Some other F Words in my life
Fence and Fear. It's the end of the Summer, and I still haven't written my book review. Classes start in two weeks. I have to go out of town for most of one of them, family obligations having reared their ugly heads. So I am finally painting the fence. It's a big fence, since it encompasses fully half of our lot -- more than a quarter of an acre. It's pickets, so it's a pain in the ass. It does need doing, and I'm paying the girls across the street to help. But really, I think I'm choosing the fence over fear.
It's only in the past couple of days that I clearly realized that the fear was there. Sharon over at Early Modern Notes kindly linked to me, and we've had a nice conversation going in the comments about perceived differences in the way Medievalists approach History as compared to the way Early Modernists approach it, and why. It's something I've thought about a lot, and want to blog on -- after the review. Ralph Luker at Cliopatra then linked to the Early Modern site, and all of a sudden, it hit me: these people seem to be treating me as a colleague. Wow.
For people who know me beyond the pseudonym, this probably isn't surprising -- or at least, I hope not. People who have met me at conferences, people I know from grad school, people I teach with now, seem to accept me as one of their number. Still, I'm never sure I belong. I don't come from an academic background, and have made 'life' decisions that kept me out of the loop for several years while I finished my dissertation and then stayed in non-academic employment for a couple of years after that. Teaching as an adjunct got me back into the life, but left little time for being a scholar. Consequently, I feel like I'm always playing catch-up. And, in my less admirable, often quite lengthy moments, I seem to try to insure that I am. And so, the book review.
First, it's on a topic I'm just not very familiar with. I mentioned this when asked to do the review, but basically, of the people around to do it, I'm the least unqualified. I don't even have to read the book in the original language, but in translation, and I feel pretty confident about what I have to say on that subject. It's an interesting book, too -- so far. It contains a historiographical essay to die for, in the sense that it opens a window on over a century of German scholarship on the subject and its tendency to fit into German political ideology. Not only does this give the non-German reader some insight into a subject that really hasn't been widely available to them, i.e., the importance of national- and nationalist ideologies in framing historical questions, but I also think it opens the way for more research into my own area. That is, I think that many of the ideologies driving German historiography on the subject of the review are also pertinent when looking at the Carolingians. I even mentioned this in my dissertation, but more as something that needs further research. Yet, despite the fact that (reading what I've just written) I seem to have some cogent ideas on the review for what I've read, I'm stalling. I'm stalling because I'm afraid you'll think I'm an idiot. Unfit to join your ranks.
I feel this way at conferences, too. Every time I ask a question or make a comment, I'm sure someone mock my ignorance. It's never actually happened, mind you. Often I end up at the coffee intervals chatting with really nice people I've just met because they wanted to tell me they liked my question and discuss it further. Last conference, I discussed this whole syndrome and being on the job market with just such an acquaintance -- a Name in his field who told me I underrated myself and needed to aim higher than I was. It felt great, but the minute I begin to do anything that will open me up to my peers, I freeze. (As an aside, the rejection from the Chronicle didn't help, either). So I'm off to do the fence. And to mull over the fact that some of you seem to think I should be in the club. And then I'm going to finish the book and write the damned review. Just to find out for sure.