What Do Professors Do All Summer? Tuesday

It’s hard to imagine that this is even slightly interesting to read, but it does (at least) make visible the work that academics do in the summer.  Or this academic, at least.  If you’re just tuning in today, I should say that this week — and this week only — I’m keeping track of what I do during the summer.  And, if I may be frank (instead of Phil?), I’m glad it’s only for a week.  Although I think it a useful experiment to undertake, I dislike living in the panopticon.  I will not be doing this again.  Anyway.  Here’s what I did today.

12:00 – 12:30 am.  Posted yesterday’s chronicle of mundanity, responded to a few comments on Sunday’s post, wrote the above and began constructing this post.

12:30 – 1:30 am.  Did dishes, prepared for bed, read another chapter of Bechdel’s Are You My Mother?

7:45 – 8:05 am.  Breakfast.  Read email, checked into Facebook.

Anita Silvey's Children's Book-a-Day Almanac: blog logo8:05 – 8:15 am.  Checked Twitter.  Read this and this.  Regarding the latter: Anita Silvey’s Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac does a great public service, educating readers about children’s literature.  Regarding the former: efforts to censor & ban literature for children interests me.  In the case of Tintin in the Congo (the earlier link), the movement to censure derives from (what I read as) a progressive impulse.   The book does traffic in racial stereotypes.  It’s not a book I would give to a child.  Yet, nor would I be willing to ban it.  (I wrote a blog post on this subject a couple of years ago.)

8:15 – 9:20 am.  Finished a Routledge report that I started last night, and sent it in to Routledge.  And started on another Routledge report.

9:20 – 9:50 am.  Hat tip to Lori Sabian (via Facebook), which led me to this orchestra flash mob, playing Peer Gynt on the Copenhagen metro.

Things like this make me glad to be alive, glad that there are such people in the world.

In addition to checking into Facebook, also wrote one professional email, and listened to a very long automated speech to try to fix my Working Assets credit card: the new card’s three-digit security code doesn’t work on the USPS website, and so I’ve been unable to use the card.  (I haven’t tried it on other sites.)  Also burned a few CD mixes for friends.

9:50 – 10:00 am.  Prepared for a jog out to the car.  (It’s on campus, and Karin and I share a car.  Ordinarily, I would bike to the gym, but left hand still a bit wonky.  Bleah.)

10:00 – 11:10 am. Jogged to car, drove to gym, worked out at gym, drove back.  Really prefer cycling to gym.  It seems silly to drive somewhere for exercise.  Makes much more sense to bicycle there for exercise.

11:15 – 11:30 am.  Drank water.  Read some email.  Professional correspondence re: Oslo conference.  Nothing yet from Eric re: Barnaby.  Expecting a list of still-missing strips today.

11:30 am – 12:00 pm.  Shower, shave, dress.  Burned more mixes.

12:00 – 12:10 pm.  Read piece on Sendak from New York Magazine.  George (agent) sent it to me.  Wrote back to him.

12:10 – 12:30 pm.  Walked down to the Credit Union (money), and then on to Bluestem to meet friend & colleague Dan Hoyt for lunch.

Bluestem Bistro12:30 – 2:10 pm.  Lunch with Dan Hoyt.  Now, this is something that never (or almost never) happens during the school year.  Lunch out with a friend!  Highly unusual.  I work with a lot of great people, but we’re all usually too busy to spend much time with each other.  So, to all who wish to criticize academics for “goofing off” during the summer, feel free to use this long lunch as evidence.

2:10 – 2:30 pm.  Walked back home, read a few emails en route, and then wrote the preceding.

2:30 – 3:45 pm.  Reviewing for Routledge.  Also answered professional emails, including one re: recent scholarship on children’s lit and politics.

3:45 – 4:00 pm.  Guitar break.  Still have difficulty with E-string major barre chords, but left hand is recovering.  Played “Pretty in Pink,” “Chelsea Hotel No. 2,” “You Meet the Nicest People in Your Dreams.”  In case you don’t know that last one, here is Fats Waller’s rendition: You Meet the Nicest People in Your Dreams.  It’s one of my favorite songs, hence its inclusion on this jaunty mix from a month or so back.

4:00 – 5:35 pm.  Routledge, continued. Finished review of prospectus & chapters.  Also sent email to Eric re: Barnaby, and received reply with promise of that required info. would be forthcoming.

5:35 – 6:55 pm.  To Claflin Books to pick up some books I’d ordered.  (Whenever possible, I’m trying to buy from local bookshops, rather than Amazon.)  Other errands.  Also picked up Karin from campus.

6:55 – 7:05 pm.  Facebook.

7:05 – 8:20 pm.  During dinner prep, read more of Going Bovine to Karin.  Then, dinner with a Daily Show (from last week, & one that we hadn’t seen).  Washed dishes.

8:20 – 8:30 pm. Read email, wrote one (professional), and added New York Magazine piece on Sendak to links (at bottom of my tribute page).

8:30 – 8:50 pm. Printed some labels for & burned a few mixes. Will send these out tomorrow.

8:50 - 11:20 pm.  There’s more Routledge stuff to do, but I’m turning to something that I really want to complete this week.  Revising, expanding, restructuring an essay that theorizes the difference between comics and picture books.  It’s me at my most formalist, and it’s a question I’m very much invested in.  I’m doing a lot of restructuring, both within paragraphs (the version I gave at MLA had a more deductive structure, and the argument is clearer if I give it an inductive structure) and in the larger body of the piece (changing the order of paragraphs).  I’m also bringing in examples. For the conference-paper version, I simply showed the images up on the screen.  For this printed version, I will not be able to rely upon images. (If I can summon the energy to do so, I may seek rights for a few, but… certainly nowhere near as many as I used in the talk.)

11:20 pm – 12:00 am.  Checked into Facebook, and read Jon Scalzi’s excellent “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is.”  It uses video games as a metaphor to explain privilege, and it does so brilliantly.  Hat tips to Jonathan Beecher Field and Laine Nooney.  At this point, I think we should also add that Paul Karasik’s Master Class in Comics Narrative looks fantastic.  Thanks to Bridgid Shannon, watched this recent piece, in which Maurice Sendak talks about Melville, Blake, comics, “the strangeness of childhood,” and why his favorite books (of his own) are all considered “inappropriate.”

Total work time: 7 hours, 25 minutes.

And… concluding with a song.  Was hoping for the Pogues’ “Tuesday Morning,” but couldn’t find a YouTube video I liked.  So, we’ll go with the classic Dropkick Murphys number, “Workers’ Song.”

If you found a day’s work in (my) academic life to be of little interest, then it’s hard to believe that you’d want to read any of these posts:



  1. Gwen


    Hey, Phil, what if a bunch of us set up a master class in comics narrative reading group from the scholarly perspective? I know that an online discussion of children’s lit has gone on from time to time, and I’m not sure how successfully, but gosh, I’d like to talk comics theory with other people who are as invested in the subject and who would keep up the conversation. Maybe this is something we could take up at ChLA in June. Last year, I ran a comics theory discussion group with my grad students, but I think I would get something different from such a discussion with peers. Let me know what you think. PS: Love this series.

  2. Teya Rosenberg


    Hi Phil,
    I’ve a couple, maybe three, comments:
    1. Lunch with colleague-friend: I did that yesterday too, and I think at least 40% of that lunch and almost any meal I have with colleague-friends counts as professional time. Ranting about things that went wrong in the last semester’s classes, and possible solutions, latest writing project and research finds/woes, and university business in general: inevitably these topics are part of sitting down and having time to talk.
    2. Do let us know where and when the article on comics and picture books will make a public appearance; that topic came up in my grad class this past semester and I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
    3. The blog may seem boring to you, but the mundane quality is exactly what is useful, and to be frank (not Teya?), reassuring. Thanks for the record.

  3. Reply

    Gwen: sounds cool, in theory. In practice, well, how often are we talking about? That is to say: I think I could (and would!) learn a lot from such a conversation. However, I’m also a bit leery of open-ended academic commitments. Do we meet, say, once a term? Set up a forum a conference? I dig it and love the idea, but am kinda swamped, ya know? So, this is not me attempting to evade, but rather seeking clarification prior to committing.

    Teya (or may I call you frank?): Thanks!
    1. You’re right. In fact, in an attempt to be scrupulous, I have in fact been under-reporting the time spent working. Dan and I did talk about academic stuff — the work he’s doing, the work I’m doing, and his offer to connect me with a Wichita bookstore so that I can give a talk there (to promote this fall’s books). And though I could have counted The Avengers film this weekend, I didn’t.
    2. Charles Hatfield is editing a section of The Children’s Literature Association Quarterly (or perhaps a whole issue?) which will feature work from the four of us on the MLA panel “Why Comics Are and Are Not Picture Books” (Seattle, Jan. 2012) and a contribution from Nathalie op de Beeck. My general sense is that the issue may be out later this year.
    3. More mundanity coming your way in about 7 hours (when I post today’s narrative [or non-narrative?] of ordinariness).

  4. Gwen


    Yes, I know – works better in theory than in practice. I wonder if we couldn’t set up a comics sub-group that met at every ChLA for a yearly round-up of comics theory as it relates to our field? That might be both profitable & low-stress in terms of time. Something to think about.

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