When it seems like the world around me is falling apart, sometimes I just feel like throwing my hands up in the air and giving up on humanity. I have always had the conviction that humans are inherently good, but there is also a lot of harrowing evidence that points to the contrary. As if you need the details, I’m thinking about the government’s terrifying attempt to erase transgender people, their condoning of sexual misconduct, the separation of immigrant families, and ongoing police brutality. When faced with such injustices, we can protest in the streets, go to the voting booth, donate money, be allies, call senators. As Angela recently reminded us, we can pursue paths of self-care and be kind to ourselves. In this same vein, we can also make an active effort to show kindness to those who cross our paths. To counteract the hate spread by certain populations with limited mindsets, we can make a point to be attentive to the people in our lives. We can listen closely to our friends’ concerns rather than just waiting our turn to speak, sit down with our colleagues to share experience and counsel, smile at those who pass us on the sidewalk (alas, as long as it doesn’t compromise our safety), and take the time to share with our loved ones how we feel about them.
Everyone reacts to tragic situations differently depending on their personal convictions, constraints, and resources. In recent months, I have also realized that putting more energy into meaningful work can be another response to despairing times. (I realize however that this, too, may be less of an option depending on your workplace and work community.) This can mean bringing more intention to projects that you deeply value or that might be inspiring. For me, this has often meant highlighting marginalized narratives in my teaching and writing. Lately, though, it has meant investing more creative energy into my digital project at Fisk. Through this project, I am able to underline racial and sexual injustices of the past but also spotlight more encouraging historical narratives. This work has also given me the opportunity to educate myself on African American history and to consider how I can utilize my skills and resources to amplify voices in the archive that have been historically marginalized. Continue reading “Finding Seeds of Hope in Your Work”→
That wasn’t the case for me. Though, I’m in a bit of a different situation. I am a recent PhD leaving my grad school department for a postdoc at another institution located in the same city. And to boot, I am still a Visiting Scholar in the department where I received the PhD. So, I’m not quite leaving, which puts me in the interesting position of existing between two institutions of higher ed.
About a year ago, I posted these pictures of my home writing space on Instagram. These photos were a part of my virtual “save me from my isolation!” post on social media in the weeks before my defense.
Last year, I spent the summer months finishing my dissertation. I was a sleepless madwoman, constantly tapping away at the computer and pacing my apartment with primary and secondary texts in-hand. After a hard-earned successful defense and a year of intense job-marketing, I thought I would give myself a bit of a break in 2018. A few weeks ago I made a healthy, feasible list of not just academic but also personal goals, which included submitting a couple articles for publication, starting to learn a new language, spending more time in the kitchen, and traveling. And so, after the semester ended in May, I submitted an article manuscript for publication: “Queering Sexual Difference: The Evolution of the Cixousian Medusa.” (It has been sent to the readers!)
And then…I went on a two-and-a-half week trip to Paris and Aix-en-Provence, France with my partner. We met up with old friends, visited beaches on the Riviera, and ate the best cheeses the regions had to offer. I love travel because it lets me recalibrate priorities and brainstorm about academic and non-academic projects. But even more, I adore allowing myself to spend hours at restaurants, markets, and bakeries; undoubtedly, food is always a major focus of my travel. Which got me thinking. Because I am so intrigued by gastronomy, French andotherwise, I decided that I might incorporate that love into my academic work. This led to my next summer writing project. Continue reading “The Smart Women’s Summer, Part 3”→
While I was sitting out on my friend’s back porch the other day, I knew I had struck gold. The two of us were deep in conversation about my recent campus visit when I started to realize that I was being adopted as a mentee. While I gave a play-by-play account of the meetings, presentations, and dinners with potential colleagues, she listened attentively, offered praise, and rolled her eyes at all the right moments. This person is not just a friend, but a new colleague who has, on her own account, put time and effort into my professional development over the past year.
In a way, this person and I arrived at the department at the same time. In August 2017, I transitioned from graduate student to temporary faculty member and she arrived as a tenure-track Assistant Professor in French. As a newcomer, she granted me the collegial respect that – I imagine – is harder for former professors andcommittee members to accord.
As a short-term Lecturer, the department did not arrange any type of mentorship for me. I assume this is due to the transience of my position and the expectation that my thesis advisor would continue to work closely with me. The latter proved true, in part. When I have questions about interviews, campus visits, and publishing, I text or email my advisor, who is happy to respond with careful counsel. However, knowing that she has two other advisees and a rigorous research agenda of her own, I understand that she might not want me begging her to give feedback on my writing or to offer me life & job advice at every turn.
And so, early in this grad student-to-faculty member transition, my introversion had me turning inward and online. But – blessed be the extroverts – there was one person who I couldn’t keep out of my office. I quickly accepted this as a stroke of good fortune, because this colleague was kind, funny, and smart. She was also someone who I respected because of the sincere, candid way in which she interacted with everyone in the department, regardless of their rank. What’s more, this person had fascinating research and her lack of a filter exposed me to behavioral issues and professional ladders in academia which my freshly-minted-PhD self had not yet fully experienced. Continue reading “On the Virtues of (Feminist) Mentorship in Academia”→
HELLO, readers of Smart Women Write! I am delighted to be a part of this amazing team of writers and excited to share pieces of my life and work that may feel relevant to, or generate some productive dissonance with, your own.
A quick backstory for my first-ever post: As a lover of French and newcomer to Nashville, I began frequenting the Department of French & Italian at Vanderbilt University nearly 7 years ago. After a few conversations with professors and an audited course, I ended up joining the program as a fully-funded graduate student with a stipend to teach and research French literature. I started graduate school in August 2012 and 5 mind-blowing (and, at times, soul-crushing) years later came out on the other end with a PhD in French Studies and a graduate certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies. (You can read more about me here.)
There were many high adrenaline moments of fiery passion while I was crafting ideas and pouring my thoughts into notebooks and Word docs for the dissertation. But don’t let that smiling face to the right deceive you. There were also enormous amounts of anxiety and self-doubt. Imposter syndrome (the feeling that you aren’t up to snuff and everyone else is) often invades the graduate student psyche, and I found that writing about that emotional experience helped to alleviate, or at least observe, those negative feelings.
And so, while I like brainy, theoretical, research writing, this is not the only type of writing I do. In whatever journal I’ve chosen for the season (Shinola, Moleskine, etc.), I put pen to paper to analyze my dreams, recurring thoughts, emotions, relationships, record dinner and gift ideas, you name it. This type of writing has become a therapeutic activity for me, which was particularly useful while dissertating. It reminds me that my versatile voice and mood need not always be confined to academic style.