My current road toward a total mental collapse also crossed my mind as a topic. That, though, would just make all of you down. Please send flowers when I finally do end up at the asylum. Like Kathryn Hepburn, I love the calla lilies. My head doesn't jiggle when I say it, though.
Then there are my concerns that Cat is developing an eye infection. That, though, would just make PETA down.
So, all I have left in terms of topics is work.
Yes, my life of leisure ended as I started at the institute last week. Until the Logo channel asks me to star in that all-gay remake of the Mary Tyler Moore Show, I have to earn those coins somehow. It’s hard out here for a prof.
Many of you have asked, “GayProf, we learned from your amazing blog that you aren’t teaching right now. We thank the creator everyday that your blog exists. Truly, you are the most desirable man on the blogosphere. Still, just what are you doing this year in terms of work?”
Well, some of you have asked this.
Alright, a few of you have inquired.
Okay, one of you asked – and he was just being polite. He might also have left out the bit about the creator. Still, the question got posed, so I will answer.
As faithful readers know, a Boston institute essentially bought my Texas-university contract for the year. More or less “on loan,” I am here temporarily to work on/talk about my research. It’s a pretty sweet gig, if you can get it.
Much to my shock, though, people who pay your salary suddenly think that they own your time or something. They have these crazy ideas that I need to go to an office Monday through Friday. There is also something about my showing some sort of productivity. Whatever.
If not teaching, though, then what? Well, that would be the role of a “research fellow.” Most of my time this year will be spent toiling in archives (researching). The other part devoted to attending colloquia (fellowing).
“GayProf,” I hear you asking, “What happens in these colloquia? Also, how did you become the god that walks amongst us?” Both of those are tough, but fair, questions We can only deal with the first today.
Colloquia are the places where scholars present their research to other scholars. Ideally, they present their work at an early stage of their research project, get feedback, and revise it to a better product later. Typical colloquia at most universities go like this:
For forty minutes, Professor Jones describes an academic problem and how his/her research addresses that problem. So, for instance, I might make a presentation on how people imagined same sex-sex at mid-century using vintage gay pornography as my basis of research. It’s a tough job, but somebody has to do it.
For twenty minutes, the audience asks questions about the research. For example, somebody might ask me if I watched Sailor in the Wild over and over again to appreciate its historical relevance and complexity. Somebody else might ask if my research project is really just a flimsy excuse to watch porn all day. Clearly, though, that person would not be a serious academic like me.
For another twenty minutes, the audience gathers at a reception to drink
Now, you might suspect that Professor Jones would be the one who is scrutinized given it is his/her research being presented. Not so fast, say I.
You see, the odd thing about colloquia is that the Q&A period is the most important section of the event. Why? Well, let’s take a look at the reasons why other scholars ask questions during a colloquium:
30 percent of questions are motivated by a genuine interest in the topic
40 percent of questions are motivated by an attempt to appear smarter than the presenter
20 percent of questions are motivated by grad students attempting to curry favor with the presenter
10 percent of questions are posed by scholars who have lost all sense of reality and have only the vaguest idea of where they even are at that moment.
So, as a presenter, one learns an entire secret language for how to sort through these different questions. Once again, it’s time for “What They Say and What They Really Mean” Theater at the Center of Gravitas. Here are some common academic responses when asked a question and what they are really telling their audience.
What They Say: That’s an interesting question.
What They Mean: Your question bores me.
What They Say: I had not thought of this research problem like that before, but you question has given me a new way to conceptualize my project.
What They Mean: I think that you are nuts.
What They Say: Could you explain your question a bit more?
What They Mean: Your question totally stumped me and I don’t have an answer. I am buying time until I think of something smart to say.
What They Say: This reminds me of a story about [insert historical figure’s name].
What They Mean: I totally zoned out while you were talking and I have no idea what you just asked me.
What They Say: Read my recent article in [insert name of journal here] and you will see how I answered that problem.
What They Mean: I am a complete prick.
What They Say: My research suggests that [x] is probably true.
What They Mean: I just made up this entire presentation last night in my hotel room.
What They Say: I want to keep my response short so that we will have time to talk at the reception later.
What They Mean: I am a serious alcoholic and can’t wait until we open the wine (I use this one a lot in my own presentations).
What They Say: You are right.
What They Mean: You are wrong, but I want you to stop asking me questions.
What They Say: Your question really gets to the heart of my research.
What They Mean: Your question really gets to the heart of my research.
What They Say: That's an issue that I am going to explore in my next research project.
What They Mean: I am ignoring this gapping hole in my research and I don't care what you think about it.
What They Say: When I was speaking with [insert famous scholar’s name], he/she mentioned this same issue.
What They Mean: I know smarter people than you.
What They Say: I don’t know.
What They Mean: I don’t know.
What They Say: If you have time later, I would really like to talk more about your question.
What They Mean: I want to see you naked.
What They Say: That question is a bit outside of my expertise, but I will try to answer.
What They Mean: Your question is totally about your own research and has nothing to do with my work at all. Did you even listen to my presentation?
What They Say: This reminds me of a conversation that I had with my freshman class the other day.
What They Mean: You are a simpleton.
What They Say: I am not familiar with the background literature on that question.
What They Mean: I am a simpleton.
What They Say: I don’t subscribe to that more “trendy” way of doing this type of research.
What They Mean: My research methods are horribly out of date.
What They Say: Let me look at my notes again.
What They Mean: Shit, you found a huge hole in my research.
What They Say: I am glad this question came up.
What They Mean: I love, love, love the sound of my own voice. I now have an excuse to talk for another twenty minutes uninterrupted.
What They Say: I think that your research [recent article/recent book] is really important to that question. Much of my current work, actually, is based off of some of the issues that you have already raised.
What They Mean: I am about to go on the job market and am hoping that you will write a letter of recommendation for me.
What They Say: We probably don’t see this research question in quite the same way.
What They Mean: I loathe you.
What They Say: When I revise this research project, I really want to incorporate those ideas.
What They Mean: I secretly want you to spank me.