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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A few essential insights

from Mictlantecuhtli:
It is said that everyone is competing but I think they are competing down, not up. They are competing for towel space on a crowded beach, as it were. But if you go out past the bathers and through the waves, there are only a few swimmers in the clear water. There is space for everyone and they wave at you as you go by.
It is draining to do things poorly and energizing to do things well [...]
This explains a lot. These two insights are connected at the roots.

Today I am moving, and I realize that I am doing it incompetently and thus it is draining a lot energy from me. I dreaded it so I never planned how to do it efficiently. I just throw things in boxes kind of randomly. I take more trips than necessary (and it is a five hour trip each way). Now I am avoiding loading the car again and instead in Starbucks blogging. I am disrespecting the process. Just the way people who hate to cook cook badly and find the process stressful. But you can't just tell them to love to cook!

When I am writing, I rarely find the process stressful. I take pride in the smallest details. Even the hard parts are infused with a sense of pride.

As for "competing down" it is easy to see that writing another article based on an insight already developed by Jo Labanyi or some other famous scholar, just like everyone else already does, will get you published but not get you known. If you can envision that space beyond what other people are doing, you will always have something to say. It is hard, but hard in a different way. You have to be a strong swimmer, but you don't have to be as good at jockeying for position among many similar people.


I had an insight too recently, that the scholarly base concept is what I have to teach my graduate students. One of our best students wrote a dissertation on Quechua poetry a few years ago but never really learned the language well enough to work with the poetry in Quechua. I disagreed with this, but I still had to sign off on the dissertation. Other than that, it was good. It still bothers me, though. Like, "Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?" At OSU there was a graduate student working on the Popul Vuh without knowing the language of the original. I would argue with him endlessly. I guess this is another instance of Mayhew's fallacy, or the idea that if other people just knew what I know, they would agree with me completely.


Professor Zero said...

"...disrespecting the process."

Yes, this is key, and it is why I like to watch professionals do manual labor. They get ready and set and focused in a way I would not for the same job, which is of course why (besides the fact of having practice) they do it better.

Not just tangling with Labanyi or equivalent. That is a very good example.

And, I cannot stand those people who do not learn the language in question. I just wrote a post about not being an FL methodology militant but that doesn't mean I am not an FL militant tout court.

--Militant Hispanist (this is my new name, I am thinking my next blog could have this title)

Jonathan said...

I like the idea of militant Hispanism. Part of it should be realizing we would have the same reaction to the English department studying Neruda without knowing Spanish as a Quechua might have to the Spanish dept. thinking mere translation is ok.

Professor Zero said...

Quechuas do have this reaction and laugh. Remember Regina Harrison, went to the Andes 6 months and then published a book on cultural translation. I like her as a person but you know, they would never let you write an *academic* book on cultural translation using a 6 month language immersion stint in Paris as your fieldwork.

English department does teach Neruda in English. Right now they have a TA teaching intro to lat am lit in English. Yet they will not let me do it under their rubric even though I have 18+ graduate hours in English and did an MA exam on George Eliot & 19th century & PhD exam on Joyce and 20th ... because I am in Spanish, which is language not literature, so I wouldn't be qualified to teach an English course (on lat am lit). Seriously, they believe this.

AND you have to be Zen about it. Carlos Alonso says don't be horrified, be glad, because the alternative -- ignoring the other -- is worse, and at least translation gets them on the horizon. I am not sure I agree, certainly not at the graduate level, but it is an interesting thought strategically.

Meanwhile I can blow your students' minds now, truly, because I have decided we should all re-envision ourselves as wikis. I am not joking.

Jonathan said...

I'm not sure I understand the concept of a wiki exactly, but I do like the idea of putting competition as a sidebar rather than as a part of research.

For me an overbearing category is personal and professional development. I put things like "write another two books on Lorca" as part of that. What you are suggesting is that the research and teaching should be primary, and not subordinated to the overall category of professional development. I'm not saying you are wrong, just that I haven't been doing it that way.

My problem is that I can get the research and teaching done, but I still need to move forward. I am ambitious and competitive but just writing the books has not gotten me where I need to be. I need to start networking more, getting myself in the position to get outside offers, etc...

My own brainwashing was "You only know how to write your books." I couldn't be hired elsewhere at my level because I am not administrator. Jill, Danny, and Vicky got offers and have salaries commensurate with their abilities. Well, Danny is our dean so he has administrative salary.

Professor Zero said...

"What you are suggesting is that the research and teaching should be primary, and not subordinated to the overall category of professional development."

In this model, yes, I consider research and teaching to be the main aspects of professional development. What else do you include, do you mean grants and administrative jobs and all of that are part of professional development?

I always used to do that but I have decided it is an impediment in my case. Generally though I think that would in fact be part of the main screen -- it is just that it has to be kept to a limited amount of time. Mostly, though, my post was about less accomplished people, the ones competing for towel space on the beach, looking at each other rather than that nice ocean they could go into.

Do you just want more salary, if so is it out of need or out of desire for recognition? Do you really want to become an administrator of some type? Do you want to change your life, or are you just out after more visibility?

Would you be willing to chair your department? As chair, rocket it to greater prominence, then get outside offers based on this?

Jonathan said...

All your comments are appearing twice today. I'm deleting the redundant ones.

Salary is about both need and desire for recognition, as well as desire to be treated fairly. I don't like resenting a university I otherwise love. These should be my prime earning years and I want to buy a house, starting again after my divorce last year. I want to steadily improve my life and also be more recognized. Indignities I decided not tolerate in my personal life, but how can I avoid them professionally? I cannot divorce my job right now.

I will probably end up as the chair within a few years, and then will be viable candidate for outside chair jobs.I don't want to be administrator, but that's the only path to get myself some money.

Professor Zero said...

Apologies for that double post!

I have thought about the professional development thing. I still say it is in the sidebar, just as learning Hittite if you needed it for research would be. This might just be me.

I still think you should get a raise for reasons of equity. I would put it to Danny like that and get him to go to bat for you with a V-P or whoever is next up the chain. Make no threats but keep saying the word equity.

Professor Zero said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jonathan said...

I have no threats to make. I will try again this year. I will keep using the word equity and see if that works its magic.

Leslie said...

It really is a case where prof. dev. has to be in main part of wiki (so to speak) and where competition and strategy do matter.

It is a hard level to move at so takes thought. I would be wondering whether to buy house there or apartment in Chueca ! ! !

I would look at prestigious visiting lectureships and fellowships including at places like Cambridge.

I am sure you have thought of all of these things.