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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Virtually zero progress

Well, today sure has been a bust in terms of getting through the amount of work I'd like to have done. I'm now trying to decide whether to bail on the life maintenance I was going to do in about an hour or whether to plow on ahead, shifting gears to the reading notes for Nature in Lit, so I'm sure to have that done by Monday--and then return to commenting on 102 essays tomorrow.

I suppose the good news is that I only am supposed to see three students on Monday, so not only am I already set for the first day of the work week in terms of getting students what they need for their conferences, I have huge blocks of time on Monday in which to work.

The not so good news is my chronic tendency to get distracted. Today I spent altogether too much time thinking about the final essay topic for the 102s. Not only is there a great deal less critical material available on The Word for World Is Forest than there is for The Left Hand of Darkness, what critical material there is is either pretty thin on analysis or relies on at least passing familiarity with theories around colonialism and post-colonialism. Or, even more dangerous in terms of student writing, it suggests ways in which the story draws on Le Guin's extensive knowledge of and family connections with Native American cultures. That may not sound dangerous, but what it leads to is the freshman writer version of "Lo! The poor Indian" type maunderings about how badly Native peoples have been treated and how pure and spiritual and nature oriented they were.

So, in desperation, I emailed a colleague who also teaches the novella and asked her about pairing it with Avatar. I am hesitant to go in that direction, as I'm not sure I can get the students to keep their focus on the literature instead of just writing about the movie, nor am I sure I can get them to a sufficiently sophisticated understanding of the movie that the resulting essays don't drive me bats.

But the pairing would provide more for them to say in their essays, even if a lot of what they'd say would be bilge. I suppose I should resign myself to a certain amount of bilge in any event.

In any event, I spent time looking for critical material about the movie, writing to my colleague, buying myself a copy of the movie (three-disc special edition!! See a zillion hours of additional materials!!! It worked for the Lord of the Rings franchise, so let's milk that cash cow!!!!), yadda yadda. I still don't have an essay topic in mind, but I did also e-mail the colleague in the library who is creating an online "Lib Guide" for the 102s. She'd made one for me several years ago for The Left Hand of Darkness, and students did find it useful, so I know whatever she produces this time--movie or not--will also be helpful.

Dinking around with the essay topic/research/DVD purchasing took a ton of time. Then I "had" to organize the hard copies of the essays that I'll use for the mechanics review step. Then I "had" to download all the essays from Turnitin. Last round, I downloaded each one as I started work on it, but this time it seemed easier to have them all at once. (Note to self, however: I need to duplicate those folders on the office computer.) As I was looking at things on Turnitin and in the hard copies, I kept e-mailing students with reminders, warnings...

All of which took several hours. I also don't know yet whether another adjustment to the process of marking makes sense or not, but this time--so far, at least--I've been marking the mechanics by hand as I make comments for revision on the electronic copy. If I can manage that multitasking well enough, it may make next weekend much easier, as I won't have to go back through all the essays for the mechanics round.

As I've been writing that, I've made the executive decision to work on the notes for Nature in Lit for a while tonight and pass on the life maintenance until tomorrow--or later. I will feel happier about the day and myself as a human being if I get some more work done before I pack it in for tonight. So, I'll fold up the computer and stagger out to the other room to sit with a stack of papers in my lap, my glasses perched on my nose, a pen in one hand and my water glass in the other. I won't get through everything, because it's almost April 15, and I'm not ready for that just yet, so that's one bit of life maintenance I must take care of today, but at least I'll get a jump on it ... and we'll see what the morrow brings.

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