April 5th, 2011

Hu design

Back from London

I just got back from London about 8 hours ago. I didn't sleep in too indulgently, considering that yesterday was 22 hours long.

After my initial struggles, I settled into the experience quite well, and even found unanticipated reserves of energy.

It looks as if a publisher's representative may be considering my dissertation (or some revised form of it) for publication. I had so long ago given up on that idea--based on feedback I got from my Ph.D. committee and based on the general non-reception my work on this composer has gotten in the mainstream North American music theory community--I just assumed that, if I were ever to write a book, it would have to be on a different topic and I would just have to start from scratch and try to promote the idea to publishers myself. Since my scholarly pursuits are fairly crippled by my heavy teaching load--and by the fact that the subject matter that I am assigned to teach has so little to do with my research interests--this has been a project that I have deferred indefinitely.

So, if nothing comes of it, at least it feels good that someone seems to be putting out feelers.

On this trip I also had some conversations with graduate students, comparing and contrasting higher education in Europe and in the States. With changes culturally and economically, it seems that portability of higher degrees (for the purposes of employment) is at least as much of a concern as it has always been, if not more. While having these conversations I had the feeling (accurately or not) that the experience of undergraduate and graduate students, as well as research faculty, was less fragmented and frenetic than what is typical in the States. I also had the sense that it was possible to specialize without being haunted so much by fears of not having enough general-purpose marketable skills as well. At some point this pretty much forces one to have to shelve the idea of being a credible scholar with an area of specialization. More and more the tendency is to try to channel people into being teaching drones, with hints of "research" on the side in order to perhaps make one more marketable for exploitative teaching positions.

On the other hand, it seems as if there were fewer concrete employment opportunities for faculty in the European system, and this has led me to admire the patience of people who have been dedicated to their work without feeling that they have to fast-track their way into teaching positions (which is pretty much the American model). I also got the sense that governmental budget cuts could have more severe impacts on students and faculty and entire areas (such as research in the humanities) more rapidly than might be the case here.

I also met a member of the English faculty at a nearby university who took the same outgoing and return connecting flights as I did in order to go to a conference. Her conference was actually on the west coast of Canada, while mine was in England. She also went to Yale, and actually lives in New Haven now. It was just nice to be able to chat informally with someone from another field who "gets it" when it comes to balancing professional interests, teaching duties, etc.

There is more, but I need to move on to do other things now.