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Monday, March 27, 2006

RSA Day Three: I think I insulted someone

In the interests of maintaining some semblance of anonymity (and after the Day Two report, I think that's for the best), I will have to relate this tale in rather general terms. With apologies:

I went to one (1) panel on Day Three of RSA, which seems about right for the final day of a conference. Fortunately, someone had been kind enough to put a panel together which might as well have had the title, "Truewit's Delight: Three essays on topics Truewit knows a whole lot about." Paper one was about the subject of my book (though different enough not to scare me); Paper two was like a version of one of the chapters in my book (though, again, about a totally different thing), and Paper three was doing exactly the thing I say in my book that nobody should ever do. Needless to say, it was the reader of Paper three that I think I insulted. I always try to be a kind and considerate questioner (unlike the gentleman I saw at one panel who began a question to a flustered graduate student, "Surely you aren't arguing [the one interesting point in the paper]?"), but I think I might have phrased things incorrectly. In fact, I think I might have done one of those, "You know that basic structuring element of your argument that you take as read and upon which the entire project hinges? Well, let's rethink that element in such a way that your argument becomes logically impossible, shall we?" things. Again: I tried not to, and I really only wanted to hear what she thought about how I see the world, but as I was wandering on about the fundamental categories of analysis by which we read all early modern poetry, she began to blush. Not in a happy flirtatious way. More in a "I'm living a nightmare conference moment" way. I began to feel like a cad, and ended the "question" when I saw how it was going down, but I think the damage had been done. Bleh. I suppose you can't just coddle coddle coddle all the time, but I know too well the feeling she appeared to be having.

That's called "projection," by the way.

Anyway, her somewhat famous dissertation advisor was there, and said advisor told me afterwards in a friendly fashion that she "knew my work." This is very, very unlikely, and I'm guessing there was a little race-confusion in the house. Nonetheless, it was nice to live the fiction for one brief moment.

So: Day Three: I was a bad person, then was rewarded by the person who was supposed to be supporting the person I acted poorly towards. Hmmmm... I guess I am in academia after all!

RSA: Rest undead until you rise, bloody-cheek'd, in Miami.

  • At 3/27/2006 05:46:00 PM, Blogger Hieronimo wrote…

    Ah, "Truewit's Delight," a great panel title.

    Don't you just love how we take it as some huge compliment when famous or even semi-famous, or even demi-semi-hemi-famous, scholars merely acknowledge that they "know" our work? I mean, they don't even have to say whether they think it's good or not. Simply being aware that it exists is enough. What a ridiculous profession this is.

    P.S.: I think you owe that grad-student presenter a shot of Jameson's.


  • At 3/27/2006 06:14:00 PM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    But, wait, is the demi-semi-hemi famous person familiar with the work of Truewit? Or does said person think I, Simplicius, insulted her poor graduate student?

    This, I think, is essence of academia: paranoia. I wasn't even at RSA--what's more, because they wouldn't have me--and yet I'm worried that some random person thinks I've acted like a cad toward her charge.

    I should console Truewit and tell him that, of course, he didn't act like a cad, but since it might be my name on the line, I'm not so sure. If he reassures me, though, that I'm misreading his post, then, I'll immediately tell him that I'm sure he was nothing but politely rigorous with his question. Gah.


  • At 3/28/2006 12:32:00 PM, Blogger Greenwit wrote…

    You know, I never really considered the advantages of being confused with other people. I can pretty much say what I like. Simplicius and/or Hieronimo takes the hit! Nice.

    Anyway, it really wasn't that bad. I wasn't actually telling the person (who is, incidentally, an assistant professor) she was wrong, and there was a lot of nodding and murmuring going on while I was talking. You'll both just be known as those kind of annoying smart dudes. Not so far from the truth, now is it?


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