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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Consumatory

This guy has come up with a concept similar to my "scholarly base." In my opinion, this article is on the right track in some ways but flawed in others.

1. The word "consumatory" itself is unfortunate, in my view. It comes from "consume" but also suggests a kinship with "consummate," a word from a different Latin root. (You can see the commentators spell it as "consummatory.") A scholarly base is not, primarily, consuming things, using them up. If this is to be a defense of what professors do, then you don't want to emphasize the passive, consumer-like consumption of knowledge.

2. My concept of the scholarly base is much broader. It does not consist, only or even primarily, of reading other scholarship. For me, it involves reading primary texts of literature and philosophy, or listening to music and looking at art. Only a small part is reading journal articles in my own field. If that's all it is, then it wouldn't take too much time.

3. He emphasizes that scholars in non-research institutions spend a lot of time working on their scholarly base. That is true, but the best way of developing the base is to use it to produce more scholarship. You can't just "consume." If you are keeping up the scholarly base in a serious way, you will get ideas of your own you will want to publish.

7 comments:

Thomas said...

The big problem with valorizing the "consumption" of scholarship as such is that it risks micromanagement of the time spent developing the base. So, if you begin to explicitly justify your value to society in terms of your broader concept (your point 2), you might have administrators and publics meddling in what you choose to take an interest in. "Listening to jazz? Really? You call that work?"

Jonathan said...

Yes. I assume the scholarly base is built up primarily in "non-working" hours. Reading an article about jazz for a chapter on Lorca and kitsch is "work," or even searching for a joke on the internet to amuse my grammar students is work, but listening to jazz is not work because I can only justify it as part of the larger project of the scholarly base.

Just to be myself, the type of person I am doing what I do, requires me to spend time on the "base." But I wouldn't want someone looking over my shoulder second-guessing each bloody thing I'm doing. The problem is with someone at non-research place, where you still have to have a base just to be a competent teacher, but there is more pressure to account for how time is spent, and the base isn't the base for production of more scholarship.

Thomas said...

A good university basically simulates aristocratic privileges in regard to how you spend your time without the decadence. You get to go for a walk around the campus, not on your estate. You have access to a library, you don't own one. You have an income and therefore a place to live, but no servants. If you being a scholar meant "working" in the ordinary sense, you would not really know anything. Knowing demands the freedom to satisfy your own curiosity.

So I guess I'd encourage Henderson just to reject the basic premise of the critique. I didn't like his closing remark about making "the self-reported 50-to-55-hour work week claimed in so many faculty surveys ... more believable." Scholarship should, by definition, not involve soul-destroying labor.

Jonathan said...

The demand that we work 60 hours and justify every moment is ridiculous. I 'd rather say, we work 40 hours, and then we need 10-20 on the scholarly base.

Tanya Golash-Boza said...

The more I think about it, the more it becomes clear that leisure time is essential for creativity. In that leisure, I may listen to classical music, or memorize poems like Jonathan. Or, I might go for a walk, play with my kids, or cook. Being able to move through the world calmly does wonders for my scholarly creativity, I think.

Jonathan said...

Yes. It seems sad to have to justify everything as work, while devaluing everything that makes the work possible in all its creativity.

profacero said...

Yes, but this is because those who make these rules do not do restful or enriching things outside work hours. Heavy drinking, marijuana, junk tv, so-called "gentlemens' clubs," etc., all sort of dull the brain, and casinos are not the world's most edifying type of venue, either.