Friday, September 19, 2008

academia

Today I went to a departmental seminar about historiographical nationalism. It was a very last minute decision because it can be quite daunting going to these seminars with big scary historians, especially if you walk in late. But you get Brownie points with the staff for attending, and I think it was worth it, because academic criticism can yield quite interesting people-watching.

I wouldn't have known it, but apparently this seminar was a bit controversial. Immediately after the speaker finished, and the request had gone out for "Comments? Questions?", one of the particularly scary professors, who is rather old, fierce and stuck in his ways, gave some quite provocative-sounding criticism. At least, it sounded so to me. Then the other resident staff started putting in their two cents. It was all very amicable but given that I've just decided to do a Masters, it's terrifying watching the door open into the world of peer review and criticism. Not that we don't get criticised now - it's just we're so liable to burst into tears if they do it aggressively that I think they've learned that Honours students are not to be dealt with carelessly.

Then, as the speaker was summing up his final defence, he said: "Of course, his book is the perfect antidote for fretful sleepers."

I laughed.

A few heads turned my way. One professor who could stare down a Basilisk fixed her eyes on me for at least FIVE WHOLE SECONDS.

What did I do wrong? Wasn't that supposed to be a witty historical insult?

It wasn't until later that I realised Fretful Sleepers is a famous book in the New Zealand history world.

I think I can sum up with what one of the current Masters students said to me via Facebook a few days ago, when I was complaining about essay-writing. Hang in there, it will soon be over, and then you can come and join me in the world of self-doubt and academic criticism!

[By the way, regarding the Masters decision (as I did ask your opinion) - this isn't a rejection of the Russia trip idea but simply a postponement. I think it makes a lot more sense to do a year of undergrad Russian language at uni next year while I do my Masters, and then go, instead of plunging straight into Russia next year without a word of Russian other than "do you speak English?"]

4 comments:

Sarakastic said...

Congrats on your decision!

~Virginia~ said...

i can't remember how i voted, but i'm glad you're happy with your decision. i think it makes a lot of sense. have a great weekend!

Stacy said...

I would have laughed too, only I probably wouldn't have learned it was a book title.

Congrats on deciding.

LEstes65 said...

You are much braver than I.