пятница, апреля 22, 2016

How Did I Get Here?

A while ago, a friend on Facebook posted a link to an article that had the following illustration:

My friend wondered whether the same applies to professors. While I suppose that most professors also possess a rather troubling combination of the two attributes (but with little to no art to arise as a result of said combination), the logical question ensuing from this realization is whether I, as an aspiring-actual faculty member, possess any such thing as "Absolute Narcissism" in significant amounts. And the answer, if I may be allowed to be modest, self-effacing, and cripplingly self-doubtful, is no.

  • I don't go around saying that my dissertation will completely change my rather small field once it comes out in book form.
  • I don't tell students in my classes that they make up a small privileged group of, well, students in my classes.
  • If someone shoots down an idea I present in the classroom or at some "scholarly" discussion, I usually clarify (not very well) my position, but don't make a substantial effort to convince my counterpart that I am right or that my point of view is worth pondering.

Actually, the last one might fall under the category of borderline "narcissism" in a rather perverse way: I guess I could interpret this instance as "I know I am right, and I don't care whether you agree because my view is the only that counts to me." I am not saying I actually think such things; the outcome is always more along the lines of "crippling self-doubt," but, as this example demonstrates, the two spheres are indeed closer than we may think.

But the answer, ultimately, is that, despite apparent efforts to make the work of the university more integrated in the world at large, success in academia is still measured, to a great extent, by how effectively one's narcissism (tempered by self-doubt in a carrot-and-stick dialectic) translates into fruits of research and teaching. And - here comes the crippling self-doubt again - I'm not sure if I can carry out any research - or teaching, for that matter - without the belief that what I am doing will make a difference to other people besides me. And, since my research makes little difference even to myself, this just brings me back to the point at which I have little motivation to start, or continue what I already started.   

понедельник, апреля 18, 2016

Model Planes and Scholarship

I've taken up a hobby--assembling model planes.
Well, it's, so to speak, a hobby: I don't really do this often enough for it to count as a permanent activity. I assembled a MiG-15 last summer, and have started assembling a MiG-29 now, which will take some time to complete, given how slowly I'm moving along.
It's a curiously relaxing activity, to assemble model planes. I enjoy the moments when I'm not paying attention to anything else other than how to do a proper layer of paint, or how much cement glue to use. In this sense, this is an activity that resembles scholarship.
This is not the only similarity between model planes and journal articles or scholarly monographs. To wit:

  • Both, at least to me, are founded on moments of introspection and focus on very tiny details;
  • Both are, for the most part, self-centered activities. I'm not interested in displaying my models in a museum or anything like that (they're not good enough);
  • The process is painstakingly long, involves many steps, many of which repetitive or reiterative;
  • The process involves as much handwork (putting together things, making sure they fit, etc.) as creativity;
  • The finished product ends up lying on a bookshelf in my office, not quite forgotten, but more like a memento of some hours of loneliness and, paradoxically, of fun.

That's about it. If only I could produce articles as fast as I produce model planes...