that produced some of that stuff? It sure isn't in my head any more. I used to be smart...) So I went looking for some of my other scholarly essays that she might be interested in, which then led me to realize that I haven't updated my CV recently and need to do that, which I started to do but then realized I don't have to do right this minute...

I'm back.

Anyway, starting work on the online Nature in Lit had the same effect on me it had last time I tried to work on it: I was slogging away for a while, then realized I was getting lost in a morass of trying to organize all the material, make sure I'm answering the concerns of the DE people who have to sign off on the thing, reconsidering what I might teach (including a decision along the lines of "oh what the fuck; I'll just use the old syllabus for now and update it later when the course actually is going to run online"). And getting lost in all that underbrush, I started to feel a rising tide of anxiety.

I really do need to sit down with someone to get an idea of what will and won't fly. One colleague already answered my e-mail with a kind invitation for me to join him when he's usually in his office--but unfortunately, when he's there, I'm either in Advisement or teaching. However, I did contact a small handful of colleagues, so I'm hopeful that at least one of them will be able to show me what I need sometime soon.

And I did send an e-mail to the VP who has to sign off on the whole magillah, letting her know I'm not making very rapid progress here, asking her if I'm running into dangerous territory because it's taking me some time. I know I could search through my old e-mails to find the one that informed me I'd been granted the stipend to see what it says about deadlines--but if I head off to do that, I'll find myself opening yet another matryoshka.

So, shifting gears.

Class was great. The students who are left are interested and engaged. They were grateful to have some of the background of the Hainish "matrix" (as I call it), which helped them understand some of the things that are simply presented without explanation (casual references to Cetian and Hainish characters as one would refer to French or Slovakian characters, for instance). But they were primed and ready to get some good meat out of the story: they're picking up on the stuff they need to notice, and I'm happy about that. I hoped this one would be comparatively easy--and it is. Paradises Lost may be a bit more of a challenge--it's not quite as "in your face" as The Word for World Is Forest (which Le Guin herself admits is somewhat flawed by a rather loud background noise of axes being ground), but its subtlety may make it harder to grasp. Then again, it will be the last thing they read, so by then maybe their skills will have been sharpened sufficiently that it won't be daunting.

It was interesting to realize I was the only woman in the room. Initially there were three female students and two female senior observers; two of the students and one of the observers have dropped by the wayside--and the remaining student and observer were both absent today. It was rather fun to talk to a room full of young men about how the novel addresses gender roles, especially the status of women in our society. I don't think they really were aware of the gender imbalance in the room, until I pointed it out--and that in itself is pretty cool.

I'm about to wrap things up and get out of here for today, but I have the nagging feeling that a strand of pearls has broken somewhere. Heaven only knows what it is I'm blissfully forgetting I have to do, but it will just have to be forgotten. Perhaps I'm not forgetting anything but am simply slightly haunted by the specter of all the unmarked student work that is sitting on my desk; that in itself could be enough to give me the sense that I'm "forgetting" something. I'm not actually forgetting; I'm ignoring. There's a difference.

That said, I am ridiculously tired, given that it's relatively early, but I think that's good enough reason for me to fold my metaphoric tents (tense?) and get the hell out of here.

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