From the category archives:

Writing in the Disciplines

CFP: Rhetoric in Victorian Sciences

by Dr Davis on June 5, 2014

The journal Critical Survey seeks submissions of completed 4000-5000 word articles exploring literary engagements with Victorian sciences. From Darwin, to physiology, to pre-Freudian psychology, to engineering and technology, and beyond, Victorian Britain experienced rapid change – but often seemed ambivalent about whether, as Robert Browning’s Andrea del Sarto puts it, “man’s reach should exceed his grasp.” This peer-reviewed, special issue of Critical Survey will explore the relationship between literature (all genres and forms acceptable) and science in Victorian Britain through:

rhetorical analysis of Victorian scientific texts (i.e. Darwin’s Plots)
examinations of science in Victorian critical discourses about literature (i.e. The Physiology of the Novel)
Victorian literary representations of science
historically invested deployments of more recent, scientifically-minded critical trends (i.e. affect theories, cognitive theories, etc.)
other interactions between science and literature relevant to Victorian studies

Scientific topics may include, but are not limited to: biology, physiology, anatomy, chemistry, physics, psychology, sociology, techniques of classification, technological developments.

Please send inquiries and completed 4000-5000 word essays to Peter Katz at pjkatz@syr.edu. Articles are due by 1 October 2014, with the intent to publish in the first half of 2015.

From H-Net

This looks like it might be fun AND relevant to at least two of my myriad of interests.

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Abstracts and Titles

by Dr Davis on May 24, 2014

Sage Connection has an article on writing good abstracts.

What rarely gets covered in all this are the actual key findings of the article. Readers are normally left to guess what the researcher’s ‘bottom line’ conclusion or academic ‘value-added’ is, still less what key ‘take-away points’ the author would ideally want readers to remember.

The article has 10 specific suggestions, with particular questions to help you figure out what you should be doing and how to do it.

Choosing Titles for Academic Papers also looks interesting.

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SwTxPCA: Science Fiction to Teach Science Fact

by Dr Davis on February 25, 2014

Karen Wendling, professor of chemistry
Chestnut Hill College

“Using Science Fiction to Teach Science Fact: Pop Culture as a Gateway to Enhanced Student Learning”

His Dark Materials Pullman
Fringe

quantum physics
average reader/viewer may miss references to quantum ideas
focuses on key aspects of quantum physics and quantum interpretations
then pedagogical applications

physics and mathematics of quantum physics = quantum theory
theory = testable system of ideas, must ALWAYS make correct predictions
as far as all tests show, quantum theory works

Many Worlds theory (Hugh Everett III, 1957)
2 possible realities, one is reserved,
what we don’t see in our world is actually happening in a different world
separate world is created so that we only see one

His Dark Materials
The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, The Amber Spyglass
every human paired with a demon, takes an animal form
style of dress is similar to Victorian
Magistarium – RCC
witnesses a photogram of the northern lights
there in the sky was the unmistakable outline of a city
at the end of GC, parallel world, one of many
visible through rift other,

father’s explanation is same as many scientists use:
“Now that world and every universe came about as a result of possibility…. possibility has collapsed… when that happens, the two worlds split apart…” GC

SC: knife can cut doors through parallels
Pullman shows quantum physics and human consciousness
“manipulation of consciousness… Many Worlds… further… defense funding” SC
Pullman draws on additional cutting-edge physics… dust in SC world

Fringe:
3 protagonists
scientist (Walter), son (Peter), FBI (Olivia)
not real science, but fictionalized science
however, utilizes stranger aspects of
Walter worked with Bell
“There is More than One of Everything”
conversation about parallel world
Bell thought people could travel from here to there.
“Something was lost to me. If only I could cross over, I could take from there what I had lost here.”
Olivia is standing in parallel world that did not experience 9/11.

uses Many Worlds as major structure of the story
careful scientific research done, to understand and then extend
characters inhabit parallel universes “everybody was sort of aware of the idea of parallel universes”
“different choices lead to different consequences”
“get to see an alternate”

movies w quantum physics:
Sliding Doors
Another Earth
Run Lola Run

importance of quantum theory should not be limited as a spice to a classroom
interdisciplinary nature of quantum theory
implications cross numerous disciplines
part of an interconnected universe and our actions have consequences
our choice of experiment or choosing option creates reality

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The Bechdel Test

by Dr Davis on January 25, 2014

The Bechdel Test is the result of a desire for women characters who talk to each other and don’t just talk about men.

Brandon Sanders, Hugo Award Winning novelist, recommends to new writers in his classes at BYU that they use the Bechdel Test on their own writing.

Heather Froehlich used it to examine Shakespeare’s plays.

There’s an entire website that looks at modern movies based on the Bechdel Test.

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What Does the Editor Say?

by Dr Davis on January 24, 2014

Formerly an advertising copy writer, a newspaper journalist, and a PR person, Jesse Mullins, editor of Permian Basin Oil and Gas for the last two years and previously founding editor of American Cowboy, gave his own tips and pointers for writers wanting to have an editor hire them to write for magazines.

General thoughts:
If you want to break in, be a little sacrificial on the front end. To make money in this business, you have to build relationships with editors. If you can do something to get in with the editor, then do it. Sometimes it takes doing a lot at the front end.

If they offer you something quick, then get it done and then you’ll be in their list for hiring when they need something written–whether they need it on a short deadline or not.

Be familiar with the content of the magazine and the name of the editor. He said he found that “Dear Editor” queries are often the equivalent of spam. He specifically mentioned calling folks who had sent a query he was interested in and they didn’t even know what the magazine did when he called them, told them his name, and mentioned which magazine he edited.

More specific to early (and later) pitches:
Pitch the small stuff first. He said he will take a chance with the small stuff. Editors are working against a deadline and they do all the little bitty stuff, because that stuff is hard to assign… At the end, the editor wishes someone would write the little stuff. Most magazines don’t advertise that they will buy the little stuff. Try pitching and writing that. (Remember that a step in the door is the most important thing. This may be small, with low pay, but it will get you on the editor’s radar.)

Find the superlative and sell it. If you have an idea, and marry it to an extreme, it’s got a news value. People like to know the extremes of life. If you are ready to go tackle something ambitious, that they aren’t hearing from others, you are likely to be able to sell it.

The editors are trying to get the story that the PR departments are not giving them for free. They want the more “Everyman” story. Hollywood and Nashville send them all the PR stuff they wanted (and more) on the big names.

Specific things that might get your article published:
If you can figure out where the article is going to run in the magazine (based on content and style) and you choose a headline that will fit (in the size and the font), an editor is more likely to accept and run your article. You have given the editor one less thing to do.

A good cover line could put you at the front of the line. If you either pitch your story or send a speculative article with a good cover line for the front of the magazine, the editor is more likely to accept or purchase your article.

Advice for the working writer:
Don’t be preoccupied with price. I’ll offer you some price, probably not a high one at the beginning. Once you’ve done one article I can use, then I’ll just move you up in the pay scale, after you’ve built the trust.

Don’t worry about documenting past experience when you pitch. If you pitch something I am interested in, I don’t care if you have great credentials–or at least it is not a deal killer.

Some editors don’t like simultaneous submissions, but if you shop a story you’ve already written around one place at a time, the story will erode (because it is timely, right?). So shop it around. Editors will check with you before they publish it.

You don’t have to pitch the merits of the piece. If it has merit, I will see it.

He had a lot of other good things to say.

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Words of Wisdom

by Dr Davis on November 20, 2012

Andrea Lunsford says:

[T]he more writing, the more—and better—learning. In addition, research strongly suggests that a number of short writing assignments—with clear response from peers and instructors—are more beneficial than the one-shot, end-of-term assignment that is still ubiquitous at the college level.

I hated those one-shot writing/testing assignments.

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What Can You Do with a Graduate Degree?

by Dr Davis on November 13, 2012

Let’s take Klondike’s “Five Second Challenge to Glory.” Do something hard for five seconds. Brainstorm (that’s something we do well, right?) answers to the question: What can you do with a graduate degree in English? Go!

research– anything that needs it, even be a dramaturgue
write– analyze, evaluate, discuss: anything that needs to be long and involved, but could write shorter on demand
edit– excellent at finding the organizational or grammatical flaws in work already written
think– but not outside the box, perhaps at the edges of the box: a good thinker in an area where most of the work has been done and people are trying to finish it up
— also can come up with new reasons (interpretations) for things: This is someone who will not let the first word be the last. This can be useful to help others get out of their boxes.

I came to this challenge from a post on Why Grad School is a Trap, though it has been relabeled, and the statement that most intrigued me (as someone who escaped the trap and “made good” twice over):

But higher education is too formalized to be called pure learning. It is too geared towards the production of new knowledge, new scholars, new theoretical interventions to be a place where thinkers come to dialogue and to sit and converse in the garden.

Just thinking on the internet.

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Humanities: Romans and Pottery

by Dr Davis on November 8, 2012

How the Romans Made Pottery in Britain

“What we’ve learned from the suite of replication events on campus is that the firing technologies evolved to fit the materials,” Chatfield said.

The effort also helps trace the influence and intermingling of cultures, “such as European and indigenous encounters in Peru or the Romans entering Iron Age Britain,” she said.

While making the kiln was a lot more work and used a lot more fuel (wood, rather than the alpaca dung used in the Incan project), temperatures could be controlled more efficiently because the closed kiln was protected from the wind.

With this type of kiln, craft production could be organized more effectively and could also be supervised by one person – the fire won’t rage out of control, endangering the community, and people don’t have to rush in to revive a flagging fire that jeopardizes an even baking. The Romans were efficient, if not artistic.

If I were still teaching Humanities, I would use this information there. I am thinking of changing my research paper in Brit Lit to cover a topic the students are interested in, but from one of the reading periods we cover. So if someone were a potter, or interested in art in general, this might be the kind of information they would look at.

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Women in Academia

by Dr Davis on October 23, 2012

Just this last year I realized that I chose to become an English professor (which I love) because of a gender bias in the environment in which I was educated. I’m a thinking woman. My grandmother was a victim of gender bias in higher education, so I have almost always been aware of it. But apparently, I did not recognize the gender bias I had imbibed through the educational system.

When I was a sophomore, I was taking classes at a university where–due to the vagaries of the bureaucracy–I was unable to take the classes I had intended to take. So I ended up in several junior and senior level biology classes. They were hard. But I adored them! (One had 70 students in it. Of those 70, 9 passed. I made a C–even though I had never taken a chemistry class in my life and both college biology and chemistry were prerequisites for the course.) I fell in love with biology.

However, I wanted to be a professor. My choices, as I saw them, were to be a biology researcher OR a professor of English. I chose English. I don’t usually regret that choice. It was certainly easier to reenter the field of English than biology would have been. But I do think about how limited I was based on what I saw and understood to be happening around me. I didn’t even realize I should be able to choose to be a biology professor.

Mostly there are women in every field now, even if they aren’t there in equal numbers. But what about what needs to be done to get T&P? I had not thought about that much. (A little, but not a lot.) Then I saw this post in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. It talks about the gender gap with women in publishing in academia. It brought up several points I wanted to discuss.

Scholarly publishing, more than anything else, is the measuring stick of professors’ research productivity. In the humanities, it’s usually the monograph. But in the hard sciences and in many social sciences, it’s journal articles.

Yes, it is true that R1s especially expect a monograph in the humanities. However, SLACs and CCs expect publications these days too. It does not, however, have to be a monograph.

The proliferation of journals, many not available in JSTOR (which the study used), proves that publishing is becoming more of a do and/or die situation.

Also, JSTOR data did not include (among others) English, which is my field. That means the data is not generalizable to the entirety of academia but only to those fields covered by JSTOR. That is an important thing to note because it relates back to biology (as a hard science) and the number of women academics and authors.

The data show that over the entire 345 years, 22 percent of all authors were female. … About 19 percent of first authors in the study were female. Women were more likely to appear as third, fourth, or fifth authors.

Where an author’s name comes is significant in some fields and not in others. Usually, however, if there are more than two authors, the work becomes known by the first author’s name.

I did not know about that in school. I wonder if folks assume we have figured it out now or if they are telling students.


From 1990 to 2010, the percentage of female authors went up to 27 percent. In 2010 alone, the last year for which full figures are available, the proportion had inched up to 30 percent.

So parity is getting closer. But we’re not there yet.

We want to watch this carefully–and not just because of women in academia. The number of women in college is now greater than the number of men. If there are more women in the population, that is great. If there are not, however, we may be inching toward an opposite disparity. Wouldn’t it be good to look out for this and stop it before it becomes as significant as the problem women have faced?

The same year that the share of female authors in the study reached 30 percent, women made up 42 percent of all full-time professors in academe and about 34 percent of all those at the most senior levels of associate and full professor, according to the American Association of University Professors.

What does that mean for women in the field? It means we still don’t have parity in the profession, but I am not too surprised about that. The senior levels often include those (still) who were professors when I went to college. Those are mostly men.

I would be interested in seeing the numbers broken down for how many women are in ft positions at the assistant professor level. Is there equality there? If so, then I think we have to say it is good. We can’t retroactively make women accepted in academia–either as students (like my grandmother) or as professors. What we can do is make sure there is parity going forward.

Now, I don’t think that we should hire an unqualified woman over a qualified male (or vice versa) under any circumstances. I do think, however, that the disparity in authorship indicates that perhaps the potential for equality of outcome is not yet there, even if we now have equality of opportunity.

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Blog Directory for Writing Professors

by Dr Davis on January 20, 2012

It is billed as a directory of blogs and other resources on writing. There are a lot of good sources there.

I’m going to take a look at some of the ones I didn’t recognize to see if there is something else I need to be reading. (Yes, I think there probably is. No, I really don’t have time for that.)

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