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I remember when I was a young academic and I thought it would be good to talk about William Carlos Williams at the MLA at some point, but ev...

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Mastery of Detail

Mastery of a fine level of detail--at the capillary level, not merely the arteries and veins--is fundamental. Most of our knowledge is going to be much more general, but for things very, very close to the center of our particular specialization, the knowledge is going to be extremely specific and detailed. A "show of strength" might involve deployment of that level of detail.

I was talking to someone about my jazz class in a casual setting the other day, and I realized I was getting pedantically detailed about something my interlocutor probably didn't need to know. I had to laugh at myself. Pedantry is just reverting to that level of detail when it isn't appropriate or necessary. It is a scholarly reflex. The level of mastery standing behind that kind of pedantry, however, is necessary.

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