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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


No, this is not a metaphor for scholarly writing. It happens that I am stuck in Spain another week because United Airlines cannot get me back, because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy on the Newark Airport. I was supposed to travel today. I already accomplished what I need to here, so I need to readjust and figure out what I should be doing. I guess there are worse places to be stuck, like in Newark itself.


I have made fun of botanical approaches to Lorca, but, really, botany is my main weakness as a reader of poetry. Espadañas and bulrushes are equally opaque to me. When I am reading a poem in Spanish, the only words I have to look up are names of plants or birds. Sometimes architectural or gastronomical terms.


There was a urinal in Spain that promised I would save 6 liters of water if I used it. So I pissed in it twice in a row and saved 12.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

More Spain Splain

An elderly Spanish professor (from Spain) (elderly then and now even more so) asked me in a campus visit why I didn't work on Brines instead of Claudio Rodríguez.

I was told by a cretinous guy from Spain that "García Lorca" was invented by American Hispanists.

Monday, October 29, 2012


As a North American scholar of Spanish literature, I have been often "Spainsplained." This is when a Spaniard explains things to me that I am an expert in, or offers up a cliché I have often heard as though I had never heard THAT one before, or is generally condescending. I have to say it doesn't happen as much as it used to, but it is noticeable when it does. It's least objectionable form happens when I am told: "You are not like those other American Spanish professors who come here and don't know anything." Or "Your Spanish is very good." The worst was when I was told: "Oh yes, you probably wrote one of those worthless dissertations people write just to get the degree..." In the middle is when people tell me "Lorca is a folkloric poet." !!!@%@#% I guess the equivalent in the US is when people ask me if I REALLY speak Spanish, if I have to know the language well to have the job I do (yes, in fact) or say "gee, you must like to read." [Blogging from Spain]

Against Digital Humanities


Monday, October 15, 2012

Saturday, October 13, 2012

How To Ask For a Letter of Recommendation

In your first email message remind the Professor who you are. "I am Sam Adams, who took your Spanish 453 class in the Winter of 2009 and Spanish 550 in Spring of 2010." Update the professor on your recent activities. "Since graduating I have been working for the Department of Student Housing at Emporia State University, supervising the RAs." State the purpose of the recommendation and the deadline. Make sure you leave at least two weeks between time of initial request and this deadline.

Once the professor agrees to write for you, provide your resumé and whatever other documentation you are submitting with the application (personal statement, cover letter). I don't retain detailed notes about every student I've ever taught, so I need to take cues from your own intentions.

Make sure that the professor knows you beyond the classroom, or has some insight into your character / personality, etc... How am I supposed to know how well you work with others, whether you are dependable, if I have only academic work to judge you by?

Take no for an answer. If the professor says sh/e doesn't know you / remember you well enough, that means that the recommendation will not help you in any way. If I am the professor who knows you best, but I cannot recommend you, then you are in trouble. You should have cultivated at least a few recommenders over the course of your undergraduat and / or graduate career. By cultivating I mean: (1) Taking more than one course from. (2) Going at least few times a semester for office hours, and (3) not just for assistance or complaint. Let the professor know about your career objectives / interests. Those are the students I will remember and be able to recommend later on. You don't have to be brilliant to do this. One student I supported had less than 3.0 average, but was getting A's from me in the third course she took.

After 10 years, you should not be relying on your undergraduate professors for recommendations. At that point, you will have other, more recent references. If you studied with me for graduate school, then I will continue to support you, but only if we have kept up contact during the intervening years.

I may need you for a recommendation too. I needed student letters for my promotion to full professor and my (failed) bid for Distinguished Professor. I follow these same rules myself. I only asked you for a letter if (1) You took several courses from me. (2) It seemed like you derived benefit from those courses and would have something positive to say.

Friday, October 12, 2012


Here is a discussion of a significant issue. Should you up the teaching load of professors who are paid X% of their salary for research, but do little or none? In my view, yes. If I am paid 40% of my salary for research, and I devoted 5% of my time to it, then I am not doing 35% of my job. Why does this sound harsh? People can get stuck on research for a few years at a time, so there is the danger of mistaking a temporary lull for a steady decline. If we look at it over the long range (3-5 year periods), then the faculty member should have something to show for this amount of time. Even if there is a long term project, then there will be at least some spin-off articles. It sounds harsh because the variability in research can be so extreme among members of the same department. In contrast, everyone teaches, at least preparing, grading, and showing up, so the differences are never going to be as glaring. I suggest that this seems harsh because we pay lip service to research, are all presumably doing it, but we tend to be over-generous with our friends and colleagues who simply are not that accomplished.

This depends on my perspective, of course, that a person hired for a research position should be willing and able to do research. We have over 100 applicants for one position.

The Conference Paper Trap

Conference papers are an easy way to get some items on your cv. In my field, acceptance is very easy for regional conferences, and only somewhat difficult for national and even international ones.

So what's the problem? There are several. Since acceptance is easy, it doesn't count for much. People know that many talks are going to be crappy, so the achievement of doing it isn't impressive. Graduate students feel good that they can get their ideas out there, but conference papers are rarely cited as works of scholarship. At colleges that doe not require very much research, conference papers count as "activity," but a cv with many papers and few articles looks bad for tenure reviewers. Finally, a research agenda driven by conference deadlines sometimes does not allow for self-imposed deadlines or the development of the papers into articles.

So what to do? Give up conferences? No. I would suggest going to them, but making sure that virtually every conference paper leads to an article. If you go to 10 conference in 3 years, you should also be submitting 7-8 articles. If you are not, then cut down on the conferences: go to 3 or 4 and submit 3-4 articles.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

More Self-Promoting Publicity

Lawrence Journal World

More Open Secrets

Some points emerged from yesterday's seminar.

One woman asked me a common question. I will paraphrase: I work for an hour just to get into my project. Then I have to stop fairly soon after that. I never have those eight hours of writing to look forward to. My response was to think of the second hour on a second day as the time when she could get further into the project. With every successive day of writing, the warm up time gets shorter. The first hour of the eighth day will be more productive than the 8th hour of the first day.

People were also really taken with the notion that you should schedule research time during the work week. That came as a new idea, a revelation, to several people in the audience.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Open Secrets

I gave my presentation at SIUE (Southern Illinois, Edwardsville) today on the "Open Secrets of Scholarly Productivity," to a very lively and engaged group of faculty members, including the academic blogger who invited me. I noticed, right at the moment I was about to start, that I didn't have my first page of notes. Luckily, I improvised and nobody noticed a thing. It's more boring to read off notes anyway, so it probably was just as good as it would have been. There were lots of questions and comments afterwards, so I have to say it was a success. I will give this other places too, if invited.Just let me know and we will see if we can arrange something.


Four faculty members...