Thursday, October 11, 2007

Conference post

I am at Big Interdisciplinary Conference, the one where, unlike MLA, some people choose not to wear black exclusively. Also unlike MLA: haughty looks, like black-rimmed glasses, are optional.

Instead, this conference has been inspiring, not in a "let's march to the courthouse, power to the people" kind of way, though it would be entirely within the spirit of the conference if this were so, and the organizers would be thrilled. No, this has been inspiring in an "exciting subject matter" kind of way. One panel, on a subject related to a secondary area that I've done some work in, made me want to start writing about that area IMMEDIATELY, as in jotting down notes about how I might integrate and extend the theories of the panelists. I also started thinking about how this area might be incorporated more extensively into the courses that I teach.

All this intellectual dizziness, if you can call it that, did mean that my notes for one of the papers are a little scattered; however, since I was already familiar with the text in question and the panelist didn't expect anyone in the audience to be familiar with it, I could see where the panelist was going with the argument (and that's where s/he did in fact go) and so didn't miss anything major.

Why do we go to conferences? To get social/professional credit, of course (you can't get promoted without them), sometimes to see friends, sometimes to get information for research or teaching. Sometimes, as Tenured Radical puts it so well, it's a great way to get work done: you have a finite amount of stuff (I'm paraphrasing here) and a finite amount of time with no one to bother you as you sit in a hotel room and tick items off the list. (This would be working better for me if I had not grabbed a big irrelevant folder of articles instead of the book manuscript I am supposed to be reviewing.) But conferences can also get you fired up about your work, sometimes through conversations with others and sometimes just by what you hear in panels. At a certain level maybe we're just intellectual sensation-seekers, and conferences are our Space Mountain.

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