Sunday, June 29, 2008

At some point the summer will start...

Ah, the lazy academic summer, when professors loll in hammocks, reading and dozing... what is that coming, exactly?

It has been a very busy month of June, but, finally, a few things are managing to get finished.

On the technical side, I was able to revise and cut down "Survival of the Most Pleasing: A Meme-Based Approach to Aesthetic Selection," which will serve in part as the kernel of the paper I'm giving in Bergen, Norway, in November.

And, we've had pretty exciting results on our NEH startup grant project, "Pattern Recognition through Computational Stylistics: Old English and Beyond.". Soon I will post a link to the project website. The exciting results I'll need to keep under my hat for a while, until abstracts are finished, etc. The best part about the project has been learning the system that the genomics group came up with. The way meetings and the exchange of ideas work has been really illuminating. I've set up and run research groups before, but they've never worked this well.

On the more popular side of things, I was in NY last week and recorded another college course on CD for Recorded Books' Modern Scholar series. This one is A Way with Words IV: Poetry. It was great fun to record, though also a bit of a challenge, since I haven't taught, say, Pope, or Wallace Stevens, or Elizabeth Barrett Browning since, well, never. I ended up mixing in formal aspects of the poetry with a historical approach (so I started meters with Chaucer, did heroic couplets with Pope, free verse with Whitman, etc.). Here's the historical part of the outline, in case you are interested:

1 What is poetry
2 The Roots in Oral Tradition
3 Anglo-Saxon (alliteration)
4 Middle English (meters)
5Renaissance (more meters)
6 Late Renaissance
7 Eighteenth Century
8 Early Romantics (Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge)
9 Later Romantics (Byron, Shelley and Keats)
10 Victorians (Browning, Rosetti, Tennyson)
11 America – Whitman and Dickinson
12 Modernism (early and high modernism)
13 Later Modernism
14 Poetry Now

Of course I have to write the book part of the course by the end of the week (I have all the lecture notes, but it is still writing up a 100+ page book by Friday), and then the Elves review and the Maxims piece have to be done. Oh, and the abstracts for the first two papers coming out of the computer research. But there is finally a tiny chink of light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe I'll get to go fishing once before the semester starts up again.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Completely Snowed Under

(Perhaps not the best metaphor on this amazing June day).

A few people have emailed me to find out if I'm alive and why I haven't posted since Kalamazoo. Anglo-Saxon Aloud has also gone on hiatus, and I haven't been too good about answering emails either. Sorry. Yes, I am alive, I think.

I've been learning what life is like for department chairs at the end of the year: it is like, not fun. The number of pages of evaluations is just stunning, as is all the other administrative work (i.e., spend down any leftover budget so that it doesn't get cut) and the number of meetings. Add to this a number of college-wide issues that need to be dealt with and are incredibly time-consuming. And we won't even mention that the stupid NBA has the Celtics playoff games running until midnight.

Simultaneously, I have been working frantically on our NEH grant for the Old English / Computer Science project. The scientists have really developed an excellent research dynamic (which I'll write about soon), and they like to work fast, so it has been a lot of reading, exchange of ideas, "journal club," etc. I hope to unveil some research tools by the end of the summer that will allow Anglo-Saxonists to do all kinds of pattern searching within the Old English corpus. You can never tell how things will finish up, of course, but right now it looks like the demo grant is on track and that we will have accomplished a bunch more than we set out to do. This is entirely due to my collaborators in Computer Science and Math and the amazing students who have been working like dogs to write software, build websites, etc.

Also, I had one major deadline on Friday, which I just barely met, for what I think is a pretty substantial essay on how to build a meme-based approach to aesthetics. Now I have to finish the last few end-of-year evaluations, write a book review, and finish my entry on Maxims, Aphorisms for SASLAC (it has been just about finished for months now).

But first, I have to write an entire college course on CD for Recorded Books in ten days. I did this over Spring Break for the grammar course, and it almost killed me, and now I'm doing it again for this poetry course.

By the first week in July I will either be finished or have dropped dead.