Wednesday, October 31, 2012

5 Questions Series - Belinda Walzer

1. How did you arrive at your dissertation topic or most recent project of considerable scope? 

This is is a uniquely difficult question for me because there are several different answers: 
a) My topic arose out of many smaller moments, experiences and realizations throughout my graduate career. I came to realize as I was trying to complete course work in two years to get to exams by the beginning of my third that I can't rush my intellectual growth process (and I don't always have control over it or know what that process has to look like). It took me 6 months or more to come up with exam lists and almost a year to draft a prospective for my dissertation. Partly because I'm a procrastinator and very deadline driven, but partly because it took that long for gut feelings to coalesce with research into something arguable and interesting. 
b)  If I was to choose one of those smaller moments, it was a very personal connection with a piece of literary work that I was personally invested in to an academic context. 
c) If I am also going to be completely honest, it also arose out of a desire to use work I had already done from course work and conferences, partly because I felt it was not finished and partly because I can't stand an empty page and copying and pasting is the best way to remedy that.

2. If you could go back and teach your grad school self one important thing about reading/writing/teaching/etc. that you learned after grad school, what would it be?

See question 1, part 1. Slow down. Take fewer classes at a time. Pay more attention in them. Realize it is a process and take LOTS of notes. Also, start building professional contacts early outside of your grad school. They will make you feel better about your work as an academic as you begin to professionalize from graduate student to scholar (no one makes you feel more stupid without meaning to do so than your own advisers!) Also, you must be your own advocate. All those nasty things you hear about the job market can be true so, without being jaded, be sure you are not naive. 

3. What aspect of being a professional scholar and teacher do you find most difficult?
At the moment, prioritizing my teaching above other commitments and deadlines. This was no different in grad school, but the stakes are higher in a job. 

4. What do you like most about being a professional scholar and teacher?

I like the ability to go to coffee shops most days of the week and I love being able to teach and read material that I am passionate about. 
5. What kinds of things do you do to maintain your intellectual curiosity?

I think this has already been said, but definitely read. Also try to participate in the intellectual life of your campus, some have very vibrant intellectual communities and that energy can be contagious. Another good thing is to try to maintain connection with your grad school cohort for low-stakes but productive intellectual conversations and things like writing groups.
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Belinda Walzer is a Visiting Assistant Professor in the English Department's writing program at Wake Forest University. Her work focuses on the intersections between rhetoric, human rights in/and literature, and gender studies. She completed her PhD from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro in August 2012 with a dissertation titled Rhetorical Approaches to Gender and Human Rights in Transnational Literature and Cultural Studies that analyzes the pedagogical and performative imperative that underwrites the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent instruments, the normative culture to which this pedagogy gives rise, and the ways human rights literature participates in and speaks back to that normativity. Before coming to Wake Forest, Belinda was a research associate at the American University of Beirut in Lebanon while she completed her dissertation.

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