Category Archives: Graduate Students

On the Importance of Blogging: Things I Learned as a Blog Editor

By: Maria Elizabeth Rodriguez Beltran

As the previous editor for the Comparative Literature Blog at Rutgers and a student who has submitted a few blog posts myself, I want to share with you some of the many benefits of blogging and why I think graduate students should do it more. You should blog,

Because . . . it forces you to write more often: I am always looking for ways to improve my writing, and as the famous saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” For me, writing long pieces or seminar papers can feel overwhelming at times, and article-length drafts are not really something that most people can produce in one sitting. However, because blog posts tend to be short and specific, writing them works as a perfect way to create a daily writing routine. Since we usually have to be juggling many other things at the same time, blogging can be helpful in thinking through ideas in a more compartmentalized manner, without having to spend a long part of one’s day doing so.

Because . . . it helps you learn how to write in a different way: As academics, depending on our fields, we are used to writing in specific ways and using a particular jargon that is comprehensible to others mainly within our disciplines. Yet, given the length and style of a blog post, we have to rethink how to make our work more accessible and clear not only for academics in other fields, but for nonacademics as well. Presenting your work to others in a language and genre that may be different to the one you are used to writing on will help you rethink your work in other ways, and as a consequence, expand the reach of your scholarship.

Because . . . it helps you to reach a different audience: Evidently the main benefit of blogging is that it allows you to share your work and ideas with others. In addition to reaching those within your program and/or field, and allowing them to learn more about your research (and the events you attend or organize), blogging allows your ideas to reach a wider audience that may not be in your current academic circle; and having an audience that will more publicly interact with your writing will thus make you a more confident writer.

Because . . . it can be fun and it looks good on your CV/resume: Many (if not all!) of us can attest to the fact that writing becomes much easier when you are passionate or interested in the topic that you are writing about. Blogging about an interesting event, talk, or research topic can be fun, and it can also give you exposure for others to get to know you and your work. Besides, publicly blogging is always a great addition to your CV, as professional organizations and institutions are looking for people who have demonstrated the ability to write and teach through mediums that are accessible beyond the academic space.

Thanks to the program’s blog, I had the opportunity to read and learn about what other graduate students were working on and many of the events happening on and outside of campus. I hope some of these points inspire you to write and share more blog posts so that we can learn more from each other.

For more information on blogging while in graduate school:

https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/literally-psyched/why-grad-schools-should-require-students-to-blog/

http://drewconway.com/zia/2013/3/27/ten-reasons-why-grad-students-should-blog

Presenting at the MLA 2018

By: Shawn González

The 133rd MLA Annual Convention, on the theme of States of Insecurity, was held on 4–7 January, 2018, in New York. One of our recent PhDs, Shawn González, presented on her current work at the conference. The Comp Lit Blog editors interviewed Shawn about her experience:

Could you tell us a bit about the panel you were involved in and the work you presented on?

I presented on a panel called “Teaching, Theorizing, and Reading Caribbean Texts,” sponsored by the MLA’s Graduate Student Caucus. The panel topic was unique, because it incorporated both literary criticism and pedagogy, which sparked some unexpected questions about genre and audience.

My paper “Theorizing Caribbean Multilingualism in the Classroom” emerged from my experience teaching the bilingual Nuyorican poet Tato Laviera in Latino and Caribbean Cultural Studies, a course cross-listed in Comparative Literature and Latino and Caribbean Studies at Rutgers. I argued that Rutgers students who approached Laviera’s poetry from a variety of linguistic backgrounds offered an opportunity to rethink questions of ideal readership from the perspective of a multilingual community with a range of linguistic proficiencies. It is evident that the presence of bilingual students can enrich the reading experiences of monolingual students who could not otherwise understand Laviera’s Spanish-dominant poems. However, based on my observations of student discussions, I proposed that the presence of monolingual students was similarly productive as it prompted bilingual students to consider which portions of Laviera’s text were accessible or inaccessible to a monolingual readership. This paper is part of my developing interest in how undergraduate literature classrooms can be harnessed to consider issues of accessibility and readership in multilingual literature. My thinking on these topics was productively challenged through conversation with other presenters, both those who focused on pedagogy and those who focused on literary analysis.

Did you attend any other panels that were particularly interesting?

My favorite panel was “The Rise of Latinx Literature for Youth” moderated by Marilisa Jiménez García with presentations by Cristina Rhodes, Ashley Perez, and Sonia Alejandra Rodríguez. The panelists considered texts for young people ranging from Gloria Anzaldúa’s bilingual picture books to contemporary young adult novels. Each presentation posed questions about how authors represent the agency of young Latinx characters as they navigate difficult situations that might be considered age-inappropriate in mainstream children’s literature. The presentations were followed by a vibrant discussion that considered the role of the supernatural, authority figures, and the convention of happy endings. I left the panel with a list of new writers whose work I’ve been enjoying since the conference.

Are there other aspects of the conference that might be of interest to graduate students?

In addition to literary criticism panels, the MLA includes presentations about pedagogy, professionalization, and public humanities issues. MLA Connected Academics also hosts a variety of events at MLA including a career fair.

Finally, any advice for first-time MLA attendees?

Look out for the CFP from the Graduate Student Caucus. Their panels can be a welcoming forum to present at the MLA for the first time.