Hey student!


I haz teachin.

This may explain why communication in this here forum is a bit erratic. With, well, not very much notice, I have become an Assistant Lecturer for this academic year at Queen Mary University of London in the Department of History, because they needed someone able to deliver Medieval Europe: authority, religion and culture 751-1215 from a running start, and it turns out I am that man. It’s reassuring to take on some teaching where I actually do know the field, more or less, and the other staff have been really supportive and friendly. It is going to be fun, though it is also going to be an entirely different sort of fun keeping up with publication and application deadlines as well as, you know, my main job, all at once. But this is just what real academics have to manage, right? so I expect to report on success here because a real academic is still what I’m aiming to be.

It’s amazing how that has stuck with me, actually. A long long time ago when I was still beginning my doctoral work I wasted too much time on a newsgroup called soc.history.medieval, because at that point there wasn’t really any presence of people authoritative in the field on the web, not even what we have now, and I couldn’t get out very much due to early parenthood and it made me feel like I was somehow keeping current. For reasons I have expressed elsewhere it also made me feel as if I was banging my head with a virtual brick quite a lot and it was something I downsized out of my life quite readily when time became tight. However, before I stopped reading it, there was a conversation in which the resident troll, in the middle of denigrating his usual opponent on the group in prolix style, gave a definition of a real historian, which was along the lines of `a person employed in a higher academic institution to teach, and publishing in, history”. I have usually only ever been able to manage one of these at once, and more often neither. This year, however, by that somewhat narrow definition, I am a real historian again for a while. If I have time to celebrate, I will.

17 responses to “Hey student!

  1. Yeah, well … still working on that :-) I look forward to chatting with you about the further adventures!

  2. So Gibbon wasn’t real?

    Congrats on feeling real!

    • I did not and do not endorse said troll’s definition, but it’s nice to know that I could, if I really felt masochistic, march back in there and ‘qualify’. It’s mainly nice, though, because of how trivially silly such an idea now seems.

    • Also, I’ve just realised with chagrin that this means I shan’t be able to attend the Brubaker paper on Iconoclasm for you, sorry!

  3. Now I’m of course curious about what’s behind the fuzzy pixels.

  4. Congratulations! Teaching is fun, in particular when you’re working with people who actively want to learn about the things you teach.

    That definition of a historian is probably one of the most common one today and it makes me a little sad that the only valid historian in some people’s eyes is the academic historian (a fairly recent invention after all). If you don’t go on the track to tenure your degree is useless? I even recall reading an article by an independent historian, going on about how great being an independent historian is… but frequently alluding to how if she’d only gotten one of the many academic jobs she’d applied for she’d be an academic instead.

    There have to be academic historians, though, and they are pretty awesome folk!

    • The line between academic and non-academic is blurring these days, I think, largely because the Internet is meaning that you don’t have to be at a university to access scholarly writing on your chosen topic, but there is still a difference I think, based on a shared sense of practice, not necessarily helpful but there. The academic historian, fundamentally, is subject to peer review, which for all its problems does convey a certain reliability.

      There’s also a sense, I guess, that being paid to do what you love is so brilliant that everyone wants a piece and anything else is second-best, but actually of course real academic isn’t like that. So I am told :-)

      • I think the problem is that the academic/non-academic issue sometimes morphs to professional/non-professional. There is something to be said for having gone through a good graduate program and keeping up in one’s field, whether or not one has a full-time academic job.

        • Yes, I think that’s it: it’s not so much the ‘being an academic’ as the ‘knowing how academics do their stuff’, isn’t it? It’s like learning the grammar of a language. If necessary you can learn the vocabulary from a dictionary, but to speak it and be understood you have to have been taught somehow.

  5. Have fun with the teaching. I hope all your students prove to be literate, able to write in complete sentences and capable of learning how to use the library! I notice from the course texts that good ole RHC Davis is still going strong.

    • Yes… I didn’t get any input on the bibliography otherwise it would not be. There’s quite a lot there that could be struck and more that should be added, and I will try and ensure that this is done for next year.

  6. Glad to hear you’ve got some teaching. May your students always do the reading and write grammatically! You certainly don’t have to have an academic post to be a real academic: the Battle conference shows up that particular fallacy very well…

    Good luck, and more importantly, enjoy!

  7. Ah, SHM referenced….and the resident troll!

  8. Pingback: Of course burning books is barbaric. So, maybe just one. « A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

  9. Pingback: Enforced optimism about 2009 « A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe

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