Today was the last day of my classes at Stony Brook. This means that posting here may be light, or nonexistent, or truly bizarre because I have 90 final papers to grade, and then 90 final grades to calculate.
It was, from my point of view, a dream semester. I got to teach classes I designed myself (the syllabi are here, if you're interested), on material I was really excited about, to students who were smart and enthusiastic. Oh, and the Department fully supported me, both in my academic work on genre literature, and in my creative writing of it.
This was a huge change for me - the school where I earned my PhD had no patience with speculative fiction. I remember being told, by a tenured faculty member, that Shakespeare - who, you may recall, wrote plays full of witches and ghosts and fairies and wizards - did not write fantasy, because he was good. This same person also informed me that Beowulf was not in the tradition of the fantastic, because "medieval people actually believed in those sorts of things. They expected them." "So, what you're saying is William the Conquerer expected Grendel?" "Yes."
(My friend Jen, who is now teaching at Valparaiso University, and is one of the most intelligent scholars I know, actually pulled off writing a dissertation on the fantastic in this atmosphere. I am completely in awe of this.)
So I've taken being at a university that allowed me to teach a course in "The Fantastic as Place" and has requested that I teach it again, that is letting me teach "Medieval Monsters, Magic, and Ghosts" wherein we will discuss how the presence of a dragon in that poem was as exciting in the 10th century as it is in the 21st, as a huge gift.
I also take as a gift that the question most asked at the end of the semester (that was not related to the final papers) was "where can I read more books like these?" That's the sort of thing that makes grading 90 papers bearable.