Yet another long spell since my last post. I’ll get better, I promise.
Beyond the usual December/January personal business (holidays, etc.), I’ve been attending to some important or at least interesting things over the last few months:
1) Teaching. I taught a class on African American history last semester, and it kicked my ass. I had a lot of background reading to do just to keep up with the students’ excellent questions–seriously, these folks were brilliant, and I had to be on top it in order not to look like a total fool. But there was also the challenge of teaching history to some students who were clearly more interested in hitting the picket lines and protest marches now. In suggesting that we pay understand and appreciate historical context and change over time as well as continuity, I’m pretty sure I came off as a reactionary. Maybe, in the eyes of some of my students, a racist. I think my student evaluations came in yesterday, so I’ll write more about this after I process that information.
2) Fellowship applications. I love teaching, but it chews up a lot of time each week and doesn’t bring in much cash (at least when you’re adjuncting). So I’ve been sending off fellowship applications like a mad man, trying to get myself set for next year so that I can pound through my dissertation. To date, I’ve applied for four major (year-long) fellowships and three research travel grants, for a total of about $90,000. Wouldn’t it be great to get all of them? Or one of them? Or at least a thank you note for having applied? We’ll see if any of that comes through. Doubt it.
3) AHA (American Historical Association) Conference. For the first time, I hit the AHA. It’s like most other conferences I’ve been to, but with all the annoying factors amped up by degrees of magnitude: graduate students kissing the asses of big-shot historians in some vain hope that they will be remembered; big-shot historians giving speculative presentations that a graduate student wouldn’t get away with; etc. But there’s also the job application process, which is fucked up. I had heard rumors, but didn’t expect this level of craziness. It’s like this: if you’re lucky enough to get an interview, you show up in the job hall and take a seat in the waiting room, along with everyone else who’s applying for jobs–including the one you’re angling for. When your name is called, you walk down a long hallway–you can almost hear shouts of “Dead Man Walking!”–and head into a cubicle for an interview. I don’t know what happens in there, exactly, but there’s probably some other medieval ritual, possibly involving a torture device. I’m glad I went to check it out so I know what to expect when I go on the market.
With all that behind me, I’m headed into research and writing in earnest now. You know: the actual writing-a-dissertation part of being ABD.