Monday, August 15, 2011

The Change

This will be a boring post. Fair warning.

Today is the due date for my promotion packet. I am currently a Term (non-tenure track) Associate Professor, with the opportunity to go up up for Term Full status. I have no idea what that means, but I do know it won't come with money because there is no money. But this is irrelevant to my post. Part of my packet includes a Teaching Statement, as it did 5 years ago when I went up from Assistant to Associate. I wanted to share excerpts from both, if only to show you how things have changed. Keep in mind my argument, if there is any, is light in both instances, because I'm limited to 1000 words and the promotion committee is comprised of literature faculty. Explaining what goes on in a successful creative writing workshop would be a little like describing by phone how to fix a pocket watch.

December 2006:

"From that earliest class in developmental English, which was populated by twenty-four low scoring high school graduates and one mentally challenged adult who had taken and failed the course seven times, to my current classes which are full of students who have self-identified as gifted writers, I find myself returning to the same challenges over and over again; each class I teach, whether it is beginning or advanced, writing or literature, seems to be about overcoming or controlling one’s personal responses for the sake of influencing the personal responses of others. I understand why in composition and literature classes we may encourage entire assignments and projects to remain personally driven (as with journals, response writing, and certain essays), but as my composition and literature students make the transition from personal to critical writing I notice hiccups in proficiency. I have always been worried about the relationship between success in personal writing and competence in other kinds of writing, especially that which requires argumentation and synthesis. And I often think of short fiction as being shaped as an argument, culminating in the fusion of imagery, symbols, action, and character transformations to make an unexpected point. So no matter what kind of class I teach, critical management of the subject is my priority."

August 2011:

"In the past I emphasized the importance of the writer’s critical management of the subject, but to a certain extent that attitude was a response to the fact that the primary form taught in fiction workshops is the conventional ironic/epihanic short story. However, as students and the active reading world become much more interested in very short fiction or very long fiction, I’ve looked for ways to adapt the workshop to accommodate all forms. My thinking mirrors that of writer/BSU professor Cathy Day’s in her essay, 'The Story Problem: 10 Thoughts on Academia’s Novel Crisis.' . . . Initial drafts are produced under highly emotional circumstances, compounded by deadlines. Craft (and often form) is discovered in revision, and understanding that order of development is crucial to effective instruction . . . With technical advances and the reshaping of the publishing industry, we’re starting to see some fascinating development in contemporary fiction, and I want my students to participate—as artists, sure, but also as voices in the public discussion of emerging literature. Along with workshops, craft lectures, exercises, I’ve made a special effort to invite published writers into my classes, at least virtually, to discuss writing culture."

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