Sunday, August 21, 2005

Long Time, No See

Panic buttonAs the comments to my last post have grown increasingly plaintive and demanding, I'm dropping back in for a moment to assure my five or six faithful readers that I have not descended into a heroin stupor, nor have I wandered into the woods, Timothy Treadwell style, to be gobbled by bears. Truth be told, after zipping off to California in early August for a wedding (and then returning home to perform a wedding in Juneau), I came to the sphincter-clenching realization that my summer was quickly drawing to a close. One of the special joys of my job is that — now four years into it — I have not yet had a semester in which I had fewer than two brand new classes to prepare. This fall, I'm introducing courses in labor history and historiography for the first time; last year it was an introductory, interdisciplinary social science course and a seminar in the intellectual history of American Empire; and so on and so forth, sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper: et in saecula saeculorum. Much of this burden is of my own making. I could easily cycle through a handful of courses rooted in my areas of specialization, whatever those happen to be. On the other hand, as the only US historian on my campus I feel obligated to teach the array of classes that students might expect to find in any other history program — and this requires that I step outside the usual spheres of expertise, at least to a degree. I could never teach a course on the Revolutionary War or the market revolution, but given enough time I could probably figure out how to teach a moderately successful semester on the social history of immigration, even though that's not technically "what I do."

The upshot of all this is that — in addition to wasting countless futile hours chasing Erik Loomis in the LGM Baseball Challenge — I have spent the past three weeks doused in my own cold sweat, prepping for two classes and working on neglected research while organizing files (a.k.a., "scrap-booking for professionals") for my mid-tenure review.

Come to think of it, being gobbled by bears doesn't seem like such a bad alternative. I think I'll marinate my exercise clothes in bacon grease and go for a jog.