Thursday, November 01, 2007

Idiosyncratic Crises

Prefatory disclaimer: I am fully aware that the following "crisis" only legitimately qualifies as a "crisis" for those of us in academia. Which, of course, means that it's not a crisis at all.

I hate, hate, HATE the practice of submitting panel or paper "proposals" for conferences. The way this always works out, or at least the way it works out in my experience, is like writing a check on an account in which the funds are not there. That is, I regularly submit "abstracts" for papers that I have not yet written or "panels" for which I have not yet prepared, only to be bound (usually, MANY months later) by my commitment without being able to remember or reconstruct whatever it was I was thinking when I originally proposed my ostensibly admission-worthy idea.

I think this whole practice is just an extension of the (terrible) practice of taking "incompletes" in grad school-- where one promises to produce a paper of some quality at a later date, which for some probably lame reason cannot be produced now, only to discover that when that later date arrives, there are more immediate tasks to finish and one can barely remember the content of the still-uncompleted course for which the paper is now long overdue.

Bad, bad, BAD practice!

(for those of you who may be wondering what in the world this photo has to do with this post... well, it seemed to me a perfect image of "idiosyncracy")


kgrady said...

So true.

I honestly believe that this fact is widely acknowledged, and just as widely accepted, because people fear that without such promissory notes, the whole of academia would grind to a halt. Nothing motivates like guilt, anxiety, and the fear of humiliation before your peers.

Ideas Man, Ph.D. said...

Of course, if one writes an idiosyncratic enough proposal in the first place, one need not worry what it was one was going to write (I submit to you the panel that you, Katie and I submitted as evidence).

For some reason this reminds me of the story of Beethoven. Although he only ever composed one opera in his life, he had apparently wanted to write a second. The subject was to be William Penn and the Quakers. For some reason he was unable to receive a commission for it.