I once saw a post of Facebook that said something like “Academics don’t go on vacations. They go to conferences.” While I admit there is certainly an element of socializing (both during the carpool there-back and the event itself), the academic conference is most definitely not a vacation. The humanities academic conference really is a place to go for new ideas and texts and intellectual networking. Personally, I find the discovery of new ideas and texts to pursue both exciting and frustrating. For example, I think I might need to read Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, but where in the pile of ‘not-strictly-work’ reading does it go? On the professional level, someone made a suggestion concerning that paper I presented that has the potential to turn an admittedly less than stellar paper into a publishable article. This is a good thing. But then, do I slow my current larger project for this one (which will require a considerable amount of research and additional writing) or wait until my Gower project is at least fully drafted?
I do think that it might be possible to combine the two, since there is a related thread: the use of Greco-Roman pastoral elements. What I am sure of is that I have a starting point title to look up. If this book appears to be relevant to both projects, then I can continue with both at the same time, at least for now. The first problem will be if Transforming Work is only relevant to the new idea of pursuing the university as the medieval version of the ‘representative anecdote’ that serves as a definitive feature of pastoral literature (see Paul Alpers’ What Is Pastoral? for this idea which he borrows from Kenneth Burke). The second problem is that the initial research for this idea will take time because I anticipate a lot of false leads and hits because of the key term ‘pastoral literature’. Even from a simple library catalog search for Transforming Work using ‘medieval pastoral literature’ (I couldn’t remember the title, only that there had been a recent book that discusses medieval poetry and pastoral themes-techniques) brought up mostly titles that dealt with the work of priests and theologians instead of poets. This sort of difficulty is a hazard with any early stage research, but it takes time to get through, and time is not something in abundance in any academic’s life.
On a different note, one of the best things about this kind of conference is the random knowledge that you find. For example, I never knew that a stone creature was technically a “gargoyle” only if it has water running through it. If just a statue, then the correct term is a “grotesque” (or other similar label).
Stay tuned for an update concerning how-if I manage to solve the ‘which project’ dilemma, and for my final discovery of this conference weekend just past: Long Live the Starbuck’s Chestnut Praline Latte!