Monday, 25 October 2010

What am I Doing This Week?

The biggest single item in my diary this week is an assessment workshop in London. I’ve been booked on to this event by virtue of my new role as Head of Education for EDACS, and will be joining four other participants from the Colleges of Arts and Law and Social Sciences. The workshop is a good opportunity for us to find out about innovative and productive assessment methods in the humanities: e.g. non-essay-based forms of assessment. In practical terms, however, the workshop with take a day and a half (including travelling time) out of my normal working week, adding extra pressure to the days when I’m still in Birmingham. (I’m really grateful for the understanding of my Voicing Women student, who agreed to move our seminar to Monday morning in order to avoid a clash.)

I’m hoping to use the travelling time efficiently by doing at least some of the following:

· Preparing notes for my first-year lecture on early modern rationales for writing

· Writing a review of The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Women’s Writing and the Orlando Project website for the journal Renaissance Quarterly. Renaissance Quarterly is one of the leading international journals on early modern studies, and it was an honour for me to be asked to contribute to it. Reading The Cambridge Companion to Early Modern Women’s Writing has helped me to keep up to date with recent developments in my research field, and the comparison with the online Orlando resource has given me food for thought about the future of paper- and web-based academic scholarship.

· Reading Virtue Rewarded, or The Irish Princess (1693). This little-known novel (did Richardson know if it, I wonder, when he subtitled Pamela?) is set in Ireland during the Williamite wars of the late 1680s and early 90s. It’s of interest to me as it’s relevant to a chapter I’m currently writing on the Anglo-Irish poet and translator, Mary Monck. This new paperback edition has only just been published, but will be much easier to read than EEBO pdf images, which is what I’ve had to work from up to now. (Though with the clue – ‘Virtue Rewarded’ – in the title, I won’t exactly be kept in suspense about what happens to the Irish princess!)

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Reviving This Blog

I've felt rather conscience-stricken over the past few months -- actually, ever since I finished Bill's course last year -- about how little I've been doing with this blog. I haven't quite known what I could usefully be doing with it, especially since so many of our number now meet and chat on Twitter. But now I've had an idea.

I've been thinking hard over the past few weeks about what we can do in response to the student satisfaction agenda. This is clearly an issue which is going to become even more pressing over the next few years, as fees increase and humanities departments such as our own come under more and more pressure. It's also clearly not the kind of problem which is amenable to being 'solved' in any straightforward way. But there are things we can do.

One thing I plan to experiment with over the next few weeks is using my office notice board a bit more imaginatively. Colour. Pictures. Chat. Something very like blogging, in fact.

I haven't quite worked out all the details, and one thing I'm especially concerned about is how long this activity is going to take. So it may prove to be a rather shortlived experiment. But I'm planning to start this week, and will hope to merge the hard-copy blog with this online version. So you may soon start seeing more activity on this site. Well, maybe.

Monday, 18 October 2010


Just a few weeks ago a colleague (whom I won't name) made the case that as university teachers we shouldn't be taking plagiarism so seriously. 'Plagiarism is a useful life skill,' went the argument. 'We aren't actually doing our students any favours by taking such a draconian attitude towards it.'

Here's an interesting articulation of a very different point of view: