Prompted by a faculty discussion over Great Books in the modern era, I drove home last night thinking about these two great novels together. I loved reading them, and so the best answer, at least for me, is, “The Brothers Karamazov and The Magic Mountain.” Still, it was a good exercise comparing them during my drive on the PCH and I-405.
For several reasons, I prefer small academic conferences over large ones. Still, it is good to go to a major annual conference once in a while, which was the case this past weekend at the Association for Core Texts and Courses (ACTC). “Major,” however, may be inaccurate. At about 300 attendants each year, the ACTC pales in comparison to the thousands who trek annually to the MLA (language & literature), AHA (history), AAR (religion), AAA (anthropology), ASA (American studies), AAS (Asian studies), AAAS (Asian American studies), ICMS (Medieval studies), AWP (writers and writing programs), and other alphabet-soup biggies in the humanities and social sciences. The AWP, for instance, typically has 2000 presenters and 12,000 attendees. (It is not a typo: twelve and three zeros.) The ACTC is decidedly small potatoes in number and scale. On the other hand, the relative smallness – let’s call it “medium-sized”- probably contributed nicely to my enjoyment of the event in Atlanta.
By a coincidence, I read Alex-Thai Vo‘s article in the Journal of Vietnamese Studies a couple of days before my Great Books classes met to discuss the first half of The Prince. The article is titled Nguyễn Thị Năm and the Land Reform in North Vietnam, 1953, and I browsed over it when it came out last spring, only to “save” it for later because it is quite long. Funny, but last week I was merely looking at several JVS articles for examples of formatting and mechanics, not anything specifically in the content. But I got hooked quickly and read the article in entirety. It was one of those happy distractions and, possibly, fruitful later too.
I just had a really good semester in the classroom, the best at Pepperdine. In the first two years, I had some good classes and even three or four great ones: “great” means you cannot ask for more. But for each semester there was at least one class out of three or four (depending on the semester) that was average at best or, at least once in my first year, quite sub-par. Well, not this fall. If the third time is the charm in trying most things in life, then the third year might be my charm in full-time teaching.