Wednesday, 03 January 2007

Talking, Endlessly Talking; or, Something I Presented Somewhere before Many People (Painstakingly crafted by hand on a train from D.C. to Philadelphia and revised in Notepad on a cramped flight from Philadelphia to Houston.) Below you'll find in situ the corpse of my lively talk. As will quickly become apparent, the word "talk" is no euphemism. I talked a talk. But I almost didn't. Like most panelists, I arrived in Philadelphia toting a paper to be read. Mine concerned the role blogs could play as virtual parlors devoted to the professionalization of sharp minds with rodential social instincts. The first two panels I attended reminded me of my own base nature. The original version of my "talk" betrayed both the conventional insecurities of an MLA panelist—the first-year fear of imposture, father to outbursts profound only in oblivious pretension—and those specific to a graduate student addressing an "unserious" topic. Legitimacy being the motivation behind the panel, why not describe it in a style with impeccable credentials? Why not partake of the inflated rhetoric of the scholar? Two panels into my MLA-crawl, I remembered what my insecurities had obscured: barking fifteen-to-twenty minutes of academic prose may impress the three people in the room who've never encountered it before, but it alienates and infuriates those who have. Those articles written to be read at conferences? They sound like articles, written to be read, at conferences. They are difficult to follow because their content hardly suits their form and the medium flatters neither, the equivalent of a novelization of a film based upon an interpretation of a novel. Novelty aside, who would a book whose front covered declared it to be "based on Huck in Love, the Independent Spirit award-winning adaptation of Leslie Fiedler's seminal analysis of Mark Twain's Huck Finn in Love and Death in the American Novel"? Yet here we are, fidgeting through strings of words and accumulations of arguments best parsed in the privacy of one's own mind. Exceed the limits of the audience's ability to track an argument and a talk will become difficult, yes, but so too does this sentence: Tina told Mark that John thought Pauline knew what Sam had planned for Justine, but Pauline insisted she had no idea John believed that, nor whether the look Justine exchanged wth Mark at work yesterday meant that Tina had inadvertatly revealed Sam's trap before John and his brother Adam could spring it. That sentence could be parsed, but not easily, not on the fly. Perhaps if acceptance packets included an audio edition of The Golden Bowl—or, better yet, Kant's Third Critique—and threats of dire consequences, of career suicide, if they did not become the soundtrack of the initiate's summer, perhaps then we could disentangle complex social relations and order subtle argumentation whilst inadequately-caffeinated in a dimly lit conference hall far from home. Given that academics should be skilled in this mode of communication, the incentive to cultivate such a specialized skill-set is slight. A well-trained audience would solve the problem, but so would a properly trained speaker. All of which...
An Ideal Bureacracy? or, How I'm Doing My Dearest Dextral, Imagine my surprise when I learned what you were doing! If upon mature deliberation you decide the misery of forgiving your underlings for their alarming account of Mr. Kaufman's recent troubles is something you must bear alone, know now that I approve of your fortitude. One of my women once spoke so prematurely. Last word reached our civilized shores, her punishment more than adequately accorded with the severity of her indiscretion. Mr. Chathworth tells me it involved tigers! I titter at the thought of her grisly evisceration! Most Sweet Sinistral, No one had informed me of your doings, either! I informed Mr. Kaufman when first I heard the results of his trial. Had I but known what you knew, we could have spared him much unrest. In the future we must confer before relating news whose destiny is to disturb. Perhaps we should consider our legs forfeit to a tiger? Beloved Dextral, I am rather fond of my legs, as is Mr. Chathworth, who says they are the second finest in the closet in which we neck like parrots stretching for the nut. Were it not for his attentions I would admit of my gross error and bow on bended knee before Mr. Kaufman. Begging his forgiveness, the closet in which Chathworth and I neck is most regal, truly worthy of the beknighted knickers which cascade down his legs and rumple around those most delicious ankles. When I grasp his tight bu— Silly Sinistral, I abhor interrupting so sweet a voice as yours, but Chathworth and his quality posterior are of no issue here. We must recompense poor Mr. Kaufman for— Dex, Much as it pains me to say, you must move on. Chathworth is mine. If you cannot accept his choi— Sin, This is not about accepting anyone's decision. This is about telling Mr. Kaufman that a clerical error forced us to write him a most terrible missive, one whose implications we would have foreseen had we but communicated more openly beforehand. We should have examined his medical record and realized that the medication responsible for arousing our suspicions was prescribed by one of our own. He deserves word of his being as robust as the bull-ox your delicate Mr. Chathworth so dotes on ...

Become a Fan

Recent Comments