Conference Paper (Apr. 13)

Apparently its March already.
This means I have less than a month to finish researching and writing my first conference paper of the year.

The abstract was submitted months ago and I did start my research in between submission and viva but prepping for viva and doing corrections have completely distracted me from actually fleshing out this paper – an especially annoying scenario since I am determined that it will form the basis of something to be submitted for publication. I really want to get some of my work actually out into the world and can’t keep going over the thesis material even if I do publish it eventually..So tonight as a way of treating myself for doing lots of work on the thesis I am going to go back over some of my research and find some more material. I am also going to commit over the course of this week to making a skeleton slide outline to work round.

Key thoughts:

  • Susan Cooper uses Classical knowledge to signify education and to a lesser extent superiority.
  • Section on Romans in Britain emphasises series themes of displacement, duty and connection to one’s land
  • Contrast practical/factual/educational Classics with mythic/emotional Celtic & Saxon imagery
  • Is this a recognisable trend in children’s fantasy?
  • Is this a trend in 50s/60s/70s lit.?

Gonna do me some real research.. gonna enjoy it!

Academic Disagreement

I am a baby academic, not published, no doctorate… How do I deal with academic disagreement?
I was contacted through my profile with some comments loosely related to my research (though I might add not actually on the key topic of my thesis- which is naturally far more subtle :-S). I responded with why I thought the ideas were interesting and why I thought some aspects were wrong and the correspondence has continued. Although we have not got very far, my correspondent has become increasingly detailled with the facts related to his ideas but (to me at least) no more convincing. I fear that whilst he believes in a definable truth discernible from the literary documents I do not and that we shall never agree. Furthermore I have told him so. I believe we are working on different principles of truth-value and that he has a rather different agenda to me. I have no wish to spend the next 20 years arguing about which bits of Strabo/Diodorus/Pliny are “right” and if he had never contacted me directly I would have added his book to my collection of interesting and analysable commentaries on the topic.

So my question is this:
How do I disengage? I don’t want to offend him, I believe he has done some research and that he has a not-implausible theory – I just don’t think he has proven (or could ever prove) it is better than other related theories.
My actual research is in the formulation of these theories, their patterns and their function. I want to ask him to tell me about what drove him to do the research, to really probe why he favours this interpretation over other possibilities.
Is it possible to do that? How do I disconnect my sense of protectiveness over my research and my decision? Is there any way to continue a correspondence while I remain sceptical without offending him? Can we discuss the issue without  expecting to ‘convert’ the other? If I have a sudden “epiphany” and accept his proofs is it possible to reconcile that with trying to understand his motivation? Finally, if worst comes to worst, at what point is it acceptable for me to tell him to go study Greek for 5 years and to study approaches to classical historiography and geography for 3 years and then reconsider his attitude to the ancient material…?

Also if he wants me to review his book.. he should send it to me not debate with me via private message, right?

Hot-tubs, Articles, Bussiness plans & Christmas

A lot of things have happened since I last really sat down and wrote an update.. Not least of course finishing my footnotes, binding and submitting my thesis.
But in addition I took a much needed break with B which involved the luxury of a hot-tub, realised that the festive madness had very much snuck up on me and I started some more serious contemplation of the future.

At the moment this forward-looking has 2 phases – firstly the adaption of my thesis for publication and secondly looking into the purchase of a pub.
With regard to publication – although ultimately I feel that it would make a good monograph I want some more guidance on suitable publishers and of course it seems pointless to move too far down that line whilst waiting for my examiners’ comments. On the other hand I want to improve my publication profile so journal articles are an absolute requirement. At this stage my plan is to rewrite some of the conclusions/key ideas into papers for each of the 2 disciplines that I was working with. Cornish Studies is easy enough to plan an article for  and pick a journal but Classics… not so much; since it was the discipline I did my initial studies in I am more nervous of getting it wrong and it it is tricky to find the right journal for the topic.
With regard to the pub – well thats a more complex beasty all round.
I have now been a barmaid for nearly a decade (Gods save us all) and a pub has come in the local area. Its not a particularly successful pub but I believe it could be and I think I could make it work. Trouble is: a) money [I’d need to borrow a fair bit] b) the in-laws [tee-total and inclined to make W a little nervous] and c) time [I worry that I wouldn’t be fairly considering W & B if I made this move]. However, just as boldly as I move into the realms of academic publish I must also look for a real job and so I am drawing up a business plan even as I type.

Wish me luck

Planning to Publish…

When I submit one of the options given is an embargo on the electronic copy of my thesis that would allow me to publish without being gazumped.
I intend, despite every ounce of self-doubt, to take them up on this offer.

First of all I want to rip a couple of journal articles out of my research – ideally one for each discipline. Cornish Studies I think will be easier to achieve than Classics but it is a matter of targetting. But longer-term I’d really like to create a monograph from the thesis. The question is do I have the balls and will I have the time.
I want to put a manuscript proposal together for a publisher before christmas.. is that daft? Maybe. But I need to not lose movement. Hopefully my conference paper proposals will be accepted too and then I have another string towards publication.
I might have no experience now; I might never be a lecturer but damn I want to have published my research!

Worlds Colliding – A Classical Ideal & Me

I have spent the end of last week at the conference that I have been “preparing” for the last few months and I have been reminded of a few home truths about both myself and academia.

In myself, there are two key things that it is useful to be reminded of – firstly that I am not, and probably never will be, a naturally social creature and secondly that I am not an ambitious or driven individual.
These two points have a profound impact on my experience of conferences and academia in general and contribute to a growing realisation that my lack of engagement with the institutions is not only a protection mechanism to deal with my fear of failure and sense of dread at potential rejection (good ol’ get out before they get you down) but also something intrinsic to my personality that actively sets me apart from ‘successful’ academics.

A conference, I have been repeatedly reminded by research advisors, is a networking opportunity. This is a chance to become known and to have your research become known. To in short demonstrate your publishability and ultimately your employability.
I suck at networking
I cannot without supreme effort of will and/or alcohol walk up to a complete stranger and say “Hi, delighted to meet you. I’m interested in x, how about you?” Every fibre of my being rebels against the notion of inserting myself in other people’s conversation. No amount of certainty that others battle with the same issue and that such an artificial environment requires that course of action compels me to make the move and I am frozen, hovering, silent and awkward on the fringe. I hope that some kindly don will take pity on me or that I will see a familiar face to whom I can at least comment on the paper I heard them give but alas the size of the conference and the pressures of time mitigate against it.

This combines spectacularly with my second problem – the lack of ruthless drive – to make me quite unsuited to an academic career. Despite the fabled ivory towers and the infamous disconnect between ordinary folks and classicists it is increasingly clear that success in a university setting requires a great deal of experience, regular publication and a knack for collecting collaborative projects – all in all money generating potential. Learning for learning’s sake is a hobby and academia must be a career. In itself, although in danger of sacrificing integrity for cash, this does not need to be bad what it is not however is representative of me.
I do not have the awards under my belt from being externally funded through my PhD. I do not have the teaching experience enabled and encouraged by on site learning. Despite 5ish years of research I do not have a publication to my name and boast only 2 CA papers and 2 WIP papers. I have never helped organise a conference or seminar series; hell I have hardly even been to more than a handful. In short I have not prepared myself for a career where outputs and administration (not to mention teaching) form key roles.
I think I am ok with that. In that since taking time off ill it has been clear to me that the likelihood of my reaching the standards required for an academic career in a job market that is shrinking comparative to candidates are low and the chances of finding a job that didn’t expect me to grind myself to dust are lower still. It is still a jolt to realise that the obvious pathway is effectively cut off by lack of experience through the decisions I made (and don’t regret) to, for example, keep working and live with my wife and to acknowledge that despite my internal passion for knowledge I haven’t a gift for dissemination but not a surprise to see that it is not a path I am likely to tread.

So am I still a classicist if I am not in academia? Will I ever finish my PhD? Is there research after completion? Can I fulfil my publishing dreams before distance from the sphere renders me obsolete? And more importantly will I be able to cope without access to current journals online?