When I first submitted my first draft of my first dissertation proposal (not one that would in any way resemble what my dissertation came to be), my then-advisor said something that has stuck with me. He said (and I paraphrase, it’s been a few years), you’ve really set yourself a hard task here–I think you’d have an easier time if you wrote a more traditional dissertation. Well, I don’t mean to flaunt my previous ignorance here, but I had no idea what he was talking about. I’ve gotten a lot of praise–and gotten in a lot of trouble–for not doing things they way “everyone else” does them, yet, more often than not, I didn’t give much though to my own deviation. Sometimes I didn’t even notice it. Sometimes, my deviation didn’t seem important. And so on.
Yet, by the time I finished and graduated, I had, to use a favorite phrase of my father’s “gotten the joke.” I deviate; it’s what I do. Even so, when I chose my username, blog title, domain name, twitter handle, and blog tagline, I had no idea how far “off the road” this journey would take me. Which leads me to:
As of spring semester 2013, I will be a professor* of American Literature and Cultural Studies at the School of English Language and Literature of Shanghai International Studies University.
* N.B. I am still riddling out the academic ranks in China. I will either be something that translates to “lecturer,” or something that translates to “Associate Professor,” neither of which sound completely accurate in translation. I’ll keep you posted!
How did this come about?
Through a series of mostly comedic circumstances, I ended up spending much of the summer semi-stranded in Shanghai. Nothing desperate, I just thought I’d have something to do, and it turned out I didn’t. After the initial shock of that wore off (in addition to the most amazing jetlag of my life), I started having meetings with Chinese universities, at first just because I was interested in how things were different, what an English department that is also a “foreign language” department feels like, and other questions. But the longer I spent in China, the more I enjoyed it, and the more interested I was in Chinese literature and in the language. I started making inquiries about working in China, and after many backs and forths over email, it looks like I leave for Shanghai in February!
But what will you DO?
Teach, of course
In the spring I’m teaching three courses: Two sections of a course called “Reading and Writing,” which sounds a bit like First-Year Comp, but entirely is not. Think of it as “Reading and Writing about Literature for English Majors.” It’s a course for third-year English majors, designed to be writing intensive. A complement, I believe, to the reading intensive survey courses. The last course I’ll be teaching is to graduate students, mixed MA and PhD students, I believe, called “Race, Class, and Power.”
THAT Kind of Project (The Humanities and Technology)
I’ve also put forward a proposal to work towards a digital humanities/humanities and technology center in China. There are currently no centers, at least not that I have been able to unearth, in the People’s Republic, and I’d like to help create one! The kind folks at SISU are pursuing how we can find funding for it, and we’re going to start by picking a date sometime this spring for the inaugural THATCampChina. If all goes well, THATCampChina will help be a springboard to help bring together people who are already doing digital humanities work in China, and move forward on founding a center.
And of course…
I plan to learn Chinese. I say “of course,” but it seems from everything I hear that a lot of westerners move to China and never bother to learn a word. I was just visiting this summer and learned several! And I found the language completely fascinating. I’ve never been outside the Indo-European language group before, and having studied (in order of proficiency) English, Spanish, Russian, Latin, Greek, French, Polish, German–and now Chinese, not one of those “foreign” languages was ever as foreign to me as was Chinese. Perhaps it’s my previously mentioned penchant for deviation, but the very difficulty of the language is part of the fascination. When I started Russian in 1992, I thought it would be daunting to learn a new alphabet, but the amazing department at Phillips Academy, Andover and my first-year teacher Victor Svec had us through that in just a few days. However, confronting a non-alphabet-based, and non-phonetic language–I no longer think “daunting,” I think “FUN”!
I plan to blog while I’m there. I have let this blog go more or less fallow, but I think that now more than ever it will be an important way to stay connected professionally to my colleagues all over, and to keep you updated on my life. I will probably include more observations of the world than I have before, simply because the world I’ll be observing will be more unfamiliar to me. I additionally hope that working within a very different academic landscape will help me develop observations about U.S. academia that might prove useful. As always, you can find me through email, through the contact form on this blog, through twitter @PhDeviate (which is, admittedly, intermittently blocked in China). I will continue to be involved in the TransformDH collective, and will be launching a new site soon! So, you’re not losing me, I’ll just be coming to you from 12 (or so, depending on where you are) hours in the future!