Zoo in Review
I've been to sessions both inspiring and uninspired, seen my friends deliver outstanding papers (sometimes in spite of very difficult circumstances), met people I previously knew only virtually or textually, learned many things, drunk too much, bonded with several people, plotted next career moves with Kindly Prof, found some exceptionally useful and inexpensive books, and been left with much to ponder in general.
And, of course, I went to the dance.
About the dance, I will say this: medievalists know how to throw down when it comes to headbanging, polkas, 80s New Wave, funk, and punk. But if you want to clear a dance floor of those pesky pre-modern specialists, just put on some hip-hop.
I'll also mention that the dance seems to be an event at which dysfunction comes out to play and that it felt more than a little like being in the middle school gym all over again. And that being hit on repeatedly by men over the age of 50--one of whom sought to impress me by saying snarky things about others in the profession and introducing me to An Important Person--drove me to one of my exceedingly rare one-night smoking binges. Nothing makes a gal want to fill her lungs with carcinogens more than being viewed as a potential conference fling by several men nearly twice her age while also witnessing some deeply uncomfortable interpersonal dynamics unfolding around her. Blech.
So, overall verdict on the dance: less fun than I'd have hoped. I'm still convinced it has potential, but one wants to manage the experience carefully.
I also will say that it is possible to wear high heels for the duration of the Kalamazoo experience, but I'm not sure I'd recommend it.
The blogging panel, like the meet-up, was excellent. I had to leave at the end and couldn't hang around to chat with people as I'd hoped, but I do want to thank Michael Drout of Wormtalk and Slugspeak for mentioning this humble blog, thereby giving me my first academic citation.
The session and other Zoo events have prompted me, once again, to re-think the content and purpose of this virtual outpost. Of course, two of the primary features of a blog are its changeability and flexiblity. As blogs in general and academic blogs in particular become more popular and more reknowned, the blogging community and its influence on the non-virtual world also are changing. I think those changes are almost entirely to the good, but I also think those shifts mean anonymous, grad-student bloggers like me may need to approach the process with even more circumspection than in the past.
You'll notice that quite a few of my most recent posts have disappeared: I am editing the blog and moving some of the more sensitive entries to another, more secure location. I also plan to place my most sensitive posts there in the future.
I'll admit to a deep ambivalence about this decision: one of my purposes in authoring this blog is to offer a space where the complexites of current grad-school experience can be explored through the (admittedly limited) lens of my own. Doing that requires candor: as Prof. Drout noted, anonymous blogs can publicly speak truths that otherwise remain hidden and help both author and audience find a helpful sense of recognition and solidarity. Since beginning to post some entries in a more secure space will compromise the public truth-speaking of this project, I'm not thrilled about it. But I also take to heart the comments of some, including Lisa Spangenberg (a. k. a. The Digital Medievalist), which remind me that maintaining true anonymity isn't possible and that blogging balances its benefits with very real risks that need to be handled carefully.
'Cause let's face it, folks: a Wiseass got to get paid.