Saturday, September 10, 2005

Just ... aargh.

Just ... aargh

Imposter syndrome hits again.

When does this stop? I have a PhD, you know. From a pretty reputable university. I worked hard to get it and I wrote a decent dissertation. My committee included my advisor (six books, talking head on a couple of history series) and a Fellow of the MAA, and a classicist who thinks I have good language skills. They signed the damned thing. I have been known to write and present, although generally the presentations have been pedagogical, rather than on my research. I don't even have to have this bloody paper done this week -- just the abstract, which I have partially written. There is much evidence to lead me to believe that I know what I'm doing, especially if I pretend I'm talking about someone else with the same qualifications. And then I read this. Note that one of the first questions is, "Do you have a paper?"

My answer is, yes, I think so. There is a lot of stuff out there that talks, mostly generally, about what I am doing, or rather, trying to do. Some people, notably Matthew Innes, Regine Le Jan, Franz Staab, et al., have gone into a lot of detail about local nobility in what some call central and others call eastern Francia. But there really isn't much *specifically* on the processes involved in the movement of Frankish nobles into the east and how we can use the sources to illustrate their physical relocation and intermarriage into the already-present local elites. My thesis did that. I can pull a paper out of the thesis and turn it into an article. But what if I'm wrong and I don't have a paper? What if I've missed something crucial and it's been done in the years I wasn't looking? What if I embarrass myself in front of my friends and they take away my medievalist license? What if I embarrass my friends?

Despite such misgivings, Phlebas, you'll have the abstract on time. But if anyone has any advice on this (the meltdown or sources) ...

And now you know what makes this a pseudonymous blog rather than an anonymous one -- it's a pretty small world. Still, I'd rather stay as pseudonymous as possible, if y'all don't mind.

On a somewhat ironic note, my first real publication (a review, but peer-reviewed) will be out in the next couple of weeks.


Tiruncula said...

"When does this stop?"

The bad news is, it doesn't.

The good news is, since it doesn't, everybody, even famous intimidating people. suffer from it - even DS, I bet, hard as it is to believe.

Some cope by giving advice.

I've given many successful papers myself and _I_ get stomach aches reading the list you linked to. The only thing on that list that's absolutely essential is the second item under the DO NOTs. If your paper ends on time, or even early, everything else will be forgiven or forgotten.

I've given papers where it turned out I didn't really have a paper by DS standards, but the conversations that resulted, and just the process of formulating the thing for a 19 1/2 minute presentation, were immensely helpful in (re)formulating my later work on the topic.

Here's what I get out of other people's papers:
1. Here, I think, is a charming person I wasn't aware was working on this topic.
2. Ooh, I didn't know historians were thinking about that/approaching that topic that way. Cool.
3. I didn't know about that text! I'll have to look that up and see if it's relevant to my own work.
4. She ended on time! I love her!

So, in my experience, you don't need to give the paper that revolutionizes your field; you just need one moderately cool idea or text or new reading, presented in a compact and aurally-digestible form.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Good to hear it's not just me who has that reaction to the list in question! :-)

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Thanks you guys. I feel better now. Kinda.

Rebecca said...

If you lose your medievalist license I'll issue you your own personal early american license. I like to think we're open and friendly like that. :)

But seriously, this is the sort of stuff that annoys me about conferences and academia generally...the holier-than-thou tone of what otherwise is decent advice.

I'm sure you've got a great paper ADM. Hopefully your audience will be full of helpful scholars who generally want to make our understanding of early modern europe more complete...not a room full of folks who just want to score points.

Rebecca said...

oops, I meant "early medieval europe." too much carnivalesque. :)

Sharon said...

What they said. That list means well I suppose, but it's just way over the top. There's only so much you can do in 15/20 minutes for crissakes!

I think there are only a very few golden rules: speak up, don't speak too fast, don't overrun (by more than a couple of minutes).

("too much carnivalesque"? what can she possibly mean? How can anyone have too much carnivalesque?)

Dr. Virago said...

Yeah, what everyone else said.

And for what it's worth, it sounds like you *do* have a paper. You've identified what has been done and what needs to be done, and you're making your contribution to the latter. Voila -- conference paper!

Anyway, that list sounds like someone writing for Medieval Academy participants rather than K'zoo participants -- or by someone who's more used to MAA than K'zoo (and possibly snobby about it). In my experience, K'zoo is very welcoming to the work-in-progress, while MAA wants more polished stuff. That's one of the things I like about K'zoo -- I can actually get friendly feedback about where to go next, especially when I'm starting on something new to me.

(The practical advice about delivery in that list is good for anywhere, though.)

And remember -- this is *just* an abstract. You don't have to have it all perfect now -- you've practically written the thing in this post!

Anonymous said...

You know "whether you have a paper" depends as much on what the various individuals in the audience know and think as it does on any other factor.

You may look like an idiot to some, a reasonable summarizer to others, a revelation to those even more clueless than you (joke).

Kelly said...

You're doing fine, ADM. Sounds like the normal jitters we all have a) if we are conscientious and b) if we don't think we're the #1 expert on absolutely every topic we are discussing. Remember that one of the primary rules of writing is just to sit down and do it - and you've done quite a bit of it in this post. Isn't blogging wonderful?

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Yes! and so are friends who speak on many levels at once!!

BrightStar said...

let me say - YAY about your publication coming out!!!

Phlebas said...

I completely agree with the other posters about that article's 'holier than thou' attitude. I also think that it isn't helpful, really, on a key issue--the difference between papers written for oral delivery and those written for journals. I'm sure that you will have a fine paper come May. I only wish that I could assure you of a great audience response, but this seems impossible to predict. Last year I heard a major scholar give a very interesting paper and get no questions whatever from the audience--though some less impressive papers did get questions. It's all a matter of who shows up to the session and what their interests are.

Anonymous said...

They didn't ask the major scholar because they were afraid to look foolish, or felt he'd summed it all up (added to the timidity).

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I think it's finished, Phlebas. I ran it by an Americanist and another medievalist, and they thought it ok, so I'm sending it. Thanks everybody for being so great!