Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A Few Little Things, All Important, But None Important Enough for A Post of Their Own

What I had really decided to do today was work on a little talk I am supposed to give on Saturday about teaching Queer Studies for Zenith alums and parents of graduating seniors. In order that this not go into the category labeled No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, I determined a while back to use this presentation as an opportunity to write a short, pleasant article about building queer studies as a concentration in American Studies at a liberal arts institution that is unlikely to dedicate more than a line or so to any interdisciplinary field. Such fields rely on people trained in something else entirely switching over and becoming, shall we say, Transscholarly.

I don't emphasize Zenith's limited resources to be churlish: it is simply a Fact, and a Fact to be Dealt With as creatively and cheerfully as possible lest there be research I am unaware of concluding that griping is a major cause of gum disease in academics. As part of the power of positive thinking, said article will, I hope, go off to some smallish, likeable journal such as Radical Teacher, or perhaps a large-ish likeable journal that wil raise my profile in the field, like American Quarterly. Who knows? But the summer will start off with a bang, as the article goes whisking off into the ether, to return in six months as something foreign, destined for revision.

But now what I have done to myself is this. Instead of going to this event and doing it more or less off the top of my head -- or more accurately, from a set of notes jotted down that morning -- I have become ambitious, and hence, mulish about actually sitting down to work on it. Things fly in and out of my brain a mile a minute, things I could imagine finishing in a shorter period of time: submitting the project grant I had decided not to do; finish reading what I have come to call "my Beecher book" (see book advertised on the left), a project stalled by grading, but which will take only a little focus to accomplish; rip up the asphalt path to the front door and see if we have lovely nineteenth century stone underneath as others in the neighborhood do. Or blog.

So here are a few little things that have been rattling around on my virtual desk, with appropriate links:

Undine, at Not of General Interest has a great post comparing participation in conferences to broccoli. I agree with her completely, but would substitute parsnips for broccoli, as I have grown to love the latter, having become convinced by Dr. Andrew Weil that I would not get cancer if I made broccoli a regular part of my diet. I believe that parsnips prevent cancer too, and I like the way they taste, except that the house always smells faintly of urine after I cook them, so I buy them, put them in the fridge, and let them rot slowly instead.

Oh -- and no vegetable really helps you fight cancer in my world if it isn't organic. And conferences, as far as I know, are sometimes annoying but entirely non-carcinogenic.

I have been quite remiss in calling attention to this, but Tony Grafton had a nice piece in the AHA's monthly newsletter, Perspectives, about history bloggers. It includes some links to historians' blogs, including yours truly. Thanks, pal.

If you have no time to read the international news, and you want someone else who is smart and progressive to do it for you, check into this blog by a Zenith colleague of mine, Jonathan Cutler.

And while you are cruising about, check out this post about joining the AHA by squadratomagico. Probably the other medievalists know why she chose that name, but it's a great post in a great blog. Which reminds me: although I have some of the ambivalence about history's status as a discipline that squadratomagico does (based in part on my own interdisciplinary nature, and modern history's own professional past as an interdisciplinary mix of political economy, law, narrative history and economics) part of the reason I don't like belonging to the AHA is that it costs so damn much, and I only find about a third to a half of what is published in the American Historical Review relevant. Hence, I recycle it almost immediately, as I do all journals now because they are easily obtainable on the web.

BTW: I am sure the rest of the articles are relevant to other scholars in other fields. Or people who simply have More Time. Like graduate students or expectant mothers ordered to bed rest.

Sometimes I just throw the damn AHR away after skimming the book reviews, reading book reviews being the main way those of us with no graduate students keep up with what is being published. This makes me wish I could just read the AHR on the web in the first place and never have it come into the house at all. Perspectives, the AHA monthly newsletter, I am less ambivalent about because it is very short, but I would read that on the web too if they lowered my dues and my carbon footprint by witholding paper copies of everything they publish. Just saying.

Now I am going to save oodles of time, thus reserving those hours for productive work (on this topic, see a continuing series by Lumpenprofessoriat on the use-value of blogging) by just putting this post up without looking for amusing pictures.


squadratomagico said...

Hey, thanks!

The name squadratomagico, btw, is i a derivation of quadrato magico, Italian for "magic square." The magic square is the formal name for the two-dimensional palindrome that is my blog icon (and which is, in turn, a photo of my tattoo). It is a protective amulet with an indeterminate meaning and a syncretic history: earliest attestation is a graffito in Pompeii, but it gets adopted into medieval magical culture as well. I strung the Italian phrase together and then added the "s" just for fun.

anthony grafton said...

This is just a sigh of relief that you are both staying in the AHA--please stay, please argue, please change things, in the discipline and in the association!

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Hey, TR, I've never noticed that smell when I roast the parsnips! They are especially yummy that way ;-)

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