I agreed to give a guest lecture for the class in which I am the Teaching Lackey. The “topic” I’m lecturing on is so vague as to not really be a topic at all; it’s remotely within my area, but it’s like, the three word synopsis of everything I’ve ever studied. The only suggestion the prof has offered is that I lecture on a) something “helpful” to me, and b) something tangentially related to the course.* So. I have my super-vague, wide-open topic to define, and damn–this is all just taking so much more of my time than I thought it might.

Do other people have problems with this sort of thing? I feel like I’m fine lecturing/speaking/discussing about a text, or an *actual topic*, but this whole choose-your-own-adventure type of approach is annoying. How do I define a topic that’s interesting, manageable, relevant to my work, AND won’t take me the rest of the week?

*This would all be much easier if I could tell you the course and the topic, but obviously, I can’t. Let’s see. Say the course is about “Music from the 1950s – present.” And say my dissertation is “Ventilator Blues: The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street as Utopian Vision.” And say there was a space in the syllabus where we’d decided my lecture would go, and the prof suggested I lecture on “British music,” and it should include some reference to footwear. Do I lecture about the Stones? About the Stones’ place in British music? About the Stones and another band? About the Foucauldian implications of platform heels vs. motorcycle boots?