Do We Value the Work of Professors?

Discussion Post

Read any article about higher education and you will quickly see that the comments section is typically filled with the complaints of citizens irate that professors have such a cushy job with tenure and yet dare to be unionized or to ask for more recognition or appreciation for their work.  However, though working in a university certainly comes with its perks (perhaps a more flexible schedule, for instance, which can help with child care, or the existence of snow days so instructors don’t have to drive on icy roads), teaching in higher education comes with many costs that often go unrecognized, especially by students.  Much of these costs can be seen even in the hierarchy of universities, which are typically invisible to students, who have no real reason to see a difference  between a visiting professor, a lecturer, or an associate professor.  After all, each comes into the classroom and, as far as the students are aware, performs the same job.

The College Hierarchy No ONe Told You About

However, let’s take a look at what a typical hierarchy might look like for a university.  Hierarchies will vary from university to university, but a general scheme will look like this:

  • full professor
  • associate professor
  • assistant professor
  • lecturer/instructor
  • adjuncts/visiting professor
  • grad students/GAs/TAs.

Only associate and full professors have tenure, which, incidentally, is not a guarantee of employment for life, but rather the expectation that the professor cannot be fired without a good reason (professional misconduct, for instance).  It does not necessarily protect incompetent professors but rather is meant to guarantee them the space to speak freely and to prevent anyone from being fired from publishing certain ideas or holding certain political beliefs.  Assistant professors (and sometimes associate professors, as well) are tenure-track, meaning that they will be reviewed periodically to see if they will be awarded tenure.  They will be judged based on their service to the school, their publications, their contributions to their field, and their teaching evaluations.

Lecturers/instructors  and adjuncts and visiting professors are not tenure-track, but rather hired for by contract for certain amounts of time.  They typically receive low pay and no benefits.  They may not have office space or may be required to share office space or have undesirable office space.  They may also have limited access to other university resources and may not be given a voice in department meetings or policies.  Many teach lower-level courses tenured faculty do not want and often they may not even have control over what they teach or how they teach it.  The department might even order the textbook for them.

Graduate assistants are typically grad students who are going to school while also juggling a teaching load.  They usually receive a small stipend for teaching and waived tuition.  They may have little say in the department and are often seen as nothing more than cheap labor by the university.  Some schools have seen graduate students unionize in attempt to protect themselves from increasing workloads or pay changes.

How to Achieve Tenure

The dream for individuals working in higher education is, of course, to work their way up to a tenured position.  However, tenured positions are regularly being cut as a way to save the university money.  And tenure is not easy to achieve.  NEA reports that the review process to get tenure is three years at a community college and seven years at a four-year school.  If someone fails to achieve tenure, they typically have to leave the school and hope to find employment elsewhere (and thus begin the process all over again).  To achieve tenure, individuals usually have to research and publish, demonstrate that they have contributed to their field, serve the college by working on committees and attending meetings, and show teaching proficiency.  Karen Kelsky elaborates on the research expectations based on the type of institution an individual teaches at.  R1 and R2 schools typically want more publications than a liberal arts school or a community college.  Expectations may range from a few articles to a book or two.

So what does this all mean?  A good deal of what higher ed instructors do goes unnoticed by students.  The time they spend researching, writing, publishing, serving on committees, etc. is work students do not see and often may not value as what they need from instructors is a constant presence in office hours or over email, without regard to the other obligations their instructors may have.  At the same time, a good deal of what higher ed instructors do goes unrecognized by their institutions. Many institutions, especially R1 and R2 schools, value research over teaching.  Instructors may feel they have to sacrifice teaching or mentoring in order to achieve tenure.  NEA reports that instructors often work 52 hours a week (though this seems low to me, especially during busy times like finals week).  They are struggling to keep up with their many professional commitments even as many of them face increased teaching loads as a way for universities to handle budget cuts or otherwise cut costs.

The Real Costs of Higher Education

However, despite the high cost of college, most of that money is not going to instructors but rather to administrative costs such as athletics, counseling services, etc.  Individuals working in administration also often receive high salaries and large bonuses.  But the faculty that most people assume are receiving large pay from the tuition money seldom are.  In fact, adjuncts in particular receive a scandalously low amount of money for their work.  And yet, the American public continues to complain that higher ed instructors do very little work in return for astronomical benefits and to suggest that college tuition can be cut by taking away pay from these overrated and over-valued instructors.  Few voices have pointed out that, to lower tuition costs, American students might have to choose to give up many of the services and resources they have become used to, which were not offered by colleges in years past–if that’s even possible anymore.  Alternatively, the administration would have to cut their pay and bonuses.  But this is something few people call for.  When budget cuts roll around, it’s usually the faculty who are expected to do more for less.

Academics are not over-valued, but rather under-valued by the people they serve, and it’s a taking a toll.  Study after study in various countries reveals high levels of mental illness and stress in academia as a result of the high workload expected from those working in higher ed.  The Guardian argues that mental illness has become accepted in academia and the numbers suggest that this might be true.  A 2005 study showed that 10% of grad students at UC Berkeley had thought about suicide and a 2015 study showed that 47% of them are depressed.   A 2013 study from UCU in the U.K. reported that three quarters of the staff in higher ed said their job was stressful.  In 2014, Christie Wilcox for the New Scientist noted that a 2003 survey in Australia showed that academic staff experience mental illnesses at a rate that is three to four times higher than the general population and that the rate of mental illness among academics in the U.K. might be as high as 53%.  Wilcox noted that there are no similar studies available for mental health incidences among academics in the U.S.

Conclusion

Instructors in higher ed do not simply teach a course or two each year and then go home to enjoy free time, nor do they typically have summer or vacations off.  Rather, they are constantly researching, attending conferences, writing and publishing, doing peer review, teaching, grading, mentoring, serving on committees, attending meetings, and filling out paperwork.  Most of this work goes unacknowledged both by their institutions and by their students, even as institutions continue to increase the workloads and professional expectations of their employees.  As a result, higher education seems to be heading towards a crisis moment where institutions may have to reassess what an individual can realistically be expected to achieve and whether they will decide to pay more of their employees a living wage.  In the meantime–try to be kind to those who work in academia.  They are struggling more than they may feel able to admit.

Do You Use Library Books for Bookstagram? (Discussion Post)

Discussion Post

I have seen a number of book bloggers lament that they feel they cannot fully participate on Instagram because they don’t own bookshelves full of the latest hardcover releases.  Some have even expressed discomfort or reluctance to use library books because it’s just not the same.  I admit that library books do present obstacles in photographs, but I use the library a lot, and library books make up at least half of my Instagram feed.

I do own a decent number of books, and I don’t want to give the false impression that I don’t.  (See below.)  However, many of these are gifts or books purchased for classes or used books from various sources.  I don’t spend hundreds of dollars on books each year, and I don’t own a lot of the latest releases.  I go to the library a couple times each month, and the library books I read are often the books I feature on Instagram.

Shelfie

Shiny Covers

Library books, of course, usually have those clear book covers to protect the jackets, and they are extremely reflective of light.  This is inconvenient if you’re using a flash or if you’re photographing in bright sunlight.  There’s also the awkward issue that sometimes the book cover reflects back your face and the image of you holding your camera.

To solve some of these issues, I try to use bright surrounding lighting and turn off the flash on my camera; the photo can always be edited later to make it a little brighter if necessary.

Stalking Jack the Ripper

I also take pictures from various angles and try to make sure my face isn’t positioned directly above the book.

The Crystal Ribbon

Sometimes, the light is difficult to deal with completely.  Since I’m not trying to cultivate a perfect Instagram feed, sometimes I just accept it.  For instance, there’s a strong glare on this image, but a lot of people still like the photograph because of the beautiful colors of the leaves.

The Reader

 

Stickers

There are only two approaches to the stickers on the spine: embrace them or attempt to hide them.  In the best-case scenario, the sticker is only on the spine and isn’t so large that it wraps around to the front cover.  In that case, if you don’t want to show the sticker, you can take photos that only show the front of the book.

Traitor to the Throne

If the sticker does extend past the spine, you can crop the photo to remove the bottom portion of the book.

Avatar The Search

However, in my personal opinion, library stickers aren’t a problem, and they don’t get in the way of the “perfect” photo.  I think you can take a photo of the book from any angle and show off the book with pride.

April Library Haul

 

What about you?  Do you routinely photograph library books for Instagram?  Do you notice when others do?  Do the stickers on the side ruin the photos for you?

Briana

Five Things that Make Me Want to Read Your Book Blog

Discussion Post

Original Content

I read blogs primarily to find interesting content, whether it’s discussion posts, original reviews, book recommendations, or something else. I’m less interested in content that’s not directly from the owner or the blog, and I don’t read blogs with lots of copy and paste content like book blitzes. I want to read blogs that have content I can read nowhere else.

Thoughtful Book Reviews

I wrote a discussion post a while ago about whether it’s possible to run a book blog without reviews, and I do think it is; however, if a blog has no reviews, I want to see unique content like discussions, helpful advice, long lists, etc. instead of memes and tags taking up the blog. If a blog does have reviews (which I love reading), I want those to be decently long and thoughtful, as well. I want pros and cons, explanations and evidence, a well-expressed opinion that will help me decide whether I should pick up the book.

Solid Structure

I love blogs where the posts have a clear argument and solid structure supporting it. I like to see a main point at the beginning rather than having to guess where the post is going. Subheadings can be useful for longer posts as well, though I don’t really choose which blogs to follow based on their subheading skills.

Strong Prose

Grammar is not a huge deal for me, as I explain below, but I do enjoy nice prose—clear sentences with a strong voice.

A Welcoming Personality

I don’t think bloggers necessarily have to be bubbly or gregarious, but I do want to read blogs where the owners are welcoming to readers and invested in the community. I love when the blogger responds to comments on their own blog and takes time to engage with their readers. Commenting back on blogs, sharing others’ posts on social media, etc. are nice but not obligatory for me.

Things I Don’t Really Care about

Design

I see a lot of other people say that a gorgeous design will inspire them to follow a blog, but while I like pretty things as much as anyone else, design won’t make me follow. Blogging is about writing and content; design is pointless if the post themselves are not interesting and well-written. Of course I want the blog to be designed in such a way that’s easy to read, and legibility is a factor for me. However, it’s 2017, and it is extremely, extremely rare that I run across a blog that has something wild going on like neon green font on a black background or all the posts written in a hard-to-read script.

Grammar

Krysta wrote a while ago about why she doesn’t care about your grammar, and for the most part I agree. Of course, if your grammar is so bad that it’s actually difficult to figure out what you’re saying, that’s going to drive me away from your blog. I also might not read a blog that has many mistakes. However, I get that book blogging is a fun hobby for most people, and typos here and there are going to happen. There are also lots of bloggers who are writing in English as their second (or third, or whatever) language, so their grammar might not always be perfect either, and that’s fine.

What do you think? What factors determine whether you follow a book blog?

Briana

The Myth of the Solitary Genius Author

Discussion Post

Back in March 2017, Bruce Holsinger of the University of Virginia started the #thanskfortyping hashtag to highlight the unnamed wives of academia who typed manuscripts for their husbands, translated texts, did the paleography (that is, deciphered the text of old manuscripts–a difficult skill to acquire), rewrote whole chapters, and did other editing tasks.  The hashtag sparked a conversation about gender roles and the unacknowledged labor of women (and wives) in the academy.  Many of them essentially ghostwrote their husbands’ books!  However, we can expand this conversation to look at the invisible and semi-invisible labor behind every piece of published writing.

We tend to have a Romantic view of the writer, the tortured genius who labors alone in his (yes, typically his) room.  Misunderstood by the world, longing to write for himself but burdened by the need to write for money, he forges onward, always hoping for the flash of insight to strike so he can begin his masterpiece.  This is ridiculous.  Writers seldom work alone and they seldom write only because moved by the Muses. Writers have to work at what they do and they usually work in collaboration.

The examples I just raised may bring to mind ghostwriting, which is actually a pretty common occurrence in our world.  We know that politicians typically have ghostwriters and that celebrities who publish books usually are not the ones who wrote them.  We suspect that James Patterson did not actually write all the books with his name on the cover.  But ghostwriting is far more prevalent than that and we may not think of many texts as having been ghostwritten.  Each time someone writes content for a company that goes on the website or on social media, or in the pamphlet handed out at the career fair, someone ghostwrote the content.  Their names do not appear on the text and they receive no public acknowledgement for their skills.  We accept that various (often unnamed) voices go into these texts–usually the ghostwriter and the celebrity whom they interview or who reviews the text, or the ghostwriter and someone in upper management.  However, let’s put aside ghostwriting for a moment and look at the other ways texts are produce in collaboration.

Writers do not work in isolation because they are a part of the world.  A writer who reads something and wants to respond to that that text either by building on it or criticizing it is in some ways indebted to the unnamed inspiration (not the Muses) behind their work.  Could we arguably suggest that Stephanie Meyer is a sort-of collaborator with the writer of every YA paranormal romance that followed Twilight?  Or that Tolkien is a sort-of collaborator with every high fantasy published since The Lord of the Rings?  The genius of the writer did not suggest to authors that a paranormal romance with demons instead of vampires would be marketable, or that high fantasy works ought to be set as a rule in pseudo-medieval worlds.  Other writers did!

Further, writers typically receive feedback from other sources whose recognition, if anything, is a line in the acknowledgements section.  A writer who goes to writing workshops or has a friend or family member read their work and offer feedback has worked in collaboration.  Maybe your favorite scene or the funniest joke in your favorite story were suggested by the writer’s sister.  But you’ll never know if the writer does not say.  Likewise, editors routinely offer ways for authors to streamline plots, add more romance, change the narrative voice, etc.  They are suggesting major structural changes to the book!  Might we suggest that editors in some ways are co-authors?

Just about every text is a collaboration, so let’s take a moment to acknowledge the network of individuals behind the stories we love.  The acknowledgments section is an often overlooked but very important part of the book.  Each person in there (and potentially more whose names were unintentionally left out) somehow made the book possible or made the book stronger.  Thanks for typing, everyone!

Rethinking the Value of MLA

MLA may seem like a type of busy work to some students, a meaningless task to perform so they can please their teacher.  However, MLA is not just a personal teacher preference.  Rather, MLA is specifically set up to perform certain tasks.  And understanding what some of those tasks are may help you to master MLA style.

The Main Reasons to Use MLA

  • It’s a standardized style so readers know automatically what information they are looking at or where to find information.
  • Using the standard helps you to present yourself as an insider in the field.
  • MLA helps authors to give attribution to their sources and to avoid plagiarism.

The Reasons Behind Some of the Details

The in-text citation (Page and Line Numbers)

These tell readers where to find the quote you cite in its original context so they can determine if you quoted it accurately, interpreted it correctly, etc.  This means you should be as specific as possible.  Use a page number (download the PD F version of an article rather than using the HTML version so you have this) if available.  If not, you may see that the paragraphs are numbered–use that number.  If referring to a play in verse (like Shakespeare’s), cite the scene and line numbers.  If quoting a poem, provide the line numbers.  Don’t just give a page number if referring to something with line numbers because that means your reader has to scan the entire page to find the relevant quote.  Make it as easy for them as possible.

THE IN-TEXT CITATION (Authors and Titles)

Author names should appear in the text itself if possible, so you will not normally need to add them to the in-text citation.  However, you may find it necessary to add a title to an in-text citation.  In this case, you shorten the title if necessary.  Writing a full title of “The Disparities Between Chickens and Fish as Examined Through the Lenses of Several Authors and Interspersed with Poetic Interludes” makes your text look sloppy.  Provide enough information for the reader to find this title in your Works Cited.  “Disparities Between Chickens and Fish” is sufficient.

The Works Cited

This should be in alphabetical order so your readers can find sources easily.  Use the rule of “making it easy on your readers” to determine how to handle situations that you might feel the guidebooks on MLA do not sufficiently cover.  For instance, if you think they will likely look for the writer name while looking for a graphic novel, lead with that.  However, if you were prioritizing the artist in your paper, you might lead with the artist name.  Also keep in mind that your in-text citations and Works Cited should match.  That is, don’t refer to “(Writer 99)” but lead off with the artist in your Works Cited entry.

The Header

Your last name and page number are meant to be on the top of each page so that if the pages are separated they can easily be identified and reordered.

Conclusion

MLA is not taught by instructors simply because they are oddly obsessed with the details of how your paper looks.  Rather, the details perform specific functions.  Readers expect proper formatting because this formatting allows them not only to check a work for accuracy but also to use that work to find other interesting or relevant sources.  

Further, it’s important that students gain an eye for detail and an ability for correct formatting because formatting (even if not MLA) will likely play a future role in many individuals’ lives.  From sending in a resume that includes all the relevant information in an expected manner to submitting manuscripts to publishing agents or submitting articles to academic journals, students will find that formatting affects their chances of professional success.  Sending in a document correctly formatted presents the individual as conscientious and easy to work with.

Finally, many readers are very concerned with stylistic issues.  Even though the content of a document should be more important than how it looks, many people equate surface features with intelligence.  That is, a paper that is written with correct grammar and looks like a professionally-formatted piece will be rated higher by some readers than a paper that is not written with correct grammar and is not formatted the way the readers in the field expect.  This may not seem fair or right, but you can use it to your advantage by taking the few moments necessary to format your documents correctly.

MLA matters.  More than you might think.

Do you have insights on how other citation styles work?  Share with us your citation insights and preferences below!

Why Is It So Difficult to Be Accepted Into an English Grad Program?

Discussion Post Stars

Since the 1960s and 1970s American colleges have become more democratized, opening their doors to more students and offering in many cases what are still known by some as “remedial” courses to students who come in not “college ready.”   The hope is that such measures will help those who have not shared the same advantages of their wealthier peers to obtain a college degree.  At the same time, English graduate programs are shrinking their acceptance rates so that is is not uncommon for a program to take on five to eight new students a year.  A larger program might take fifteen students.  As a result, competition is fierce and to be accepted applicants must demonstrate a commitment to the discipline by explaining their specific professional goals and demonstrating a level of competency through submitting writing samples, indicating that they have already begun to professionalize by publishing or attending conferences, etc.

This may sound elitist–why can’t grad schools be more democratic and accept more students into their English programs?  Why only select those who have already demonstrated professional competence in their field?  Why not offer “remedial” courses and allow some students to stay a few more years in the program learning what others already learned when they earned their BA?  (Please keep in mind that “remedial” is the term many colleges use simply to describe what is part of the democratization process, and it’s not meant to be read as pejorative.)  Surely it’s worth spending more money, even a couple tens of thousands of dollars, on such a project.  The answer is bleak and it has to do with the job market.

Everyone “knows” that jobs in the humanities are hard to get, especially if you’re talking about jobs for someone with an English Ph.D.  However, the numbers are worse than you probably think and, when you see them, it’s hard not to wonder why people bother putting themselves through the agony of English Ph.D. programs at all.

To begin to understand the academic job market for English graduates, we first have to understand that colleges in the U.S. have a hierarchy.  The hierarchy  looks something like this:

  • full professor
  • associate professor
  • assistant professor
  • lecturer/instructor
  • adjuncts
  • grad students/GAs/TAs

Full professors and associate professors are typically tenured, meaning they have job security until they retire.  Assistant professors are tenure-track, meaning they can achieve tenure by publishing, conferencing, heading committees and doing other service, and receiving positive student and instructor reviews.  Lecturers are non-tenured.  Adjuncts are non-tenured, part-time, receive low pay, and typically receive no benefits.  GAs and TAs are grad students who receive a small stipend for teaching (maybe $18,000/yr, slightly more if they are lucky or in a better-paying field than English).

Tenured jobs in the academy are increasingly shrinking (and English departments are shrinking, too, because they have trouble competing for spending money when they go up against STEM departments).  Adjunct jobs, meanwhile, are increasing.  A study on adjuncts, or contingent faculty, The Shifting Academic Workforce: Where Are the Contingent Faculty?, notes that in 2013,” contingent faculty accounted for at least half of all instructional faculty across all types of institutions, ranging from 50% at public research universities to more than 80% at public community college.”  Graduates from English PhD programs will more than likely end up as adjuncts initially, maybe for years.

Adjuncts used to be what their name implies–additional faculty who held full-time jobs in their field or industry, who then taught a class at a college on the side.  But now adjuncts are being used instead of full-time, tenured faculty.  Why?  Because they’re cheap.  In 2013, NPR reported that adjuncts make between $20,000 and $25,000 a year. In March of 2016, Inside Higher Ed reported that adjuncts, on average, receive $2700 per course.  At this rate, if an adjunct somehow manages to get four or five courses, they’d still only be making up to $13,500 a year, and that’s without any benefits.   Plus they often work without being offered office space or a voice in the department when policies are debated, and they have no stability from one semester to the next as they can simply not be rehired for no cause.  Further, adjuncts often only achieve as much money as they do by working more than one job.  Kevin Birmingham notes that 89% of adjuncts work at more than one college and 13% work at four or more.

The personal stories offered by adjuncts as they try to live are often moving.  In June 2015, a piece in The Guardian revealed how the writer received $15000 and no benefits for teaching five courses.  He made better money and got benefits working retail.  Kevin Birmingham in “The Great Shame of Our Profession” tells of one adjunct who reported selling her plasma twice a week so she could send her child to daycare.  Slate reported in 2015 that up to 25% of adjuncts may be receiving food stamps (and these are people with MAs or PhDs, remember).

Keeping  in mind that tenure-track jobs are nearly impossible to get these days, grad schools can’t afford to take in students who under-prepared and may sink to the bottom of the job market pool.  They will spend their lives as adjuncts, working multiple jobs for low pay and no benefits, and without any job security.  If they become sick or pregnant, they could lose their job.  If not enough people sign up for their class at the last minute, it could be cancelled without warning.  If their university has a policy that they could be considered for a higher-ranking job after teaching, say five years, the university has the option of randomly not rehiring them the year they would have achieved enough experience to ask for a promotion.

Maybe grad programs wish they could be more democratic, but they know that that is, in a sense, unethical when the market is glutted with qualified candidates and that only three job postings or an entire eight postings! might go up that year* in a specific field .  So they accept maybe five to eight students a year, knowing the competition is fierce and they can only send the best of the best.  Some graduate schools accept more than eight students, of course, but there are some who believe that these schools are contributing to the problem of the overcrowded job market and providing their students with false hope.

If we want graduate programs to become more democratic, the entire academy would have to be overhauled so that there were more tenure-track jobs and fewer adjunct jobs.  Or at least decent pay for adjuncts.   Contrary to what you might read on the Internet, however, soaring university costs are not a result of overpaid tenured faculty.  Most tuition money goes to administrative costs such as athletics, student organizations, counseling, etc.  Do you think students would be willing to either pay more tuition or lose some administrative costs to pay adjuncts more?  Will we ever see students protest for increased adjunct pay?

Krysta 64

Nature vs. Nurture in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (Spoilers)

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

As I was reading Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (yes, I just got to it in April), I was struck by how several of the characters believed that if Voldemort ever had a child that the child would inevitably be bad.  They have such a revulsion to Voldemort (understandable) that they assume his child would inherit his villainy—basically that evil is inherent and determined by one’s parentage.  I don’t think this is Rowling’s or any of the co-writers’ opinion (well, it could be, but I have no way of knowing), but I find it interesting that in a series where characters are often not what they seem and villains are sometimes redeemed that there seems to be no room for the thought that a child of Voldemort’s might be anything other than a new Dark Lord (or Dark Lady).

Case One: Scorpius Malfoy

The book opens with the rumor that Scorpius Malfoy might the son of Voldemort.  When Rose Granger-Weasley and Albus Potter meet him on the Hogwarts Express, Rose is distant and suspicious from the start.  When Scorpius introduces himself, she is noticeably “cold” and blurts, “Your mum and dad are Death Eaters!” (16).  However, this is not the sticking point for her, and she finally has to spell out her discomfort to Albus:  “The rumor is that he’s Voldemort’s son, Albus” (17).  With this point clear, she turns on her heel and denies friendship with both Scorpius and Albus, if he’s going to associate with such a person.

Though Harry, Hermione, and Ron deny that they believe this rumor, there’s evidence they do.  Harry admits near the end of Act Three to Albus that he was against the friendship between the two boys because of it: “Well, I was wrong too—to think Scorpius was Voldemort’s son.  He wasn’t a black cloud” (203).  All these characters would presumably have enough reason to be suspicious of Scorpius for being Draco’s son—but Draco is semi-reformed since the end of HP 7, and the boy clearly wasn’t raised as a Death Eater.  They are all suspicious that he might be Voldemort’s son, and that this would make him a terrible person even though his mother was a decent person, even though he was raised in a normal household because simply being related to Voldemort would make him bad.  For them, nurture trumps nature.  Albus makes this clear when he tries to comfort Scorpius’s own doubts about his parentage: “I don’t think Voldemort is capable of having a kind son—and you’re kind, Scorpius.  To the depths. Of your belly, to the tips of your fingers.  I truly believe Voldemort—Voldemort couldn’t have a child like you” (143).

Admittedly, however, there is some argument for the important of nurture; Scorpius states explicitly that his friendship with Albus has made him a better person.  When Scorpius has to make some tough choices in the alternate universe where Voldemort succeeded, Snape reminds him: “Think about Albus.  You’re giving up your kingdom for Albus, right?  One person.  All it takes is one person” (193).  I don’t think the point is that friendship with Albus has made Scorpius a more virtuous person, however.  When the audience first meet him, he’s an eager kid trying to make friends with sweets and talking about his lovely mother; there’s no evidence he was ever tempted to the path of evil.  Friendship with Albus simply makes him more outgoing, more confident, more courageous.

Case Two: Delphini Diggory

Delphini is a somewhat less complicated case, in part because readers don’t see much of her after the “big reveal” of her true identity.  There are a couple things that we know, however.  The first is that she was raised by Death Eaters.  As she’s toying with Scorpius and Albus in revealing her true intentions for using the Time Turner, she casually drops this line about the woman who raised her: “She didn’t like me much.  Euphemia Rowle…she only took me in for the gold” (219).  Scorpius is concerned and slowly observes, “The Rowles were pretty extreme Death Eaters” (219).  It is this revelation that makes him most suspicious of Delphini, and—without knowing she’s Voldemort’s child—he realizes she’s probably up to no good.  Nurture is the issue here, as someone raised by practicing Death Eaters was probably raised to value Dark magic.  However, Delphini’s childhood never comes up again.  From this point forward, the driving point is that she’s Voldemort’s daughter.

And it is her parentage that alarms everyone.  When Harry and company raid Delphini’s room and discover (through an absurdly convenient message) that she’s Voldemort’s child, they panic.  When Hermione shares the news with the rest of the wizarding community, their reaction is “A child! Anything but that!”  They seem to subscribe to the view that Albus expresses earlier, that a child of Voldemort would undoubtedly be evil.  No one thinks for a moment that she could be otherwise.  They assume, without proof, that she’s up to no good with Albus and Scorpius as hostages.

The audience gets little explanation for Delphini’s personality and values beyond this, except in the scene at Godric’s hollow.  Here we learn that Delphini wants nothing more than her father’s approval.  She repeats “Farther!” frequently when speaking to Harry-disguised-as-Voldemort and then tells Harry, “I’ve studied to be worthy of him!” (290).  Is the desire to follow in her father’s footsteps nature or nurture, though?  Is this an idea she got from being raised by Death Eaters?  From having heard a prophecy that she could be a powerful Dark witch?  Or is it simply that a daughter of Voldemort must be like Voldemort?

There’s some nuance in the play, but the characters appear to strongly believe that nature trumps nurture and that a child of Voldemort’s must be evil, no questions asked.  What do you think?

Briana