October 13, 2010

From Gerald R. Lucas

Professor of . . . ?

Sometime over the last couple of months I made a transition—a subtle shift from one reality into another. On the surface, not much has changed. It’s only when I compare what I’m doing today with what I was doing last year at this time, and I notice that I’m not really an English Professor anymore. By this spring, I will have fully penetrated that thin membrane between my English Professor reality and that of … well, what?

As I said: on the surface, I will always be an English Professor. At least, that’s what the title on my door and and by the dotted line on my contract. I’m tenured as an English Professor, so this designation is never likely to change at Macon State. That’s probably a good thing—even if it’s not accurate.

I think I have been drifting ever closer to the new forking path since graduate school. Again, my Ph.D. is in literature—20th-century British and American Literature, to be exact. I took my comprehensive exams in three areas: the epic genre, British and American Modernism, and 20th-Century Literary Theory. Nevermind that my dissertation already showed signs of my branching interest in technoculture. Most of it is on speculative fiction: Ballard, Dick, Cronenberg, Baudrillard, Haraway, cyborgs, The X-Files, and the Dave Matthews Band. (Yes, the Dave Matthews Band. My first chapter is on Crash – the violent intersection of the desires of the human body and the fetishization of technology.) The final chapter of the dissertation is a how-to manual for setting up a computer classroom. Yes, I made some tenuous connections to the first part of the diss, but it really evinces the first official sign of my professional schizophrenia.

It’s also what got me a job in the first place.

At the time in English Studies, going computer was all the rage. At USF, we even had one computer classroom in English. During my last couple of years there, I was the Coordinator of that room; CPR-202. I pretty much had carte blanche to do what I wanted, as long as the room worked for those professors, TAs, and undergraduates using it. I installed Red Hat Linux on every machine to create the first Linux classroom that I had ever seen—and the last, now that I think about it. It was awesome. And it worked. And it got rid of Windoze. Happy day.

When I first got to Macon State, I continued to teach pretty much what I had been teaching at USF—“service courses”: World Literature 1, first-year composition, and the occasional CIT course, like New Media or Professional Communication. I love to teach World Literature 1—the epic and tragedy are my jams. In fact, now that I sit here writing, I really can’t think of anything I enjoy more than teaching Homer, Sophocles, and Euripides. That’s probably why they started assigning me World Literature 2. It’s not that I don’t love Goethe, Dostoyevsky, and Kafka—they just aren’t what I studied as a graduate student, nor are they what I’m best at teaching.

As time passed, I taught fewer service courses—including first-year comp courses!—and less literature. I began to teach Media Criticism—though I had no official training (or much interest) in it—and other courses having more to do with technology and cultural studies, like Technology and the Creative Artist, Writing for Digital Media, and New Media every year. I like these courses, especially the latter. There’s something akin to my fascination with science fiction, I think. I do even include some futurism in the New Media course.

So, now that the Humanities Department has broken into the English Department and the Department of Media, Culture, and the Arts, I find myself as CIT Coordinator with a spring schedule that doesn’t include one literature class. So, not only am I not teaching English composition anymore, it seems that I’ll no longer be teaching literature.

I’m OK with this, for now. I like the way things are going, for now. This division doesn’t do much for the professional identity that I have been constructing over the past fifteen years, but I’ve never been opposed to mixing it up—of getting a good kick in my complacency.

So, I’m a Professor of English, but not really. I can live with that.

For now.