Monthly Archives: July 2012

Back to School

Some of the advice in this post by Mary Clement on course evaluations and what students want might seem obvious to the experienced, but I thought it was a very good summary of some basic practices that really make a difference so I am passing this along.


thinking about the asecs dh caucus’s technology survey

I looked at the survey and discussion about this at EMOB today, and found that technology-triumphalism notwithstanding, there is an interesting range of responses to technology going on within 18c studies.  (And I believe that the triumphalism itself is largely imagined or feared by those who don’t actually engage in the difficult work of DH).

What struck me, however, was the generational diversity of the ASECS respondents, with what seemed to be roughly equal cohorts for those whose membership had lasted 2 yrs, 2-5 yrs, 11-15 yrs, 16-20 yrs., and 20+ yrs.  Unsurprisingly, there was also a similar range and diversity of social networking tools in use, from Twitter and Facebook to blogs like the Long 18th and EMOB to traditional email listservs like C18-L. But there doesn’t seem to be a single favored approach to scholarly communication among ASECS members, at least among these respondents.

The other aspect of this report that surprised me was the strong showing of pedagogy and teaching practices in the list of DH topics people want to learn more about.  We’ve featured discussions like this in the past at the Long 18th, as has EMOB, but it seems as if the demand for this kind of information goes beyond what our blogs have offered so far.

I’d be curious whether those following the Long 18th or EMOB would like to see more pedagogy posts, perhaps in a variety of formats.  For my part, I enjoy writing these, but I tend to discuss the strategies used in my own teaching.

For my part, I’d love to see how different instructors use ECCO or EEBO in different kinds of courses (I know that Eleanor has done so in a History of the Book course, but I’d like to see how it might work differently by genre or other organizational schema), or at different levels of the undergraduate or graduate curriculum. If anyone out there would like to share additional information about their own assignments or strategies, or about what works and what hasn’t for them, I would be happy to have them post here.  Just let me know, either in the comments here or offline at DMazella at UH.EDU.

a quick note about corporatization of universities, museums, etc. . . .

As both Matt Yglesias and Atrios have pointed out, we seem to be living in an era when the ethical norms surrounding the conduct of business have reached all-time lows, and where all sorts of bad practices can be rationalized with principles like “profit maximization” or “shareholder value.”  In essence, the marketplace is the place where everyone steals everyone else’s lunch, and where everyone must guard against their neighbor.  Not a very productive arrangement, is it?

What I’ve noticed is that even in the face of widespread disapproval of such predatory, unaccountable behavior, the elites who run public entities like public universities and museums still insist on using this rhetoric to justify their decisions.

So what does a public university look like when it’s run for the purposes of “profit maximization” or “shareholder value,” to the point where Presidents or Boards are supposedly obligated to choose these kinds of values over the more traditional missions of the university, like the “pursuit of knowledge,” the “liberal arts” or even “educational effectiveness”?

It means that enrollments must always be maximized, “profitable” fields favored over the “unprofitable ones,” and the distinctions between the “non-profit” and “for-profit” institutions erased. This set of drastic changes is what the combined faculty, students, and alumni at UVA successfully protested against, and have beaten back, at least at this time.  (And Siva Vaidhyanathan deserves enormous credit for his public role as an inclusive advocate for higher education at UVA)

It also seems to me that if the historical practices of the “for-profits” are any guide, any university run under these principles of maximization will quickly, and necessarily, begin to engage in duplicitous behavior: students will be promised one kind of education, and provided something very different.  These schools’ profit-margin derives not from reputation, but from their ability to capture the most vulnerable students and educate them as cheaply–and as superficially–as possible. And the universities that do not care to run themselves this way will be competing with those who do.

In my view, what happened at UVA suggests the benefits of faculty publicly aligning their interests with those of their students, their parents, and especially, their institutions’ alumni.  This made the BOV’s claim to represent the “public’s” supposed desire for “efficiency” and “strategic dynamism” risible, and it revealed the isolation of the Dragas faction of the Board from the rest of the university community.

There will always be multiple claims upon “the public,” and multiple claims to speak “for the public,” and faculty can help groups like students and alumni recognize how their own needs are being ignored in the drive to ever-greater efficiency.  This seems to me the best lesson to take from the recent events at UVA.


a “declaration of independence”?

From David A. Copeland’s Debating the Issues in Colonial Newspapers: Primary Documents on Events of the Period (Greenwood, 2000):



another blegging question, part two: possible readings and assignments for an introduction to doctoral studies course?

Thanks to everyone who responded on- or offline to my last blegging question about teaching an Introduction to Doctoral Studies course for the first time.

The suggestions I’ve received here and elsewhere focus on providing good, pragmatic advice on issues like presentations, publishing, job market, and so forth.  There were quite a few suggestions to introduce students explicitly to academic genres of writing (lit review, book review, seminar paper, article, etc.) so that students understand the expectations surrounding these forms.  I also received a number of suggestions that students would appreciate at least a brief refresher in using the library and its resources for grad-level assignments.

Now here’s a follow-up question, for any of you willing to share what helped or would have helped, in this phase of your studies.

Would you have any suggestions, first of all, for readings about questions like research, specialization, academic culture, the future of the humanities, or the job market? These would need to be accessible and current. Since the course will have a mixture of literary studies people, rhet/comp folks, and creative writers, I don’t want to hammer them with something maximally alienating, the way my instructors did in my first-year classes.

Secondly, what would your recommendations be for essays or assignments devoted to key academic genres of writing? All comments or suggestions gratefully accepted.

Thanks again,