South Park Self

long words like "marmalade"

This conference trip was really enjoyable, and at the same time deeply surprising. I've mostly come to terms with how isolated I am in my academic interests here: there aren't really any other serious fairy-tale theorists in the country, and my other interests - genre, science fiction, the internet, children's lit, fanfic - are likewise not highly regarded. This has conspired to somehow give me the mental sense of being a negligible quality, academically speaking. A dabbler. Not serious. Certainly not theoretically accomplished.

My experience of the conference has revealed this as so much bosh. Distanced as I am from the European and American hubs of fairy-tale theory, I expected my book to vanish into the academic ocean with scarcely a splash or ripple. Instead, it was fairly high-profile in the conference consciousness: included in the conference recommended reading list, directly referenced by several papers, and quite a few people approached me to say they'd read it/liked it/had it and planned to read it/oh gosh let's talk about metafiction no-one else does! I didn't feel that my actual conference paper was particularly well delivered, and I always feel like a bit of a fraud trotting out the jargon, but again it received only positive feedback, engagement, validation. If nothing else my isolation means I do things slightly differently to the mainstream of this discipline, and my peers in the field seem to find that interesting.

Most importantly, though, I found that I actually fitted into this milieu without too much trouble. I deliberately don't socialise much with my academic contemporaries, I think that way madness lies, or at the very least princesses in ivory towers, but the result of this is that I'm very conscious of "not being a pretentious academic" in social settings. Not only do I self-consciously flag long words like marmalade when I'm holding forth, I self-censor like mad, and have apparently conditioned legions of my long-suffering friends into applying the firm hand of righteous mockery when the polysyllables become too polysyllabic. (And mad props to stv, for the suggestion that my next online identity of any sort is as "Polly Syllable".)

So it was a bit odd to find myself, for example, in animated discussion with one of the grad student presenters about Buffy and Supernatural and genre tropes, reflexively holding back on the jargon levels, only to think, "Wait! Hang on!" and crank it up instead. Which is, I have to say, fun. And tends to be met, capped and encouraged. And, somewhat to my own surprise, I pull it off. I actually know what I'm talking about. I know the critics being referenced, I have opinions on theoretical positions, I am swimming at ease in this verbal ocean and doing occasional back-flips in sheer joie de vivre.

As one of the nice professors pointed out after listening sympathetically to my minor rant about my employability in this country, this conference is a space in which no-one once felt the need to mention Africa. You have no idea how refreshing that is. And I am starting to realise, with slight horror, the actual and hideous extent to which this department, this institution, this intellectual climate, has sapped my belief in myself and the validity of what I do. It sucks. It must stop. I must go on more of these jaunts. They're good for the soul.
  • Current Mood: surprised struck
  • Current Music: The Cure, Disintegration
You've painted a fantastic picture of the beauty of travel. Isn't it amazing what insights we gain when we can view our lives from a distance, when we can compare it to others'? 'Perspective' is my best effort at a polysyllabic summary.

Oh yes, more jaunts for sure. But why stop there? You dearly love the cherished institution, but love, alas, is never enough. The sex has to be pretty darn good too. So says Sookie ;>
total perspective vortex
Hee. I do like your analogy. The love is mostly one-sided, reciprocated only in patchy and arbitrary ways, and the sex is bloody awful. No wonder I feel inadequate.
It's something that I have thought for a while. You really are not valued at the alma mater, and should relocate forthwith.
Yes, but observe the catch-22 here: the idea of relocating has been strangled at birth by the feeling of inadequacy, i.e. there's no point in even trying for overseas posts, I'm clearly not worthy. I'm hoping that experiences such as this conference can train my subconscious self-sabotage into something more functional and considerably less feeble.
It is great to find a real peer group in your field. I remember what a pleasure it was going from small companies where I was the lonely sole voice of Security to my current role with several hundred peers in the same field. Like meeting close family you never knew you had :)
1 X Stern look at you Imposter Syndrome
1 X Whirling-round-the-room-hug at your rightful respectedness.