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Introduction


Introduction: Faculty Fieldwork

An academic diary provides the timeframe of university life: it also gives it a storyline. Early September marks the beginning of another year. Jay Parini writes that academic life is renewed with the fall of autumn leaves, "shredding the previous year's failures and tossing them out of the window like so much confetti". It is a time to plan the year ahead. As Malcolm Bradbury put it in his 1970s campus novel The History Man: "Now it is autumn again; the people are coming back. The recess of summer is over... things seem to be happening; back from Corfu and Sete, Positano and Leningrad, the people are parking their cars and campers in their drives, and opening their diaries". The academic calendar re-starts when, as Bradbury describes, "intelligent people survey the autumn world, and liberal and radical hackles rise, and fresh faces are about... the sun shines fitfully, and the telephone rings." This book takes the annual cycle as a way of structuring the essays contained within it. It is not a diary in the strict sense of the term. Rather, it is a compendium of twenty years of reflection organised within the academic year's generic cycle. Each reflects the seasons of faculty existence located within what Elaine Showalter calls 'academic time'. It is not a specific year but rather the accumulation of many years of reflection on the university and scholarship as both student and teacher. As the promises of September wane and the hopefulness of graduation fades,

 


entries segue into wintery seriousness. To the outsider the cloistered world of the university can seem full of eccentricity and intrigue. For the uninitiated newcomer, campus life appears governed by absurd invisible protocols and mysterious unwritten rules. The book aims to demystify some of these hidden codes. Organised into three main seasons - autumn, spring and summer - each entry addresses a serious issue, ranging from the impact of the 'war on terror' on university life to advice to new students to widening participation initiatives and the professional ethics of anonymous peer-reviewing.

Spring is a time when changes are afoot and when academic plots are hatched. Richard Russo writes: "April is the month of heightened paranoia for academics... Whatever dirt will be done to us is always planned in April." For this reason the entries in this section focus on the intrigues of academic life from issues like intellectual recognition, peer- reviewing, the auditing of academic value. The spring is when the serious work of teaching is done and when students have to complete assessments. It's also a time when students can run into difficulties as the serious business of revision, dissertation completion and the summer exams starts to loom on the horizon. Easter is also 'conference season' when papers are given and it's possible to meet one's intellectual heroes and adversaries. All these issues are treated in entries for this period.

Summer is the denouement of the academic year. This

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