Tag Archives: Canadian literature

Evaluations

An unavoidable part of a professor’s job is evaluating other people’s academic work. Along with the midterms, bibliographies, proposals, response papers, seminars, essays, and final exams that we grade for our students, we are also called upon to evaluate the work of our peers. This can be an odd process. For example, I have never won a major research grant (because I don’t generally apply for them), but I have evaluated other scholars’ research grant applications. I have never written a book, but I have assessed more than one book manuscript for an academic publisher. I have published some articles in scholarly journals, but I have assessed dozens and dozens written by others. This is called “service to the profession,” and I am happy to do it–most of the time. However, it sometimes feels that if I spent less of my time and energy on assessing other people’s scholarship I’d have more time to produce my own.

I think Canadianists do a lot of this work compared to some other fields. If you are an American literature professor, for instance, there are all those American literature professors in the US that journals and presses can call upon. But we’re a small cohort here in Canadian literature. So small that at times, even though the peer reviewing process is blind, I am pretty sure I know who wrote the paper I’m evaluating for publication.

It’s that time of year, when we are all buried under stacks of papers to grade–a cliche nicely captured in this image which I borrowed from the UWaterloo Centre for Teaching Excellence website.

It’s also the time of year when our own annual performance reviews are submitted. If graduate students think that when they grow up and become professors themselves their work will no longer be ‘graded’ they couldn’t be more wrong. Every time we submit an article, a proposal, an application, a manuscript our work is judged. And not always very politely. Every course is evaluated by students who took it. And not always very politely. Every year we write up what we have done that year in the three categories (research, teaching, and service) and then our work is ranked with a numerical score that also translates into a pay increase. We are competitive by nature, so we feel inadequate if the score is low and the scores of our colleagues are much higher. We are afraid of appearing to be weak, unproductive, lazy, stupid….all of those anxieties I’ve written about before. Criticism still stings, even after all these decades of living, working, and loving academia.

Ah, well. Fill up the coffee cup and get on with it!

Happy mid-December, my people.

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Memories of Croatia

Lady Professor in the Balkans is reliving her three months in Croatia.

V. is here. She is staying with me, and it’s like we’ve never been apart. We pick up the conversation, revive our comfortable rhythms (we spent a lot of time together in Zagreb), joke with each other. We talk about work; we talk about relationships; we talk about “remember when?” I have forgotten most of the Croatian words I had learned: I’m being schooled in them again.

It’s a delight to see how much V. has learned about Canada from being here, and although I gently suggest that she has a romanticized view of Canada, I can’t help but feel proud that her experiences have been so positive (she has been in Calgary for a month, with visits to Banff, Vancouver and Edmonton). Now she’s in KW and seeing how I live. We walk together to the university; she spends the day in the library while I do my usual work stuff. In the evening we eat together and (last night) I introduced her to Coronation Street 🙂 We muddle along easily in each others’ company.

Tomorrow morning we will give a presentation in my department about our combined experience of teaching Canadian literature in Croatia. It will be videotaped and eventually our discussion will appear on the English department blog. Such richness for both of us because of this exchange! And hopefully, eventually, we can bring this richness to undergraduate students at both UW and the University of Zagreb in the form of a student exchange. My next project.

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