All of (these) are (real titles of) actual acad/emic papers*

All you need is

Here are some curious titles of real papers delivered at actual academic conferences at British universities during 2013. The top ten list covers a range of humanities disciplines and is given in no particular order. It includes bizarre deployment/s of parentheses, random forward slashes and some intriguing use(s) of the English language. The idea of this post is not to undermine the research credentials of those responsible, which is why I have diplomatically left out names and affiliations. Nor is it intended to suggest that an interest in an esoteric subject or subject area equates to poor scholarship or in/tellectual desperation or (straw)-clutching. That would be rich coming from someone who has spent the best part of a decade researching and delivering papers on late-Victorian London public librarians. All the same, it is difficult to read the following titles without wondering are all of these genuine research programmes or are some of them post-modern prank interventions into academic life, aimed at exposing or ridiculing the essential meaninglessness of modern scholarship?

  1. Involvement in Sexual Minority-focused sport as a Buffer against Internalized Homophobia
  2. Byron’s Violent-Fatigue Workout: A Literary Heavyweight’s Affinity for Mixing it with Pierce Egan’s Fancy
  3. Adapting Romania: book history and the textual variants in Carmen Sylva’s short stories
  4. Narrato-Rhetorheme: On the Rhetorical Function of Culture in Fictional Narrative
  5. Shoes as a gendered discourse in medieval legal Muslim sources
  6. Analysing Women’s In/Security Narratives: Meaning-making and Broken Translations
  7. “How far would (you) go to save (the one) (you) love?” – Multiple Reader Allegiances with Characters in Heavy Rain
  8. The Rhetorical Mechanics of Fictional Ontology: Worldless and World-Dependent Implication in William Gass
  9. Dixie and Dominique ‘Get Real’: Performativity, Politics and Capitalism in Drag Space
  10. The Materiality of the Body – the Body as Material: An Investigation of the Breast in Women’s Hagiography

*with thanks and apologies to the scholars whose titles I have used to illustrate this post.

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2 thoughts on “All of (these) are (real titles of) actual acad/emic papers*

  1. Hhhhm… Sorry for the late response, but this has caused me to “hhhhmmm” for a while and now I am replying. I would reject the nihilist thinking that this is essentialising meaningless, but I can see the frustration.

    As a scholar who prides herself on coming up with catching titles to grab, advertise, and yet get the keywords upfront – I will be the first to admit that I find myself in this eclectic camp often enough. In all honesty, and for me, it has been about becoming confident in my academic maturity having found both my voice and my fields of interest. “Interdisciplinary”, for me, is not the slur it is for some. I spend much of my Post-Graduate life floundering in a sea of various interests that – to me – seemed to connect but had me “falling between the stools” at every conference I attended. Once I began writing with confidently mixing: philosophy, performance theory, behaviour theory, history and cultural geography without worrying what people thought (about the title or otherwise) I got interest and began to find publications that appreciated my work.

    For many of us choosing to “go wide” and mix disciplines and who work with aspects of History, Psychology, or Philosophy in the humanities – we need to get tough skins, because there will always the be the hard-Historian, the clinical psychologist, or the cynical philosopher who will dismiss this work as “fun” – oh, how I hate that word!

    I am reminded of a friend who ‘hates’ Opera saying: it is where all the arts (musicianship, voice, acting) mix and thus – for him – it “falls between the stools”. I would suggest that Opera is an acquired taste. And that, often, those of us of the eclectic titles may be ‘singing our Wagnerian hearts out’ to a small audience – but there is an audience….

    Then again, there is an increasing post-graduate field that is cramming too much into papers in order to offer them to various publications – and this is not, necessarily, about choosing to “go wide” but all about the pressure to publish in a highly marketised environment. They are trying to be ‘all things to all people’ in order to get a job in the shadow of the REF. This is a different discussion all together. And the one that worries/agers me in turn. That marketisation is a really troublesome problem that …. as ever…is all about late capitalisms’ tap-dancing all over our intellectual prowess and property!!…..

  2. Thanks for your thoughtful and considered response HG. One foot in the academy, of course I agree with you. With this post I’m poking fun at myself as a pseudo-scholar as much as I am aiming gentle spleen at anyone else. Sometimes my views are coloured by my non-academic background and upbringing and I can’t help but see these kind of research programmes (or their esoteric titles at least) as ludicrously remote from and irrelevant to the real world – and designed to exclude a general or ‘ordinary’ audience and my inner egalitarian rebels against such elitism.

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