Too Much and Not Enough
For whatever reason, the stars have aligned turning this October into the month of ALL THE DEADLINES! Really, there are 3-4 CFP’s with deadlines between October 15 – 25th (and those are just the ones I’m interested in). Consequently, one of the ways I’m avoid the massive pile of grading that must be done before tomorrow (okay Wednesday at the latest) is to feel productive by working on these CFP’s.
The CFP I’m working on this weekend, which is simultaneously the least related to my professional work and the one in which I am most invested, is for a book chapter in a book about first generation & working class graduate students and faculty. Given all my discussions here about being working class in graduate school/the academy, you might think this project would be coming along nicely.
The current draft of my proposal consists of an unusable paragraph, complete with strike-through.
Since I spent my entire dissertation writing process thinking, “Wow! That really works.” whenever a writing center technique would come in handy, I figured I would start with the basics, with something I counsel writer’s to do when they are stuck — go back to the prompt. While the prompt hasn’t provided me with an epiphany just yet, it has made me realize the problem.
Like most CFP’s this one includes a nice list of suggested topics/areas of interest on which writer’s might like to focus.
Social and cultural capital
Family responsibilities and relationships
Mentorship Strategies and relationships
Academic and social skills
My problem here is not necessarily a bad one. The problem is not that I don’t have anything to say about the items on this list; the problem is I could probably say something about every item on this list. In this case, having too much to say is just as problematic as too little, because I completely lack focus. Sure, I could talk about nearly every item on this list, but that doesn’t mean I have something useful to say about them all. The difficulty lies in figuring out my “So, what?” Why and how has being a working class/first-generation graduate student/faculty impacted me the most; and, what might be useful for someone else in that story?
At the coffee shop this morning I returned to Donna LeCourt’s Identity Matters, which is my go to place for starting to think about class & education. Modifying Sharon Crowley’s claim that inexperienced writer’s are better able to see the “differance” in a discourse, LeCourt argues graduate students (particularly first generation/working class) serve the same role in the academy. (I’ve probably tried to oversimplify here, so please do check out LeCourt & Crowley.)
The struggle I face is picking out the moment that resulted in the most clear conflict between my working class identity/values and the expectations of the academy. Here’s where it all get a little sketchy, because there is so much and it is all so inter-related that I’m having a difficult time picking out the unifying thread. What I currently think, however, is that there is something for me to write about in the difference between my response to crisis and the “time to degreee” expectations.
Yes, a stroke is rare, and could happen to anyone during their graduate work, and it isn’t necessarily a “working class” or “first-generation” issue, but my response to that crisis is what I think most clearly brought my working class identity/values into conflict with the academic demands made on me as a graduate student.
Now, I just have to figure out what it all means and send in a 500 word abstract. 😉
And, since you’ve been patient enough to let me talk-it-out here, I give you PUPPIES!