New Year, New Projects (Part I)

Despite a lot of continuing projects (finding a job, revising the dissertation, keeping the yarn away from my cat), somewhere between the beginning of the Western calendar year and the impending start of classes at UMass Amherst, it feels like a new year. And for a new year, new challenges and new projects!

This will be the first semester that I teach more than one course. There were a few semesters at the start of my Ph.D. when I was teaching in Italian where I would teach two sections of the same course, but since it was the same course, it was very similar preparations. This semester, as an almost-newly-minted Ph.D. and a Lecturer A (the Ph.D. mint date is February 1 and the Lecturer A mint date is January 18), I’ll be teaching two separate courses, both upper level, in Comparative Literature. I’m lucky for a number of reasons, first of all that I’m really interested in both, and second that they’re both pretty small courses (one is actually almost TOO small right now, partly because of a late announcement of the course, after people had signed up for classes).

Course 1, which has been part of the plan for a while, is in Interpreting Studies, focusing on simultaneous interpreting. It’s not really a training course, although there is a significant practial component. Our program follows the lead of translation studies, where practical training can be paired with a more theoretical investigation of the social, cultural, and political implications of the practice. The course is the second of a pair, so I’m taking over a group that already had one semester together. The professor who designed both courses and usually teaches them is  on research leave for a semester, and was very happy with the idea that I could take it over temporarily. It’s still partly under development– last year was the first year of this new pair of courses– so while there is a syllabus from last year that I am largely following, I also have the freedom to make adjustments, as long as I take notes on what I adjust and report back to her about how it went!

Course 2 was a bit of a surprise. I’d mentioned it months ago as something I would like to teach, and we’d talked about possibly offering it this semester, but then the subject got dropped. For a while it seemed up in the air how many lecturers the department could hire this term, and I was happy to be teaching one course, so I didn’t push. And then, a week before the schedule went online for registration, I heard from the department chair that they wanted to hire me for both courses. There was a bit of a scramble to get a description together and get the course online (it went up late), but it’s there, and it’s running. The general course is “Comparative Book Cultures,” which hopefully will continue to run as a sort of topics course, depending on the geographical and historical interests of whoever is available to teach it. But I’m teaching it this semester, and it’s going to be medieval all the way.

There are three strands to the course: readings in medieval literature that discuss books, writing, and reading; work in manuscript studies and book history; and hands-on work (as much as I can manage) with calligraphy, book binding, and whatever else I can put together with no funding. We’ve got two rare book rooms with medieval holdings close enough to hold a class there (2 more close enough for students to easily visit on their own or do research), and I have a colleague who had a previous career as a rare book conservator who will give a guest lecture. And the quill pens I ordered arrived while I was at the MLA.

So: two courses to teach that are both new to me, in totally different fields,  one of which is completely new. My first semester out of school, as a lecturer. I’m sure there will be moments where I can’t believe I said this, but I can’t wait.

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