Tuesday, November 06, 2007

I think I was just insulted

I just received an email from the organizer of a conference I'm eager to attend, informing me that my paper has been accepted based on my 250-word abstract.

It's a brief, cheerful note from a man I've never met, and it includes a sentence to this effect: "one of the members of the submissions committee commended your great restraint in not including a reference to '[quotation from the work in question]'!"

Yes: "great restraint!" Exclamation mark!

Translation: "one of the committee members couldn't figure out why the hell you didn't refer to this passage, since it seems way more relevant to your proposed paper than the actual passage you're weirdly putting so much pressure on. Not that he's actually thought about this subject before, but this is the quotation that immediately sprang to his mind when he read your proposal--and he's pretty sure that if you were dealing with the topic seriously you would have worked it into your abstract. But we'll give you a chance anyway."

To which passive aggression I say: THANKS! Capital letters and exclamation mark!


kermitthefrog said...

Depending on the work in question (and scholarship thereupon), it's also possible to read the comment as "THANK GOD we didn't have to read yet another proposal involving [quotation from the work in question]!" But I suspect context matters a lot here.

Renaissance Girl said...

Absolutely! "[quotation from the work in question] is such an obvious and overdone way to approach this topic. Three cheers for your innovation, your visionary nonconformism, and, yes, your spunk."

neophyte said...

I'm with Kermit and RG.

You'd want to shoot yourself if you read the words "You taught me language..." in an abstract of a postcolonial paper on Shakespeare, now, wouldn't you?

In other words, easy there, killer. Don't be so quick to think that not everyone thinks you're as awesome as you really are.

Flavia said...

Much as I appreciate the words of support here--and as fully capable as I am of overreading anything!--I have considered, and rejected, the possibility advanced by Kermit and RG.

Context the first: the work I'm dealing with is reasonably well-known (though not on the order of a Shakespeare play or Paradise Lost or anything), but the topic I'm examining is not one I'm aware anyone has written on, and the passage I'm focusing on has likewise never been discussed except in passing. The passage my commenter mentioned is more familiar, both because it involves a very pretty turn of phrase and because it seems to provide a connection to one of this author's much better-known works--but I don't think anything meaningful has ever been written about it, either.

Context the Second: Oh, how to say this? I love the people who tend to study this subject/genre/author/fill-in-the-blank, but they're known for being exasperating pedants. Or at least, I've seen similarly tiresome know-it-all behavior in the past.

Belle said...

My reaction: jerko read the proposal, had read precisely one item on the subject and wanted the rest to know how smart he was, so made the snide comment...

Sisyphus said...

Heh heh ... good luck biting your tongue while at _that_ conference!

Just remember you can vent it all out here and not have to worry about exploding from repressed snarkery.

(we, of course, will be waiting breathlessly for the dropping of any juicy bits back here.)

adjunct whore said...

go get em, flavia, you rock. fuck passive agressive snideness--i'm all for rigorous confrontation.

is it just my own bias at work or were they the male-power-that-be of your subfield/field?

Flavia said...

AW: Well, of course one doesn't know, but of the ten or so individuals listed as being on the organizing committtee, only two are female. And even apart from that fact I'm with you in being pretty damn sure that the person who made the remark is male.

Is that a bias on my (our) part? Probably. But this subfield does skew male, and--perhaps as a result--even some of the actual women can sound an awful lot like crotchety 70-year-old men.