Monday, March 9, 2015

Tutorials and Popular Art

It is possible I have taken on too many jobs, partly because of the last-minuteness of planning in New Zealand so that I didn't know for sure if I would have the tutoring one which takes the most time until right before classes started, and partly because I have trouble saying no to new opportunities (and more income). I am up to six now, though some of them are just for a short, fixed period of time and others will be in bursts when papers are turned in for grading. This will be a test semester to see how everything goes.

Meanwhile, I survived my first two tutorials! I was nervous but it wasn't too bad and after the hardest part -- starting the class and having everyone look at you for leadership -- it was mostly just prompting discussion through questions. The first group took longer on the questions so I had to rush at the end, but I still had time to give them the recent news article on human head transplants only being two years away and relate it to Frankenstein's relevance today, almost two hundred years after its publication. The second group was in a smaller room actually meant for that kind of small group which does make a difference in the atmosphere, and they were more active. I have so much more appreciation for the prep work that teachers do and the energy it takes to be that person in the room that everyone is expecting to lead them. I think the nervousness will diminish over time as I get more comfortable with the role and the groups feel more comfortable discussing and asking questions. You are so thankful for the contributors because they make the job that much easier. It is a unique position being the one in the room with more knowledge and experience, and I enjoy that power and ability to guide their thinking and questioning into certain directions. Sometimes they make the leap themselves, but other times you have to tease it out. It is odd that it has taken this long to have the opportunity to lead a classroom, after going down a degree path that points that direction in most cases. But I have to say, getting to discuss and write about literature for a living has to be a good gig. Probably why professors rank so highly on the job happiness scale!

I had a meeting with two women executives from the Canterbury Women's Club on the startup of the postgraduate network group. They were eager to hear my ideas, and we settled on a monthly meeting on-campus where a few women would give a brief overview of their research and then a woman speaker in the workforce would share her experience. The idea is to build a network and practice skills like presenting, mingling, and preparing for life after the degree. I hope everything goes well and is successful. If I decide to stay on in New Zealand after completing my degree, networks like this will be useful in finding employment.

My literature class had another good lecture which related some to my project. The lecturer was talking about the importance of studying both "high" art (like James Joyce and Picasso) and "low" or popular art, because just like now, people interacted with and consumed both types. He said, Wouldn't you want to look at what 95% of people were reading or watching? This relates to science fiction because until recently it was not seen as worthy of study in academia. Thanks to a generation of people fighting for it to be recognized, and the acknowledgment that studying popular culture is important too, it is now generally accepted at most schools as an appropriate topic for serious academic study. In my view, what we read and watch has a big role in our socialization, so it absolutely makes sense to critically analyze and engage with the culture we live in (or used to live in).

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