If you can't be famous, be notorious
October 17, 2008
Okay, this is getting very weird. There I am lecturing away in class about Realism, Naturalism, Romanticism, Transcendentalism, Experimental fiction, New Journalism and all those other isms when another faculty member knocks on my door and asks if she can come in for a second and advertise some new classes being offered. No problem. She introduces herself, I introduce myself. I barely get the first syllable of my last name out when she says, "Oh, Professor Kottner! I've heard about you!" and obviously in a good way, not that, "I've heard about you, missy! And you're in deep shit!" way.
Can I just say how utterly bewildered I am by this? I mean besides being called "Professor Kottner"? (At least it's not Fraulein Doktor Professor Kottner.) It's starting to freak me out, because every time I speak to one of the regular faculty I get the same response: "Oh, I've heard about you," or "I've heard good things about you." Not that I'm complaining. It's infinitely better than having the more or less complete strangers who are my colleagues come up to me in the hall and go, "I've heard you suck!" But still, it's a little weird that everyone I meet at school, including the students, says the same thing.
It's not that I don't think I'm competent; I do, although sometimes, like tonight, I find myself a little amazed that I can lecture extemporaneously on Literary Movements for two and a half hours. I keep flashing back to my first uncertain days in the classroom at MSU when it was a struggle to fill 50 minutes. Obviously, I've learned a few things since then, most of them from being a writer myself and reading extensively, and talking to other smart people about books. But it's been a good ten years since I was in a classroom. Even so, I feel more in control of one than I ever have before, and I think that's because of fundamental changes in me as a person. But this semester, I also have that feeling of barreling down the road just barely in control with two labs and two classes. I don't think I've ever had that kind of teaching load before. (And now all my academic friends are going to make fun of me, because they've all been teaching 5-5 for years.) And juggling editing jobs, too, which are becoming more numerous now too.
(One side note: It became shockingly clear to me tonight that I went to the Dead White Men School of Literary Studies, and my students did not. I had a hell of a time finding some common examples of anybody they'd read to illustrate my lecture. We ended up with TV programs and movies. Note to self: get with the program and start reading more contemporary lit by writers of color.)
But I find myself wondering if all this "hearing" about me actually means anything—besides the fact that I have a faculty meeting at 9 AM this Saturday. Blech.
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