How to be a good academic

towards a gentle academic:



  1. be up front and honest about the things you do not know
  2. acknowledge the intrinsic value of others’ knowledge bases, even if they do not seem important to you from your institutional context
  3. do not feign mastery where you have none
  4. respect the gaps in others’ knowledge bases
  5. be generous, not only with others
  6. but also with yourself
  7. you overwork yourself at the risk of legitimizing a culture of overwork
  8. privilege voices and perspectives that have historically been left out of the academy
  9. nothing is ever neutral or apolitical
  10. support the progress of other scholars
  11. collaboration over competition

a really helpful thing that a good education-minded friend of mine has had me do lately is to explain things to people outside of my academic microcosm regularly and using terminology that’s accessible. it’s good practice for honing your own understanding and it keeps you from replicating the intentionally inaccessible nature of the academy.

I try doing this whenever I can. I do not believe in the old bias that you cannot explain the core of your thesis/paper/research in everyday language – this is keeping information to yourself and excluding others from sharing their point of view. Apart from this sharing, the biggest bonus is that you get to see your own work from another, less cryptic perspective. I cannot stress enough how valuable such shifts in observing yourself are – getting proven wrong or doing so yourself is not failure, it is part of learning. Thanks for spreading the message!


Still here (and there)

Just a quick sign of life because there is a lot going on at the moment. In no particular order:

– Perhaps the biggest time-consumer right now: Run-throughs of our theatre production of Albert Camus’ State of Siege at the English seminar. Tonight we have the main rehearsal with tech and lights and everything. I’m still trying to get used to eyeliner although applying it is really fun. So is yelling dictatorial announcements from a balcony and feeling threatened by officials. Premiere is this Saturday, so if you remember, keep your fingers crossed at 7pm GMT!

– I am rereading a few of my old seminar papers to check for any parts worthy for publication. Especially my 2008 paper about Frankenstein still seems to be quite sensible…

– The final sessions of my tutorial are coming up and so far, they can be coordinated nicely with the theatre production. We are going to watch Hogfather on 16th December as part of our seminar Christmas Movie Night, and I am somewhat hoping for a very tall and thin Father Christmas speaking in SMALL CAPS to drop by for some punch and cookies.

– And I have nearly finished my paper proposal for the Zurich conference. More on that once I’ve sent it in.

Not to speak of preparations for Christmas and pre-Christmas…

In Ink

It is official: My article “Toying With Fantasy: The Postmodern Playground of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld Novels” will be published in Mythlore Issue 125 Volume 33, Number 1 Fall/Winter 2014.

Order your copy here:

Actually, the new issue of Mythlore journal is being printed right now, so it’s quite exciting to see my academic career work for me for a change…

Hobo Harry

Hello, I’m still alive, currently just busy with keeping 35 students entertained and organising the seminar Halloween party this coming Friday. Which amounts to the same thing basically, only with more people. And music and Hobo Harry, the mouldy life-size puppet that’s been slumbering on the seminar attic for more than a year now. We built him three years ago from old clothes and even older newspapers, so I think we can safely say that he hasn’t aged nicely. Usually we hang Harry from the tree in the seminar courtyard on Halloween but somehow forgot about it last year. If we’re lucky, some bats will have made Harry their home by now – which would add a nice touch to the party.

I can’t promise pictures but will try my best…


Oh dear oh dear… there is a call for papers on visuality and intermediacy in literature at Zurich University… deadline is 28th November, and I’m thinking about submitting something in the direction of the paper I am planning.

That would mean there are 38 days left to send in a decent draft. The conference is on January 30th/31st, so that would technically leave me time enough to actually write the paper. Sounds doable.

Hmmm. I’m not sure whether I should use my plans for an essay on fantastic architecture for that. I’ve been carrying around the thought for quite some time now, but I feel like it’s meant for something else.

Maybe I’ll try to come up with something about intermediacy in the Discworld franchise.

Or I could be really sneaky and recycle parts of my MA thesis about Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books.

Again, I’ll keep you (and myself) updated about this adventure…

via Tumblr

A rainbow of possibilities

Postmodernism. The elusive unicorn of our not-so-magic woods.

Why can’t it be explained with one nice theory, preferably one that is actually readable? Why are there so many conflicting ideas on what counts as postmodern and what doesn’t, which movements are already post-postmodern or part of the New Weird?

Then again, I shouldn’t complain. Fantasy is equally hard to grasp and define. We are going to discuss Brian Attebery’s “fuzzy set” theory in tomorrow’s tutorial, and according to students’ comments, the debates could become very lively. But if a robin and a penguin both count as birds, why can’t Finnegan’s Wake be fantasy as well?

And I am still experimenting with combining postmodernism and fantasy into one coherent argument of my own…

Edits and piglets

Editing, editing, editing. Editing my hopefully-to-be-published paper, editing the first two chapters of my thesis, editing my personal writing with a beer to stop bothering and start doing things (yes, I usually only drink when things become personal). I think I’m getting somewhere, but as always, I could get there faster and with less effort if only I put more of it into actual work. But it’s a promising semester and last quart of the year, and I am looking forward to it all.

Oh, and I’m going to an urban-agricultural expo in Lausanne tomorrow. I sincerely hope that there will be piglets and sheep to pet.