Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Week 49/66: Back from SAA

SAA is the Shakespeare Association of America, the conference I went to this past week.  I didn't take my computer, so I didn't blog.

Thoughts about SAA?

I had a good time, mostly because I spent time with a friend from grad school who's super nice, smart, and all the things we want friends to be.  I also chatted with DG, who I met a couple of years ago.

I heard people saying good things about seminars this year, mostly, more than in most years, it seems.  I thought the papers in my seminar were sort of all over the place, but our conversation was really good because it brought together the bigger picture issues well.  And many of us had a lovely dinner afterwards.

It was expensive, and none of the grad students came; I wonder if they looked up the restaurant ahead of time and decided they couldn't afford it?  One of the plusher folks picked up most of the tab for a couple of others, which was generous.  I must admit, I looked at the menu and saw no prices, and was worried--and asked.  It was a fixed price for an amazing dinner sort of thing, and delicious, but I don't think I've ever spent as much on a meal before.  (And the plusher person was exclaiming about how cheap it was, but then, they live in a very expensive area.)

Before my seminar, I was sitting outside in a nice sitting area (the hotel had REALLY comfy, relatively quiet sitting areas around the meeting room floor, which was great), and a young, white man was talking to another person, who asked if he'd had a good time in his seminar.  He expressed disappointment that his paper hadn't been talked about, and the two people who'd responded to him were grad students who didn't know much about the issues he was addressing.  He went on to say that famous person 1 and 2 should have been his respondents because they would have known what he was talking about.  He went on to say that his dissertation director really isn't an expert in his area, so he really did need that sort of response.

So, on one hand, I'm sort of sympathetic: one always hopes to get helpful responses.  On the other hand, I was sort of irritated, too.  We all want good responses to our papers, always, and yes, we all tend to be focused on our stuff more than other peoples' stuff.  But I would have had more sympathy if he'd expressed the slightest awareness that maybe his paper really wasn't as incredibly important and wonderful as he thought?

I mean, he says he's not working with an expert in the area, so maybe his director isn't pushing him, or hasn't told him that he's behind the times, and the conversation he thinks is super vital was done three years ago or more, done and dusted.

I wish I'd asked him what he learned from famous people 1&2's papers, and I wished I'd asked him what he'd learned from the papers of the other grad students.

The sad part of the SAA, or maybe not, is that I was going to good panels and seminars, and barely got outside.  And because of when my own seminar was, I didn't play tourist at all.  But I learned stuff!

It seems like a new generation has taken over, and that's quite promising.  And in the process, schools that used to be early modern power-houses, with lots of panel presentations and such coming from them, have faded and other schools are coming forward, usually public R1s now.  But still, the focus is totally on R1s, of course.

Some previous SAA responses: 2014  in which I talked about some folks who teach doctoral students and the job market.


I'm signed up to help with bird banding tomorrow!

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