Thursday, 7 February 2008

On self-doubt

I told my brother that although my Caporetto article was all ready to send off, and has been for days, it is still languishing unsent because I am riddled with uncertainty about it. Or rather, I am certain that it is boring and unoriginal.

He said "if it's boring and unoriginal, it's not going to become any less so even if you work on it for another month, so you might as well send it now."

Curiously this was quite comforting. He has just been offered a place at Duke for his doctorate next year, along with full scholarship - fees, stipend, the works. I am super proud of him. Clever boy. I shall take his advice.


egan said...

As you know, boring unoriginality never stopped me writing anything. Where will I be able to read your caporetto article? I'm sure it's brilliant. And well done yo your brother, as well.

Spangly Princess said...

it will hopefully be published in a collection of essays entitled "1917 - beyond the Western front". but the book will probably take a good 18 months or so to come out, they usually do.

boring and unoriginal is the new black, maybe. (The brother says I am too close to my subject and also an idiot).

Richard said...

I can't comment on the likely reception of your Caporetto article in the world of academia, but the bits you posted on this blog back in the summer were great reading.

Chin up. You live in Rome. You have a worthwhile job that is interesting and keeps the brain cells active. Your media empire is due to overtake Rupert Murdoch's sometime in 2020 if it continues to expand at its current rate. And Roma will shortly be playing Real Madrid in the last 16 of the Champions League.


ursus arctos said...

This is truly marvellous news about the brother, who is also wise in the advice he is offering on this particular occasion.

I will be most distressed if he comes back with his face painted blue and white, with a hollowed out basketball for a cap. However, though that has been known to happen in Durham, I tend to doubt that it will happen to him, and am confident that he would be able to come up with a bravura post modern spin even if it did.

chris c paul said...

Ah- when it comes to academia and poems I never publish anything unless I am certain it is one of the best things I have ever written. If you have doubt about it I am sure readers will see fault in it even quicker. In this case do not send the article.
HOWEVER- trust the critic in you. If the only thing you can see wrong with it is that it is 'unoriginal', and there is no other fault the chances are you are just really familiar with the subject and seeing it from inside the greenhouse so to speak. Besides, history is suspicious of too much originality, and bigger on depth and breadth of research.
BUT- why not send it to the editor expressing your concerns. If it is crap he is sure to let you know. That would be his job.
AND- there is no and...
OH- this rule I have about not publishing anything at all unless it is brilliant doesn't apply to blogs. I just write any old crap on them.

Paul de Man said...

You are v kind and I am flattered.

I've always liked the phrase 'Riddled with' - it implies pestilency. Good work. Are you pestilent with uncertainty? Or are you not sure?

"I used to be a deconstructionist, but now I'm not Sau-ssure."

And thank you to everyone else too.

(I've never told this joke in writing before. It plays right into Derridean differance hands. Good.)

Spangly Princess said...

dude, I told you that joke myself, years ago. also, yes, pestilent.

Chris: I work in a field in which there are about 3 specialists. In the world. Very few English readers are familiar with any of the material in the article. So in that sense maybe I am inside the greenhouse.

*But* any Italian military historian mightn't find it remotely interesting. Not that it's to be published in Italian. But we are supposed to work in a (wholly imaginary when it comes to Italy) international scholarly community, no?

Brian said...

From what I hear, the reputation of the Duke English department is that it's not quite the hotbed of continental theory that it was a few years ago, but I think your joke will still find an appreciative audience. Unless they think it hews too closely to Magnetic Fields lyrics. In any case, congratulations, Paul, and if you feel like wearing a basketball cap...well, the hermeneutics of suspicion isn't allowed inside Cameron Indoor Stadium.

Spangles, for as long as I've been hanging around academics, I've hardly ever known anyone to publish anything good without worrying about its originality first. Much more likely to be a sign that you're smart and conscientious and immersed in your field than anything else.

Nazzari1 said...

"Life must be lived forwards but can be only understood backwards"
is my preferred Kirkegaard bon mot.

"Is there enough money at Duke?"
is mine.

Anonymous said...

Here's what your brother might get into.

Paul de Man said...

I find it unlikely that I will be smeared in woad.

garibaldy said...

I see then that that visit to Belfast paid dividends in terms of increasing his brainpower.