Given my lengthy absence, I’m sure that you must have thought that I had either been devoured by a grizzly bear or mauled by a racoon. I’m happy to report that neither happened. Instead my mini-me netbook caught a virus while I was still in Toronto. Though I managed to get rid of said virus, nearly all programmes suffered (aka wouldn’t work properly) and I simply couldn’t risk to go online with the mini-me again when I still needed it to show films in class (which turned out to be a bit of a challenge because the mini-me’s volume adjustment was one of the things that no longer worked …).
So what did I do these past few weeks (apart from torturing a bunch of Canadian students, that is)? Obviously, I managed to survive the G20 and all encounters with Canadian wildlife (I only ever saw a grizzly bear bum — and that was at the Toronto Zoo) and returned home safe and sound at the beginning of August (all my Canadian students survived their encounter with the German visiting professor, too!!!).
After only two days I was off to the IASPR conference in Brussels, where I found out that romance readers do indeed make better scholars. 😉 For this was one of the best academic conferences I’ve ever attended: not only were most of the papers very good (and Pam Regis’s keynote was utterly fantastic AND funny), but a spirit of community also permeated the conference. We chatted, we bounced ideas off each other, and we went to dinner together (and the food in Belgium? oooh, yum!!!). It was intense and absolutely lovely. An Goris, Sarah Frantz and Eric Selinger did an awesome job with organising this conference!
One thing I like so much about this new generation of romance scholars is that we’re all (well, most of us, anyway) widely read in the genre. As a result, the discussions on our various subjects are very fruitful. And because most of us like reading romance and are fluent in “romance lingo”, you can get some very strong reactions from your audience when you present a paper. A nice example for this was Sarah’s paper on the history of the alpha male. You could feel several ripples going through the audience, for example when she mentioned the AAR polls and several all-time favourite books. And when she analysed one of the sex scenes in Loretta Chases “Lord of Scoundrels” (woohooo!) as an inverted bodice ripper scene (she’s ripping his shirt), well, that was one of my favourite moments at this conference. We didn’t exactly shout “woohooo!”, but I tell you, it was a near thing. 🙂
Then back home I went to battle against monster dust bunnies in my flat and to catch up with grading. Now I’m busy doing some more research on Dicky Doyle for a conference paper I am to give at Yale University (v. cool, isn’t it? obviously, I’m thrilled to pieces that I’ve been invited!) next week. Doing any kind of research on Punch magazine can be very disconcerting — especially for the person sitting next to you in the library or standing next to you at the photocopying machine: you’re bound to laugh out aloud at one point or another. (Oh gosh, more laughter in academia, how very shocking!)
As you can see, my summer has been very busy. All in all, the six weeks in Toronto were a great experience. As you might remember, I had been rather worried about the 72 hours of teaching, and so it was an enormous boost to my ego to find that I didn’t have any difficulties at all with the teaching load. I also realised that since I started teaching in 2003 I have rather mellowed and am much more relaxed in the classroom now. Instead of stressing and freaking out when my students didn’t manage to read all the texts, I managed to find a way to work around this. For the very first time I also fully realised that over the past few years I’ve gained a broad enough knowledge of British history and literature (especially of Victorian lit!) to improvise. The only thing I need to do is to improve my singing … *ggg*
P.S.: For some reason or other ALL of the postcards I wrote while in Toronto apparently never made it to their destinations. They’ve all disappeared! Duh!