Looking at the Fairness of Advanced Placement Exams

Abrams, Annie. Shortchanged : How Advanced Placement Cheats Students . Johns Hopkins UP, 2023. Over the summer, I did "assessment" for the AP language & literature test. They had originally contacted me because I'm a Director of Undergraduate Studies for a university English department, and they paid $500 for the labor. Now, granted, this payment is partly for self-advertising purposes; now they can put a "UArizona" faculty member as an assessor on promotional materials. But they did solicit feedback on the quality and fairness of the questions, and overall I didn't think it was a bad exam. These AP tests  are important, too. At the U of A, for example, a score of "4" or "5" allows an incoming freshmen to place out of English 101, so that's a significant savings in terms of tuition. It also improves retention and times to graduation. But I know Advanced Placement also faces a lot of criticism, which is why I just read Annie Abra

New Tolkien Publication in NOTES & QUERIES

Well, that  was lightning fast. Just ten days ago I achieved an unofficial academic rite of passage by getting accepted into Notes & Queries .... and now the article has been published online. N&Q is one of those quintessentially English-y things: short, fact based articles on random questions in literary and textual history. Not a big publication, but a classic one -- the journal's been around for 120+ years, and it was hilariously parodied in Frederick Crews's The Pooh Perplex . Anyway, my article (only 1700 words long) is called "A Tale of Two Essays: The Inklings on the Alliterative Meter." It's long been known that Tolkien wrote an essay on Old English meter called "On Translating Beowulf " in The Monsters and the Critics , and that this essay originated as a preface for a student edition prose translation of Beowulf in the 1940s. Well, Tolkien promised his publisher a "few words" only to end up submitting a 36-page document instea

One way or another, they get you

The immediate glow of that Mary Kay Bray award from SFRA is wearing off, and that's when they get you. Gerry Canavan from the SFRA just asked me to serve on their awards committee for the next three years (and chairing the third year). I should have expected that, of course, but characteristically wasn't. Anyway, I said yes. Even though I'm not quite sure how I'll fit it into an already packed schedule, service to the field is important, and it's the least I can do. At least the reading for this award won't overlap with my reading for the Mythopoeic Society Awards. The MKB stuff occurs in mid-winter, whereas my MythSoc stuff won't normally start until the spring.

Mary Kay Bray Award (Review on HIDDEN WYNDHAM)

Ah .... so, a nice moment just now. At the awards banquet in Dresden, the Science Fiction Research Association  has just granted me their May Kay Bray award for best review published in 2022 by the SFRA Review . The review itself is on a biography of the SF writer John Wyndham, the guy who did The Day of the Triffids . I'll post my acceptance remarks below -- they'll also be published in the SFRA Review soon -- but if anyone would like to read the review (it's short! ), it's online and open-access. ACCEPTANCE REMARKS Receiving the Mary Kay Bray Award comes as a huge surprise to me, not to mention a great honor. Normally when one writes a review, you do it as service to the field. They’re a nice break from teaching and heavier types of academic writing, and for myself, at least, I often pick subjects on which I have only passing familiarity. Reviews are therefore good excuses for me to dive into little research tangents, and that’s exactly what happened with Amy Binns’s

Impersonal Peer Reviewing -- Ugh

I'm not saying this is the reason academic journals are having a tough time finding qualified peer reviewers for their articles, but it certainly doesn't help: the sheer impersonality of things. Recently, one journal sent me a request (a form letter) through their automated system. I did the review in a few days, which is lightning fast in academia .... and all I got was a form letter "thank you" in response. No human interaction  at all, and considering that I gave free but high quality labor, the experience was highly alienating. Another journal,  Gothic Studies , does a similar thing: it simply sends out a list of 10 or 15 articles that need reviewing to everyone whom the journal has previously published. Nothing personalized. Basically just this: "Dear Mr. X, please do free labor for us. Thank you." Then, when I did once review for this journal, it took them two weeks to even acknowledge receipt of my review. That irritated the hell out of me, and I have

Any edition of PARADISE LOST is fine, right?

After discussing with the UA Library about e-version option for Paradise Lost , I noticed that their version of Milton's poem from Floating Press begins with the following "disclaimer": While every effort has been used to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information contained in The Floating Press edition of this book, The Floating Press does not assume liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in this book. The Floating Press does not accept responsibility for loss suffered as a result of reliance upon the accuracy or currency of information contained in this book. Do not use while operating a motor vehicle or heavy equipment. Many suitcases look alike. Needless to say, this is maybe NOT the edition I'm going to choose for my students!

The Anthology is Going into Production

The process has been a hard one, and a long one too, but  Speculative Poetry and the Modern Alliterative Revival (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press) is finally,  finally going into production.  As you might imagine, this leaves me quite excited. Even surprisingly excited .... because, honestly, this whole process has been a nightmare. Please don't mistake me: I'm not the kind of academic who sees publishers as the enemy. Many honest, diligent people work in academic publishing; many are excited about their roles in providing the public with ground-breaking research. Nevertheless, I now understand all too readily the frustrations and rage that can lead academic authors into seeing publishers in adversarial terms, so, just to put my own feelings to rest, I'll write out my experiences with FDUP/R&L. Hopefully, this exercise will be cathartic so I can enjoy the months that remain before the book's launch date. As some background, I initially contacted FDUP in Februa