Friday, September 4, 2009

The Year of "Piss Off."

Early last spring, I passed a colleague in the hall, who spun around after I'd passed by and said, "Listen, I'm putting together this conference on Not Your Field, and I'd really like you to present on A Poet You've Never Heard Of. Would you mind?" I responded by saying, "Well, you know, I'm really a Renaissance Girl, and I don't know anything about Not My Field, don't know what the issues are, and especially not in the identity politics that the poet in question seems to have engaged moderately with." My colleague said, "Yes, but you're a poet, and I know you'll do a good job. Just do a fairly informal and slightly flattering paper on this poet, because the poet's family may be in attendance. Thanks!"

So, I agreed, after a fashion.

As you know, I've been beating my head against a book this summer. Forgot about the conference until a couple of days ago. Hadn't hear from my colleague again about it, so dropped hir an email this week asking when it was and what, exactly, was it that s/he wanted from me again...?

The conference is next week. They hope I'll have an eventually-publishable 20-minute paper.

I won't.

I'll have a decent and not remotely fawning 15-minute paper, which I will not be later revising, because I'm writing a book on my field.

I'll have a real thesis but it will be textually based, practically devoid of secondary research (in my defense, there hasn't been anything written on this poet), myopically unaware of whatever cultural forces may be at work because, as I may have said, it's Not My Field.

I'll have verve and style, and that may obscure any lacunae in my knowledge, or at least redirect from them.

And then I will follow the example of a similarly book-focused girlfriend of mine: I will make this The Year of "Piss Off."

6 comments:

squadratomagico said...

Excellent strategy!

But I must say, your colleague has a lot of nerve!

Lisa B. said...

I so wish I could apply this dictum retroactively.

Doctor Cleveland said...

Yeah. If a colleague needs to fill spaces on a panel to make the panel happen, that's one thing. If the colleague needs publishable 20-minute papers, that's another. You can't follow a request for something "easy" with an expectation of something more. Sheesh.

Ink said...

Good plan! Though I hope you've indulged in some vigorous eye-rolling at hir nerve...

Blue Cheese said...

AMEN!!!

e.p. said...

Your use of "lacunae" reminded me of a phrase I created last year to describe the dolor of writing late-night papers: lacuna luna lachrymose. Good luck!