Thursday, May 6, 2010

My nemesis.

I don't think I've mentioned my nemesis before. It seems impolitic and catty to admit to having a nemesis, and only announces my own insecurity, but there I am. My nemesis is racing to write a book on a topic very similar to, but not identical to, the book I am racing to write. He has published on many of the same figures I have published on. He and I are interested in a lot of the same historical/ religious/ representational issues. The distinctions between his arguments and mine are sometimes very subtle, and I fear that he may get his into print before I do. This terrifies and angers small and precarious me, because I don't want my project to get pre-empted by his, or to be seen in comparison as theoretically clumsy, or less elegant in its readings.

But I have to say that as a nemesis, my nemesis sucks. He seems to have no earthly idea of what it means to be a nemesis. Has he never read a comic book? Never seen Othello? Avoided the Star Trek franchise and films by M. Night Shyamalan? Doesn't he follow the NBA playoffs?

First off, he does not behave, at least in public, much like a nemesis. I've crossed paths with him at a couple of conferences, and he is lively and engaged. I've even presented on a panel with him once. Could he not feel the antagonist-protagonist electricity between us? He was--or, cagily, seemed to be peaceably unaware of it. In fact, he performed the role of Eager Colleague with admirable aplomb, and has since made friendly contact by email in which he's happily acknowledged our mutual interests. The bastard.

Secondly, I admire his work. He's very, very smart, which is what one would expect of a nemesis, obviously. He is simply far more theoretically sophisticated than I am (though I have him beat on philological stuff). And he acts for all the world as if he is using his powers for good--that is, making really cool and insightful arguments, some of which I wish I had made. He is, I suspect, doing scholarship to which I am sympathetic in order to get me to relax my guard against him, so that I will be lulled into interest and persuasion and a lack of desire to nitpick, and then, cruel and sudden, WHAMO!

Finally, and clearly as a result of his nefarious maneuvers, I find myself really wishing he and I were better friends, because I could use his perspective as I struggle through this Herbert chapter. He and I both disagree with two influential studies on this one issue in Herbert, but for different reasons. And I'd like to be able to talk the matter through with someone who is as steeped in this problem, day and night, for better or for worse, as I am. The worst thing about my nemesis, it's starting to appear, is how much I feel I need him, and how little I feel I can communicate that to him.

11 comments:

Moria said...

No chance of starting a collaborative relationship? Once the book(s) are done, that is. It strikes me that philology + theory makes a powerful team (by your powers combined, you are Captain Poetics?). Worth a try for an article or two, if not a book-length thing.

Leslie said...

Geeze Louise. I gotta get me a nemesis. All my favorite poets have them. Several have arch-nemeses. Me? I got nuthin'. D'ya suppose that means I am a failure as a poet?

And if anyone would like to suggest a nemesis or arch-nemesis, I'm taking names.

squadratomagico said...

My god, he sounds dastardly!!! Where will it stop???

Renaissance Girl said...

Oh, Leslie. I have my poetry nemesis, too. But she's a for-real nemesis: a talentless hack who uses her personal connections to get good gigs and a backbiting bitch on top of it all. I've all but designed her supervillain costume.

Fie upon this quiet life! said...

You know, it's crazy. I never want to talk Shakespeare with other Shakespeareans in my RL because of my own insecurities. I'm afraid they will reference something I haven't read, or that they will poke holes in my arguments with something I don't know about. There's just too much scholarship out there for me to know it all, and I worry that others will somehow have a photographic memory, and read 1000 books a year because they don't have children or responsibilities keeping them from doing all that work.

It's silly of me, I know. But I get the nemesis thing. You'd think that someone who writes about the same thing you do would be a good buddy. And yet... I totally get why he's just the opposite.

Renaissance Girl said...

Fie et al.--I hope it's clear here that my nemesis doesn't actually know that I call him my nemesis. That this archrivalry is all in my head.

Flavia said...

Hee.

FWIW, I happen to know that your nemesis has nemeses--a full-on enemies list, in fact--but I'm pretty sure none of them work on quite what you/he do.

But in any case, I'm with Moria: I think you'd be really fruitful collaborators, and I suspect he'd give you generous feedback on your work. Best thing about having a nemesis who doesn't know he's your nemesis? Surprise attack! You can take advantage of his obliviousness.

the rebel lettriste said...

Goddamn his eyes! Why does he have to be so ... nice?

Renaissance Girl said...

Flav--Are you suggesting that I am NOT on this list of nemeses to which you are privy? (Maniacal cackle.) Then perhaps it is I who have lulled him...

Renaissance Girl said...

Damn. I just checked my nemesis's faculty webpage, and his book is, in fact, under contract, and will be out in 2011. Damn.

Flavia said...

I'm pretty certain you're not on the list, and that, yes: you have lulled him into a false sense of security. (I don't know the exact people on said list, but I've heard them described in general terms.)

Knew about the book contract--but that makes it all the more likely, don't you think, that he'd be helpful & generous because he doesn't suspect your dastardly intentions?