With apologies to any reader(s) who may have wondered, since my last post on 8/19, where I disappeared to . . .
The answer is—predictably enough—into work. The semester has indeed come around with its usual, happy busy-ness: planning and reading for classes, writing assignments and other course materials, responding to student drafts, meeting with colleagues and undergrads, and trying to get some research and writing done in between all that. I’m not complaining. Teaching is what I want to do—and I don’t feel over-worked, just reasonably busy and (I hope) productive.
But what that does seems to mean is that if I want to read a book that’s not for a course I’m teaching, or see a movie or watch TV, or just spend some time with my wife or friends—well, that seems to take up the hour that I spent on writing a blog post in the summer.
I realize that may not be a blinding insight. But I am interested in how others manage those sorts of writing that lie on the edges of our professional lives: blogs, journals, listservs, all those connected-to-but-not-exactly-work email exchanges, and the like. My experience is that while such writing is often rewarding and fun, it is also, like high-school art classes in a budget crisis, the first thing to go in a pinch. So if there’s anyone out there who is still reading this, I’d like to hear from you about how you do or don’t fit such writing into your intellectual life.
In the meantime, I do enjoy blogging enough to want to try to make it part of my life during the semester. So let me resume doing so by turning here to a related issue: lag time in scholarly publishing. This summer I came across a reference in a manuscript to a 2007 book on Labor, Writing Technologies, and the Shaping of Composition in the Academy, by Pamela Takoyoshi and Patricia Sullivan. It sounded like my sort of thing, so I found a copy in the Duke library, and discovered that the book collects essays from a conference held seven years before, at the University of Louisville in 2000. The lead essay is by Richard Miller, who frets (circa 1999) about the extra labor imposed on his Writing Program by the decision to—get this!—wire the entire campus of Rutgers University for digital access.
Miller actually has some smart things to say about how sweeping visions for educational change actually play out in departments and programs—as do many of the other contributors to the volume. But I can’t imagine him, one of our current gurus of the digital humanities, still worrying over the wisdom of providing online access to Rutgers students in 2007, much less 2010, and it’s thus hard to shake the feeling that this book, serious and thoughtful as it is, had already passed its sell-by date before it had ever been published—much less read, discussed, assigned in courses, or reviewed.
As academics, we tend to hope that our writing will have a long half-life on the shelves—which is a comforting thought, given that few us are first and foremost writers. We have other important work to do—and books, articles, and blogs can get deferred and delayed as a consequence. But I have to wonder: Might there not be a point when it really is just too late to enter a certain conversation?
Takoyoshi, Pamela, and Patricia Sullivan, eds. 2007. Labor, Writing Technologies, and the Shaping of Composition in the Academy. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton.