Despite having a pillow-induced asthma attack this morning, I made it to the first morning session in time to see the impressively polished paper of the U of A graduate student who is here at the conference with me. He and I spent the better part of our free time talking to each other and also attended the same sessions, which was helpful, since it gave us more to talk about. The highlight for me was this afternoon's plenary session featuring Stanley Fish and Cary Wolfe, both of whom are excellent public speakers with a gift for making difficult points accessibly. Later, at the first-day reception, I noticed that Fish looks exactly like Darth Sidious: This stopped me from going up to say "Hi" to him, along with the fact that I remembered that his wife was supposedly unhappy with something said at Julian Boyd's memorial service. You have to be careful with the dark side. But let me tell you, if you ever want someone to distill the philosophy of Immanuel Kant into one minute of clarity, Stanley's your man. And he's every bit the performer he was when I saw him back in the spring of 1990 while taking Steven Knapp's literary theory class, even without the Porsche Design sunglasses he sported that day in the Maude Fife Room.
I had one other noteworthy experience, ironic in light of the fact that I spent Monday revising and expanding my statement of teaching philosophy. As I sat with the U of A graduate student, I noticed a woman at the next table over who looked familiar. The closer I looked, the more distinctly I remembered her face. But I couldn't place her. I knew she wasn't a U of A person, but beyond that I was baffled. She smiled over at me, though, so I figured we had met. On her way out, she stopped by to say hello, graciously giving me her name right away. And then I knew her. She was one of the students in my English 50 class at UC Berkeley way back in the spring of 1999. "You were always talking about the Teletubbies," she cheerfully recalled. Now she's a graduate student in Philadelphia.
It's pretty neat to have a reminder of my pre-U of A teaching the same week that I just wrote about what I learned from those reading and composition days. That was a really fun class and the last one I taught at Berkeley outside of summer school. Even though the passage of time is obvious, she was still taken aback to realize that the three-month-old I was always talking about in February, 1999 is now a first-grader. Well, I better get out of here before there's no place left for me to eat dinner. It's already after 8pm here. See you tomorrow, however briefly. And don't hold it against me if I fail to reply in a timely fashion, because I may not be on the computer for 24 hours.