the Mammal Chronicles: March 2007

when it comes right down to it, ya lactate or ya don't.

Friday, March 16, 2007

More course woes...

It seems it wasn't enough that the anthropologists were against me, now the art historians have something to say:

Here are the comments about your proposed "Folklore, Folklife and Folk Art" course that I promised you I would forward. While they come from the Art Department, other College Curriculum Committee members agreed with and supported the Department's concern.

Consultation Comments :
We are asking that the course please not claim (especially in the title, course description, or syllabus) to cover a specifically visual-art domain in the course, since art history covers this area already, and the analysis and interpretation of visual art legitimately falls under the expertise of the art historians on campus. Of course, we might expect that she use visual-art or artifactual examples in the organic course of intellectual inquiry. Naturally, all of us think beyond our fields as narrowly defined, and all of us reach to a variety of examples in the process of thinking and teaching. We would never want to restrict another instructor's right to point to all kinds of material, nor would we want our intellectual inquiry to be suppressed in turn. Our recommendation is really just this: we would like to see the course not CLAIM, in title, course description, and syllabus,that it covers "art" as a subject domain. There are a variety of reasons for this, including that doing so has future implications for our own course proposals. Instead, we suggested the use of the term 'Folk Culture' -- a broader term that would not specify "Art."

So it seems that even though my specific area of specialization is folk art, I don't have any right to teach it. My husband thinks I'm silly to say this, but more than wanting the class approved I want people's respect. He says that's less likely than getting the course approved. Sigh. So here was my response, which I hope was respectful enough while still getting across my point:

Thanks for forwarding this. I think I can respond to the concerns of the committee:

- The comments below state that "visual art legitimately falls under the expertise of art historians," and while I certainly understand this assertion, I think that as a folklorist who specialized specifically in folk art and aesthetics, I have a legitimate claim to expertise in this area (I'm including a list of relevant publications below and am happy to provide copies for review) so while the course is a synthesis course and thus necessarily synthesizes material from multiple areas, folk art is actually my area of expertise more than any other area in the ECO
- I am certainly open to the idea that the course could be cross-listed with ENV if there are other people with expertise in this area who would like to teach it.
- I am also happy to meet with anyone who would like to discuss this further.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

art and lists

It's been a while, hasn't it? My life is dominated by minutiae: lists of things to do that never get done. I don't spend time with friends often -- on weekends I either work through it or quiet my mind with sci fi on the couch (quieting the mind is important: I lay awake on work nights thinking about those lists). Still, it's not so bad: I feel like I am finally getting a bit of a handle on this job, and I love teaching only one class. I did a cool project with a local arts community center this quarter that I will replicate with a bigger class next quarter. I also bought some art:

It's only a screenprint -- I can't afford actual paintings -- and it will probably cost me more to frame than the print itself but I like it.

Next year I'll get to teach not only this class but another class about art as well, and that's a lot closer to my specialty than the courses I normally teach. I'm also in preliminary talks with another local gallery to do a project with both classes: the first class will mentor high school students collecting oral histories of local artists and the second class will create lesson plans based on them. It's all so exciting it makes me less depressed about that other class that I'm still battling to get approved.

My friend Sporks also clued me in to a potential job at her institution that is actually in my area of specialization (sort of). There are a lot of ifs, ands, and buts to that opportunity (would I beat out the million other people that would apply for it -- many of whom I went to school with, and if I did would they hire me at tenure, or at salary that would make it make sense to move to what is a more expensive area, and on and on...) but it is intriguing: graduate students, colleagues in my discipline, a campus that doesn't consider my discipline a "flawed, thinly camouflaged, truncated" version of another discipline, and well, Sporks!

But even applying for that is a long way off. In the meantime, I need to tackle those lists...