You know, people are *reading* this thing

I’m back, and I’ve had a great time, albeit at a fairly high cost. The USA doesn’t seem to eat cheaply, even if they do eat well. But it’s been good; my paper went well enough for me to be pleased, lots of people seemed interested and I know now what needs doing to it to make it good and hopefully very publishable. An earlier version of this nearly made it, after all, and it’ll be a lot better for this outing and the audience comments. Meanwhile, on the social side, it was fascinating to put faces to many names, and fellow bloggers Another Damned Medievalist and Matt Gabriele were especially good company, and along with Paul Hyams made the Saturday evening one of the most pleasant I can remember spending in a wine-bar ever. A full academic conference report will follow in due course, but I don’t have time to do it justice now.

I will just say though, as per the title, people now know me for this blog. Several people wanted to tell me they’d found it—one or two went on to add that they’d actually liked it once they had, or even less likely to my self-deprecating self, found it useful—and then, yesterday, I was at a Cambridge seminar which will, also, be reported on some day soon, at which Rosamond McKitterick passed comment on my recent comment on her earlier work, having also found me here. (We’re still on good terms, I hasten to add, and I probably only blanched slightly.) And then just now, at yet another seminar, which again you will hear of either from me or from Magistra et Mater, Jinty Nelson congratulated me on it. So I guess if the cat were in the bag, it is now out, and in the common manner of the Internet, the bag has burst in many places at once in inexplicable synchronicity.

All this worries me. It shouldn’t. This is exactly what I started this thing for, a cheap substitute for the oxygen of publication, and now that actual publication is looking closer than it has for ages despite the time I’ve put into the blog, it’s a silly time to have misgivings. All the same, I find it hard to shake fears that this looks like a trivial waste of time, at least on a UK/European academic scale. I’m pretty sure that this sometimes turgid blog is actually about as non-trivial as academic blogging gets, at least in terms of footnotes, but that too strikes me as missing my audience at times.

Anyway, the upshot is this. I’m not stopping now that it seems to be working, but the genuine academic scrutiny by people I know, respect and in some cases ask to write me references, has me feeling I need to take a bit more care with what I write. I have no shortage of stuff to say—as I type this it is one of nine draft posts I intend, two of which were already written up before I went to the USA. But, I feel that perhaps I should be less flip and off-the-cuff, especially where I’m commenting on others’ work, so these posts may take longer to appear than has usually been the case. There is also the issue that I have a book and, er, let’s say five? Currency, Aprisio, Sal·la, Ató, Ethnonyms, Legends… okay, six papers very close to the finish line and I want them all out, partly just because, but also because I feel some danger of seeing people say “hey, that guy with the blog has a paper in this journal! they let the amateurs in nowadays, huh?” when I originally wanted them, and want them, to say, “hey, that Jonathan Jarrett whose name I’ve seen in Journal of Excellent Studies (h/t Notorious Ph. D.) and Titulum Latinum and Earlier Than Thou has a blog! We should totally hire him!” And going to a conference where people mainly know me for the blog… just, well, felt a bit like a trap I need to work harder at escaping. So: keep an eye out, posts will continue. But I hope I can concentrate enough on other things meanwhile that I get some actual work out soon (I have been trying to find out what the holdups are with this this very night) and I’m going to see about letting that come first.

On this front, I returned home to find that Gaspar Feliu had kindly sent me still another clutch of offprints, including one that completely unlocks a slightly blocked-up paper which will now be the next thing I submit, so although I have done this many times before, and still think anyone interested in peasants should have already read all his stuff, may we please again sing the praises of both the historiography and kindness to foreign scholars of Prof. G. Feliu i Montfort, and I’ll be off now.

9 responses to “You know, people are *reading* this thing

  1. Jonathan, may I say that – while I totally understand your desire to be remembered *first* as a ‘proper’ academic, and only second (or third, or fourth, or… nth) as a bloger – I wouldn’t let these anxieties change your style. Presumably the reason people like Profs Nelson and McKitterick, and my humble self (no parallels intended by that juxtaposition!) spend time reading this is because it is both scholarly and engaging. And your unique blend of ‘footnotes and flip’ is a big part of that, certainly from my point of view. It’s refreshing, it stimulates thinking and debate, and it’s a key reason why I tell almost everyone I know to come by and check it out. I would interpret these references you’ve been getting as ‘citations’, which is all good. It shows you have successfully entered the grand dialogue in which we are all trying to participate.

    I’m not in a position to be handing out academic jobs, so I can hardly criticise you for wanting to focus on getting those papers out. But please don’t leave us, or go all serious and turgid on us in the process!

  2. Considering what you write, I wouldn’t be at all worried. If the point of my blog were entirely academic, I would want to write a blog very much like this one. As it is, I need to blog Haskins in more detail. I’m a bit dubious about that, as at the end someone said I asked ‘trenchant’ questions, which I hope was meant as a compliment!
    But anyway, this is a really good academic blog, and I love to read it because there is never any guilt involed. I find out what others are working on, and the ensuing discussions help me to feel that I’m connected to the wider community — something I truly miss. I doubt I’ll be changing my format from the ‘academic life and pedagogy’ sort of blog I have now, and I really do hope you don’t, either.

    If it helps at all, my blogging seems not to have hurt me, and has resulted in some actual!career benefits. Granted, I’m pseudonymous, but I’m also not putting up the kind of content that you do — and that is content that reflects your thought processes as a scholar.

  3. Thankyou both, and Kath, “footnotes and flip” is a description I may have to appropriate :-) Jinty was very positive, and Rosamond mildly corrective, and if you know them of course you will realise that this is nothing out of character for either.

    My blogging has got me some mild career benefits, I suppose, invitation to Haskins being chief but also one online paper, if it ever comes out, that I wouldn’t have written otherwise. I guess one worry is the one that I’ve seen some others express, that all the time I’m putting into this should really go on research. But the actual fear is that I’ll say something about someone who then winds up on a selection panel and didn’t like it. Ach well. I am not going to change style radically, or anything, but I want to be less judgmental and more succint, which should hopefully close down both potential criticisms a bit.

  4. You know, I honestly believe that blogging keeps me in the habit of writing. You and I have very different sorts of work schedules, but share the inability to devote regular time to writing. I’ve noticed that, when I make my self write substantive, thought-out posts, I can slip more easily into writing papers and such. To me, that’s a benefit. In your case, you have the cores of many really good lectures here, and that’s nothing to sneeze at — new preps are killer.

  5. ADM, I think some of these posts will serve me reasonably when it next comes to teaching the subjects, the Vikings one especially, but outside my day-job, an awful lot of my work is writing and editing. I don’t have a lot of trouble generating new papers, to at least a presentable standard; call it gift of the gab or whatever. What I have problems with is finding time to do the reading to caulk them up till they’re watertight.

    Larry, sorry, that was possibly a snipe too far on my part. I’m waiting for news on two other things too which have been held up by other contributors and you may have been caught in a sideswipe better aimed at those contributors…

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