A return to academia, the Carolina Conference on Romance Studies, returning to UNC.

Although I consider myself more of a teacher than a scholar, I do enjoy research and writing. Also, I get to do my research at my pace and not at the breakneck pace demanded by the research universities.

If you are an old timer of this blog, you know that my PhD dissertation was on the early works of 18th C. Francisco de Isla, before he wrote his best-selling Fray Gerundio. This time I focused on Isla´s first writings after the Gerundio, still up to his old crafty rhetorical tricks and double plays. Right after selling out the first edition of the Gerundio overnight, the head of the Carmelites denounced the book to the Inquisition, Isla´s defense of his novel is the Apologia por la Historia de Fray Gerundio, and that is what my paper is on.

And it was accepted at the Carolina Conference on Romance Studies. So, with the generous support of my school, off I went to present my research at my alma mater.

Chapel Hill will always have a special place in my heart. The four years that I lived there studying for my PhD were very enriching, even though I was teaching and getting my doctorate at the same time. I loved the University, my classses, the town, the community, my colleagues and professors, my volunteering, the lot.

So without the Covid restrictions of last October’s lightning visit (read about that here) I was able to see old colleagues and classmates, to spend time with Irene, my dissertation director, to have a long conversation with my old spiritual director Fr. Bill, to have a great catch up with my favorite librarian, Teresa, to revisit the Ackland museum, to go to mass, to have a meal at Imbibe and a drink at Zog’s with Mandey the owner, to enjoy a cigar with my brilliant friend Jedd, to buy too much UNC gear, to walk around campus, to enjoy a YOPO frozen yogurt, and basically to walk and soak it all in. It was so comforting, it felt like coming home.

The ultimate test of cerebral fitness*

It has been nine months since my last entry. In my defense, it has been a crazy year. I am at Miami International Airport and this is the first chance I have to write, it feels good.

You see, I was busy finishing and defending my doctoral dissertation, which was a very difficult but rewarding process.

As soon as classes started in the Fall I was having my twice weekly coffee with Irene, my director, to finish and fine tune each chapter. At the same time I was teaching two classes: Advanced Intermediate 204, a new class for me, and Intermediate 203, my “standard” class. Oh, and I had to write an academic article if I wanted to have any chance of applying for a university job. On top of all that I had to prepare my job search, but those items will have their own blog entries.

The work only got more intense in the spring. I was assigned an extra class from the regular Spring load of one section, this one teaching Advanced Spanish at the Gillings School of Public Health. I had to give up my volunteering shift at the Ronald McDonald House, as well as cutting down on the number of concerts and plays I went to (although I did not totally give that up).

April was when the proverbial rubber met the proverbial road. Finishing and editing my dissertation and going to job interviews. Spring Break was anything but break, driving to Charlotte and flying to Florida for job interviews.

But everything came to a head on April 8. That morning I spent two and a half hours locked up in a conference room with four of the professors on my committee, and Ana Rueda from the University of Kentucky looming over all of us, Skyping in on the massive screen, like a science fiction overlord, only much nicer and sweeter! I also had like ten spectators: old students, friends, including Mandey from Zog’s, my friendly librarians Teresa and Becky, and colleagues that came to give me moral support. Poor things, they had to endure my grilling session.

I passed. Walking out of the meeting, feeling exhilarated but exhausted and numb, I had a message on my phone. Seacrest Country Day School in Naples Florida – my top choice for work – had made me an offer while I was defending my dissertation. Coincidence? I think not.

After defending I thought things would slow down, wrong again. I still had to do edits on my dissertation, dress up as Don Quixote for a marathon reading celebrating the 400th anniversary of his death, chair a panel at our Carolina Conference on Romance Studies, teach and wrap up my four years in Carolina. My mom and my little sister came for my hooding ceremony and we had a blast. After that I moved to Florida and had only enough time to dump my boxes before heading back to Spain for my nephew’s First Communion, which explains why I am sitting at the airport now.

*with thanks to Murray Head from his song One Night in Bangkok