Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Conference Meta-Paper

Three years ago, I wrote a short paper on how to present conference papers--the intended audience was graduate students in Slavic studies and in nineteenth-century British, both areas in which a few people requested I address them on this topic. I subsequently re-tailored it for a broader audience--it has reverberated as far as the Republic of Georgia, i.e. Saakashvili Georgia, not Sonny Perdue Georgia) --and offer it here. Surprisingly, it has proven controversial, as my modest advocacy of complexity has upset people who want everything to be simple and lucid, or at least to insist that others strive for, or limit themselves by, such admonitions. I think the idea of research in the humanities is to struggle with complexity--not to be obfuscatory or incomprehensible or mystifying, but to be complex as the questions we answer warrant--and this paper is designed to show how the twin goals of complexity and rhetorical effectiveness can work in tandem.