Nervous Twitches, Bloodshot Eyes, and Gin

Reading Harris and Enos 

     Nervous, twitching, my throat raw from swallowing cheap gin, I assess my role as a student and future educator. How do I feel about working in a discipline traditionally associated with service and remedial education? Pretty good. I’m feeling very good, in fact. Especially now that I have my hand curved around this glass of cheap alcohol, this liquid release. I picture myself years from now: a neurotic, ghost-like figure haunting the halls of academia, clutching a bottle, running from the university police, crying out to anyone within earshot: “What happened to my dreams, my illusions, my retirement?” and I don’t flinch. I don’t even bat an eye. Got my security, right here…

     Where was I, yes, person, position and style. Harris correctly suggests that academic writing can suffer when an overdose of personal, biographical accounts is injected into texts. But I do think there is a place for personality in academic writing, and that personality need not be the predictable, generalized model he describes, that of a “view from a window, or a conversation with a child.”

    That being said, some academic writing could definitely use a shot of personality. During our last class meeting, we discussed what constitutes good, classic, academic writing. I’d like to hear more about what other students think about that last discussion. Maybe I’m alone in this, but, with few exceptions, much of the “classic” academic writing I’ve read has been tedious, dense, and difficult to read. It’s not until recently that I’ve begun to see a shift toward easier-to-digest, and yes, personalized/biographical academic writing. Examples of this style are articles by Bonnie Devet and Brenda Ann Petruzzella. This type of prose is easy to understand, and a pleasure to read, and can convey an idea in fewer words than some of the classic models that I’m familiar with.

     Now I turn to Enos, and must reach for my bottle again because I’m depressed. But, no, I must break out of this depressive state. It can’t last, I know. The gin will run out eventually, and I will lack the funds to purchase more of it, working as a part-timer in a devalued discipline. I will have to leave the alcohol behind and learn how to connect with my students. I will acknowledge the reality of being an English composition instructor, but I will find solace in the fact that I will, someday, help students to express themselves creatively on paper.

    Enos correctly describes the plight of many female educators; their work doesn’t end when they go home at the end of the day. Traditional values translate into women doing twice the work of men for lower pay. After nurturing their students at school, they go home, where they are expected raise their own families while correcting student papers and planning the next day’s assignment. And, to top it all off, they must attempt to create original, interesting prose, while avoiding criticisms of gender-specificity in their writing. Inserting appropriate personal accounts into one’s text should not be viewed as gender-specific, as something “womanly.”

    There is no good reason why academic writing cannot have a personal touch, but when women attempt to write in a narrative style, their attempts are usually viewed as less-than academic, or as an attempt to mix feelings into a style traditionally associated with direct prose lacking in personalization. I can only hope that more and more educators—female and male—will continue to expand the concept of what academic writing can and should accomplish.

    I don’t, of course, rely on a gin bottle to get through the day. At least not yet. I never expected to become a millionaire teaching in a community college, but I do appreciate the assistance CC’s provide to persons who would otherwise not have the ability, or funds, to attend college. I must also mention that many courses I’ve attended at HSU left a lot to be desired in terms of academic challenges, but several courses I attended at Cuyamaca and Grossmont Colleges (both CC’s) in San Diego challenged me and forced me to re-evaluate my own writing. In fact, many times at HSU I felt as if I was attending a lower-level course at a CC. This is not a slam against the English department; I’m sure that a similar scenario plays out at other universities.

    I’m comfortable with my decision to become a community college teacher. At this time, I don’t see a necessity for me to pursue a doctoral degree. Despite the many negative aspects of CC teaching described that we’ve heard, there are positive aspects as well. Personally, I welcome a teaching situation in which I don’t have to publish or perish. I’d rather take the extra time I have to work on my own creative writing. If I feel like I’d like to tackle the publication of an academic paper, teaching in a community college should allow me the freedom to pursue that activity. That’s all. The gin turned out to be water.

I had a some fun with this one.  I sometimes feel as if I've been denying the creative writer inside me by pursuing a career in academia.  A full load of classes, as well as a nearly-full-time work schedule does not allow much time for writing short stories, or working on any sort of fiction.

I decided to write this particular assignment in a funky, creative manner, instead of adhering to the expected, traditional, academic language of a graduate student.  Besides, all the talk about gin; I just couldn't resist.