Another Rumination on Leaving Academe

There is something of a firestorm going on in part of academe really close to that into which I once sought admission–close enough that I would have been expected to teach in it had I been able to secure the kind of tenure-line job I ultimately unsuccessfully tried to secure. I’ll not comment on specifics here; I do not need to, as the discussion is going on publicly and at great length online (and it might well be ended by the time this reaches public view). It will suffice that I acknowledge the “rebel” forces are correct and that the “traditional” parts of the “old guard” are wrong, though those in the right do not need my acknowledgement to know they are right and those in the wrong will likely look down upon me as a lapsed or apostate member of such church as they purport to be priests of.

Graduation Gown With Mortarboard On Retaining Wall : Stock Photo
It’s as good a place for a robe as any.
Graduation Gown with Mortarboard on Retaining Wall by Danial Najmi / EyeEm,
used for commentary

The issues on which the fracas touches and into which it delves are well worth considering, well worth applying to the world outside the ivory tower, and I have been working to consider my own complicity in the problems cited, both in my lingering academic work and in the work I do to lead a small nonprofit agency to help people who struggle against substance abuse issues. But the fracas itself lays bare some of the problems of academe to audiences that might not previously have seen them, which is a good thing in itself, and it serves as a reminder that I am better off for not having to be embroiled in them at this point. Because I am not seeking full-time, continuing employment in academe, I am not facing the kinds of struggles that others are and that are being posed against them unfairly and unjustly. And because I have some distance from the pursuit of that kind of job now, I can acknowledge that I did not “deserve” the jobs I did not get. It may not be the case that they went in all or even most cases to people who do deserve to have them–if “deserving” has anything to do with it, really–but I know I damned well ought not to have gotten them. The folks who have them and are struggling as they are–again, unfairly and unjustly–are far better at the work of academe than I. Those who array against them are lucky and privileged and do poorly in acknowledging neither; they do less well to stand in opposition as they do.

It is not an easy thing to admit to being wrong, certainly, the more so when so much of the work that gets done and the idea of self that gets bound up in doing that work depends upon being right. I well understand the impulse to resist it. But that I understand it does not mean I condone it; the opposite is true. Those invested in being right need to be right, not to assert that they are right. That they refuse to do so (again, as I write this; it might have changed by the time this gets seen) is a disservice to all, and I am glad to have as little part in it as I still have.

But I have to confess to lingering complicity. I still accept teaching assignments, and I still work within predetermined curricula that continue to transmit ideas that are problematic. I do so because I still feel the need to bring in the money, and I do still manage to make some small connections to people who would otherwise not have any access to the ennobling parts of continued study. They are still there, and they may be worth preserving, but there’s a damned lot that isn’t, and I’m glad I’m more or less quit of it.

Any support would be appreciated.

On Continuing to Leave Academe

A fair number of the posts I make in this webspace concern my somewhat conflicted departure from academic life. My various responses to Erin Bartram (here, here, and here), my reflections on my expatriate status, certain of my bits about my office spaces (this and this come to mind), and a couple indulgences of nostalgia (here and here), among others, speak more or less openly about facets of my departure from a line of work and career path for which I had imagined destined. At the same time, posts such as my continuing “Initial Comments” pieces (of which the most recent is here), my class reports (which I’ll not link at the moment), and others bespeak my continuing engagement with and immersion in the structures of formalized higher education. (That I do so much to make references in my writing also marks me as a trained academic, I know; who else but a professor or a wanna-be prof would make so many notes in a single sentence?)

To be fair, I do miss facilities like this one.
Image from the University of Texas at San Antonio website–
and I am an alumnus of the institution.

Clearly, then, I have not made a clean break with my former life, even if I have (largely) reconciled myself to the notion that I’ll never be a full-time scholar. Instead, I maintain a part-time contingent position at DeVry University in San Antonio,Note and I keep in mind the notion that I might pick up the occasional class at another school (though that does not seem likely in the near future or a more remote time). And while I do not give to that position the kind of fervor that I gave to similarly contingent positions in the past, I do still pursue it diligently, spending time and effort in preparing lessons and coaching students along; I still treat it like a job I mean to do well, if less because of a commitment to the profession than because of a commitment to well those things that I set out to do, whatever they may be. The effect is similar; I do more than I probably ought to do for my students.

Most, however, will note that it is not the work done in the classroom that makes a person an academic. Indeed, there is an unfortunately prevailing animus against the work of teaching and those who pursue it as their primary avocation; in addition to Shaw’s adage, there is too much disregard in higher ed for the work of those who teach younger students, and the promotion and retention of scholars is far more reliant on what happens outside the classroom than within it. But even in such areas, I seem to be holding on to an academic identity; I retain affiliation with several scholarly societies, participate in academic conferences, and, in at least some small ways, try to contribute to intellectual discourse. And it is not just in this webspace that I (flatter myself that I) do so; I still send off to journals and presses, hoping that I’ll find my way into print and others will use what I have done.

And there is one other thing: I never do enough. One of the things that academe traditionally inculcates into people, particularly “good” students, is a sense of insufficiency. There is always someone smarter, always someone doing more and doing it better; there is always more to be done. That sense lingers with me yet, despite my working one full-time and several part-time jobs and writing here and elsewhere (here and here, among others) and attending to the domestic and emotional needs of my family. If there is one part of academic life that will linger with me, I think that will be it; it seems to be among the few things that translates well into the “real” world.

Note: I acknowledge that there are critiques to be levied at my employment by a for-profit institution. I may well address them in another post to this webspace; for now, they would be a bit of a distraction. Return to text.

Care to support my work? I’d really appreciate it!

Sample Assignment Response: Career Connection Analysis

Female Boss Gives Presentation To Team Of Young Businesswomen Meeting Around Table In Modern Office
Female Boss Gives Presentation to Team of Young Businesswomen Meeting Around Table in Modern Office from Shutterstock, used for commentary

The final assignment required of students in ENGL 135 during the November 2019 instructional session at DeVry University is a career connection analysis. For it, students are asked to compose a somewhat informal paper (formatted in double-spaced 12-point Times New Roman with one-inch margins on letter-sized paper, but not requiring formal citation or most other APA apparatus) of some 500 words in length that addresses one of two prompts (quoted from University materials here):

  1. Discuss how the skills of writing, researching, presenting, working in teams, and using technological tools help you in your current role in the workplace. Which of these skills do you find most important right now? Which skills do you think will be important to you in helping you achieve future goals?

or

  1. Look up an occupation you are interested in pursuing after you graduate from DeVry. To find information on occupations, you can visit the Occupational Outlook Handbook at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/. Search for a career you are interested in, such as software developer. Then, click on the “What They Do” tab. Compare the duties of that occupation to what you learned in this class. Which skills that you learned in this class will be most useful to you in your chosen career?

Being well past my own graduation, I cannot address the second prompt directly as given. I can, however, address the first. As such, in the interest of posting an example for my students’ use, I set up a Word document with the requisite formatting and proceeded to draft a response to the prompt. To do so, I divided the task into several short, informal sections (i.e., I stubbed out keywords to guide my drafting, but I did not put in headings, as such): my current workplace role; uses of writing, researching, presenting, working in teams, and employing technological tools; most important skills; and future-goals-related skills.

As I began drafting, I found that the first “section” occasioned only a little bit of attention; it was enough to note the position and its basic duties before moving into the details of composition-class skills I use. The rest, though, seemed to fall into place relatively easily; having taught college-level writing since 2006, I have had time to think about how the skills such classes trade in apply to the working world outside. Since leaving off the search for full-time academic work (note here, here, and elsewhere in this webspace), I have had more occasion to think about how what I have learned can continue to serve me outside the enterprise I had sought to enter. Compiling half a thousand words on the subject took little doing in light of such thinking.

Having composed the document, I looked over it for ease of reading, hoping to keep it in late high school or early college, per Flesch-Kincaid grade levels. I also looked it over for adherence to usage standards; even an informal document benefits from easy reading. That done, I rendered the document such that it can be opened by multiple operating systems, which I offer here in the reiterated hopes that it will be of use: G. Elliott Sample Career Connection Analysis.

This is the last one, perhaps ever. Send a little help to send me on my way?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 45: Royal Assassin, Chapter 20

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The next chapter, “Mishaps,” opens with accounts of the hardening of attitudes and Chade’s findings on an expedition to the Outislands. It moves to Fitz calling on Shrewd; the latter has the Fool serve tea that contains an addictive herb, upon which the Fool comments acerbically. Regal soon inserts himself into the meeting, taking the chance to upbraid Fitz with his manufactured financial crisis. As Shrewd slips into addled delirium, Regal intensifies the personal attack on Fitz, taunting him to physical assault; Fitz stops himself and excuses himself from Shrewd’s presence, beginning an anxious wait for a summons from Chade.

Fool by FloorSteinz on DeviantArt, image used for commentary

When the summons comes, Fitz answers it with many questions for his mentor. They are uncomfortable questions, and Chade’s replies to trust in the system and the wisdom of the nation’s leadership do not satisfy. Nor yet does the revelation that Chade has been providing certain chemicals to Shrewd for reasons that he refuses to discuss. Nor still does the line of reasoning to which Chade leads Fitz, that the Red-Ship Raiders want only to instill terror, that Verity’s mission to the Elderlings is their only hope.

Fitz’s narrative resumes days later, when Duke Branwdy of Bearns arrives at Buckkeep. He describes his experience of the necessary festivities to welcome the duke and his entourage, as well as the calculated slights offered them by Regal. Too, he has some contact with Celerity that makes him uncomfortable.

After the welcoming dinner, Fitz retires to his chambers, where the Fool awaits him with a sensitive question. Fitz turns to strike the Fool in his anger, only to see that the Fool has already been battered–by Regal’s thugs. As a chastened Fitz makes to tend the Fool’s injuries, he asks why the Fool asks after whether he has fathered a child; the Fool explains as he is able, which is not necessarily clear to Fitz. He also warns Fitz that attempts on Kettricken are likely before making his exit.

After the Fool leaves, Fitz calls on Molly. He asks her if she is with child, and she denies it–but quizzes him on what he would do if she had affirmed being pregnant. Fitz has no good answer and stammers through a poor one. Molly rebukes him for it, using Patience and Burrich as an example of what she means; Patience hates Burrich, she reveals, because she had loved and been spurned by Burrich in favor of his sworn service. The revelation gives Fitz pause and more to consider than he had thought before.

The strangeness of gender norms and expectations comes to mind in reading the present chapter. Fitz is, admittedly, not in a position to have much of a sense of family, given his circumstances, but even so, the dichotomy between his perception of service’s demands and Molly’s protestations about family are striking. There is more to untangle in them that I can give space to here–but there is always another venue for such discussions.

Molly’s protestations line up reasonably neatly with things I have spent a perhaps unfortunate amount of time considering, given my own history trying and failing to make a career of academe. I am recovering now, but earlier in my life, I spent a lot of time trying to be something…other than I am, thinking it somehow of paramount importance that I do. I fear I much neglected my family in making the attempt. Even now, when I give my time to outside concerns in the community, I worry that I am misspending my time. I like to think that I am doing some good in the world, I am told that I am, and I know that my daughter needs to have an example of a parent who tries, at least, to work to the betterment of the community. But I also know that the time I spend on such things is time I am not with my wife and daughter, whom I profess to love; how much love do I show them, being away? At least when I am secluded off, working on some freelance project or another, I am contributing to the support of the household, but when I work with the local PTO or band boosters, I cannot claim such a thing.

It is never an easy calculus to figure out, and my skills at math are less than they perhaps ought to be. But, as Chade points out in the chapter, “Thinking is not always…comforting. It is always good, but not always comforting.” And I have much on which to think.

It’s my birthday, precious. Send me a gift?

 

A Rumination on Writing Series

It should not be a secret at this point that I do a fair bit of work that emerges from earlier work I’ve done or that calls back to it. The Robin Hobb Reread on which I’m working now is perhaps the most put-together example, but it’s not the only one, even in this webspace; the abortive Pronghorn Project and Points of Departure are others, as are the several responses to Erin Bartram I’ve made here, as well as the many sample assignments I’ve posted. This is not to say that I always think of things as being series when I start them, but even when I do not set out to put together some kind of continuous narrative or set of essays, I do often look back at what I have already done to find something else to do.

 how writing seor assignment GIF
Image from Giphy.com

That I am often able to do so, though, does not mean I am always able to do so. There are many occasions that see me finding some idea I’ve had in passing, often made in some footnote, that I’ve pursued further; I’ve gotten several conference papers out of doing that very thing, and I tend to write with a lot of footnotes when I do my academic writing. (One professor commented that I tend to make my better points in my footnotes. I’m still not sure what I should think of that.) But I write less academic stuff at this point than I used to (sensibly, given that I am much less involved in academe than I used to be–which is likely to my benefit and others’), so I have far fewer footnotes from which to work.

Between that and being between teaching sessions at the moment–I expect to have a class in each of the next two upcoming sessions, which will be good, but I don’t have access to course materials to work on sample assignments and the like–I find that I have been struggling for things to write between the entries in the current writing series, and I am not able to work on that series enough at any one time to get away with making three or more entries into it each week. I would love to, of course, but there are enough other things going on that I have not been able to make the time for it.

Even with the challenges to composition, though, I am glad to have the writing series to work on. I do better having direction than not, and working on series gives me that direction or some semblance of it. I could wish to have such direction in other ways, as well, but I am no longer in a place where I’ve got a lot of people telling me what I need to do to be able to get what I want–nor yet any such clear idea of what I want as I have had at points in the past.

Any support would still be appreciated.

A Rumination on Jury Service

photo by john n. lavender
The Kerr County Courthouse,
Image by Constable John N. Lavender on the Kerr County website,
used for commentary

I was recently called up for jury duty, and not for the first time; I seem to attract jury summonses, having gotten at least one in each place I’ve lived since I got married–and two since moving back to the Texas Hill Country. I don’t mind showing up for it, not least because the alternatives available to me aren’t good ones (I can’t afford a $1,000 fine, for example). Also, I don’t want to be in the position of having to rely on people who don’t want to be there if I am ever in front of a jury, so I try to model the behavior I hope to see. How much it might matter is unclear, but it cannot hurt.

As I sat in the benches waiting to find out whether I would be empaneled, waiting once I was empaneled to find out whether or not I would be selected (I was not), I was reminded of one of the standbys of humanisitic education, that study of the academic humanities helps suit people to such acts of engaged citizenship as jury service. I am minded in particular of Amy Wan’s 2011 College English piece, “In the Name of Citizenship: The Writing Classroom and the Promise of Citizenship,” which I read in those heady times when I thought I might be teaching college English as a full-time, continuing thing–which is not the case, obviously, but I had hopes, then. While definitions of citizenship and duty can certainly be argued, and unfortunately often disingenuously and/or with an eye to removing the one from and enforcing the other upon those who can least endure the changes, the basic idea seems a sound one from my experience of the classroom and the courtroom: humanistic education has particular valence in jury service.

For one thing, I did note what might be called rhetorical effects of the setting. The courtroom I reported to does much to focus attention on the judge’s bench while removing its occupant from common access; the judge (whom I will note I found personally pleasant) is the representative of law, present and commanding but remote, or so those called into the courtroom are pushed to believe. Standing upon the judge’s entrance reinforces that those in the courtroom are at the judge’s whim, enforced by armed bailiffs–at least one of whom made a point of calling out people dressed “inappropriately” for the occasion and loudly chastising a very junior staffer with a promise to “tell [her] boss about it, too.” Even though much was made through jingoistic, propagandistic statements about jury service being something “that can only be done by a free people,” and even though the judge commanded those in the court to rise for the entrance and exit of the jury panel, the disparity of power in the room was clear, with particular speech acts compelled under threat of force. (The bailiffs’ hands rested on the handles of their sidearms an awful lot, to my eye.) Would I have noticed it had I not the training and experience I do? Would I perhaps have read it as comfort in a system that stands above people, rather than as a show that may or may not have any substance to it–because law and justice are far from being the same thing–had I not? I could not say; I do not know who I would be without. As it is, I scarcely know who I am with it.

More importantly to me, I think, having been trained in the academic humanities helped me understand better the process of voir dire, when the prosecuting and defending attorneys pressed the members of the jury panel for information to facilitate their selection of a trial jury. I recognized from one attorney many of the same tactics I had seen deployed by professors I have had–and which I have, in turn, deployed–to lead students along to a conclusion the professors desired. I know that the attorney’s job is, in fact, to persuade the jury to the argument s/he makes, that the defendant is or is not guilty of the charge/s pressed, but I do not know that many or most of the others on the jury panel with me were aware that the attorneys were doing their work even at that point, prior to the presentation of any evidence or testimony to bolster their cases. The ability to identify my own biases came up, as well, though I hesitate to state more explicitly, both out of professional concerns and out of a desire to keep the specific case relatively anonymous. And the ability to recognize others’ biases made me a bit sad; I was not the only one with pre-existing opinions that touched upon the kinds of things the case appeared ready to treat, but not as many voiced their concerns or took them into account as perhaps ought to have for the sake of giving the defendant as close to fair a trial as could be.

As I note above, I was not selected to sit on the jury. Evidently, my case for my own biases and their potential negative impact on proceedings was convincing to the attorneys and the presiding judge. Had I been, though, the obvious things would have come to bear for me: the ability to understand dense, often arcane wording and the principles it articulates, and the ability to apply that understanding to evidence presented and the explanations of that evidence offered to the court in the hopes of reaching a true and accurate determination of guilt or innocence of the charges pressed. Such things, absent the guilt or innocence issue, are the core of what study of the academic humanities does–but that’s an old assertion and one that seems not to be nearly so important as might be hoped.

If ever I am on trial, give me a jury of English majors.

Jury duty doesn’t pay much here; care to help offset some of it?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 28: Royal Assassin, Chapter 3

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The third chapter in the novel, “Renewing Ties,” opens with a description of an old scroll detailing the encounter of the early Six Duchies ruler, King Wisdom, and the Elderlings after which the overall series takes its name. It moves to Fitz going back out into Buckkeep Castle before he finds himself drawn to a tower room to which Verity has summoned him via the Skill. The two of them confer frankly and surprisingly openly, and Verity seems to have great affection for his bastard nephew.

Image result for verity farseer
An image described as of Verity, used for commentary.
Source unknown to me; information will be welcome.

When Fitz leaves Verity, Lacey, Patience’s maid, finds him and bustles him to her lady. Patience quizzes Fitz randomly, and he begins to suffer again from the lingering effects of the poison that had been used upon him. Patience recognizes his infirmity and sends him off to rest–and he encounters Molly along the way. He is initially buoyed by the encounter, but as he elicits information from her, he finds himself rebuked for his seeming drunkenness and for the many lies he had told and allowed, and he learns that matters have been poor for her family. She leaves him despairing of his infatuation with her, and he staggers back to his room to sleep.

Again, I find myself reading affectively, sympathizing with the folly of an adolescent boy trying to make sense of lust and love at once, and I have to think that that correspondence informed my early regard for the novels; when I first read the Farseer books, I did so much closer to my own adolescence than I am now (though some might say I still need to grow up), and I was not much more adept than Fitz in such matters, if I was at all. It is as good a reason as any to start to make a fuller study of something, and better than most.

There are parts of me, even now that I am largely out of academe–I’ve given up the search for an academic job, and I’m not teaching in the current session at the one school where I do still get to stand in front of a classroom–that clamor for me to make some kind of insightful, scholarly comment about the chapter. And I could tease out something about, perhaps, a suggestion of something between Charim and Verity like that I have suggested lay between Burrich and Chivalry in the imagined past of the novel, or I could point out that Hobb subtly signals the ultimately untenable nature of chivalry through reflecting on Chivalry when Fitz’s eyes meet Patience’s and “She nodded slowly, accepting the lie [Fitz had told] as necessary, and looked aside. [Fitz] wondered how many times [his] father had told her similar lies. What did it cost her to nod?” Neither would be wrong, exactly, and either might be fodder for a short piece of commentary that might well be worth doing. So might a bit linking what happens in the chapter to more of the foreshadowing that is itself a common theme in the series of novels; looking ahead only to find later that such peerings were correct is something of a motif in the main Elderlings novels, perhaps the dominant one. (I’d have to do more work on that, though.)

At another time, I will have such things to write. I hope you will continue to read them.

I’d love to have your support.

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series: Entry 16: Assassin’s Apprentice, Chapter 16

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


The next chapter, “Lessons,” opens with an in-milieu rumination on prior and then-contemporary practices of Skill instruction. It then pivots to Fitz’s resumed Skill lessons, in which he endures the hatred of his fellow students and surveys the healing injuries Galen had suffered. Fitz also notes his beginning suspicion that Galen’s instruction is nominal only and not sincere.

On the Ledge: sketch 2 by Crooty
On the Ledge: Sketch 2 by Crooty on DeviantArt;
image used for commentary.

Fitz then goes out for a bit, taking Smithy on a walk and calling on Molly. Molly comments to Fitz on Verity’s upcoming nuptials, which Fitz had not been aware of. Regal is to select Verity’s bride, and Fitz muses on the disparities between the two men’s noted interests in women. He waxes philosophical on desirable traits, and he misses an opportunity to cement his love and Molly’s in his youthful folly.

After, Fitz begins to reintegrate himself into the life of Buckkeep outside of Galen’s harsh restrictions. He also considers the relative political merits of potential brides for Verity, listening to the castle’s occupants discuss such matters and feeling shame at having, with Galen, dismissed them as ignorant fools of little account.

Fitz continues in his lessons, finding his abilities in the Skill erratic and frustrating, though present. He also continues with Molly, doing just as well with her. And the Forgings of the Six Duchies’ population continue, too, keeping people afraid and less than in awe of their rulers.

At length, Galen announces a final test for his students. They will be taken out into the Duchies and left to await a summons through the Skill. Those who answer appropriately will become a new coterie; those who do not, will not. Fitz knows he will not be, and Galen attempts once again to compel him to suicide. Smithy saves him from it.

Being as I am, I find a comment on academe in the passage wherein Fitz ruminates on Galen’s disdain for working folk. Many of the prevailing impressions of academia are…less than pleasant. (Some comments I’ve made elsewhere come to mind, as do some others I’ve made here, as well as Timothy Carens’s “Serpents in the Garden,” from an issue of College English.) There are many who view those who choose to stand at the front of the classroom in higher grades and in higher education as joyless, sadistic, hateful people who disdain all that is not their own field of study. There are many who so stand who are so, of course; it is not for nothing that the tension between town and gown is traditional. I’ve been guilty of it myself; there’ve been places I’ve been where I was far from the friendliest person, if it can be believed.

I cannot help but read in Fitz’s post-fight interactions with Galen an echo of a teacher with no love for a particular student, one who happened to be gifted and with covert prestige but not the political connections often prized, one who ran afoul of a particular parent and who continued to take petty revenge against the student. And I feel like I’ve been the teacher and the student in the situation; I wonder how long it will be before I am the parent, as well…

Can you kick in? Will you?

A Robin Hobb Rereading Series–Entry 6: Assassin’s Apprentice, Chapter 6

Read the previous entry in the series here.
Read the next entry in the series here.


Chapter 6, “Chivalry’s Shadow,” opens with a rumination on royal naming traditions in the Six Duchies. It moves thence to a lesson Fitz has with Fedwren, the scribe who serves Buckkeep and after whom the Fedwren Project is named, who then asks the boy about the possibility of apprenticing with him. Fitz later discusses the issue with Chade, who explains why it would be a bad one to pursue. (The short answer is politics. A longer answer is that political concerns would almost certainly provoke one faction or another within the Six Duchies to kill Fitz.)

Environment - Buck Town by undercoreart
Buck Town by undercoreart on Deviantart.com, used for commentary.

During the discussion, Fitz’s frustration with being largely confined to Buckkeep emerges. He is soon tasked with a shopping trip to Buckkeep Town, during which he reacquaints himself with Molly. They reconnect relatively easily, and Fitz reads a bit of writing that Molly’s deceased mother left behind. She is grateful to him for the work, and some foreshadowing of romance to come emerges in their interactions.

As Fitz returns to Buckkeep, Verity and Regal overtake him. They bear the news that Chivalry, their elder brother and Fitz’s father, is dead.

Some points of interest emerge in the chapter. For one, a vendor in Buckkeep Town appears to recognize Fitz and to address him by the name of Keppet. The clear implication is that the vendor is Fitz’s mother, and Keppet is therefore the name he was given and should bear instead of FitzChivalry Farseer. Other bits and pieces that emerge in the series suggest that more is known of Fitz’s origins than he himself is given to understand, though it is never made clear by whom such things are known. Such things tend towards the Tolkienian bones from which the soup of story is made, though, or the unexplored vistas Tolkien mentions in his commentaries; they serve to suggest that the world of the Six Duchies has an independent life that exceeds perhaps even the authorial vision (though that is an overly sentimental and romantic reading, but I do not have to read as a detached academic unless I want to do so, being largely out of academe).

Further, while the return of a rightful and consummately skilled king to the throne is an integral part of the Tolkienian fantasy tradition, and most descriptions of Chivalry Farseer depict him as being such a consummately skilled man, the present chapter dispels any such notion. Chivalry is dead, and its honest and pompous brothers, and its bastard son, are what remain. If the series needed any more indication that it would not follow the Tolkienian narrative pattern prior to the chapter, it certainly does not with the present chapter taking place. And it serves as notice to the readers, if not necessarily to Fitz himself, that no characters in the works are safe (prefiguring the oft-lauded “realism” of George R.R. Martin’s works in publication, since Hobb’s novel was published more than a year before Martin’s–and I have Thoughts about the relationship between those novelists’ works).

While it may seem reasonably familiar ground to tread now, to the teenager steeped in Tolkienian fantasy I was then, the unsettling of such narrative tropes was almost disconcerting. I had read a lot even then, if not necessarily of the best quality, and I found myself on unfamiliar ground. It was not unwelcome that I did not know how things would go.

I do now, of course, but only after more than twenty years of reading and re-reading. It does not make revisiting the text unenjoyable.

Help me keep doing this!

A Note on an Upcoming Project

At this point, I am back from my conference trip (about which I’ve remarked), and things are slowing down a bit for me. They are not slowed as much as would let me get started on what I want to do (I’ve got two gigs coming up, and my daughter is performing this weekend; such things need preparation.) Thus, as before, I’ll have to ask for a bit of forbearance as I get going again.

Image result for harried man public domain
It sometimes feels like this.
Image from PublicDomainVectors.org.

I am going to get going, though, and soon. And I know what I am going to be doing for a fair bit of it. Making reports on a class that meets online, and I am teaching one, seems a bit odd to me at this point; I think I’ll be on-site again soon enough, and I’ll make the usual reports at that point, but until then, no. Too, I may still do some of the In Response to posts that pervade this webspace; I run into things as I look at the world that seem to call for attention, and it does not hurt me to give it them. Neither, though, will be my focus moving forward for a while.

No, what I’ll be working on most will be something like my colleague Luke Shelton has had going on his website. (Check it out; it’s good stuff.) I’ll not be working on Tolkien, though; he’s already amply covered, and, after my recent conference trip, I feel so far behind in that research that I’ll not be able to catch up. Instead, I’ll build on the work I’ve been doing (less diligently than I ought to be) in the Fedwren Project and do an annotated re-reading of Robin Hobb’s novels. I had occasion to do some re-reading as I wrote the paper for the recent conference, and I was reminded in doing so of the love for the material I’ve felt for quite a while now. It sustained me through writing my MA thesis, and I realize I really ought to have pursued it more diligently in my research through the rest of my career in academe. (I might still have such a career had I done so, in fact, but that’s a different matter altogether.)

So, in the coming months, I’ll be working on that kind of thing in this webspace. I don’t know how long it’ll take me to do it, but I think it’ll be rewarding. I can hope I’ll not be the only one to see or feel the reward; I know what I’ve done on the topic has already helped at least one other person, and I wouldn’t mind adding to that, whether in the project itself or in others that I can hope might grow from it.

I can do more with your support!