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Friday, April 06, 2007

SAA: Caring Makes Me Tired

Despite the fact that we've promised to blog, blog, blog our way through SAA this year, we've been doing a horrible job. Perhaps it's because we're tired. And perhaps that's because... we care? I'm not sure exactly why, but the more times I come to this conference, the more I feel like part of a community. A stressed out, completely crazy, monomaniacal community; a community with very strange taste in beards and silken scarves; but a community nonetheless. And since our conference blogging tends towards the sardonic rant (well, my conference blogging tends towards the sardonic rant), I feel somewhat reluctant to let it rip this time around.

That said...

I decided at lunch today that every incoming president of the SAA should have to take the following oath of office at his or her coronation. The speech today actually rescued itself with some good honest email humor, but we need some guidelines for the future:
I hereby pledge to give a purely conference-specific talk at the annual luncheon. I will not talk about the history of Shakespearean performance in the city we are in. I will not rhapsodize about the power of Shakespeare to heal world-historical rifts between nations, races, religions, and age groups. I will not even tell jokes about thinking up jokes to tell. I will deliver a state of the SAA address, letting the members know what the SAA and/or the Folger Library and/or SQ has been up to. I will say one interesting thing about Shakespeare that I have discovered over the course of my career that most people in the room probably don't already know. And, as part of our yearly tradition, I will unveil the mystery of how Lena Orlin manages to be both a fantastic scholar and the incredibly competent organizer of a conference each year.

I also pledge to wear a ruff and a doublet whenever possible.
The necessity for such an oath will be proven next year if Peter Holland (un-ruffed, no doubt) gives a lecture about how the Cuban Missile Crisis was actually defused by a well-timed performance of Pericles. Anyone care to take bets now on what he says Shakespeare heals, enables, or protects?

  • At 4/07/2007 09:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous wrote…

    I'll bite. "Shakespeare heals, enables, and protects the acerbic wit of British Shakespeareans to hilariously trash *other* British Shakespeareans."

    We care too, Truewit. You rock.


  • At 4/07/2007 10:15:00 PM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    This conference has been such a love-fest. I'm kind of blissed out. I blogged about that too.

    High point so far: Important Scholar who works at "Dream Job that Got Away" telling her graduate student that I was extremely close to being hired there, which I did not know.

    Low point: an auditor in my seminar suggesting I do some basic research ("I think it might be useful for you do a search for your topic in EEBO. Do you know what that is?") Ok, I know I'm a young 31, but I don't look 5!


  • At 4/08/2007 08:16:00 PM, Blogger James wrote…

    I found a useful counter to the love-fest was Branagh's As You like It, which made me very happy for the first half-hour (I do love me some ninjas) but by the end made me want, nay need, to insert a large hatchet repeatedly into Mr. Branagh.

    I know all of you have your own reasons for hating the movie or not-hating it (I've only heard those two responses, hatred and non-hatred, no liking or loving), so I won't bore you with mine.

    That said, Bryce Howard can bathe in my stream any day. Does anyne have her Jove's Own Pager number?


  • At 4/08/2007 09:34:00 PM, Blogger James wrote…

    I feel a little bad about returning the tone to sardonic ranting. I do empathize with Truewit's sense of the positive communal aspect of the SAA conference. Despite the occasional petty bit of inter-Brit sniping (and it is usually inter-Brit, for some reason), it managed to be both a collegial and a productive weekend. I feel appreciated, I've got three new article ideas, I was able to introduce my starry-eyed grad students to the people they keep reading, and I saw baby gorillas. Compared to the apparently purgatorial experience of RSA, I'm still very much an SAA fan, even if it has grown by 350 registrants or so in the last ten years.

    Did anyone feel as though he or she saw a revolutionary, discipline-changing, or tremendously important paper this year? I was conscious of a peculiar lack of hubris all around, which is a good thing, I suppose, but although I personally very much liked Adam Zucker's Merry Wives piece, that session as a whole was not particularly plenary this year. Maybe Shakespeare studies is just getting too fragmented for universally appealing arguments, but it did seem that there were very few attempts at this conference to address Shakespeare scholarship as a whole, as there have been in the past.


  • At 4/09/2007 12:05:00 AM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    In addition to Zucker's seriously good paper, Heather James' piece on sententiae stood out for me (though the argument was perhaps less satisfying than Zucker's) but it was a great new reading of Poetaster.

    I only audited two seminars but they were both really exciting, which is no small feat when you're stuck sitting in uncomfortable chairs, staring at the backs of people as they discuss stuff you haven't read for two hours.

    And I also felt my own seminar was a great success,(due in no small part to the dedication of its excellent leaders), though I think we only scratched the surface of some larger issues that need to be pressured a bit more. Still, it's a good start, and I kept thinking about the discussion throughout the rest of the conference.

    I peeked in at "As You Like It" briefly but found Patrick Doyle's fake Japanese/French Auvergne Chansons score so nauseating and the silent asian servants so creepy that I had to leave rather than continue to feel embarrassed for Kevin Kline.


  • At 4/09/2007 12:18:00 AM, Blogger Pamphilia wrote…

    PS Point well taken, James. It was the Poetaster bit I loved about HJ's paper, not the Titus bit.

    But moving away from a unified vision of Shakespeare is ok by me, because I like to mix it up. I'm not a 'Shakespearean.' Are any of us any more? Do we want to be? These are not rhetorical questions; I really want to know.


  • At 4/09/2007 09:47:00 AM, Blogger Simplicius wrote…

    No, I'm not a "Shakespearean" either. And, no, I didn't hear any necessarily "revolutionary" papers, but I saw a lot of very good and very exciting ones. I thought the panel on "How-To Books" was pretty spectacular--each of the papers was smart and engaging but each was also delivered with verve and grace. It was an amazing performance.

    One thing worth perhaps considering is the process used to select the plenary talk. If I'm not mistaken, people submit papers for a panel, and then from among those papers, a plenary panel is selected. The papers might aim for that more comprehensive take on Shakespearean scholarship if they were originally geared toward being plenary talks (and if that's what SAA wanted their plenary talks to be). But that's not how they're pitched to the conference, so they can't really shoot for that big overall "state of the field" move.


  • At 5/28/2007 05:31:00 PM, Blogger Lea wrote…

    This is several years out of date by now, but can you also include in the oath a promise to do everything within your power to prevent people from bringing in a sad dork to rap about Shakespeare during the said luncheon?


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