Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cebula on Reading Conference Papers

Check out Larry Cebula's hilarious take on those scholars who read papers at history conferences.  At taste:

I am so excited to be at Big Annual Conference in my discipline! And now here I am at Session With Very Interesting Title. I have read books and articles by these women and men, so to have them all sitting together is a buffet of scholarly brilliance. And now the woman who is doing research on the very thing I am most interested in is about to give her presentation. This is going to be great!
Wait. Why does she have all those papers? No need to panic. Most likely those are handouts, or at worst some notes. She wrote Really Awesome Book That Changed the Field, so she knows what she is doing. There, she is beginning. ...

Oh, God, no. She is looking straight down and reading from her paper. I spent 10 hours on airplanes and all my professional-development money for this? Maybe she is just reading the introduction before she shifts to a more conversational presentation? ... No, she is forging into the second paragraph, reading the words out loud.

Why is she doing this? Surely she does not teach her courses this way, or write out her conversations with her family in advance. Maybe she does not know that we can read, and she thinks she needs to read out loud to us? That doesn't seem likely. Maybe she is on prescription medication of some kind. She does look a bit under the weather.

Trying to pay attention. Time has slowed to a crawl. I'll bet I can finish this sentence for her in my head. Ha, I was right. And again. OK, this game is getting old.

I would take out my phone and check Facebook if I weren't sitting in the front row. What if I hid my phone behind the conference program? Would anyone notice? It's not like she is looking up. Maybe some of my friends are at the beach or something. ...

Whoa—I just missed a long section. She was talking about the Jesuit mission and now she is on to the territorial government. Was the passage just descriptive, I wonder, or was there some new research? Oh, well, her new book will be out next year, and I will read it then. Because I can. Read, I mean. I think I just missed another bit while I was trying to figure out the first bit I missed.

That is a nice suit jacket the session chair has on. I should get one like that. It would go with my blue shirts and also with my green tie. Good cut, too. I need to pay more attention to that sort of thing. Are two-button jackets back in style? I wonder what the chair is thinking—he looks like a wax statue up there. They all do. My butt hurts.

Read the rest here. And then read Cebula's blog post on the article here. 

In case anyone is interested, you can read my very brief take on the whole question, written in response to Cebula and others trying to ban the reading of papers at the recent meeting of the AHA.