Docsplainin' -- it's what I do

Docsplainin'--it's what I do.
After all, I'm a doc, aren't I?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

How I spent my vacation

Claire Potter, over at Tenured Radical, turned me on to Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin, by Alice Echols when I put the word out a couple of weeks ago that I needed someone I could use as a model for my Personality students to follow in writing their papers. I'm about halfway through, and loving it. Janis's debut album, Cheap Thrills, came out when I was 16, and she had a helluva influence on me. Broke my heart when she died.

I anticipated that I would be able to mine her life for some good psychoanalytical stuff for the Theories class, but after that, I worried that there wouldn't be good material. My first surprise was what a hard worker she was: There's some good Trait Theory stuff to be mined there--not only Conscientiousness, but also Neurosis and Openness (to Experience). But the real surprise is the cultural angle: She was a Boomer, of course, so before she was in the thick of things in the Haight, she'd had that whole 50s-suburban-middle-class-nuclear-family-upbringing thing going on. And of course Big Brother was one of the original San Francisco bands, so she was turning pro just as everybody out there was going psychedelic and plugging in. The cultural angle shouldn't be a surprise, but being a late Boomer myself and having come of age in the 60s, I tend to forget what a revolutionary experience that would have been for her.

In other words, to my amazement, I am less than halfway through the book and have three sets of theories I can apply to Janis's life to teach my class
  1. how to use theory to explain a real human being,
  2. how to find relevant empirical literature, and
  3. how to pull it together for a paper.
And it's such a fun read! Some of the history I knew of course, having lived through it, but some of it was before my time, so the book has been providing some fascinating background to my own adolescence.

Thanks, Dr. Potter!

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