Matthew Jakubowski in Truce:
Before I ask more about your blogging—when you decided to pursue your interest in ethical criticism as a research topic, can you say more about that particular choice, especially how becoming a mother made you want to do work that mattered more in the world? It sounds like several things going on then affected the approach to your reading, writing, and research.
It was really a convergence of things that led me to change the kind of academic work I was doing. I published my first book and not long after I was awarded tenure: this meant I had a secure opportunity to reconsider my priorities, and I found that doing more of the same was not high on the list. Then, being a new mother made doing any research and writing more difficult: there’s nothing like being both very busy and very sleep-deprived to make you ask hard questions about the value of how you spend your time.
Anthony Trollope once observed that “(No) man … can work long at any trade without being brought to consider much whether that which he is doing daily tends to evil or to good.” I have rarely had this concern about the teaching part of my job. Sure, I worry plenty about what exactly I’m doing in the classroom and whether I’m doing it well, but that teaching students to be better readers (more attentive, more questioning, more informed) is a good thing to attempt has always seemed to me inarguable. I wanted to feel as urgent and committed to the other facets of my work.