One night stands
Lecture tours in the USA may not be quite like the proverbial Simon and Garfunkel "tour of one-night stands" -- singing with your band out of a suitcase -- but it's not quite as different as you might think. This week, I've been in Texas and California lecturing and seminaring: to be precise, two graduate seminar papers and a public lecture at the University of Texas (at Austin -- rather nice place, even if currently more than 100 degrees fahrenheit), then a public lecture at Stanford, followed this afternoon by responding to a paper at a conference on travel and travel literature.
This is of course what the job's about and it is huge fun. I have met loads of new people, talked to heaps of clever graduate students, reconnected with old mates and picked up all kinds of bibliography and ideas. Last night, for example, I had a really useful 'frank exchange of views' on Roman portraits with Chris Hallett who had come across to my lecture in Stanford from Berkeley with some of his students -- which would never have happened through email.
So it's all very worthwhile -- but also dead knackering.
I can't help thinking that Simon and Garfunkel didn't do their tour of one night stands in the week just before their term started, so they weren't living the kind of electronic double life that I am. That is to say, taking advantage of the jet lag and getting up at a spritely 5.00 am, I spend the first five hours of the day doing 'student admin' etc, electronically. This morning I wrote three references for applications for research fellowships, checked out the supervision arrangements for one of the courses my Newnham students will be taking this term, got in touch with some of the graduates who will be coming to my MPhil seminar, caught up with a PhD student and arranged to see her next week, fixed up some textual criticism teaching for my third year girl who is taking that option (and I need it fixed by Monday), read through the 'exam entry' blurb sent around by the college office, emailed a supervisor who will I hope give some special language teaching to a student changing into Classics from Archaeology, looked over a draft of the bibliography I shall be needing for my Roman history lectures, settled on the date of a student party with the other senior member concerned. . . as well as tracking down the whereabouts of a Roman painting that we are going to want to film for the new BBC series I'm doing (thank you Googlebooks).
May be it was in fact better in the old days before email, when being away meant BEING AWAY. Or maybe then, you just didn't go away in the week before term.
Tonight -- just to make sure I am really exhausted -- I am going on the red-eye flight to Boston, to go to the inauguration celebrations at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Funnily enough, Paul Simon is -- like me one of the new Fellows this year and I am kind of hoping that he shows up too.
His days of one night stands are long over, though. Unlike mine.